Interview: Faith Head
Faith Head, a hard rock / progressive metal band from Chattanooga, TN, just released their latest single 'In Between', taken from their as yet untitled forthcoming new album. Louder Than The Music chatted with the band's Patrick Shipley, aka PFunk (Bassist and Founder of Faith Head) to find out how they started out, what inspired the new single, and their plans for the new album.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got involved in making music?
Faith Head is a band that pulls from many genres of rock and metal. It's really hard to put a finger on our music. We like to keep our music diverse to avoid getting into a rut. All the songs are "heavy" in style and in lyrical depth. You can put about any label on it you like; hard rock, metal, alternative, progressive hard rock, nu metal or whatever. We have a song that fits one of those descriptions. We guess it's what our fans love about us and some labels don't like. As long as we like what we're doing and the fans love it, that's all that really matters. Since we write as a band collaboratively it tends to keep everything fresh and exciting.
We are extremely blessed to have such talented musicians in the current line up of the band. Guitarist Donny Raines, who has been with me from the beginning, is the architect of our sound, a great live performer and an awesome song writer. Guitarist Brian Montgomery, who joined us several years ago, is a great riff writer and soloist. Brian is great at writing simple, catchy riffs that stick in your head. Drummer Dale Adams has been with us a few years now. His style and influence pushed our music to a heavier sound for sure, plus he is also a good lyricist. Vocalist Adam Reed is the newest member of the family, joining in the Spring of 2020. His soulful, angsty voice resonates well in our music. Of course, there's me, Patrick Shipley, the bass player. I get my licks in lyrically, metaphorically and musically too.
Most of the band has been involved in music in different ways for years. As far as merging into Faith Head, that really all started with me (bassist and founder, Patrick Shipley). I spent a few years playing in other people's bands, supporting and contributing to their music. Ultimately, those projects fell apart and I was left wondering what to do next. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in another band again. If I did, I wanted to avoid the mistakes of past projects. It had been a long while since I started a band of my own. Starting a band takes a great deal of time and energy. To make a long story short, I received some divine inspiration and thus Faith Head was shortly born thereafter. I guess I am the glue that binds us all together.
Tell us about your new single 'In Between' and what the inspiration behind it was?
The origins of this song is really otherworldly. There was some definite divine intervention happening in the background. In my personal life, one of my daughters seemed to be pulling away from our faith and pulling away from me altogether. Our lives had been turned upside down with relocating the family in the middle of the pandemic, which meant switching schools and making new friends. My heart was really broken for her because there was nothing I could do for her other than talk to her, pray for her and be 'Dad'. Parallel to my situation, guitarist Donny Raines was going through something similar with one of his kids. We were really shocked one day when we were comparing notes about our lives. The lyrics developed through a series of conversations we were having, ministering to each other and carrying each other's burden. It was the first time we've really collaborated on lyrics.
Of course, every good song starts with a good riff. Brian and Dale were working on a couple of really good riff ideas. After they presented what they were working on to the band, I said we had some lyrics that would go well with what they were playing. Like all things Faith Head, everything gets thrown into a pile and everyone starts shaping and molding it. Once we got it about 95% complete, we took the song out and played it live a few times to get the audience and fans reaction, which sometimes is a gamble. We had a few train wrecks with it live, which is part of the process. If a song doesn't cut it live, it won't make it as a Faith Head song because we are known as a true live band with no tracks. After tweaking it some more we went into the studio and finalized it. It is a true Faith Head collaboration.
With everything happening with the pandemic and all the things unfolding on the world stage, "In Between" is a song that anyone from any walk of life can identify with through their own interpretation of the lyrics. If we did our job right, the song is an emotional rollercoaster for the listener, which is quite unique for this particular Faith Head song. Hopefully, at the end of the song the listeners will walk away with hope.
That song is taken from your forthcoming album, what more can you tell us about the album?
It's safe to say about half of it is written and field tested. The other half that is unwritten as lyrics without music or music without lyrics. There's probably some more music to be written still. These are some inspiring times we're living in with some unprecedented events taking place depending on your worldview. Every Faith Head song is inspired by something which makes those songs rise to the top in our writing process. Like all independent bands, the album is limited by time and money. We're going to attempt to stay off the road as much as we can until we're done with this album. The fans deserve and demand new music and we want to give it to them. Hopefully we'll have another new song ready come January and another come March. Hopefully soon after that, the album will be completed.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
We always want the listener to walk away with hope. Faith Head sees no need to add to the abundance of negative music on the market. The Christian worldview of our lyrics should always point to hope, a hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Even on the songs that don't mention Jesus by name you should walk away from the song feeling something different. The best way it was described to us was by a DJ who was checking out our music. She felt as she described this "positive energy" that was welling up inside her and couldn't quite put her finger on it while she was listening. Once she got home and started researching what we were about, she discovered we were Christians it made sense to her and has been a fan and supporter ever since.
If the music can touch the imago dei, or image of God, in each person that listens then we've done our jobs properly. Even on the harder hitting songs like "Under the Blood", "Genesys" and "When the Dominos Fall" that stoke a righteous anger and take a fixed position, there is always an underlying message of pointing to hope in the lyrics. We don't beat people over the head in our music. Regardless of your worldview, we want you to enjoy the music. We have plenty of fans that don't share our worldview that enjoy our music. I guess that's why it's played more on secular independent radio stations than Christian stations.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
Like our band, my personal style is all over the place. I like a little bit of everything. As a bass player, most of my influences are from the 1970's when electric bass dominated. So bassists like Lee Dorman (Iron Butterfly) , Dennis Dunnaway (original Alice Cooper band) and Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath). The 1980s was mostly about electric guitars and soloing. Only a few bass players from that era really had an influence on me like Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Cliff Burton (Metallica), Duff McKagen( Guns & Roses) and Billy Sheean (David Lee Roth band). Bass players really didn't make it back into the spotlight until the 1990's when players like Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and particularly Les Claypool (Primus), who had a major influence on me, came back to the forefront. That also caused me to go back to 1970s music to look at Bootsy Collins (Parliament Funkadelic) and others.
As far as songwriting influences, they are definitely on the darker side like Black Sabbath, Slayer, Metallica, Danzig, Alice Cooper, Alice in Chains, Jimi Hendrix, etc. but my funk influences are Primus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You would think being a Christian that I would have Christian musical influences but I don't. I think it was because in my formative years my access to some of the old school Christian rock bands was limited. And those that I did find bass players weren't that stellar. To answer your question I have a dark funky and groovy style.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Again, this will probably sound strange, but I would like to work with Glenn Danzig. As a songwriter, he can take one riff and build a song around it and make it sound interesting throughout the track. Danzig has a knack for adding layers and elements that change the song yet the melody remains the same. I've tried doing that several times to write a one riff song but I always find myself adding a second. I think his image and his persona overshadow his talents as a creative musician and a songwriter most of the time. If you strip away the personality and the legend of who he is, there is a very thoughtful and talented musician and lyricist regardless of his worldview. But the reality is no one really writes with Glenn Danzig. He writes for people or for himself. He doesn't seem to be a big collaborator.
I guess my other choice would be Zakk Wylde. I have been a fan of his since he started with Ozzy. Zakk has a wide pallet of influences and writing styles I think would be interesting to collaborate. I would love to see what bass line I could create for him to surf on musically.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
This is something that I have defined and redefined several times and continue to do regularly. I am not sure if I could say it's one thing as far as "success" goes. I have learned so much about the music industry in the last five years that my perspective on success is radically different from the average person who listens to music. I used to think that if I had one hit radio song that would be a success. But from what I understand most of the music you hear on the radio or songs that chart are because the labels pay money for placement and airplay. I also used to think that if I was in a band that got signed that was success. But what I know now is record labels are just banks that loan an artist money with interest. Yes, there's marketing and distribution functions that are part of that but with the internet who needs a label. I can get in debt with my music on my own. Actually, I have gotten quite good at it! I can't define success in industry terms anymore because it's all fake. Success in the music industry is created by pumping money behind it.
I define success in my musical career in simpler terms. If I write or co-write a song that gives someone a moment of clarity, some peace or gives them hope, I consider that a success. If I meet someone at the merch booth and make a real connection with a fan that becomes a friend and supporter, I consider that a success. If I get an email from a fan telling us how our music has impacted them in a positive way, I consider that a success. These are the things that happen that give me sustainable joy days.
Someone reading this might say, "you just sound so fake yourself being all righteous and humble about what you consider success." You have the right to believe whatever you want, but it is true. We've got some things on our resume that people would consider impressive for an independent band with no label support and is self funding. But none of them compared to what I've mentioned before. A nomination has never given me the motivation to suffer through a sixteen hour drive to a show where we play for 30-45 minutes and sleep in a tent overnight or in a 2-star hotel. I think some of my band mates would agree. I am proud of our accomplishments. When "Old Sin, New Skin" made it to #61 (or #60, I can't remember) on the Christian Rock charts in 2019, that was a proud moment. That song made it on its own. We don't pay radio pushers to promote our music. Those moments of excitement tend to fade very quickly.
But making a connection with real people is what keeps me going through all the debt, wrecks on the road, train wrecks on stage, equipment malfunctions, and rained out shows. When you can connect with the imago dei through the Holy Spirit with another person, that makes all the frustrating stuff truly worth it.
What is your favorite album of all time?
If I had to pick, I guess it would be Paranoid by Black Sabbath. I guess it's because it was the first album I sat down and learned note for note. I think I still can play all the songs if I sit down and try to remember. When I have time I will sit down and listen to the album from start to finish. If I hear any song off the album on the radio, I will always crank it up! It still gives me chills.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
"Lost between Heaven and Hell" by Zakk Wylde from the Book of Shadows album. It's the first track. That whole album is great. It is definitely a desert island album.
What does the next year hold for you?
At the end of 2019, I told my guys in the band and I quote "I believe 2020 is going to be our year!" And then God laughed! The pandemic hit and everything I had planned and we planned for the band fell flat on its face. I don't make statements like that anymore because the Almighty has corrected me.
Currently, all I have planned for us is to finish the next album. We've put in for a few bigger festivals but that's always hit or miss. The pandemic has really devastated the festival circuit. We are preparing to be able to tour next year but you never know with the current political environment regarding the pandemic. People want it to be over but politicians are still grabbing for power and control with it. It's hard to get a read on what's real and what's not. Planning shows with this level of uncertainty and high inflation is difficult. I am going to try to keep us off the road as much as we can until the album is done.
After the album is done, I would like to tour again. The goal would be to go where we've never been first. I would like to turn some new dirt to see if we can plant some seeds. I would also like to make it back to some places we've not been in a while like Texas and Oklahoma. I've been missing some of our fans in Norman, OK. Touring is very hard and expensive for signed and independent bands alike. We've discussed going to the west coast in 2022 because we've got people wanting us to come but logistically it's difficult. It's a great distance between potential shows with a lot of downtime in between. There's only so many t-shirts you can sell to pull something like that off without some additional help.
Right now, we're waiting patiently to see what God has planned for us. We put in the work and God does His part. We're going to continue to do what Faith Head does best and grind it out like all our other fellow independent artist friends. Lord willing and the creek don't rise, hopefully we will succeed by completing our album and getting out on the road. We shall see!