The Big Drum In The Sky Religion has always had a shifting line-up. That’s deliberate and will always be so. The semi-open nature of it allows things to happen that would not otherwise be possible. There are some drawbacks to it though. Most of the people who have been involved were also in other bands which were more traditionally structured and required more commitment. And everybody who has been involved has had relationships, jobs and other activities which took priority over BDSR.
It’s also true that the style of music BDSR makes – which I recently described as “neo-noise free crustfolk punkedelic” or some similar nonsensical mash-up – is not exactly popular. Maybe they dig this shit in some distant clime, but ‘round these parts there ain’t much love. If I was twenty years younger, had a handlebar moustache and went to all the cool kid parties, I’d have no trouble assembling a combo, but I’m old, I don’t drink or share out lines and I am allergic to the type of conceited self-promotion that one needs to convince other people that one’s rhymey couplets are pure fuckin’ genius and you guys should join my band because it’ll be like Billy Bragg fronting Exile-era Stones and it’ll be really cool.
At this writing, BDSR doesn’t have - hasn’t had for a while – a solid performance line-up. Which is why we haven’t performed for a while. I have, at times, set up shows and trusted the universe to provide people to play, but the universe doesn’t always feel like doing my job for me. I’ve gotten more than enough promises from people that they’d play with me at a show to believe that those promises mean anything.
But BDSR is a band and bands play shows at least once in a while. Drummer Boy is always fired up to play, never gives a shit about any of the logistics or who else may or may not be there. That guy would be happy to throw down a twenty-minute drum solo in a church parking lot for his aunt and two of her friends. He enjoys a privileged status, above the fray and free from the concerns of the world.
Anyway, I was thinking recently about getting a group together for some shows, possibly a mini-tour of some sort. There are several people who I’d like to take on the road, but they’re unavailable. Joshu Mu is in Chicago; Italian Ice is in Taiwan or someplace – I can’t always remember what corner of the globe she’s having a mental breakdown in. There is one guy who lives up the valley who I’ve jammed with a few times and done some shows with. He is his own band, of the table-top noise variety and he plays bass occasionally. We have common musical tastes and philosophy. He’s more than capable of grooving a three-chord garage-punk riff and switching to blasted, senseless cacophony on a dime. I sent him an email asking if he’d be interested in coming to town occasionally to hold down the bottom end.
He got back to me and said that he was sorely tempted, but could not join BDSR because he didn’t agree with BDSR’s “(non-musical) philosophy and ideals”, by which he meant the religious stuff. He’s a Christian. I knew that, of course. The fact that he’s a Christian was really a bonus to me – I like people who have some degree of spirituality in their lives, even if we don’t agree on the details. I am, very sincerely, promoting religion as a positive force. Following my own path, I give greater emphasis to certain forms of religion, but I’d be quite happy to have a dedicated Christian bring their influence to the mix.
Unfortunately, my Christian friend does not have the same leeway I have. My religion is inclusive – I recognize all paths as equally good and right. His religion is exclusive – he believes that his religion is the only good and right one, which is exactly what his religion says. I am able to invite him to bring his beliefs and influence to BDSR, but he is not able to accept the invitation because doing so would violate his moral code. I’m kinda bummed about it, but I certainly don’t hold it against him that he’s acting out of his conscience in accordance with the dictates of his faith. Actually, the fact that he’s taking a stand based on his religious conviction is one more reason for me to respect him and appreciate his friendship. He certainly has never held it against me that I’m an unwashed heathen. (I was washed once, baptized that is, but I got dirty again.)
I value and respect Christianity as much as all other forms of spirituality. It might seem like I’m attacking Christianity once in a while – over at the Bandcamp there are tracks titled “Emmanual Transmission”, which has a dayglo portrait of Jesus, and “Holy Ghost Bitch”, which has a picture of a woman on a crucifix, but those are less attacks and more attempts to draw attention to certain aspects of religion, in these examples Christianity, and to use puns which I especially enjoy for their ability to convey multiple meanings. There are other tracks on the Bandcamp, i.e. “Matthew 6:6” and several Psalms, that refer to Christianity, but which don’t have anything about them that seems critical or controversial. Nevertheless, to a devout Christian, who believes that Jesus Christ is the single earthly incarnation of the God of Abraham, everything about The Big Drum In The Sky Religion’s “(non-musical philosophy and ideals” is blasphemy.
So, in the interest of clarity, I’ll clarify: BDSR holds that all religions, including Christianity, are right and good and true as metaphor. All are ways to live good and authentic lives here and now, and of achieving and maintaining a relationship with the Great Mystery. BDSR respects and supports all religions. BDSR may make fun of any and all religions at any time, but that is in the spirit of the Trickster, pointing out that religions are human constructs that cannot possibly, due to the inherent limitations of our puny minds, limited as they are to the merely finite and temporal, actually touch or truly convey any real sense of that which is infinite and eternal. Human attempts to define or describe Divinity will always fail. The purpose of the Trickster is to remind us of this truth, lest we believe that our metaphors are facts and thus become idolaters. With regard to Christianity in particular, BDSR does not deny that Jesus of Nazareth was a Son of God, but does deny his exclusive claim to that title. We are all Children of the Living God, whatever name we call Him/Her. With any form of religion, the most important thing by far is the experience. Doctrines, scriptures, sutras and rituals are fine and dandy, but only as they serve the individual to experience a relationship with the Divine.
My friend won’t be playing bass. I’m sure we’ll do shows together, perhaps release that split cassette we’ve talked about. Maybe we’ll have some conversations about religion that will yield insights to one or both of us. These are all fine and good things. Still, I do need somebody to hold down the bottom.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.