The band BLOODGOOD, named for founder and bassist Michael Bloodgood, formed in the mid 80’s and quickly became one of the leaders of the second wave of Christian metal. The idea that Christians could make rock music that honored God was a novel idea in the late 60’s, early 70’s, thanks to the pioneering Larry Norman. The first wave of Christian metal in the late 70’s was bands like Jerusalem, Barnabas, Rez, and Daniel Band, but not metal in its truest sense, more in the hard rock vein. The second wave in the early to mid 80’s with bands like Leviticus, Saint, Bride, Messiah Prophet, and BLOODGOOD ushered in the traditional metal sound to Christian ears for the first time. BLOODGOOD became well known for its live shows, which incorporated drama in an evangelistic way, such as the portrayal of Christ’s death in “Crucify.” Following the band’s demo Metal Missionaries in 1985, their discography includes Bloodgood, Detonation, Rock in a Hard Place, Out of the Darkness, two live albums Alive in America and Shaking the World, their final studio album All Stand Together, the live To Germany With Love, as well as a label retrospective The Collection before calling it a day. Since their reunion, the band’s only output has been two live dvds from shows in Sweden and Norway, so anticipation for an all new BLOODGOOD cd is extremely high. The band’s unique style and imagery influenced a whole new generation of Christian bands, and their Detonation cd reached #8 on Heaven’s Metal’s Top 100 Christian Metal Albums of All Time a few years back. BLOODGOOD’s current lineup includes Michael Bloodgood, Les Carlsen, Paul Jackson, Kevin Whisler, and Stryper’s Oz Fox. We recently spoke to Michael Bloodgood and Les Carlsen, bassist and singer of the band about their brand new release Dangerously Close.
Chris Gatto: I know you guys have been back together as a band for a few years. When/ how did that happen and what have you been up to these last few years?
Michael Bloodgood: In 2005, I was hospitalized for a “spontaneous carotid arterial dissection” – say that ten times fast! My entire outlook on life changed because of it, so that was as real a catalyst that started me praying about putting the band back together. Of course, the first thing I did was call Les and Paul to see how they felt about it and it was all thumbs up at that point.
Les Carlsen: Back in 2007, we got involved with a management company that had different ideas of how we should do a comeback. We wanted to do a new project, but they felt we should re-issue some previous releases. They put some money into promo for us in the Nashville scene and got us a couple of dates. The whole thing ended with them suing us for trying to get out of the relationship. That took a lot of our time, energy and money. But we had started writing some new material and really wanted to get it recorded. That’s how we finally decided on Kickstarter.
Tell me how Oz Fox came to be doing double duty in Bloodgood?
Michael: Oz and I were together at the Meltdown Conference in the UK back in 2000 and we really bonded at that point. I thought to myself, “If I ever decide to put BLOODGOOD back together, I would ask Oz to be a part of it.” Well, six years later, I made that call and the rest, as they say, is history.
Les: Oz and Michael got together at Metal Meltdown in England and the seed was planted. Oz and I were living close to each other in So Cal so we started meeting and talking and jammed some tunes. We’ve become very close friends – we like to laugh!
What was the thing that made you guys decide now is the time to do a new album?
Michael: Well, it certainly was not for lack of talking about it! We started writing new material back in 2007, so it has always been in the plans. We knew the Lord was blessing us with new material and we were very excited to get back into the studio after all these years. However, between live performances and our day jobs, it kept getting pushed back until now. One of the downsides of not being signed to a label is that we did not have a deadline staring us in the face. So, we essentially created our own deadline by creating a Kickstarter project.
Les: The kids are all grown and out of the house! We’ve been wanting to record for a long time, but didn’t have the financial backing. Kickstarter made it possible. The addition of Oz and his presence in the band started a creative vibe throughout the band and everyone wanted to start writing again. Once the creative juices started flowing and we were writing songs we wanted to get them “on tape.”
How long have you been working on this recording?
Michael: In many ways, we really did start back in 2007. By the end of that year we had complete songs like “Man in the Middle”, “Father Father” and “Bread Alone.” There we a couple of nearly-completed songs as well, including “I Can Hold On” and “Run Away,” which I co-wrote with Chris Eddy and David Zaffiro, respectively. In the spring of 2013, we began in earnest with Paul, Kevin Whisler and I doing pre-production and rehearsals. By that time, we had a good collection of material to focus on. Les and Oz flew up this past July, which is when we began to track the record at Pacific Studios in Tacoma, WA. Here we are in October, and we are still scrutinizing the mixes before sending them off to Dave for mastering.
Les: Started writing some of the material back in 2007 and continued all the way through this past summer.
You ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the album, rather than go the traditional record label approach. How did this change the whole recording journey for you guys?
Michael: It was the best decision we have ever made! Along with many other artists, our dealings with record labels has been less than desirable, so when this whole Kickstarter idea came along we got very excited. No more suits, no more lawyers, just the band and the fans. It seemed so pure somehow. When the project is over we are debt-free. What band can say that who is signed to a label? Les and I ARE the label, B. Goode Records, and as a result, we have given ourselves so many opportunities that we could never have had otherwise.
Les: It put the ball in our court so we could control the creative process from beginning to the end. It gave us more freedom. We can be more direct and in tune with our fans who actually gave us the ability to do this. We’re not ‘owned’ by a record company.
Let’s talk about the album itself. What’s the message you have for us this time?
Michael: As with all of our records, after we are done and step back a bit, we can see how the Lord has orchestrated our music. Les pointed out that we mention the “Lamb of God” in three songs on the record! This record really focuses on Jesus Christ as even the titles of many of the songs make obvious such as “Man In The Middle,” “Child on Earth,” and “Lamb of God.” We also deal with issues of faith with “In The Trenches,”” I Can Hold On, Bread Alone,” and “Run the Race.” We deal with fleeing immorality (taken directly from Proverbs) in “Run Away.” Praise and worship in “I Will” and “Father, Father.” There is even some flat-out fun (which we are saving for our deluxe edition!)
Les: The same message as always: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. The songs cover different areas of Christian life including where we get our source of strength, prayer, commitment to God and to stay in the race…finish strong… let Him do the work of perfecting us. There’s praise and worship in “I Will”. “Lamb of God” is about Christ’s sacrifice to redeem us and His teaching us to love one another the way He loves us. “Child on Earth” is about the beginning and the end. “In the Trenches” encourages us to dig in and not give up the fight. This album covers a lot of ground.
And David Zaffiro produced it?
Michael: No, David did not produce DANGEROUSLY CLOSE, but we brought him in to master the album after it was mixed. BLOODGOOD guitarist, Paul Jackson, produced the album, with Les and I co-producing. BTW: David and I co-wrote one of the songs on the album called “Run Away.”
Les: No, actually, Paul Jackson took the role of producer in the studio. David is doing the mastering, but he also contributed creatively in writing “Run Away”, and had some input on the mixes.
What can we expect musically? BLOODGOOD was one of the faster and harder of the Christian metal bands when you began, but your sound morphed into a more commercial vein by All Stand Together. Where do you stand now? How will two axemen affect your sound and stage show?
Michael: We have some very heavy stuff on DANGEROUSLY CLOSE including some half-step down/drop D songs that will please our fans for sure, but we have a lot of different levels on this album as well. We have done things as a band that we have not done before, including Oz being in the band as a writer. Just having Oz as a member of the band brings us to a new place. BLOODGOOD has never wanted to be pigeonholed, so we are really pumped about how this project turned out from start to finish and are confident our fans will love it, too.
Les: “Bread Alone” is probably the fastest double-kick we’ve ever done, so we do have that element. We’ve matured as players and we’re song-writers first of all, so there are more levels and textures. If you related it to cooking, you could say we’re using some new spices we’ve never used before. Oz brought a Middle Eastern flavor to “Man in the Middle” and “Child on Earth. “Paul brought a Sitar into “I Will.”
When you’re talking about Paul Jackson and Oz Fox, you’re talking about two extremely talented guitar players. They respect each other and are humble so they work well together. Their different styles complement each other. They have a double lead in “Father, Father” that is absolutely beautiful. As far as the show, they are both natural entertainers, not just players.
Will there be a stage show, or are BLOODGOOD’s touring days over?
Michael: We would love to do nothing more than tour again, but the first thing needed is a new record. So, Lord willing, we will be out on the road next year. We are already booked to play Rock Harvest 3 next year on the east coast.
Les: That’s up to the fans and promoters. If there’s a demand we’ll play, but the days of five guys in a van and an RV with wives and kids and bologna sandwiches driving around the country are over. We’ve sunk roots and have lives outside of BLOODGOOD, but if the support was there, and God called us on the road again, we’d probably go. We are playing in Germany this December and another date in Maryland in 2014. We are trying to secure some Northwest dates for the early part of next year.
Les, the most powerful part of BLOODGOOD’s ministry is probably the rock opera approach for the two live albums and their dramatic visualization of the Gospel and your music. I sense that you are not done with that. What else do you have up your sleeve with your drama meets heavy metal meets God type of theater?
Les: The way I see us now is creating things for the web rather than touring with a production. We can use drama and theater in a different way – aka – more YouTube videos! Speaking of, we’ve got a brand new music video for “Lamb of God” that we’ve just released – our first music video since 1987! I’d love to do another theatrical production that draws from all the BLOODGOOD material from past years, but that’s in the future.
Michael, you are a pastor now. What I want to ask is if it’s a different calling for you with your congregation now than it was for you guys as metal missionaries back then, or is it exactly the same? What does your congregation think of BLOODGOOD as a band? How has your life changed since your healing?
Michael: Yes, it is a different calling to be a pastor than it is to be a music minister/evangelist. Being called to pastor a church has a whole new set of responsibilities than anything else. However, in many regards ministry is ministry and people are people, so much of what I learned on the road doing music ministry helped train me to be a pastor as well. My “flock” was the band back then and I really took home some practical lessons from that for sure. Of course, now I am in one location week after week and able to deal with people on a whole different level. I love to teach God’s Word Sunday after Sunday and to see folks grow in the Lord as a result.
My congregation loves what I do with BLOODGOOD and feel a part of it when I am gone. I definitely feel sent out when I am on the road. I wouldn’t even say most of them are fans, per se, but love the ministry of the band.
After my hospitalization, my life would never be the same (pun intended) after that. The Lord spoke directly to my heart during that time that changed so many things in me that it would take another interview to talk about them! My healing was very gradual as I was laid up for almost 4 months and then could not talk above a whisper for almost a year. As a pastor and musician, that was a real trial! But God’s faithfulness, mercy and grace (and my amazing wife and kids) saw me through all of it. The Lord taught me things that I would never have learned otherwise. I would not change it for the world.
Speaking out against suicide in songs like “She’s Gone” and “Alone in Suicide” was unusual for even a Christian heavy metal band. Is that something you felt on your heart to address specifically?
Michael: It was not something we decided on collectively, but it is certainly a message that needs to be heard. Those two songs have had an incredible impact on so many people over the years that you can certainly see God’s hand on them. But, really, we have always addressed relevant issues over the years: divorce in “Help Me”, premarital sex in “Lies In the Dark”, and even the loss of a loved one in “Say Goodbye.” We know that our audience consists of both believers and non-believers, and we want to address them both.
Les: David and I wrote those songs, but they were initiated by David. They were his idea.
Heavy metal fans have long had their own culture and reaching them happens more often from within than without. Do you guys still feel a part of that subculture, or a desire to reach headbangers- or is your call now to the world at large?
Michael: Our original fans are now grown up, married and have kids, but they are all still headbangers at heart, it seems. I feel I will always be connected with that subculture because I am still a headbanger myself! I am still writing heavy metal music because it is my passion as a songwriter. When we played in Sweden and Norway a few years ago, our audience was made up of teenagers again. What we did and continue to do is still have an impact on people all over the world. Many of our music videos have been close captioned in Spanish by our fans from Central and South America. It amazes me to see how the Lord still uses our ministry to reach the lost as well as other Christians. In 2010, we were inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame, which is something that still blows me away. Back in the day, most of mainstream Christian music did not have much to do with us and then, twenty years later, to be recognized in that way really floored me. So, in fact, it looks like we are reaching the world by playing metal!
Les: We were on the crest of that first wave to the head-bangers and we still have our roots there, but our audience is broader now. I’m not part of any subculture except for reaching the world one soul at a time.
What has been your greatest moment, or maybe defining moment, or blessing playing with BLOODGOOD?
Michael: There are so many it is impossible to grab just one. For me, it was recently that I was scanning fan mail and emails from the past 27 years for the upcoming documentary film about the story of BLOODGOOD, “In the Trenches of Rock and Roll,” that nailed me. To read these letters from all over the world about how our music and/or live shows touched so many lives is beyond humbling. You know it has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with the Lord. That something you scratched out on a napkin one day ends up on a record and somehow is able to minister and affect someone’s life is the greatest blessing for me.
Les: When we were obedient, playing venues that were not the premier, or the finest of venues. When we played at a little storefront church in Long Island where the audience was filled with street people. Nothing was there for us except the bare minimum. My voice was shot and we were tired, but the people who brought us in were so passionate to reach the lost. The Lord gave me my voice just long enough to do the show. People got saved.
What are your plans as a band once Dangerously Close comes out?
Michael: We just launched our first music video and single, “Lamb of God,” off Dangerously Close on YouTube – and we hope to make more as time and money allow. Of course, we want to get out and play live as much as possible, but we also want to use the internet as extensively as we can to get the message out.
Les: To just be ready for whatever happens…stay in the Word, stay in shape and be ready to be used however God wants to use us…and of course we’d love to continue making records.
Anything else you’d like to say to your fans and our readers?
Michael: We have been a part of Heaven’s Metal since the second issue, so this magazine and its readers are very special to us. We have so many fans that have been with us since the beginning, as well as brand new fans who are just discovering us for the first time, thanks in no small part to HM!
Les: Thanks to everybody who’s ever supported us through buying our music or praying for us. I appreciate the fans and thank them for their support in any way
Bloodgood was posted on January 20, 2014 for HM Magazine and authored by Chris Gatto.