Friday, March 31, 2006

Interview with GHF (God Has Forgiven)

On March 22nd I spoke with John Degroff and Bill Glover of the band GHF from Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

How did you get started in music?

John: I got started in music way back in high school, maybe even junior high. About a year or so after the Beatles hit in the mid-sixties is when I first became aware of music. It wasn't until high school that I first starting playing in rock bands.

Bill: I got my first gig playing in a high school rock band called "Tax" (Named after the Beatles song "Tax Man"). I was rehearsing on my drums playing to a hit song of the early 70's called "Inagodadaveda". A guy was walking by the house (My girlfriend's parent's home), he just happen to be a musician. He heard me and he asked me if I wanted to play in a band. This was my first real performance. It was a battle of the bands at a local teen club. I was anxious but I had a blast!

How long have you guys been performing professionally?

John: I joined the band in 2004 and they'd already been around for a year or so before that. Bill and Greg have worked together a lot since Petra.

Bill: I started playing professionally at the age of 18. I was kicked out of school in my senior year of high school. My uncle was the lead guitarist of the Roemans (Of Tommy Roe fame). He got me my first professional audition. I passed the audition and started my career as the drummer for the Roemans in 1971. It is now 2006 and I'm 53.

What is your motivation for playing professionally?

John: To make a profession/living out of doing something I love. A bad gig is better than a good day in an office or factory-believe me, I've worked in both. Besides, playing music in of the few things I can do marginally well. No one wants to pay me for eating or sleeping.

Bill: I was very ambitious as a teenager. I still have that burning desire to play the drums. But as a teenager I wanted to be the best Christian drummer in the world. I took every opportunity that came my way to persue my dream. Can you describe the music style of GHF for us?I guess you could call GHF sort of blues/rock. The Christian music tag will always be there, but we all grew up listening to secular bands, so you'll hear a lot of "old school" style playing in what we do. Some might call us a "jam band" because of the extended instrumental work we do, but that's okay with us.

What are some of GHF's musical influences?

John: We're all Eric Clapton fans, and consequently all like blues. Greg listens to a lot of jazz and is interested in great guitar work as well. I've always gravitated towards eclectic things. I'm a big fan of Yes and most of the English progressive bands. I also listen to a lot of jazz, and some classical. What I listen to is mostly instrumental, non-vocal material. In short, if you CAN'T dance to it, I'll probably like it.

Bill: Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Who, Cream, Allman Bros. Band, BB King, Glass Harp.

What inspires you when you write music and lyrics?

John: I really don't know how to answer this. I don't know if you can really describe "inspiration" out side of a dictionary definition of the word. Inspiration to write music or lyrics will be different for everyone. It's never the same each time I write, either. Basically, I don't know how it happens, I'm just thankful it does.

Bill: I write from inspiration. I am inspired to write most of my tunes during emotionally painfull periods of my life. The lyrics normally come from a passage of Scripture that God has made real to me. The Truth of God's Word inspires me to new highs. I just make up a melody and rewrite the lyrics from a portion of Scripture, the guys write their own musical parts.

What can people expect from a live performance?

John: Our music is more "old school' than what's currently considered hot. As a three piece band, we're not afraid to show that we actually have some chops. We have the material we can do extended jams on, material that's short and to the point, worship type material, and we even play several of the old Petra tunes we originally played back in the 1970s. It's not all one style either. All three of us write, so the styles vary as well.

Bill: I hope that people are encouraged & entertained. I also hope that people will find a grain of truth that might lead them into a relationship with Jesus.

What will someone walk away with after hearing a GHF concert?

John: Besides a ringing in your ears, hopefully a person will walk away feeling they've experienced more than just another concert. Personally, I want people to really enjoy the music, but I also pray people will get something spiritually from the music as well. I hope that either something we say or something in the lyrics will cause a person to take a deeper, closer look at themselves and their relationship with the Lord. I also hope people will leave the gig feeling it was worth their time to begin with, and would want to see us again.

What can you tell us about your current project?

John: Currently, we're all writing and working on new material for the band. We don't have that many bookings yet this year, so we're using the time to write.What is your opinion of the current state of the music industry?John: The current state of the music industry in general? One word: abysmal. For both Christian and secular music. It seems like most newer bands consist of a singer/songwriter with a backing rhythm section. Creativity just isn't what it used to be, and there seems to be an attitude that chops and musicianship no longer matters. If you really want to hear decent players, you have to go to jazz or blues, even classical. There's a boring sameness that's everywhere. I hope to see this change and I really expect it to. I really think I'm proved right by the fact that so many bands who are having "30 year reunions" are as popular as when they first came out.

If someone is interested in booking GHF for a performance, what do they need to do?
Contact either John DeGroff at 419-924-2024,, or Bill Glover at 260-348-2381,

Do you have a web presence where people can check out your work?

Thank you for your time guys

Interview with Kate Laurel Smith

Welcome to the first interview for the The Walrus Report

On March 2nd I spoke with Kate Laurel Smith from Denver, Colorado

How did you get started in music?
I grew up surrounded by a culture of folk and bluegrass music and occasionally classic rock and roll (my parents, former-hippies, were great music enthusiasts who also; dabbled in folk instruments like mandolin, lap dulcimer and acoustic guitar and attended bluegrass festivals). When I was in first grade I started taking piano lessons, but they were inconsistent at best since I lived in the mountains of rural Colorado and my piano teachers kept moving away. My longest-standing musical commitment to date was the French Horn, the instrument I picked up in fifth grade band and took through college as my major. I graduated in 2003 with a BM in Music Performance, and have since gone back to my roots and decided that songwriting is much more suited to my life and vision as an artist.

How long have you been performing professionally?
Since the summer of 2003 (a little less than three years).

What is you motivation for playing professionally?
It's not so much "motivation" as it is "passion." And it is not so much "what you do" as "who you are." If you are a writer, there is a burn to create, and when so much of your life conflicts with your art (i.e., making a living), you are very willing to do whatever it takes to make your art the core of your lifestyle. The next natural progression in this step is to replace your income-earning with the business surrounding your art and passion.

Can you describe your music style for us?
I would fall most readily into the genre of "singer-songwriter," and my style within that genre would be most easily classified as folk or roots/americana since it incorporates elements of jazz/lounge, appalachian mountain folk music, alt-country, bluegrass, indie rock and pop.

What are some of your musical influences?
My most admired performers are all incredible writers (I can appreciate almost any style of music as long as the writing is compelling). To name a very few, I cut my teeth on Bob Dylan and the Who, started writing with the tunes of Natalie Merchant, Ben Folds and Over the Rhine echoing in my ears, and most recently frequent the discs of Damien Rice, Griffin House and the Counting Crows.

What inspires you when you write music and lyrics?
I am most likely to write words/melody in my head first nowadays, then go to an instrument and figure out how to adequately support it with an accompaniment. Sometimes I'll write simultaneously (words and music). Most of my inspiration comes from my observation of the world and my life's circumstances and all the thought processes that surround these. Hopefully I always have my spiritual eyes on during my contemplations. My biggest influence is the Truth.

What can people expect from a live performance?
An energetic and varied set depending on the mood of the venue and the audience. I often choose my set list on the fly when I'm onstage since I'm solo and I can do that without interfering with a band. This also applies to covers. I try to feel out what the audience would like to hear. In that way, it is very interactive. People can expect a variety for a solo performer (I'll play the keys sometimes, guitar sometimes, depending on the set). Every now and then a very talented cellist named Jason Embry sits in and adds a dimension I could never hope to achieve on my own.

What will someone walk away with after hearing a concert you perform?
Most of the feedback I receive from fans and new audience members after a performance is in reference to how much they felt through and related to my writing and vocal delivery. I have had folks write to tell me I "give them chills," "make them cry" and "help them have the most spiritual experience they can remember in years."

What can you tell us about your current project?
I am currently gearing up for my first professional studio project (after almost selling out of my first self-produced album Sometimes) in May. I'll be working with JP Manza at Colorado Sound in Westminster, the same studio and team of folks who have worked with Big Head Todd, Tim and Molly O'Brien and Norah Jones to name a few. I have a band of wonderful musicians coming alongside me for the EP, Confessions. It is a snapshot of the last few years of writing (a highly transitional time in my personal life) and will incorporate the universal themes of love, faith, love lost, forgiveness and loneliness. I hope to recut a couple of the most loved tunes from Sometimes at industry-standard quality so I can pursue radio airplay.

What is your opinion of the current state of the music industry?
Morally or technically? I believe the industry has always been about the marketing and money but is even more so today. A new musician is almost certainly asked to compromise some of their individuality and artistic vision for the marketing angle. It can be very discouraging for someone just getting started. I believe, however, that the face of the industry is changing due to the internet and several other strategic marketing aspects that were not present at the inception of the industry. Independent musicians have much more of a chance to succeed on their own while maintaining artistic integrity these days, and major labels are losing their appeal to the new crowd of musicians for this reason.

If someone is interested in booking you for a performance, what do they need to do?
It's really quite simple at this stage. :) Send me an email at and we'll work it into the calendar!

Do you have a web presence where people can check out your work?

thank you for your time Kate