Article by J. Peter Roth
Progress was the fuel to the existence of the Prayer Chain from the beginning. To musically surpass everyone around them as well as those who influenced them was the lone bond that has held the four member together and motivated them.
But upon the release of Antarctica, the band's final effort, this particular machine of progress will stop churning and grow cold forever.
It began in 1990 when each of the members promised themselves and each other they would never "sit still," as guitarist Andy Prickett puts it. Six years later, those same four are now trying to heal and forget what it cost to reach that point.
"When you're first getting together you just kinda brush stuff off," guitarist Andy Prickett says. "It's no big deal; it's not the biggest part of your life. But then when it is ... you start to realize maybe you can't live with these people."
Throughout their existence, the moodiness and biting angst of their music became more apparent with each record. It started with a groovy wah peddle riff in "Mercy." Six years later: "You pushed me around/and now I've had my fill ... I've lost all countenance, you've gone too far," was one of the band's final groans on Mercury's "Grylliade."
The music's obvious restlessness provided a curious backdrop for their spiritual insights. The combination of a troubled man and open spirit created a brave realism that explored new territory in music.
But the energy which provided their motivation and personality was also the cause of what seems in hindsight an inevitable demise. After speaking with each member separately, the fruitless striving for unity failed simply because the music had become too personal to be a group effort. Mercury documented the struggles within the band that eventually culminated in decision to call it quits.
"I couldn't listen to the record for probably a good three or four months after we recorded it," drummer Wayne Everett says. "It was a fight, you know. It was really Eric and Andy and me versus Tim."
Taber realized the opposition. "I just kinda said, `Ok, you guys have a complete vision for where you want to go with this album, so go with it.'" He says Mercury was mostly a vision of Everett's and Campuzano's.
However, each member does agree that through this bitter struggle Mercury would also be the closest the band would ever come to the complete culmination of its talents.
"Mercury is as close as I think I could come to what I wanted the band's vision to be," bassist Eric Campuzano said. "I think to me it was a very, very spiritual and musical record."
Even Taber says during the engineering of the record, he began to finally understand it. But he also believes it did not meet the expectations of what the band could have been.
Prickett thinks those expectations of surpassing their contemporaries could have never happened. "It would have been impossible with these four members, that's why it had to dissolve. There was enough creative difference eventually to prevent the completion of what." even if Mercury had gone platinum, he adds, the group would have still gone its separate ways.
Oddly enough, Campuzano believes the band just hit its stride with the making of Mercury. It was the band's most "expressive" album, but also their hardest to make. It was during the writing of the album that Campuzano Everett and Prickett realized an artistic milestone. But they all four also realized that Taber was not on the same page as the rest.
They continued to try and solve their problems democratically, as they always had. Soon this began to fail, as well, just as others had told them it would.
In fact, Taber recalls, one of those naysayers was Mercury producer Steve Hindalong. "He told us from day-one, when we recorded our demo. He was like, `You guys are a democracy?' That doesn't work. You can't be in a band and have democracy. You'll fall apart.' And you know, maybe ultimately he was right."
With Taber's passive attitude and problems with the record company, the angstful charge of the band heightened.
"We were sort of attacking each other through the music," Campuzano says. "Taking out our frustrations and our disagreements through lyrics or the bass line or the drum part. And then on top of that were taking out our frustrations on the Christian music scene. Our band was very reactionary."
At one point, the band thought they were finished with the album when Reunion Records executives said they didn't like it: It was too negative, the band was told, it didn't sound enough like a "Christian" record. So the band went back into the studio and wrote five more songs.
One of them, "Sky High," made it on the final record. The remaining four songs appear on Antarctica, along with eight live songs from the band's final performance.
But the disagreements began boiling long before the making of Mercury. The Shawl tour is when things started going awry. Taber remembers in 1993 when Everett threatened to quit after the tour was finished.
"I had a lot of hatred for Tim Taber for a long time," Everett admits. He told him so on that tour.
If the band had broken up then, they all agree, it would have failed: They needed to go one step further, personally and creatively, with Mercury before any closure could be made. But that record, as satisfying as it is, is something they all want to leave behind now.
"The record wouldn't have come out the way it did if that tension hadn't been there," Everett says. "And I do think that is part of the beauty in it. But as far as the break-up of the band is concerned, I just don't want to go through that again. I think great records can be made without that kind of negativity."
And they each plan to do exactly that:
Prickett, who recently quit his gig as one of the Violet Burning's guitarists, is producing Pushstart Wagon, a young, ragged pop band.
Taber is collaborating with Mortal's Jyro and worship master Chris Lizotte on a more "straight forward" worship album.
Everett and Campuzano are playing with Starflyer 59, and working on a small project called the Lassie Foundation, "sleek" and "beautiful" music that rises from the influences of the Mission UK and My Bloody Valentine.
There is also talk of Everett, Campuzano and Prickett writing together once more.
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