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In which the author interviews Daniel Biro of Hawk Nelson, a Canadian Christian-rock quartet.
Washington City Paper: Where are you right now? Daniel Biro: Albany.
How’s Albany? Albany’s scary.
Because of all the straight-edge hardcore bands? Because the ghetto neighborhoods I was running through. There were some smashed windows. There were some people eyeing me down.
Right, because of the greatness of America’s first president. Who’s your favorite president? Obama.
What about before Obama? Lincoln?
I forgot—-you are Canadian. [The author wonders whether his use of “America” to refer to “The United States” has offended DB.] You don’t even care about U.S. presidents. I do care. Lincoln did a lot, so that’s what I’ll say.
How do you stay sane on the road? Funny you should ask—-we don’t. We brought our own coffee kit and make French press coffee. I try to jog daily.
Are you on a bus with a driver? We’re sharing bunks with tour crew. It’s a different dynamic—-there’s more team spirit. When we’re on the bus alone we get sick of each other…
Do you guys have a lot of DVDs? Do you watch Pretty in Pink every day at 2 p.m.? No, we watch whatever’s on satellte. Jason [Dunn, Hawk Nelson’s frontman] brings his PS2…I’d bring out The Royal Tenebaums, or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Do you guys identify as Christian? “Christian” is a faux pas word—-everyone’s down with Jesus, no one’s down with “Christians.” Sometimes labels or names get tainted when people pracice hypocrisy—-“Christian” is not the ideal word to use. We all try to follow Jesus. We try to communicate love—-that God has forgiveness for everyone. You try to do all the things the Bible communicates and stands for.
Not all of your songs address faith. When do you decide to slip in a message? Every band is a little different. [Some] feel like it’s their duty to preach or share the Word of God or all that in all their songs. If that’s the way they feel, whatever—-[they should] make their songs. With us, Christianity in our music just gets interjected because that’s our worldview. It can’t help but find it’s way into our music, [but] we’re not like, “We’ve gotta get people saved tonight.” We try to write songs that are real from our fans’ perspective. Sometimes we write in the third person. At the same time, usually a year before we record [an album], I always pray and ask God to lead in the direction that he wants. [On Live Life Loud] we covered an old hymn from the 1800s. I never thought we’d be doing that. “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”—-you can’t be more blatant than that.
Do you go to church on the road? We don’t get to go. It’s a bummer. We live in Nashville now. I found this really cool church that I get to go to now, it’s awesome. It’s technically affilitiated with Calvary Temple out West. I think it’s considered Pentecostal, or nondenominational. It’s called the Grace Community Church in Franklin, Tenn. But, on the road, we don’t. Some Christians bands have backstage worship on Sundays. That’s not what we do. When I go running, I like to listen to a worship record now and then. When I’m in nature, and see everything that God has made, that opens my eyes. I try to express that in [prayer]…you know, in your head voice?
Of course. [The author does know!] What denomination were you raised as? I was raised in a Baptist chuch…Jason went to a nondemoninational, kind of charismatic church. Johnathan [Steingard, Hawk Nelson’s drummer]’s dad was a pastor in big chuch in Toronto.
Is there a Baptist influence in your music? No. I’m not really like that. I think it’s cool that I got to learn classic hymns. We were in a Baptist church with a band. It was my youth pastor who was like: “You love music, do you wanna join our worship team?” He gave me a guitar. That’s how it started for me. If my music is affiliated with Baptists, I’m proud.
What if it’s affiliated with Green Day? I grew up on the Warped Tour and Green Day. Those bands have more influence on our music stylistically than church music. [DB and the author engage in a tangential conversation in re: Baptist recording artists, i.e. Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. “The Baptist Church is where rock was invented,” the author insists.]
Who’s your favorite, uh…you know, those guys that wrote the Gospels? Not prophets…not acolytes. What are those guys called? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Who’s your favorite one? I’ve never thought about a favorite. Can I say Paul?
Well, he’s not one of the original four. If Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are like the Beatles, Paul is like George Martin. Or the original drummer. [The author laughs.] I love Paul because he didn’t have it all together all the time. He denied Christ three times and that shows us the humanity we all possess. But Jesus didn’t give up on him. I like Paul because he’s crazy a little bit. [DB has mistaken St. Paul, formerly the tax collector Saul of Tarsus, for St. Peter, who denied Christ thrice. However, the author feels is not unfamiliar with the Word, but has merely misspoken. He is, after all, in a Christian rock band.]
Do you dislike questions about your religion? Would you rather talk about the Stooges? Sometimes I think it’s a “you’re-walking-on-thin-ice” topic. I embrace who I am and who we are as a band. Not everybody’s gonna be into that. If you are, cool. [The author and DB discuss whether or not Hawk Nelson has an upcoming D.C. date. Neither is sure. DB reviews Hawk Nelson’s tour schedule, while the author reviews the same schedule on the Internet.]
Where’s “WOR-CHEST-ER” in Massachusetts? I think it’s pronounced “WUH-STUH.”
Did you want a copy of our record? I’ve got one in my office. [The author regrets to report that he has told DB a lie, as he does not have a copy of Hawk Nelson’s record, and does not have an office. However, he has not told this lie because he dislikes Hawk Nelson, its ideology, or its music. He tells this lie because he doesn’t like promotional CDs, which take up precious landfill space, and, like Prince, rarely listens to any other music besides his own.] Yeah, man…I’ve got one here, like, buried under this pile of promotional CDs in my office.
Hawk Nelson’s new album, Live Life Loud, is out now.
Photographs by Darrow Montgomery