Born December 9, 1957, in Brawley, CA. Addresses: Record company Squint Entertainment, P.O.Box 90394, Nashville, TN 37209.
Since the early 1980s, Steve Taylor has stood out among contemporary Christian musicians by virtue of his acerbic songs and brash stage persona. During the course of his career, Taylor has been called "evangelical rock's court jester" by Newsweek, "a gospel Elvis Costello" by USA Today and a "satanic influence upon the lives of young people" by evangelist Bob Jones III. Amidst all the controversy, he has released a series of recordings that have matched sharp-edged lyrics to a wide variety of rock and pop sonic styles. After more than a decade as a recording artist, the late 1990s found Taylor taking on the role of record company executive as well.
Roland Stephen Taylor came to the gospel music world in part through his family. Born in Brawley, California, he grew up in the Denver area, the son of a Baptist minister. His first artistic involvements included playing bass in local bands and dabbling in acting. Though his parents didn't allow him to listen to pop radio until his mid-teens, he became an avid punk and new wave rock fan by the time he entered Biola College in Southern California. "What was interesting was that The Clash and Sex Pistols were great at pointing out all the problems of the world, but they were short on solutions," Taylor told the Nashville Scene. "So I figured, 'Well, if I'm a Christian, I think I know absolute truth why would I not want to write songs with that same kind of conviction, and yet offer some hope?' "
After unsuccessful attempts at interesting Los Angeles-based record companies in his brand of Christian rock, Taylor returned to Denver and worked with local musicians. In 1982, a performance at the annual Christian Artists Retreat in Estes Park, Colorado, helped to launch him as a songwriter and performer. The highlight of this concert was Taylor's "I Want To Be A Clone," a punk-flavored tune ridiculing Christian conformity. The song went on be the title track of Taylor's debut EP, released in 1983 by Sparrow Records. Influenced by the frenetic new wave sounds of the time, I Want To Be A Clone garnered praise for its fresh intelligence and spirit. "Steve's magic lies in that he makes us want to go out in left field, as far as he wants to take us,"said the Christian music publication CCM.
Taylor followed up his first release with a full-length album, Meltdown, on Sparrow in 1983. The songs built on the strengths of I Want To Be A Clone while expanding the range of lyrical targets. One song, "We Don't Need No Colour Code," was an attack on the policies of conservative Bob Jones University, while tracks such as "Meat The Press" and "Am I In Sync" aimed at secular targets. Touring and favorable reviews helped Meltdown sell over 150,000 copies, a high figure for a Christian music album. While some in the gospel music community found his work too outspoken and radical, Taylor connected with many younger listeners with both his music and message. Meltdown went on to earn nominations for both a Grammy and for the Christian music industry's Dove Award.
In 1985, Taylor released On The Fritz to further acclaim. This time, he enlisted Ian McDonald from the British band Foreigner to co-produce the album. Though his sound was gaining more mainstream rock polish, Taylor's songs continued to deal with current issues in an often scathingly sarcastic way. His belief system as reflected in his lyrics was complicated, not entirely left or right-wing. On his next album, 1987's I Predict 1990, he raised controversy with "I Blew Up The Clinic Real Good," an ironic sketch of a anti-abortion extremist. Some listeners thought the song was in favor of abortion clinic bombings, and the fallout led to the cancellation of an Australian tour.
By the late 1980s, Taylor began to feel that the Christian music world was becoming restrictive, and he suspended his career as a solo artist. As he recalled to the Nashville Scene, "I had sort of hit a glass ceiling, and the choice was either do another album that was more geared toward the Church, and was musically more accessible, or just do something else." After moving to Nashville, Taylor decided to lead a band and venture into the secular rock marketplace. Together with guitarists L. Arthur Nichols and Dave Perkins, bassist Wade Jaynes and drummer Mike Mead, he formed Chagall Guevara and secured a contract with MCA Records.
Released in 1991, Chagall Guevara emphasized biting guitar sounds and clattering rhythms as a setting for Taylor's darkly comic lyrics. While the band acknowledged the Christian message in its material, the reach of the album's music was clearly for awider audience. But despite such strong rock tunes as "Violent Blue" and "Escher's World," Chagall Guevara failed to become a commercial success. "Probably the fatal flaw of Chagall Guevarais that we weren't actually being driven by any sense of mission, outside of being a successful band," Taylor said in an interview with TLeM Christian Music Resources web site, " and that ended up being not enough to keep me going."
Taylor returned to Christian music in 1993 with the release of his Squint album on the Warner Alliance label. At times moody and aggressive in sound, the songs on this release revealed a more mature collection of songs with a sharper focus. The album's closing track, "Cash Cow," found Taylor stretching out to offer a mini-rock opera with a Biblical setting. Even more ambitious than Squint was a video project launched about the same time, which took Taylor to such exotic locales as Vietnam, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates for shooting sites. The results werereleased as the Warner Alliance video Movies From The Soundtrack in 1994.
Taylor rounded out his association with Warner Alliance with the release of Liver, a live album that included songs from his earliest recordings up through Squint. His next move was an unexpected one. Dissatisfied with his experience with established record companies, he decided to start his own. With the backingof Gaylord Entertainment the parent company of gospel label Word Music. Taylor launched Squint Entertainment in 1997 and setup offices in Nashville. Rather than using the company to advance his own recording career, he has helped to guide a number of Christian-oriented artists to success. The most notable of these has been the band Sixpence None The Richer, whose single "Kiss Me" became a number one pop radio hit in May of 1999. Another Squint act, The Insyders, became the first group to ever top both Soundscan's Rock/Alternative chart and its Praise and Worship chart.
Through it all, Taylor has maintained his commitment to spreading the Christian message in unconventional ways to the world at large. "I was raised in an environment free from hypocrisy, so I don't have a chip on my shoulder," he stated in a Tulsa World interview. "My motivation is to see that the church is what Jesus had in mind and to challenge people outside the church to see that maybe Christianity is different from what they think it is."
by Barry Alfonso
Steve Taylor's Career
Began performing as singer/songwriter in 1982; released first EP I Want To Be A Clone on Sparrow in 1983; released first album Meltdown in 1984; formed band Chagall Guevara, released self-titled album on MCA, 1991; returned to solo career, released SquintCD on Warner Alliance, 1993, and Movies From The Soundtrack video in 1994; founded record company Squint Entertainment,1997.
- Selected discography
- I Want To Be A Clone , Sparrow, 1983.
- Meltdown , Sparrow, 1984.
- On The Fritz, Sparrow, 1985.
- I Predict 1990 , Myrrh, 1987.
- (with Chagall Guevara) Chagall Guevara , MCA, 1991.
- Squint , Warner Alliance, 1993.
- Liver , Warner Alliance, 1995.
- CCM, January 1983.
- Chicago Tribune, April 14, 1985.
- Denver Post, May 13, 1984.
- Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1988.
- Nashville Scene, April 22, 1999.
- Tulsa World, June 17, 1985.
- USA Today, January 8, 1986.
- Additional information was provided by TLeM Christian MusicResources site on the World Wide Web.