The eighties Christian metal scene featured its share of female fronted groups, with Barnabas (Nancy Jo Mann), Ransom (Lisa Faxson) and Scarlet Red (Danis) being three of the more noteworthy. One band deserving equal consideration is Clearwater, Florida based Arsenal. Featuring the abundant vocal abilities of Christine Steel, Arsenal recorded a three song demo prior to placing two tracks on the East Coast Metal compilation in 1988. The melodic hard rock of the bands Regency full length debut, Armored Choir, followed two years later. Angelic Warlord recently had the privilege of conducting an in-depth interview with Christine, who goes into detail in regards to her musical background, the history of Arsenal and more.
I would like to start things off by discussing your musical background. Would you please name your musical influences?
I grew up being completely engrossed in Neil Young. He's an older, folk/garage-rocker whose music is very raw. As I got older I gravitated toward tasty metal like Queensryche. I love hard core music as long as it's got a strong melody. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate power ballads as well. I can cry as well as the next chick.
What bands did you listen to while growing up?
Well, I think I answered this in the first question. But to add to the list: Heart, Dream Theater, Rez Band, King X, Led Zeppelin, too many to list, really.
Also, I would like to know your favorite vocalists and why?
That's easy. Geoff Tate of Queensryche. Hands down I think he's got one of the purest voices I've ever heard.
And in what way did (he) inspire you?
I think I am inspired more by what I hear in Geoff's voice (his singing ability) rather than his life since I do not personally know him.
You are best known for being the lead vocalist of Arsenal. However, were you involved in any bands prior to Arsenal?
LOL, yes, growing up I sang with my father, who plays the accordion, incidentally, at VFW's and American Legions. I was also in a few local rock bands.
I would like to know some biographical information about Arsenal. When did the band form? How did its members meet?
The original band formed in the mid to late 80's. We met in a church we were all attending. The final band members came together through various other means, including advertising. What I mean by that is that I placed ads for certain members and the rest is history (or HIS Story!).
How would you describe the music of Arsenal?
It began as metal and morphed into hard rock. Our CD Armored Choir was produced by a third party who made it sound like pop-rock. We've taken on several genres. I would say Arsenal is rock music with Christian based lyrics.
What were some of the earliest recording projects of Arsenal? How many demo tapes did the group record?
To tell you the truth I could NOT count the number of recordings I have done. The amount of demo tapes is beyond measure! We've done some pretty silly stuff and recorded some music I'm proud of. I guess that's the way most artists feel, isn't it.
What led to the band placing the tracks “Stand Strong” and “Message Of Love” on the “East Coast Metal” compilation? And why were those songs chosen?
These songs were actually chosen for us, as I recall. They were taken off of one of our countless demos floating around (LOL). I believe a friend sent me East Coast Metal and I was shocked. I had NO idea it was being made.
Arsenal signed to Regency Records and released its debut Armored Choir in 1990. Why did you sign with Regency? Were you approached by any other labels?
Yes, I had other labels contact me at that time. I was shopping our music to several companies and was blessed to get a lot of bites. Regency appeared to have the most integrity and negotiations went very well with them.
Are you satisfied with the way “Armored Choir” turned out? What, if anything, would you change about the project if given the opportunity?
Ah, and there it is...THE QUESTION! If I had to be perfectly honest and put myself way, way back to 1990, I would say "NO"! We were a much harder band. We rocked very hard. When we walked away from working in the studio all those months we thought it was finished. But things were added and compressed and changed so much that the finished product did not represent who we really were. It came out very watered down and, dare I say, wimpy.
Now having said that, I must say this...I heard from countless people from all over the world as a result of that CD who were touched by the LORD. "Forever Yours" and "The Candle... The Flame" in particular ministered to many, many people and for that I am eternally thankful to JESUS! I would not change that!
Did Arsenal plan to record a follow up to Armored Choir?
Yes, but not with the same producer.
Please tell me more about the five song Peace Child demo. When was the demo recorded? What musicians performed on it?
We recorded the Peace Child demo sometime in 2000-ish. I'm not sure exactly when because the songs were not all recorded at the same time.
Christine Steel - Vocals
Kevin Pike - Lead Guitar
Brien DeChristopher - Rhythm Guitar
Kandi Slaughter - Bass
Stan Arthur - Drums
Also, I think the demo sounds great and represents your best work. What led to the changes to a blues based hard rock musical direction?
Thanks! I think change just naturally happens with age, growth and life experiences. All of these things inevitably affect an artists music. I am not the same person I was 18 years ago, so the music I write will not be the same as it was then.
You really can't sing the blues until you've lived the blues. I've been through a lot in my life (we all have) and it's very reflective in my music, in my singing.
Where any other songs recorded at the time?
There were a lot of songs recorded then and since.
Do you have plans to re-issue the demo –and any other unreleased material – on CD?
I get asked about this almost every day. I don't plan on releasing old material at this time. That's not to say I never would, it's just not what I'm thinking of doing at this time. I'm more interested in writing, recording and releasing new material.
What other recording projects or bands have you been involved with? Likewise, are you currently involved with any projects or bands at the moment?
I've been in a plethora of bands since Arsenal. I've had the opportunity to work with some great musicians. I am very blessed. Currently I am involved with some wonderful Christian musicians and we are talking about putting together a rock band.
What are your future plans?
I will write, sing, produce music until I die and then go to heaven and do it some more (the LORD willing)!
Any final comments?
GOD has brought me through so many great and awful things in my life. Arsenal was a big part of that. Music has been and still is a wonderful escape when things become too stressful. I believe that GOD made music and gave it to us. It doesn't replace JESUS. It's not HIS substitute, but it is a huge blessing and touches so many people. I'm honored to be a part of that blessing.
Isaiah 61:3 is one of my favorite Bible passages. GOD replaces our junk (ashes) with cool stuff (beauty). That's what He's done in my life.
"...To give them beauty for ashes,The oil of joy for
mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of
heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
Arsenal online: www.facebook.com/arsenal.christian.band
Interview by: Andrew Rockwell