When I unwrapped this book at Christmas, I was a little shocked to see a bright red book with a punk rock look. Hmm, I said. Never heard of it, but my brother got it for me so he thinks I should have heard of it. Hmmm. The title page is autographed, a signature move by my brother (pun intended, and I’m not even sorry for it). Whenever he buys me something from band, he always makes sure to have it signed. Pretty cool gig if you asked me (oh boy, the snow and cold is finally getting to me). So I looked at the author: Andrew Schwab. Never heard of him. Or had I. Hmmm. Duh. It hit me. Andrew Schwab is the frontman for Project 86, a Christian hardcore band that’s been putting out CDs since 1998. Thankfully, each of their 11 CDs has a distinct sound as the band tries to accomplish something different each time around. I’ve written before about my overall distaste for Christian music due to its copy-cat nature. This may seem really snooty on my part, but if someone is going to call themselves a Christian artist, I think the art itself should be exceptional and original, and the artist should be upfront and vocal about his/her faith1.
Project 86 is one of those bands that accomplishes both of my requisites. I’m sure that some of my readers will check out now because they feel that metal and hardcore are not artistic musical genres. My wife’s uncle says that hardcore rots brain cells. My first junior high youth pastor said I needed to repent for listening to metal. Students have told me that metal is the way of the world, not of God. (I love it when people find out I love metal and hardcore. I tell my students the heavier the better. They’re shocked. An English teacher isn’t supposed to be like that. I laugh. I even ended up seeing about 5 students at the last show I went to. Joy.)
I’m having a terrible time getting to the point. I don’t even want to write about Project 86. I want to write about the book that was written by their front man. And with that transition that would have flunked me out of writing school, I press on.
Fame is Infamy is a collection of stories, anecdotes, poems, and musings about the meaning and purpose of influence. Schwab is a great person to talk about fame and influence as his band has sold over half a million albums and his professional life is singing (okay, with a side of screaming) in front of crowds day after day. The poems in this book definitely have a lyric feel to them, but that’s what he knows! The craft in this collection is not anything to write home about, but what moved me was that this guy has a huge audience, an young audience, an audience that dreams of fame, fortune, and influence. So the poetry of this book, then, doesn’t come from the poems, but from the artists attempt to reach out to and communicate with his audience. His message? Loving the people within your immediate circle of influence is a great (the greatest?) accomplishment. He tells story after story about situations where the personal, the caring, and the private were more impacting than the concerts or the music. It’s refreshing to meet poets, artists, dancers, and musicians that care about both their art and their audience rather than their income and status. With that in mind, Fame is Infamy is a quick and touching read.
As a side note, I wasn’t even going to post this blog until I read an article titled “Does Anonymity have a role in church art?”. After reading both, I can’t help but to think about priorities and recognition when it comes to creativity, art, and influence. What’s more important: the art, the artist, the audience, the experience of a freaky-cool combination of all of them?
1. I don’t mean this statement to be the arrogant, “I’m better than you because I’m a Christian.” What I mean is that if someone believes that Christ is savior and ultimate creator, then that someone should be inspired to create to the best of his/her ability. Revise. Develop. Rewrite. Redraw. Produce the best unique and original work that you possibly can. In terms of sharing faith, I don’t think artists have to be like the pharisees in sharing their faith, or demand everyone around them behave/think like they do. But if the art is connected to the person, how can a Christian artist be silent as he/she build relationships with those around them. A fantastic example of this is Makoto Fujimura, as referenced in his book Refractions. Check my reading list link above to read my thoughts about it!