Interview with Glenn Kaiser and the good news behind the bad news

Glenn Kaiser nos habla sobre sus nuevas actuaciones, JPUSA, Rez Band, la justicia social, Black Sabbath, Cristiania y el valor de las relaciones personales

Entrevista con Glenn Kaiser y las buenas noticias detrás de las malas noticias

Modificado el 2020/10/27

Glenn Kaiser left the Resurrection Band in 2000. He started at that time a side project that enabled him to go further without needing a large budget. He just needs his guitar, his harmonica and his small amp to go and sing for the people in the streets, jails or biker’s festivals. He spoke to us about the book he is re-publishing and his song “Great again” (2020) - which would probably raise a few discussions around Donald Trump. He also spoke to us about older discussions around the assesination of Kennedy, the hunger for heaven of Robert Johnson, his relationship with Black Sabbath or the anarchist community at Christiania, where he actually has played three times for their surprise....

Who were the first members of your family landing in the U.S.? Do you have memories of them?

I do have memories. They include my Grandfather whose history includes Schwaben, in the south of Germany, in the Bavaria area.

Did your parents teach you in freedom speech and social justice as it was common in the forty-eighters community?

My Father′s sense of justice, fairness and equity was deep. I never heard my Mother talk of politics but my Father was very active in a quiet, personal way, listened to political discussion on radio daily and was close friends with a man whose son was one of the best-loved politicians in the State of Wisconsin where we lived.

′Relationships are the most difficult but yet more important, essential part of living on this planet′

When did you get engaged by the blues? Who helped or shared with you that interest in the early days.

I was 12 years old when I began playing guitar and 13 when in my first band we listened to and played black music, rhythm and blues, soul music and blues, so as a fan and musician I was deeply influenced by blues and a long list of singers and guitarists as well as bands who played blues music. I read every book or article I could find about the musicians, their struggles and their perspectives. All of this is part of what moved and moves me as a songwriter and performer.

Do you see blues men like Blind Willie Johnson, Luther Magby or Washington Philips in the 20′s as pioneers of what later was done by preachers/musicians like you in the 70′s? If not, what could be the inspiration for you, the white preachers/musicians on the Jesus Movement?

Yes. I was and continue to be motivated by those you name and more. Being a teenager in the 60′s and because of the assassinations of the Kennedy′s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam war, the racist policies and injustices I saw in Milwaukee which is the largest city in Wisconsin. I saw it all over the U.S. All affected me deeply and in fact were all part of how and why so many students and young people came to faith in Jesus. It was obvious no politician or rich person was going to sacrifice to bring needed change and healing to the nation or world. After my generation had done all the dope, sex and quasi-spiritual trips, seeing the emptiness of money and power plays by the establishment what... or who... was left but the Lord? Thousands of us turned to him and began following him and his word. Gloria Dios!!

I see. It is often said blues is the music of the Devil and to prove that they use the legend around Robert Johnson. Not sure if it′s the same in the US but for some of us this idea is quite disturbing since his biography and even the song ′Cross Road Blues′ is clearly pointing to God as the ultimate resource of help. What′s your thoughts on that?

Yes, some still think all of that. You are correct about Crossroads... and few know the 340 verses of Scripture that speak about music. They have not recognized that the largest kind of lyrics of the Book of Psalms are laments. Lament is all about struggle, injustice, enemies and sometimes repenting, a cry from the heart for the Lord′s help. This is the Bible, not mere culture.

′The church we are part of, still mess up and at times we do truly wrong things′

I see the same ′hungry for heaven′ of Robert Johnson on many songs by Rolling Stones or Black Sabbath. I′m particularly a fan of Black Sabbath and I heard you were a little bit exposed in maybe 1970? What impression did you have about Black Sabbath in their early years?

As a musician I loved Black Sabbath. I played several of their songs in bands I was in at that time, and had a very, very quick chat with Tony Iommi in a phone call and an even more brief witness to Ozzy Osbourne backstage in Chicago many years ago. Tony was kind and open.

How many people may have been visiting the JPUSA community? Maybe 10,000? Maybe 100,000?

It has been since early 1972... many, I have no idea but many-many,... haha!

Yes probably not easy to count. There′s an English singer named Bill Fay that sings that ′Life is People′. For many of us, mainly when we are getting old, we are coming to that same conclusion: If there′s some value in life, it is when it comes to relationships. Even God is a person so it makes sense for a Christian believer to agree with that. For that reason I want you to think in particular people that you met in your life and shared with us your thoughts on that particular relationship. Does it make sense?

It does make sense, though Scripture says it like this ′For Christ is our life′ and Jesus said about himself ′I am the way, the truth and the life′, but yes, relationship with him and people is what it′s all about. Being imperfect, people who all sin and make mistakes including me. We are not always kind and loving, for human beings relationships are the most difficult but yet more important, essential part of living on this planet.

When did you meet Ulf Christiansson? What do you remember from the tour together in 1982?

I think we first met when touring together here in the U.S.. I had heard Jerusalem′s first record and after many listenings and prayer decided they needed to release it in the U.S. So I helped move that along via some friends. The tour was amazing, they are one of the best live bands I′ve seen and there were many times of laughter and fun touring together.

Daniel Smith? Do you have memories of him?

A dear brother, U.S. slang ′a deep well′ and really on the edge of music culture in the best creative way.

Do you remember Anthony Cox?

I do but wow, years ago now...

Do you have memories of Jaime Prater?


′Without intentional, voluntary accountability there is rarely any correction′

You spend many pages of your book ′The responsibility of the Christian musician′ (Cornerstone, 1994) to explain why it is required for these musicians to join a local church. For me it was a huge surprise to find out that those ones who were teaching about Christianity were actually so far from the basic teachings of it. I understand that you think the learnings from the book are still needed.

Throughout history there have been flawed people linked with the true God, starting with Adam and Eve and just keep going... The larger, local church, including you and I if we truly follow Jesus, seek him, act to apply his teachings in our hearts, minds, behavior towards others still mess up, blow it, sin, do stupid and at times truly wrong things. No surprise because the inconsistencies are also in the lives of all people on earth. I never expected musicians, I mean no matter if they are Christians or not, to fully reflect Jesus in all ways at all times. The issue is if we are willing to truly follow him as the Lord, not just savior, as first love, not just ′fire insurance′ and then expect him to give us all we want in our music career, etc.

You mentioned in the same book that we need the struggle of being corrected by others? We spend our lives looking for the easiest way but it looks that the easy way is not always the right way. Can you provide a recent example of how your Christian community JPUSA was corrected by others?

JPUSA is currently some 150 adults and a lot of kids, so that would be like me asking how a church of that size was corrected by others. I′d say individually we are corrected all the time in all the ways I mentioned in the book- from God directly by his spirit, by his word as we study the bible and seek to apply it. But also from others. In our case by leadership in the Evangelical Covenant Church and other leaders in the Chicago area who know and interact with our leaders and congregational members regularly on many issues... as well as via shared Bible studies, online conversations and so forth. What I can tell you is one other point I mention in ′The responsibility of the Christian musician′ - that is direct accountability.

One-on-one I have met weekly for most of my life with one or more pastors sharing my own temptations, sins, struggles and need for prayer and input which they give. We share that accountability voluntarily, not by force or law. This past week I shared my own struggle of frustration in this time of Covid, that being home so much my family calls on me to do far more in various areas of serving than I would normally be asked to do. That′s an example of trying to move beyond ′me, myself and I′ which is so easy for any Christian or local church or group of people to default to, just living self-centered lives. Without intentional, voluntary accountability there is rarely any correction. This starts with the individual, not the group. Same is true for a band or business group.

′Those who have money and power are often fearful of losing them′

Can we have your thoughts on your song ′Great Again′ (2020)? What′s the background and how it is received now in your country?

The background is money equals power equals control. Those who have those things are often fearful of losing them. Those who do not have them suffer when the systems protect the wealthy and avoid sacrifice and sharing with the poor. Jesus speaks of this in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, and elsewhere, in bold and clear ways. I have personally heard and read surprisingly little critique so far, a rather amazing amount of kind responses, but of course in this political season I expect plenty of both.

Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine has been sharing his affinity around Jesus, the Bible and also has been working with some Christian communities. Do you know him? If so, what do you think about what Tom Morello is doing right now?

I don′t know him, know about him and have read of his work but that′s about all at this point.

Have you been in ′Christiania′ in Copenhagen? Have you been in some moment sharing ideas with communities whose religious background is far from the Christian?

Yes, I played three sets in the pub there years ago, did acoustic blues with Stu Heiss of Resurrection Band. They were receptive if a little shocked, haha. I do lots of shows in jails, prisons and bikers gigs, Sturgis, Daytona and more. I also sit with guitars, harmonica and small amps in the street here in Chicago and interact with all sorts of people all the time. Love it!

Who is Jesus for you?

My Lord, savior, first love, best friend.

Do you think Jesus still has bad news?

Much of what Jesus says sounds very bad to those who choose to function as their own god. So in that sense, yes, the good news can indeed sound like bad news to some people. Sometimes we professing Christians do not follow and serve him in love, and do not serve others as he calls us to... and that is also bad news. Thank God we can grow, change, become more like him one day at a time!

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