Magazine article The Christian Century

Sound Alternatives

Magazine article The Christian Century

Sound Alternatives

Article excerpt

IMAGINE YOU'RE part of a tandem making your first documentary film. Your experience: zero. In fact, you've never even worked a hand-held videocamera. Your subject matter: the fringes of Christian music. Your own religious identity: atheist.

On the surface, this might sound like a recipe for a cinematic disaster, a mockumentary or some fictitious indie comedy. But it's none of those things. Vickie Hunter and Heather Whinna's Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? (Blank Stare/RightRightRight films, available at is a ragged but earnest documentary that captures the convictions and contradictions behind independent Christian music.

The first-time directors seek neither to proselytize nor to criticize. Devil casts a level-headed look at artists who by and large are outsiders--too Christian for mainstream music and too off-the-wall for Christian music executives and fans. The quirky subjects of Devil run the gamut from Pedro the Lion (whose latest online demo is titled "The Devil Is Beating His Wife") to Steve Taylor (who penned the controversial abortion-protest satire "I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good").

Many of the musicians in the film sport tattoos and play genres that would've been unimaginable in Christian music a generation ago--speed metal, death metal, ska, Celtic punk and shoegazer rock among them. And their refusal to toe the conservative line is reflected in the comments of Jim Cooper, guitarist and lead vocalist of the Detholz! (see review below): "If Jesus were alive today and saw what the church is doing, He'd puke. I think He'd be out in gay bars, getting to know gay people."

The Detholz! attracted the attention of the fihnmakers after causing a stir at the Cornerstone Christian music festival in Bushnell, Illinois, where much of Devil was shot. With Cooper sporting a pea-green Statue of Liberty costume and his bandmates dressed as communist proletarians in red and olive drab, the group opened its set by singing the North Korean national anthem in Korean--this just hours after Independence Day 2003. The film shows them in a jittery excerpt that would do David Byrne and Talking Heads proud.

An Audience Choice Award winner at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Devil also features Josh Caterer, who made it big in the 1990s as front man for the Capitol Records band Smoking Popes. …

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