What Doug Van Pelt Says
Some time ago, the karew and I decided that a “Meet the Press” 200-word blurb just wasn’t an appropriate way for our readers to “meet” our beloved and illustrious editor. So we came up with the idea to do this interview as a “What So and So Says” feature. What better way could there be to interview “the interviewer” himself than to turn the tables, so to speak, and give him a “dose of his own medicine?” While Doug was happy that I didn’t perform the usual “deep exploration” for which my profession is so notorious, he did graciously consent to an in-depth examination – which in this doctor’s opinion was long overdue. After all, not only has he accomplished wondrous things in the Christian metal and hard music community over the past 23 years, he’s a solid Christian and a great encourager to many. Moreover, he has taught all of us – through these very interviews – how to talk to others about Jesus in an open and honest manner. While my prognosis for Doug is excellent, I think it’s in the depth, passion, and sincerity of his words where you will find a prescription of “grace and peace” for your soul.
JS: Well, let’s start off by talking about the magazine. Let’s go back in time, I guess … about 22 years. What in the world were you thinking when you started Heaven’s Metal in 1985?
DVP: Well, I guess a little background info… Just going way back when I was a little kid, like 6 or 7 years old, I kinda discovered rock music and that I really liked Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and even a little Motown just listening to the local radio there in Florida. I really got involved with music, at an early age. And then, didn’t go into music a lot the rest of the years. But when I got to junior high and high school rock music was king. I learned a lot … I picked up a lot of attitudes, as far as how to treat women and what I thought of women as far as treating women as objects from my spiritual advisors Ted Nugent and Steven Tyler. And a lot of that was from reading interviews in magazines. I used to favor Circus a little more than Creem, but used to get both all the time. And I quickly absorbed just anything I could learn about the rock musicians I liked. And, you know, like a lot of people who are interested in something, I became like a walking encyclopedia. “Oh, you wanna know something about Ted Nugent, blah, blah, blah…” So, maturing up, I knew in the back of my head, the power of rock of journalism or of rock magazines.
Then, my story as a Christian… For 9 years I was away from the Lord, as a prodigal son. But in the middle of my college years I came back to the Lord and gave God my musical choices. I did the typical thing where I asked God to help me go through my record collection and got rid of a bunch of albums I didn’t feel I needed to be listening to anymore. And, anyway, I started quickly gobbling up as much Christian rock as I could find, discovering that there was a lot out there. I discovered CCM magazine and their radio tip sheet. And I was reading a publication called ACME (Alternative Christian Music Enthusiasts). They said in passing, “With the advent of Christian Heavy Metal, someone should start a Christian Heavy Metal newsletter or magazine.” And I thought to myself, “I can do that.” And so for about 6 months—I was on the 5 year college plan, so this would have been my first junior year—I formulated this idea and vision which was always to be a full blown mag, even though it was gonna start with no budget and no investment capital. The goal was always to be on the shelf next to Rolling Stone and Circus. So that is what I was kinda thinking, that this would reflect my love for Christian heavy metal and hard rock music … to try to meet the needs of the bands who need the publicity, to get the word out about what they are doing; and meet the needs of the fans, and hopefully edify the fans too because, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Very cool. Well, when did you know that this was going to go somewhere?
Well, about a year later… When the magazine first launched, my friend Carey Womack, who later started One Bad Pig, said, “Hey, I’m going to the Cornerstone Festival on July 4th, why don’t you print your first issue and I’ll hand them out as a promotion.” So that was kind of a shove out the front door that got me … put my 6 month vision into practice. And, I gave it to my roommate, who was hooking up with Carey as they drove to Cornerstone. My roommate later told me that he was so embarrassed by the Xerox quality that he kept all 30 copies in his bag. I think he gave two out, one to Glenn Kaiser. So it has some really humble beginnings. I took out two classified ads, one in CCM and one in Kerrang! And the ad in Kerrang! just happened to be in their 100th issue with Motley Crue on the cover—which was their first issue actually printed in both the UK and North America—so it had a circulation of an extra 100k copies. So the fact that my randomly sent in ad ended up in their biggest issue ever didn’t seem like a coincidence.
It wasn’t until the next spring, about a year later, when I got a letter from Gavin Morkel (the Vice President of Refuge Records, who were starting Pure Metal Records) and he said, “We like what your are doing and want to throw our advertising behind you and here’s a package of 5 new albums.” So that was when I kinda knew that some people in the industry were noticing what I was doing and that would probably go somewhere.
When did you first realize that it was making a difference in someone’s life?
I guess early on, back in those days before the internet was available to the general public, you would get letters in the mail and people would send you cassettes. Getting letters from people and hearing from a few people here and there were early indications that it was hitting a need. I remember Robby Lee, the guy from Armageddon who was in a band called Second Chance at the time. There was a kid named Carlos Vasquez out of San Francisco who seemed to be involved in everybody in the Bay Area’s life in terms of Christian rock. Rex Scott of Zion (now X-Sinner) was an early collaborator. When I first met up with Jim Laverde of Barren Cross, he was just like … his eyes were real wide and he was holding it in his hand and just really encouraging me saying that this was gonna do great and this was a wonderful thing. Little pieces of encouragement like that went a long way in encouraging me in what I was doing.
Very good. Well, this may seem like a foolish question, but why did you change the format of the magazine in the mid 90’s?
You mean the name change?
The format and the name change, yeah.
As far as the format goes, it has been evolving over time, but the name change… In 1995, about a year or two before that point in time, I was in the Los Angelos area; I was at Frontline Records who had Intense and Alarma Records. I did a trade with them. I think I traded some ad space in exchange for being able to use their video editing facility at night. They gave me the key and I went in there by myself and used their video toaster to put together the Heaven’s Metal Video Magazine Volume II and III. And late one night, one of the guys, named Michael Sean Black, came in and went to his desk and I stopped in and chatted with him and he goes, “You should change the name of your magazine to HM.” And I’m like thinking, “You idiot, I hate your guts. Just get out of my face, I don’t want to have this conversation.” Because the name Heaven’s Metal just seemed like the perfect name for a Christian heavy metal magazine. So the idea of changing it seemed like, “What, do you change the name of your kid after 10 years?” About a year or two later, when I had started using the phrase “your hard music authority” and marketing companies like Concrete Marketing started releasing logos and press releases about how “hard music” was the new catch phrase … and Nirvana had destroyed glam and hair metal with one song in ’91 … and the whole musical landscape was changing. There was a whole new radio format called “X” … and almost every major market had a station with X in the call letters and it was alternative and everything was changing. And a few people that I talked to in record labels … the idea was that metal was a genre that was dying a commercial death. And at the time, the quality of metal was taking a hit. All the good bands … their creativity seemed to dry up. The only band in the metal world that was doing something strong and fresh, beside Metallica, was like Dream Theater. Most of the metal world was delving into the extreme versions of death metal and black metal which was very anti-commercial. So the commercial appeal of metal was dying a commercial death. The phrase metal of Heaven’s Metal was a weight round our neck, it was hurting us instead of helping us. So that was the impetus as to why I changed the name. It was really difficult to do because I felt that I gave birth to that magazine and to change the name was a big deal.
But people love to abbreviate things. People were calling us HM for years. And HM seemed to be the only name change I could make, without leaving Heaven’s Metal behind, because HM stands for Heaven’s Metal. And then we had some competition at the time. 7 Ball Magazine came out and started taking away some of our advertising base. I had a few friends who would, kinda jab me in the ribs and call HM, “Heaven’s Metal” with a tone in their voice that was mocking … that I was irrelevant, out of touch, old school.
We did have some pressure from external forces that being associated with metal was hurting us in the eyes of the records companies that were changing. Back in the day, major record companies like Atlantic, Epic, Columbia … they all had a metal division. And those people, even after the musical revolution happened, still had those metal divisions. Slowly but surely they would close the metal divisions. Atlantic would close theirs; Epic would follow. The Christian record companies, for the first time in only 3 incidences I can think of where they actually took the lead in the music business, was when ran away and ditched metal quicker than anybody else. The only other time Christian music was a leader in the music world was in 1986 and 1987 when they lowered CD prices from $17.98 to $11.98 or $12.98.
But anyway, all that was going on. It was a really rough transition to go through as a magazine, because a lot of the metalheads felt like we had betrayed heavy metal and turned our back on the genre. It was a lot of changes to go through. So that’s a long answer to your question.
Yeah, that’s a good segue into another question that I had which was why did you then resurrect Heaven’s Metal? Was that a factor in bringing it back as a fanzine?
Well, it really was, ah… I guess to give a little background information… HM magazine at the time, after the new millennium … the landscape was still changing. The most popular form of music with 15 year old males was hardcore and metalcore type music, like Living Sacrifice and Zao and Embodyment. Those kinds of bands were the core of… If you really wanted to figure out what style of music HM championed, for better for worse, it was that style. And, the readers of the mag over time—their tastes changed and evolved. Whenever they would be reading about a band like POD or Zao and then turn the page and see an article on Bride, it would kind of rub them the wrong way. Like, this doesn’t belong in the same magazine as this. More and more I realized that the older school metal didn’t have a place in HM as it used to, just because things have changed and it would cause a strong reaction to the negative. We have kind of evolved over time. We never wanted to be the champion of old music; we always wanted to be the champion of edgy music, guitars in your face, distortion. As styles evolve, things aren’t gonna look or feel the same. There was pressure to not cover metal as much if we were to serve what our perceived audience was. So anyway, I started a segment of the magazine called Heaven’s Metal, which was a page where we could cover the Stryper news and the Bride and Guardian and the older bands that didn’t fit so comfortably aside Zao or ASID.
But anyway, the real reason all this happened was on Labor Day weekend, I guess in 2004, I woke up at like 2 or 3 in the morning and I had an 11 point outline in my head to bring Heaven’ Metal back as a side publication. And to me, having that much detail—literally 10 or 11 points of this new idea—seemed like, “wow … this is a God thing.” You know, why would I have that many specific details in a dream on my own? Of course, I wrote all those things down and figured I could pull this off and found a way, with a small circle of advertisers, to cover the cost of this publication. And I knew there was a small, but enthusiastic segment of people out there that would appreciate it. And with no marketing whatsoever, except for maybe a one half page ad in HM, we went from zero to 600 subscribers in just a couple months.
I don’t know why I am doing it yet, really!
We’re there with ya! What do you think is the biggest mistake you’ve made with the publication?
Well one is … speaking of the band Creed. Back in 1996 or 97, I got a CD in the mail early on in the fall, and it was the album My Own Prison by Creed. I listened to it but not too carefully. It just didn’t register with me that this was a band that was either Christian or something that we should cover. I get music from everybody—secular and Christian and even CCM. I am just on everyone’s mailing list. So anyway, when I get this CD from Creed it didn’t register on my radar. Then, about 6 months later, after the song “My Own Prison” had become a hit on alternative radio, a lot of Christians were like, “This is a Christian band; listen to what he is talking about.” So then, I started getting letters, like people saying, “Are you gonna cover Creed? Are they Christians?” (I had established HM as a resource for people... Christians could find out about bands that were of interest to Christians in the pages of HM.) So then, I reached out to a record label contact I had. And like a lot of interviews, if it’s a really big band, and it’s in between publicity cycles, you re not gonna get the interview. So, that window had passed and Creed had blown up and my circulation was about 23k at the time and we were much too… whatever reason, we could not get the interview. I was like, “Dang it, I had a chance, I could have been on the front of the Creed wave.” Because they sold, by the end of their career, over 30 million albums. For a time period, they were the biggest band in rock. I could have been one of the early publications to publicize them period, much less break the news that Scott Stapp was writing from a Christian perspective. It would have been huge. Whenever a secular band or an artist is a believer, we Christians seem to get excited about that. One of the things that was cool, and I know I am rambling, was King’s X… Apparently we were the first publication in the world to break the news that King’s X was Christian back in 1987 when their first album came out, when I could go to information and find Doug Pinnick and do the interview that way. But, anyway, the Creed mistake was a huge mistake.
I think the Creed example is a good one and it brings out a lot of the… kinda my perspective on looking at music is the same way. I am always sniffing … I am constantly sniffing for any whiff of spirituality in any kind of music that I listen to so that is definitely something I can relate to. Well, let me ask a fun question. When a new issue of HM or Heaven’s Metal arrives at the HM ranch, what is the first thing you check out?
I flip through it. The first thing I look at is the front cover, then I flip it over and stare at the back cover. Then I open up to the color section. The section I am most excited about getting to is the middle section of color because those are the feature articles that break the mold. When it comes to the features, I break the rules and flash it with color and crazy layouts. So that is one of the sections I am most excited to visually see how it turns out. Because, your computer screen tells you one thing but when it’s printed on paper it’s different.
If you had to pick one section that you like to read first, which then do you go to?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure. It might be the “What So and So Says.” It might be an article that I’ve written; probably something that I’m looking forward to seeing because I wrote it or I designed it. And it might be the “So and So Says” because it’s always a fun conversation.
Yeah, I think for me, that’s the part I always go to first.
THE "WHAT SO AND SO SAYS" FEATURE
When did you actually start “What So and So Says” and what motivated you to start that feature in the first place?
Well, it was Cornerstone magazine. They used to do that back when they had a magazine. The people that do Cornerstone Festival had a publication and they interviewed Ozzy Osbourne and they asked him about Jesus and they gave him copies of Mere Christianity and they really make an appeal to him as a person to consider faith in Christ … to consider that Christ was real. And at one point they tried to interview Robert Plant and they met him after a show and he says, “Well, I’m really busy right now, but give me your number and I’ll call you back later.” Back when they had left, the younger person of the two people was asking John Trott, “So, do you think he’s gonna call?” They were going to go do something, “What if Robert Plant calls when we are gone?” He was like, “Oh, don’t worry he’s not gonna call.” And sure enough, when they get back home, they find out from someone that took a message. “Yeah, this guy, Rob Plant called.” The person that took the message didn’t know who he was. And they were like, “Oh, no. We could have had an interview with Robert Plant and talked about God.” Anyway, so they inspired me to do it because I thought it just the coolest idea around. I came upon a couple really core questions that really cut through all the religious baggage: “What do you think about Jesus or what do you think of His claims?” And those two things… It doesn’t matter what you think about religion or if you’ve been molested by a priest or if you hate Jimmy Swaggart. “What do think about Jesus?” is more important than all that other baggage. So it gets to the core of what’s really important anyway. If our doctrine is right and what you do with Jesus and what He’s done for you on the cross is what hangs your soul in the eternal balance then that’s the most important question to ask anyway. It doesn’t really matter what you think about religion.
So I came up with a really cool question that I just ask every time. Sometimes it’s hard to ask it if I don’t have a willing participant. Other times it’s easy and other times it surprises me.
My other question along those lines was: “What is it that makes those interviews so popular with the readers?” Because, as you alluded to earlier, a lot of people really do seem to connect with those sections. But you may have already answered that question right there with what you said about the two questions that you ask. People just seem to wanna hear what their secular heroes have to say about Jesus.
I learned early on that religion and politics are two subjects that cause fights and that people don’t want to talk about. When I was a young Jesus freak, I made my 5th grade school teacher cry when I put tracts in everybody’s folder and I made my grandmother cry because I was asking her about why grandpa Doc didn’t want to talk about Jesus. She was so upset about it that I brought her to tears. The two people that I really loved and respected, I brought them to tears because I was confronting people about tears. So I kinda knew at an early age that that’s an issue … it’s a hot button issue. It makes people uncomfortable. So when you can be a fly on the wall and see somebody approach that subject it’s very compelling. So, no matter what they say or what direction the conversation goes in, it’s just an interesting read to sit there and see how it goes. So I think that is probably why it’s so popular.
Very good answer. I agree. Let me ask you this. What was the most shocking interview that you ever did or the most extreme response, either negative or positive that you got from doing one of these interviews?
Ah, one of my favorites and most shocking was Peter Steele of Type O Negative: “What do you think of Jesus Christ?” “I think He was a fool. I am 200 pounds of meat in motion. When I die, that’s it, I’m gone.” Even though it was a strong negative opinion about who Jesus was, he laid it out there. That’s my favorite because it was so strong. Henry Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band) almost threatening to beat me up over the phone … that was an interesting interview. And then, kinda like the Robert Plant story… The drummer for Kansas, who Kerry Livgren tells me is actually a born-again believer … He said that he didn’t want to talk about it during an interview, but he would gladly call me and talk to me about it later off the record. I was like, “Great.” I kinda had a similar thing, “If he calls, I’ll believe it when it happens.” And twice, when I was away from my phone, he called and left a message. One of which was while he was in vacation in Alaska and he was actually taking the time to talk to me about Jesus off the record, which was amazing… So good for him.
Did anyone ever call you back and thank you for asking them about Jesus during an interview?
I’ve had people thank me for it or an “appreciate that.” It wasn’t actually a call back situation, but I have actually hung out and talked with this guy on a few other occasions since that … and that was Damon Johnson of Brother Cane—one of the best bands in the universe by far; never wrote a bad song.
I’m gonna shift gears here and talk about music, which is something that I know lies close to your heart. What is it about music, particularly hard music or heavy metal that makes us go nuts?
It’s an extreme form of music. It takes a few things about music to an extreme. Like Classical music does … the dynamics of it, where something’s really soft then it builds into a crescendo and then explodes. Ya know, metal uses amplified guitars and drums that are miked and big bass guitars that are just full of distortion and sound systems that pump out 110 plus dBs. So, it just amplifies all the passion and the grandeur, beauty and all the dynamics of classical music. Things that make music great, it just amplifies them.
Like Doc (you) likes to say, “Worship at 11.” It does that and so that is one thing that makes metal great.
Awesome. How do you define a great song?
A song I wanna hear again and a song I can’t get out of my head. For better or worse, it wouldn’t take me long to quote you lyrics from Aerosmith’s 1975 Toys in the Attic album or 76’s Rocks album. Those are albums that I listened to as a junior high and high school kid and they became engrained in my head because their melodies are catchy and it makes me wanna come back to it and those albums have accompanied me on road trips and my journey through in life. When a song becomes a soundtrack of your life, it becomes your song. So any song that has those qualities and that can do that for you might be classified as “great.” Something that is timeless… Some music is kinda throwaway and disposable and might be popular for a short season but it doesn’t have lasting power. So, a lot of it has to do with melody and something that sticks with you, whether it’s a vocal or a guitar or an instrumental.
Okay, and along those same lines, because you have probably listened to thousands of bands over the past 20 years… What, to you, makes a band stand out from the crowd?
Being able to “bring it” live. Like one of my favorite bands… and if I get a chance to interview them soon I want to try to find a tactful way to ask them, “How does it feel to know you suck live and are not half as good as your albums?” But there is a band called H.I.M. (which stands for His Infernal Majesty, which is kinda evil and satanic) but musically they just really sound great on their albums but I saw them in concert and they just sounded awful. I don’t know how much of that was the soundman but I attributed that to the band not being able to know how to pull off their sound live. Obviously creativity is one thing… and just pool emotions, whether it’s a ballad or something… Some hardcore music… I love watching some hardcore bands live. I won’t necessarily listen to an extreme metalcore or hardcore band in my car as often as I will something that is melodic But in concert, the energy that is transmitted, that comes across, the emotions that are apparent in real high intensity energy is a wonderful thing … So that is something that makes a band stand apart … being able to conjure that.
That’s what made so many of the bands from the 70’s, like Aerosmith… You alluded to them and I remember when I saw them on City Island in Harrisburg, PA as a kid and I was just completely blown away. Bands seemed to play … or their music was written to play it live and we don’t see that much today, but that is certainly what you are alluding to. Well, let me ask you a few quick answer questions. What’s your favorite type of music?
Ah, I don’t know … it kinda changes over time. One of my all time favorites is Southern Rock. Like the band Blackfoot and Brother Cane kinda touches some of those same levels. And then the new Southern metal that’s coming out like Maylene and the sons of Disaster … you know, tapping into that raw energy. I really like goth, dark, doomy music like Type O Negative and HIM. Those are two of my favorite bands, like guilty pleasures. And I have always had a soft spot for melodic metal, like what Stryper used to do, and some of the Dream Theater ballads, like the song “Another Day” from their Images and Words album…
Now that album, I mean … amazing … we could spend hours talking about it. Well, give me one or two of your top albums from 2007.
Paramore’s Riot album. I think that’s fantastic. The Demon Hunter album, Storm the Gates of Hell. I think that’s really good.
If you had to pick a top metal album for 2007, what would it be?
Top metal album? That’s a hard question to answer because I have to go on and listen to so much music. Virgin Black’s trilogy—which I’ve heard just two parts of so far—would probably be it … and they kinda hit my doom side. Which, I love it, I love it!
Who would you say is one of the most innovative or original bands out there today?
In a live setting… somebody could argue that they are a Radiohead rip off … but Mute Math is pretty amazing and they are pretty darn innovative. Some of the stuff that we hear, like the band Holy Blood and Virgin Black and even Slechtvalk… Those bands, I think, are innovative. Nothing new is under the sun, so every band that we name, like even Dream Theater and King’s X you could point to… King’s X would probably be one of the bands that it would be hardest to nail down their influences because they are so varied. They mix The Beatles and Metallica and Grand Funk Railroad together. Who would ever draw those three together to form one band? Most of the bands we think or call innovative are really being inspired by other artists.
Sure. If you had to pick a favorite metal band of all time…
That is so hard. If I had to pick one album to live with on a desert island… You know you’d get sick of that album, so after a while you would probably throw it like a Frisbee and then be like, “Oh, I hope it didn’t break.” But, I would probably go with King’s X just because they have been able to keep their career going over the long haul. They have put out so much good music and they are so innovative. And most of their songs, up until the change in Doug Pinnick… Some of his songs seem to talk about running away from God and not believing in God, but they are still compelling and about God. Stryper was certainly a highlight for me and then a band called Joshua had an album called Intense Defense and that was probably one of the best melodic metal albums of all time that never got appreciated by a wide audience. There is a lot of good stuff to point to … it’s pretty hard to narrow it down to just one.
THE CHRISTIAN HARD MUSIC SCENE
Let’s move on and talk about the current Christian Music scene. How have you seen the industry change? Give one way in which it has changed in a good way and then one way in which it has changed in a bad way.
Okay. I guess in a good way a lot of Christians have realized that there needs to be a Renaissance and that being an artist or musician is a good vocation in and of itself. It’s one of the first three vocations mentioned in the Bible, along with farming and making tools. Music doesn’t have to be accepted or be appreciated on the fringes of life, but it’s a noble vocation. Art in and of itself is an honoring thing to God. It doesn’t have to be only acceptable to us if it is used as a tool for evangelism. This is what a lot of old people did to accept this horrible new form of music called rock music; because it was being used to reach kids for Jesus it could be tolerated. That mindset has changed. A lot of bands are out there in the mainstream doing their music of excellence and taking their music to the marketplace of ideas. And of course some people think that they’ve take the cross out and watered down the Gospel and that they are ashamed of Jesus. Those are pretty strong accusations to make and they should think twice before they throw those accusations out there because accusing someone of backing down about Jesus or hiding the Gospel is like calling them Judas Iscariot and that’s a serious accusation to make. They should bite their tongue three times before they ever say that.
So it’s a good thing that mindset has changed and that it’s opened up the door and Christian music is flourishing out there and a lot of the bands that are leaders in their fields are Christians. I think that influences our culture in a cool way. Some people would see that as bad, like the message of metal is gone by the wayside. There is still a place for that; I think there is room in the body of Christ for both. But I am excited that things are expanding and growing.
What’s bad about the industry?
Well, Christian entertainment in general, is funded by “Becky,” who is the 40 year old soccer mom. 19 and even 25 year old Christian metalheads don’t send checks into to TBN or to their Christian radio stations every month. But Becky does. Becky listens to Steven Curtis Chapman and Mercy Me and Crowning whatever their name is… All that syrupy, sappy, crappy music that gets played on TBN and Christian radio. The reason the radio stations play that kind of music is because the audience that supports it financially is the stuff that likes it … that wants to hear Barry Manilow on Jesus. That’s what’s bad about Christian entertainment and music. One, everyone has taken a non-profit model with that because it’s cheaper. And they are not competing with the world and being a commercial radio station by selling ads to Pepsi and Ford Motor Company. So, because they’re listener supported, the only ones that actually come to the plate with a checkbook is the 40 year old soccer mom. Christian radio sucks. It’s just a lot of sappy music … make you cry, country songs. I can appreciate that, but I think it sucks.
Describe yourself—what you would consider the essence of Doug Van Pelt—in five words or less.
Oh, my gosh. Uh, I have the ability to cry…
That’s a great answer by the way, you can stop there.
I love Jesus, because I’m like a prostitute that He set free and cleaned up. I know it’s probably possible for me to forget—for my heart to grow cold—but it seems impossible to turn my back on the lover of my soul.
Okay, I’m gonna ask you to pick one… Black or white?
Black … because I like black people.
Metal or rock?
Demon Hunter or Thrice?
Okay, describe an ideal day in the life of Doug Van Pelt.
It involves a nice inspiring time in prayer. It involves a trip to Best Buy with some cash. It involves watching a DVD on the couch with my wife. At some point it involves listening to some music really loud … probably the band Muse or H.I.M. or Type O Negative or Mute Math .. or maybe even Brother Cane. And a nice sunny day, where I can be outside and pet my cats—whether it's my ranch cats or my house cats—and my dog. And do something fun with my kids where they are laughing and smiling and hugging me a lot.
What is one of the funniest, perhaps most embarrassing things you have ever done?
In 1994, Heaven’s Metal had a record label called Heaven’s Metal Records. We had Heaven’s Metal Video Magazine Volumes I, II and III and we had a compilation that had POD on it before anyone else had ever talked about signing them. I had signed them, yes, that’s right! It was called the Heaven’s Metal Hard Music Compilation Volume I—the only volume that ever came out. We were distributed by Intersound—which had the band Kansas signed to their label—and they were the ones that had those classical albums at Target with the yellow stripes on the spine. They were my distributor and they had a Christian division. The guy who owns Intersound name is Don Johnson. He said, “I want to start a Christian record company.” He hired a guy named Tom to run it and they had a sales conference in Nashville during GMA week, so I was there. They had me speak to all the sales reps. There were 8 or 9 to about a dozen sales reps in the room. I was there to inspire them to be excited about the Heaven’s Metal Records products. GMA is held in the Renaissance Hotel attached to the Nashville Convention Center. At the time, they were building the Bell South Tower—this giant tower on Broadway that looks like Batman. That morning there were sirens and ambulances and fire trucks and police cars going up and down the street with sirens wailing. At one point in the morning I asked a bellhop in the elevator what was going on. And he goes, “Yeah, five men fell to their deaths from the Bell South Tower.” And your heart just sinks when you hear that. So, an hour or so later, I’m about to start my sales talk presentation and I tell the room before I start that I would like to say a prayer for the families of the five men. “I don’t know if you know this but did you hear all the sirens this morning? Well five men fell to their deaths from that building over there.” And the whole room, they were like crushed. And I lead us in a prayer for the families of those five men, and for God’s peace… After the meeting was over, Tom put his hand on my shoulder and shook my hand and said, “I really appreciate that special touch and for praying for the families of those five men.” An hour or two later I found out that one guy fell and broke his arm. So here I was, Mr. journalistic integrity man, telling a room full of people that five men fell to their deaths when really only one guy fell and broke his arm.
Well if you weren’t doing the magazine thing, what would you be doing?
That’s a good question. I’ve got my eye on doing another type of magazine, but that’s not an honest answer to your question since you said the magazine thing. I’ve working on a book … a novel that I’m working on and I’ve written a children’s book … and I wanna do another volume of Rock Stars on God. It’s possible I could be interested in doing something in the music business, like running a label. But I really don’t ever want to sign an artist, because working with artists presents challenges … the frustration outweighs the benefits. I think if I could just chose anything, being a high school football coach in a small town in Texas would be awesome. I would love to do that. I’d probably be like Dick Vermeil and I would probably cry at halftime in the locker room or at the end of the game. I would love that.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
What, do you discern, is the essence of being a Christian? Of the Christian life?
Gosh, what a question. Well, this isn’t really your question but I think just the label Christian, it isn’t really a label we should ever claim. We should never say I’m a Christian, because what we are saying—according to the English language—is that I am like Christ, I’m a little Jesus. It’s a compliment and because it’s a compliment it’s not something you should say about yourself. Somebody else should call you a Christian. The label Christian s something that should be said of us and not something we claim or tell other people that we are. So, I think that kind of touches on the question of the essence of being a Christian is that it is something that is said about you …which will again touch on the fact that you should be doing something. It shouldn’t just be all talk. You should be doing something that other people see, not just hear, coming from you that would make people say, “This person is like Jesus. This person reminds me of Christ.”
I think the essence of Christianity is grace. It’s God giving you something that you don’t deserve and a right standing with God based upon what Jesus did. I think the essence of the Christian life is understanding the believer’s rest—knowing that the work has been done and all you have to do is accept it and you can rest. The reason God rested after the 6th day wasn’t because He was tired but because He was done. The believer can rest in knowing that the work of Christianity is done, already finished, and all we have to do is rest in that. That doesn’t negate the purpose of hard work and struggle, but I think it sheds some light on it.
If Jesus came back tomorrow, what do you think He would say about His bride?
Well, honestly, I think He would…
Well, maybe the better way to ask that question is, “What do you think He would say TO His bride?”
I think what He would say to his bride are the same things a young, honeymooning groom would say to his bride. It would be those lovey, dovey things. It would be the look in His eyes, would tell you all you needed to know. That look of adoration. We are face to face now; you are the object of my affection. That is my honest answer. The bride has been cleansed, and the bride who has screwed up and made mistakes … those are forgiven and those are water under the bridge for Him. I think when we are face to face with Christ for the first time he’s not gonna get down to corporate business and talk about things we screwed up on He’s gonna say … its gonna be all about that love thing.
That’s why I changed that question at the last minute because … really what I’m asking about is exactly what you just explained. That’s what I was thinking of and not in what way would He be judgmental.
Well, let me ask you one more question just for fun. What’s the coolest video game you have ever played?
Madden. Sorry Doc, it’s not Guitar Hero yet!
STORY BY JONATHAN ("DOC") SWANK
©2008 HM Magazine - All Rights Reserved
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When I interview Doug, I really many questions... and It was great moment...
Thanks Doug for the seriou work and great music on Heaven's Music...
SIN KILLER WEBZINE - BRASIL / SOUTH AMERICAN
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