Pastor Brad (Windlan) remains one of the hardest working guitarists in all of metal and hard rock. A full time minister out of Altoona, Pennsylvania, the artist released two albums in 2004 (Get Real and Rock You Up), three more in 2005 (Out Of The Hellhole, Telecaster and The King Has Come) and one in 2006 (Shred). His aptly entitled lone offering from 2007, Reshredded, preceded the early 2008 effort Shredded Sweet. The latter half of 2008 found Pastor Brad presenting with his most recent work, Heavenly Shred, his ninth album overall (in five years!) and fourth to head in instrumental guitar based territory. Angelic Warlord had the recent opportunity to interview Pastor Brad, who offers insight into his musical background, the details sounding Heavenly Shred and future recording projects as well.
I would like to begin by talking about your musical background. When did you first pick up the guitar? And, what musicians have inspired you? Also, who are your musical influences?
The first 45s – yup, I’m that old—that I remember owning were, “HELP” (The Beatles), “Fernando” (ABBA), “Cold as Ice” (Foreigner), and “Shaboom Shaboom” (The Crew Cuts—this one was actually my mom’s). I love those songs. I still know every word to those tunes.
In 1977 I was in 4th grade---KISS was HUGE! I remember buying KISS’ Love Gun. I think that was my first album. Dude—that album had a big affect on me. Everything about KISS was larger than life. I was so into them. I didn’t really care about playing guitar yet, but I loved that kind of music---I bought every album KISS put out… read every article in print about them… I was a KISS ARMY fanatic! So, I guess I would have to say KISS both inspired and influenced my musical tastes the most of any band.
But I have to say that AC/DC comes in a close second---and they’re only second because I discovered them after I discovered KISS. My dad took me and a friend to see AC/DC in concert at Market Square Arena, in Indianapolis. It was 1980, the Back In Black show---incredible. When Brian Johnson came out and rang that bell… and Angus Young stepped onto the stage and began to play---THAT was the moment I was inspired to become a guitarist. Angus was the best all-around guitarist/performer I ever saw in concert---not necessarily the most skilled player… but he just embodied and exuded everything that a “rock-n-roll” guitar player should be!
I worked at Burger King for three months—my dad knew the manager so I was able to start working there when I was 15—and I saved up enough to buy my friend, Jay Harvey’s 1973 Fender Telecaster Super Deluxe with a little 10 watt Fender Super Champ amp. It was, and still is an awesome guitar! I still have it. Of course I’ve butchered it—nothing’s stock on it anymore… I changed the neck, the pick-ups, the bridge… everything. Matter of fact—this is funny—I brought it into my local guitar shop one day and when I opened the case one of the employees saw it and said, “Dude! It’s a FRANKENTELE!” – which was perfect---it was a pieced together monster! But I LOVE this guitar… it plays like nothing else I’ve ever played.
I got really serious about guitar at age 16. I played all day everyday for years. My bedroom and albums were my sanctuary. I wore a lot of needles out learning Angus Young, Ace Frehley, Randy Rhoads and Dave Murray and Adrian Smith licks! I played in this one garage band called “Black Rose”… we wrote several of the songs that are on OUT OF THE HELLHOLE – except they had very different (non-Christian) lyrics. We did a lot of “garage concerts” for neighbor kids—but that was about as far as we went---mostly we were just dreamers, who wanted to play loud, impress girls and party. So, that’s how I got started and who my influences were.
Your first two albums, Get Real and Rock You Up, were released in the spring of 2004. How have you grown as a musician, songwriter and producer since then? What lessons have you learned?
Ah, yes… Get Real and Rock You Up… those two got it all started---I was just learning how to really write and record. I had written songs over the years—but not on this scale. Get Real and Rock You Up, for me, are special… they represent a season of learning and growth. I was just learning how to record… how to use recording software, how to mix… etc. And then, even more so than today, I was doing it on a shoe string budget!
Actually—here’s a cool story for you---I recorded Get Real, Rock You Up, Out of the Hellhole, Telecaster, The King Has Come and SHRED in my office at the church I served in South Bend, Indiana! I had my amp tucked away under a table and I had an old Kurzweil PC 88 on my desk (I recorded all of the bass parts for my early albums using the bass on the PC 88). I would run into the sanctuary (in the afternoon, after everyone had left for the day) and grab microphones and stands, etc. and set things up in my office… record for a couple hours and then pack it away! One day, I was recording vocals, I think it was for “Cat of nine-tails” (from Rock You Up)… I had no idea anyone was in the building… I was screaming out the vocals pretty loud. An elderly lady, Bev… came hurrying down the hall to check on me—she thought I was in pain! How funny… There I stood with my headphones on – gear set up all over my office… I just put my arm around her and said, “I’m fine… I’m just cranking out some heavy metal for Jesus.” I’m not sure she got it… but that was a fun moment in PB Metal History.
Man, since those days---I would like to think that I’ve grown a lot. As a musician—I am and will forever be influenced by the metal of the 1980s. I just love that genre of skillful lead guitar playing. However, I’m not “stuck in the 80s”. Everyone has their influences. I am continuously working to become a better player—expand my lick library, ramp up my speed, grow in my knowledge of the fretboard, etc. It’s kind of weird---when I go back and listen to my early stuff—I really enjoy the playing, and some of those songs are among my all-time favorites, but at the same time—I can see how I’ve learned a lot since 04!
As for my songwriting---I think--over time I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve become more expressive and experimental—just letting the tape roll and going for it on tracks—which has generated some really fun takes! And, I think I’ve become more consistent with my writing. When you go back and listen to Get Real or Rock You Up---you’ll hear two killer tunes…and then the next one is sort of a “filler” tune… not that it’s bad, but it’s not something I would release today. Today I just have a better idea of what makes a good song a “good song”… at least for my tastes—so the overall quality of my albums is better.
Man—on production—that is a never-ending process of learning and growth. I’m sure even the great Mutt Lang would say the same thing. The world of frequencies, stereo field, EQ, compression, effects, etc, is so vast and there are so many ways to achieve a sound. One lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t become a good producer over night. Every song is an experiment… a learning process… an opportunity to discover how to get that “warm sound” or get some “oomph” in the low end… or carve out a notch with EQ so that the vocals or lead guitar can come through nicely… There’s a lot to say here… but I think the bottom line for me is that while I still have MUCH to learn, I’ve learned a lot—I hope my albums reflect that.
You recently released a new album entitled Heavenly Shred. Are you happy with the way Heavenly Shred turned out? How has the response been so far?
I’m really kind of surprised at the way Heavenly Shred was received. As I was working on it—I thought, “Man, there are some really good tunes on here… and some really great guitar work.” But, I wasn’t thinking, “This is going to be a great “Christmas album.” I wanted to put the five Christmas Carols on there for a couple reasons. First, because they represent timeless worship songs of the church—which was exactly what I was going for. And then secondarily because it was a way to build toward a REAL Christmas album in the future. In a year or so I hope to combine the Christmas tunes on SHRED and HEAVENLY SHRED with a couple new ones and release a full-blown Christmas disc. But hey—no worries—it’s all good. I’m glad people enjoyed the holiday tunes on Heavenly Shred.
As far as production goes---I’m always mixed on this one. With every album that you do, you have to come to a place in the production process where you say, “Okay, this sounds good enough… I’m satisfied with this… I can release this.” At least I do. I could tweak a song infinitely and drive myself insane! But there are ALWAYS elements you wish you could do better. For me every release is a challenge—I’m always striving to become a better musician, a better engineer/producer…a better marketer… It never ends. I think Heavenly Shred represents the journey I’ve been on well. I’m very pleased with the playing---I can’t say enough about the guests on here… just fantastic people and players! And I think the production is getting closer to where I want it.
I just recently made a HUGE change to PB Studios (the bedroom in my house dedicated to music). I installed some “acoustic treatment” to deaden the room. This may sound funny—I bought a bunch of moving quilts and hung them on the wall around the room… and then I bought some lamp boxes from Uhaul, stuffed them full of blankets and stacked them up in the corners—creating “bass traps” – it’s the poor man’s way, but it really deadened the room and it’s making mixing and mastering a bazillion times easier! Heavenly Shred was the first album I mixed in this environment. I think you can hear the improvement. I still long for a better (bigger) drum sound, and a warmer overall feel.
Honestly—one thing I’ve learned is that good production, to some degree is all about M.O.N.E.Y. If you can afford the top end gear---it makes getting that sweet sound a LOT easier. But no worries. God is good---and He hasn’t necessarily called me to put out albums with $10K worth of production on them. I’m thankful for the gear I’ve got—I try to upgrade a little bit each year—and I’m really enjoying the whole process of creating music and sharing it with people around the world. And the friendships and ministry opportunities that come out of it are really what its all about—and that’s happening---so, no complaints.
What are your favorite songs off Heavenly Shred and why?
Sincerely, that’s an impossible question to answer. It may sound like a cop-out, but I really enjoy all of the songs for different reasons… there’s a little story behind each tune—something that makes it special for me. And—honestly, at this point, with Heavenly Shred—having just released it two months ago—I’m really kind of burnt on it. I mean, I listen to every song somewhere close to a hundred times as I’m producing it—tweaking, EQing, mixing, mastering, etc. So, by the time I release it---I’m pretty tired of listening to it! It’s weird---when you are the producer on an album you’re listening intently to EVERYTHING---every track, every instrument, every note, every little noise or frequency, etc. It’s an intense process and you have to be critical in your mindset. So, with each album it takes a little time for me to kind of back away from that mentality. After a year or so I tend to forget where all those little “glitches” were that bothered me so much and I can just listen to the music for enjoyment’s sake. I’m just now sort of getting to the place where I can really enjoy SHREDDED SWEET again. Oh, the woes of being an indie/do-it-yourself artist.
Why did you choose a Christmas theme for half the songs on Heavenly Shred? Will you be heading in the same direction on any projects you record in the future?
You know, like I said earlier, my intention wasn’t really to make Heavenly Shred a “Christmas” disc… I don’t know why it never occurred to me that with five Christmas tunes somebody may think, “Hey, nice Christmas album”… I guess I was just a little clueless there. I just wanted to crank out a collection of traditional church songs that have great meaning to our faith –and do it in a PB shred metal style. But, having said that, I do hope to release a full-blown Christmas disc in the future—containing the Christmas tunes from SHRED, HEAVENLY SHRED and a couple new ones. Beyond that, I’m not sure. I have some BIG ideas for some future projects. Believe it or not—and this is going to sound insane—I already have my next 3 ½ albums recorded! I just got real inspired, and I was in contact with some great musicians who were all up for recording at the moment—so over the course of 2007 and 2008 I recorded four albums (including Heavenly Shred). I know I’m biased—but man, I can’t wait to release these things—the performances are just special.
For a glimpse into the more distant PB Metal future—I just got a new program from Steinberg, called SEQUEL. Oh my gosh! This thing is freakin awesome. It’s packed with features that I believe will result in some very cool sounding tunes!
I currently have five projects in mind for the future: 1) a new metal vocal album called BREAK OUT (This one could end up being my next release—just to give folks a little change of pace from the shredder thing), 2) an instrumental shred/narrated concept album called WINDOWS ON REVELATION—My good friend Tim Allison, who has an incredible narrating voice will read segues between the songs—it will be a journey of music and spoken work through the book of Revelation, 3) My kids, who are 9 & 11 have formed a teen pop group called “Double Joy” and I’ll be helping them produce their first album. And then my wife Kelly—who has a wonderful voice--has always wanted to make a record—so that’s on the list as well. It’s going to be a busy season of life around the Windlan household, but it’s gonna be a load of fun too!
I would like to know more about Windlan. Specifically, how would you describe the music of Windlan? And what is the inspiration behind Windlan?
There’s a really short answer to this… but it requires a little explanation. The short answer is—the WINDLAN thing isn’t going to happen. Now—here’s the explanation. A while back, I was chatting with Matt Hunt of Brutal Records, and he encouraged me to consider changing my artist name from Pastor Brad to something else—basically because he thought it would be more marketable. He was just trying to help me—heck, I don’t remember, I think I probably asked him if he had any suggestions for me and the name change thing was one he thought of… Anyway, after a lot of deliberation I settled on my last name, WINDLAN. There wasn’t really going to be any significant change in my sound or musical direction… it was a marketing thing.
It’s weird—in this ministry (and that’s exactly what the whole Pastor Brad/Guitar Jams thing is), you sort of go back and forth. You push and struggle and do everything you can to “get the word out there about what you’re doing” because you want to attract as many people to it as possible. And sometimes your focus gets off. You begin to make decisions based more on a desire to “sell albums” – forgetting that God’s call on you is about “influencing people.” It’s a tough balancing act because you always want to reach as many people as possible for Christ – I mean connecting with a million people and having the opportunity to encourage them and point them toward Jesus is better (or it sure seems better) than connecting with two-hundred or so. But you have to keep your focus straight—be faithful to the call and the vision and the people God has brought into your life and let Him handle the size of your audience.
My mantra for this ministry has always been--“It’s about influence, not income.” I.e., it’s a Matthew 6:33 thing—seek first HIS kingdom… and He’ll take care of all your needs. So, with the WINDLAN thing—I was reaching---hoping that a name change would open doors to connect with more fans, but the motivation was skewed and God just had to set me straight on that. And praise Him, He did. Just recently—God really nailed me on all of that. He lit a new fire of clear vision in my heart. He reminded me that I am a pastor and I love being one… I am “Pastor Brad”… and I don’t need to be anything else. I just need to be true to my original vision of being a heavy metal pastor and let God take care of the rest.
Please go into more detail about your next instrumental guitar release, Shredomatic. How does it compare to your other instrumental albums? What guests will be appearing on it?
Shredomatic will be my fifth shred disc. I’m really excited about it. In some ways it will be very similar to HEAVENLY SHRED. I used the same drums and I actually recorded all of the songs for HEAVENLY SHRED and SHREDOMATIC during the spring of 07. In my mind the songs from both albums come from the same place/time (musically) in my life. But, there are some key differences. For one, there are three vocal tunes on this one. After four straight instrumentals I was just feeling the need to pump some “message” back into the music. And my solos on this album are more free form and improvised—I just sort of kept the tape rolling and let it fly. And I must say, I captured a couple really cool little moments in time. I listen to some of these solos and find myself saying, “Did I really play that? That’s freakin cool!”
As always—I’m so proud of the guest artists on this project. Art Kalenda, Earl Coy, Jim Griffin and Matt Eltringham—all of them are stellar musicians in their own right. Art, Jim and Matt have all played with me on past PB albums. Earl is the new comer—he’s a bluesy/classic rock kind of player. He brings a really nice touch to the project. Soon, I will have profile pages for all of the guest artists—past and present—guys like Dee Harrington and Richard Lynch, Jon Hooper, Mario Barasic, David Wallimann, Joe Nardulli and Andy England--up at Guitar Jams so you can get to know them better and find links to their music.
I understand that you are working on an all-vocal metal/hard rock album entitled Break Out. What musical direction will it be heading? And who will be handling vocals on the project?
Well, BREAK OUT, in most ways will unmistakably be Pastor Brad Metal, but there will definitely be some new wrinkles. For one—I will have a couple guest vocalists on this one: Richie Z (of Blind Seven) and Rachael Ann (of Ravenshead) are both slated to lay down three vocal tracks each on BREAK OUT. I’ll be singing on the remainder of the songs. Also, this album is going to have a bit more of a heavy/nu metal feel (at least some of the songs will)—but with a lot of old-school/PB touches and guitar solos. I don’t think I’m going to have any guest musicians (guitarists) on this one. Bottom line: it’s going to be heavy, melodic slammin’ vocal album--packed with a Christ-centered message and lots of PB guitar solos.
Please tell me more about the virtual Metal Church. And what role does the Metal Church community play?
I’m impressed Andy, you’ve really done your Guitar Jams homework! The METAL CHURCH was born out of a simple desire to encourage and unite metal head believers. I’ve set it up to provide both a worship, and a community experience. When you click on the METAL CHURCH link, and you are invited to participate in that month’s worship service. When you go to that page you are walked through an online worship service… you are prompted to spend time in prayer, confession, reflection and worship and then there is a teaching audio or video to take in. It’s a great devotional tool and an opportunity for people to connect. I hope to develop an email directory of every METAL CHURCH member so folks can stay in touch with each other, share prayer concerns, etc. There are also links to the Guitar Jams Forum from the M.C. pages---which provides another opportunity for people to connect. I really would encourage any one looking to go deeper with God and connect with some metal believers to check it out at: www.guitarjams.net/Metal_Church_Home.html
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to at the moment? If you were to choose few artists/bands to recommend, what would your choices be?
I’m pretty eclectic. Right now I have 5 CDs in the player: Foreigner’s Greatest Hits, Illuminandi (a thrash band from Poland), SAINT’S Crime Scene Earth, Angelica’s Greatest Hits, and MISSION OF ONE (Chris Dickens’ Album). But man, it really depends on my mood--—I can enjoy Taylor Swift (she’s a country artist for all you “anti-country folks), Elvis, the Beatles, Styx, Journey, Rod Stewart, Rick Springfield, dude—I grew up on 1970s pop radio—and my Jr. High Hay-day’s were took place smack-dab in the middle of the late 70s disco era! Heck, if I’m with my wife I can even get into BREAD or AIR SUPPLY! However, my first LOVE and staple genre is 80s metal—too many bands to name, but if they played metal/hard rock in the 1980s, I dug it!
Reshredded features a track entitled “Religious Club”. What do you mean by the term religious club? What would you say to someone who might feel alienated or isolated from the church? What role should a local church body play in the life of a believer?
“Religious Club” was inspired by a book that Reggie McNeal wrote, entitled, “The Future is Now.” Reggie's got some awesome insights on the state of the church today in America. One of them is that many people see the church as a “Religious Club”. Think about it—they “join”… “attend”… learn the “culture” (how to act and become and insider), they pay their “dues” (offering) each week, and as good Americans (who somewhere came up with the nutty idea that the church is a democracy) they feel like they should have a “say” in everything that goes on in “their club.” I’m generalizing of course, there are loads of wonderful Christ-followers in every church—but this element is also present in every church. And as a Pastor, let me tell you, it’s a very difficult thing to deal with—it hinders the vision of the church BIG-TIME. (but that’s another story).
The song focuses on the fact that too many churches function like Religious Clubs in that they offer the Gospel only to people who come to their '"club meetings" to hear it. I.e. “I’m not going to be a fisher of men and go connect with people where they live—on their turf -- and love them and share Christ with them. No way—if they want Christ—they can come to our Religious Club and learn our songs and our rituals, etc. and then we’ll tell them about Christ.” It’s crazy, but it’s a mentality that permeates the church. I was at my twentieth High School reunion a couple years ago and I ran into so many great people—most of whom were not Church goers. When they learned that I was a Pastor they were genuinely happy for me. What I discovered in talking with person after person that night was this—people aren’t anti-Jesus. They generally think Jesus is great, but they’re not too jazzed about the church. And that’s a bummer—because the church really does have the message of the gospel. The church has been commission with the message of redemption—and so many people who are NOT Anti-Jesus will never really get what the gospel is all about because no one from the church will invest in befriending them long enough to communicate it… So they wander through life—working hard, trying to be a “good person”, thinking Jesus is great, but not really understanding what it means to surrender their life to him as Savior and Lord. And I place the blame for that on us.
When you go fishing, you don’t just say, “Okay, here I am! Come on fish, Jump in the boat!” No, you go where the fish are… you use bate they like… you pursue them. The church is great—it really is a wonderful family. But, it’s kind of lacking when it comes to reaching out to people. We just sort of plan our services and hope that some poor lost soul will wander into our building and get saved. Every chance I get—I do my best to say—“Love the church (the body of Christ), attend services… worship with God’s people… study the Bible together… serve in ministries… but never forget the mission to actively go to the world and love people right where they are—and not as some kind of religious project so you can say “I led this poor sinner to Christ”… please… Just love ‘em… and God will take care of the rest!
The role of the church, in a nut shell is to bring people in (by equipping the body to be fishermen), build people up (through discipleship) and send people back out to repeat the process! Sorry if I rambled on this one---there’s just so much to say here and I’m very passionate about it.
What inspired the song “Go Irish” (from Shredded Sweet)?
The riff for the song is an exercise I stumbled onto. I just thought it sounded kind of “Irish”. And then 2007 was such a dismal season for we Irish fans that I just needed something to celebrate! So, when we kicked UCLA’s tail I downloaded the radio broadcast (all 3 hours of it!), edited out the best moments of the game and dropped them into the song. I really enjoy that tune! And Joe Nardulli lays some mean licks on there!
I would like to close by thanking you for agreeing to do this interview. Any final words for the readers of Angelic Warlord?
Andy, thank you! I so appreciate this opportunity to share with people about the Guitar Jams ministry and my music. It’s a privilege. To all of you out there in cyber world—thanks for reading! Visit www.guitarjams.net often and sign up for the MAX LIFE Ezine—it will bless your walk with Jesus and it’s a great way to connect with me and stay current on all of my musical activities! Attend your church! Love people, get in the Word and look for ways to build friendships with people who are far from God! And hey, pick up a Pastor Brad CD at www.cdbaby.com/all/pastorbrad and give it to them! Christian metal is a powerful force for Christ. Alright, have a great one! Metal Blessings, Pastor Brad.
Review by Andrew Rockwell