The Whipping Post presents...
Ulf Christiansson Interview - Added 04/29/05
(Courtesy of Doug Van Pelt of Heaven's Metal Fanzine)
Jerusalem frontman Ulf Christiansson is an elder statesman of Christian rock and metal. He's put in the face-time (if you know what I mean), so it makes him a worthwhile speaker to listen to if given the chance. Here's that chance.
Doug Van Pelt: What led to the decision to do a solo album?
Ulf Christiansson: Really because I did several solo albums before and it has turned out to be a very good thing. I am more flexible musically on a solo record and I can do what I feel, using different kinds of musicians, as of course on a Jerusalem record….I feel that as long as it is Jerusalem we have to stick to and be faithful to what Jerusalem are about and maybe more so when it gets to the music….When it gets to the lyrics I think it is still me writing them no matter what kind of record me/we are doing, and it’s pretty clear by now that I am the ”preacher” in the band. Because the band started out as a rock n roll band in the late -70’s, we are pretty much working with those roots, allowing us to step out of the uniform a little bit now and then, but as I said we are pretty much a rock-n-roll band with the attitude and style that runs with that. I was raised and born out of that time when it all really started (got saved when I was 21), and had a calling on my life to go beyond the limitations that pretty much was hanging over us at that time. I have always been a way breaker and the task of the band was to break new ground that many today are benefiting from, and not having to break that ground once again, because you can only do that once and that’s what we did, taking the heat from almost the whole religious environment……really, you are not a pioneer when you walk in someone else’s footsteps no matter how cool you think you are, you’re still a follower not a leader, and repeating something someone else did before you.
DVP: Why not do another Jerusalem album? What differences are there between a Jerusalem album and an Ulf Christiansson album? Anyway I think it could be time to make another Jerusalem record soon….
UC: We’ll see if it will happen this year, I am thinking pretty much about it and I will talk to the others to see what they think.
DVP: What is it that rips your heart out these days?
UC: Having my heart ripped out…? Many things are on my mind today and I feel I’m on the threshold of the second phase of my pioneering life, and ever since I got back to Sweden after living with my family in Florida (that I miss a lot), for 3 years I have had many reasons for having my heart ripped out. First of all, I did Entertainers & Soldiers with the purpose of saying this……It doesn’t matter if you win the whole world if you still lose the purpose of life and after bowing your knees for that system you still lose it anyway…Jesus was confronted by Satan to bow before him and to have the glory of this world given to Him, but He refused and He is our example. That’s also why many are so empty after keeping and taking the glory to themselves that’s also why the title Entertainers & Soldiers for the new record (the song "Glorify"). Entertainers are easy to find waiting and striving for attention, real Soldiers are very hard to find, many wants to stand on a stage getting the glory out of that, but few are ready to pay the price of being a seeker and spend years in the “desert” without ANY glory, just for the sake of His Kingdom instead of MY kingdom, and the music business is, without doubt, a MY kingdom business. That system can change anyone who has a pure heart into a slave just in months, and I’ve seen it on and on… It’s a leaven that grows on you. That rips my heart out for sure!
DVP: What messages did God put in your heart for the Entertainers & Soldiers album?
UC: So I’ve started every year these last 5 years with a very long fast just to see and hear straight from God, getting away from trends, charts and all the “not so important” stuff we are so entangled with. And I can tell that it is fantastic to experience His voice in such a crystal clear way as you do after a time like that, God does without doubt, speak. When you hear from God it will change your life and it will also put a demand on your lifestyle, attitude in heart and many other things that He wants to do in your life…I do not live for rock n roll, that’s NOT my religion, I live for God and therefore I can do whatever He tells me…
DVP: What additional messages / themes / thoughts / convictions has the Lord put on your heart since its recording?
UC: Music is a TOOL, not a GOAL…. And that’s a great way of living your life, if you just dare to step out and go for that……..I’ve learned that if I seek HIS kingdom first, and that means to obey him out of that passion, no matter what, He will promote us without us worrying and being burned out and having to step on others, and it won’t cost us a dime, just the effort to live by faith. Because my music is not my MESSAGE, HE is my message and that’s when I enter the REALITY of living a life resting in the assurance that He is doing His job, if I do mine. We are wasting so much time in trying to fulfil our dreams in our own strength and power…and it wears us out in no time…believe me I’ve been there myself! I know God can open up ANY door if we just prioritize His Kingdom and not our own. If we stop TALKING a bunch of crap of serving Him, and hide ourselves behind Bible verses and stuff, when we really are serving ourselves. I have nothing to SAY if I do not do HIS business…. We must stop entertaining people for our own sake, the time is too short and valuable for that, if you don’t feel you really have anything to say, well then, go and get it…it is so much religion mixed up in this, and we’re full of it so, it would take the whole HM Magazine to dive into that. It is absolutely possible to live IN this system but not be OF it, but it is a David’s and Daniel’s desert time, with all the loneliness and pain and ”God’s cutting branches in your life” that lays ahead of you, if you really want to be able to take down Goliath. But it is worth it. But someone has to do this, and that’s the next level of pioneering I’m talking about. Those radicals are at the door, I can see them. I have met too many artists and musicians who’s been burned by religion and stupidity, but the mistake that many are doing is that they rebel also against God, instead of becoming more depending on Him they stay in their negative past and disappointments and lose the opportunity to use this persecution and pain for a breakthrough in their own lives. There’s far too many today living with unforgiveness and bitterness, and even if they say they do not have this thing bugging them, you can hear it through the words they speak. God’s waiting for the real people, not the dreamers that are living in a dream world full of easy ways, ideas and shortcuts to success, that’s NOT His ways in anyone's life, and has never been, ever! That I DO definitely know. This is so important that it cannot be said enough.
DVP: Did you see The Passion of the Christ movie? If so, what were your impressions?
UC: Yes, I’ve seen it, both in America when it was released there, and in Sweden when I got back…and it was a big difference …In America, many was sitting in the theatre, sobbing and crying after the movie was over…and I think that over all, people in America knows much more from the Bible what really happened, and I also think that the American people have a greater sense of God in their lives, even if they can be very religious, but that’s why many was touched by the message in a much deeper way than in Europe. Because it is still rooted in the American people to have respect and fear of God. In Europe though, the reactions was far more negative, and it was mostly about the violence; like ”why did they have to show these long frequencies of Jesus being beaten” and so forth. I saw it 2 times in Sweden because I bought tickets for several friends and invited them to go, but there was actually people leaving right in the middle of the movie both times when I saw it, and I think they just couldn’t take it. I think many people are totally ignorant when it gets to the story about Jesus on the cross, or even the historical facts about it. We do have a cross in our flag, but sure not in our hearts. Also the spiritual climate in Europe is more anti-godly, then in America, mostly because there are many more Christians in the US raising their voices about certain issues and I am aware of that you DO have a lot of religious thinking mixed into that as well. But in Europe we need to raise our voices and be much more on the edge when it gets to defending what’s just right and not to accept laws and lifestyles that are forced on us every day.
DVP: What led you to Christ those many years ago?
UC: I was saved when I was 21, I was not raised in church, I was a rock n roller from my early teenage years, and my highest dream was to become a rock star. I was terrible in school, not so for being dumb but for not wanting to do school, I thought it was not important, and I just wanted to play music. My Dad and I were in constant fights about that. I was a very rebellious son that’s for sure. So, one day my brother got saved and he came home telling me about it, at first I felt really sorry for him, wasting his life on a thing like that, but after seeing the changes in his life and the peace that was over him I started to look for the same. But it took me 2 years to come to the point of giving up (listen to the song "Risen" on the album Prophet, there’s a part of the story). And I finally ended up, after getting sacked by my girlfriend (we later got married and has been since) I came to a youth meeting in the centre of Gothenburg, Sweden…seeing two guys from the Jesus people walking up on stage, not at all looking like the prototype of a Christian usually looked like. And their eyes were full of love and I said to myself if that’s what it means to be a Christian, I want that. So in that evening I made a decision to go with Jesus, fully, and I did, not even knowing what adventure that was waiting for me…Cause’ it’s not a boring life to be a follower of Him. So God opened up the world for us through the band and the calling that was then and always ever after has been on my life.
DVP: What keeps you making music?
UC: What keeps me making music is two reasons; One is because it is the way God made me and where I communicate the best, that’s what I can do and it makes me feel right doing it…the other is because I do have a message of freedom for everyone, and it is a passionate, burning fire inside of me that never has really left, even in times when I thought it had, it was still there and I’m great full for that. So I’ll probably do it until the day I die.
DVP: What areas have you failed in with your life? How has that impacted you?
UC: Failed is a word that makes me want to think….Failure is the way things sometimes LOOK LIKE, but it is not necessarily the fact, because in those times we do grow and find ourselves, changing in a new way, failure would in that moment be if I refused to repent or change in the direction God wants me to do..But I think that in the middle of the 80’s we had a period of listening too much to what record business people wanted us to be, instead of holding to the things we really were, and the simpleness we had from the beginning and that was leading us to lose some of the fire we had as a band, I also felt I came in a real battle with what really was motivating me and I started to be depressed…therefore we made a decision to take a break and go to Bible school and it was great in the beginning but in the end I found myself sitting in church really doing nothing, mainly because it was not what God had told us to do anyway. But I must say that in the beginning we really did the right thing by just taking that time off from touring and doing traveling and this was the thing we needed to do for our families, I think that’s far more important then running my ministry just for the sake of it, if you know what I mean? Anyway, in the end of that period we did the album, Dancing on the Head of the Serpent. That song also went straight up as number one on the CCM chart in the US, but it also created a lot of fuzz in Scandinavia mainly because of the album cover (picturing a boot crushing a demon’s head), having some stores even refuse to sell it. I’m not unwilling to speak about failures but I can say that a failure would be if I would still go on in my own selfish ambitions and limitations seeking success that way, but I have changed through the years, letting God cleanse me from that poison. I think we should be suspicious against people who do not limp, who has no scars and never have wrestled with God, and that would be a great failure to trust those guys.
DVP: Should we be afraid of terrorists these days? Why or why not? What is your overall perspective on the Islamic Jihad that has been declared against the non-Muslims of the West? How has your views of the world changed since September 11th?
UC: In October 2002, we were scheduled to do a tour in South-Africa together with Motorhead and Ronny James Dio…that whole tour was cancelled because of the September attack that happened in New York, both those bands refused to go on an airplane, out of fear for terrorists. At that same day when we were scheduled to leave, the promoter called me in Gothenburg and said that they all had backed out and the concerts was cancelled. And he offered us to go anyway, just for having a vacation as a band, everything was already paid for so we went down there, I don’t think there was even one moment on the flight down to Johannesburg that I thought about some terrorists having that plane blown up, and we had a great time in South-Africa meeting many new people and just having a great time together as a band. I left that thinking several years back, it is totally impossible to live with fear and at the same time be a SOLDIER or a missionary, doing God’s business…if so, you’re out of the game in just a moment…Entertainers on the other hand will probably stay home…What I mean by that is unless God do not warn you, but then you know that! I’m pretty straight in that: Jihad, well there is a religious, cruel, controlling, legalistic spirit behind that and it is no difference between this or any other religion that has through the history, killed, destroyed and slaughtered in the name of God, even in the Christian God’s name trying to scare people to become converts out of fear, no matter what kind of”label” or name it carries it’s the same spirit and has NOTHING to do with the God that gave out of incomparable love for mankind. Even if it speaks about and uses the same words but it is in disguise.
DVP What do you think God wants to speak through you right now through this interview? (speak it, brother!)
UC: I think it is a message of freedom that we all need to hear and if we concentrate more on the purposes of God’s will than on the things surrounding it we will also hit the mark of what this was all about…I hear musicians and record associates saying that they do not like the word ”Christian music” because it limits us, and maybe so but it is because we ourselves did destroy the meaning of that word…we are more into having the right look, dressing the right way, our image etc. when God not even care about that. We can have 5000 tattoos on our bodies and pierce ourselves until we hardly can walk but it will not really change anything at all. We can manipulate our fans to think we are serious but sooner or later we will have to face the fact that we ourselves are as empty as everybody else, even if we try to be honest and real we will only find ourselves in the mirror Jesus Christ. Remember, God is not impressed by images and outfits or talents, charts or record-sales, so we’re not to be either…He’s impressed by HEARTS, and we are supposed to see one another through His eyes, not through the eyes of Babylon…that’s why He said that David was a man AFTER His heart…He’s looking for dead people, for those that died from themselves not for those that are still alive and who holds on to their own insecurity and refuse to surrender before Him, and this so in confrontation with that whole system! Don’t misunderstand me, I think the things God gave us are good things but it is for us to control those things, not for them to control us!
DVP: What s in your iPod? Or what are you listening to these days?
UC: Not much, to be honest. I just decided to work without having all the musts and don'ts in my face all the time and if I dive too much into that I’ll get swallowed by it, and to be honest I do not feel I need that. I kind of feel the pull of God in my innerman wanting me to be a Daniel in Babylon and when you give in to that you actually feel much released for not needing that anymore. I am stretching for making my sources of joy and INSPIRATION to becoming Him and not the stuff that constantly are asking and pulling for my attention. Many musicians today are hooked on music that it almost became a drug, and that’s very wrong because we are not to be anybody’s slave if you can understand what I mean. I mean, when you cannot have one single moment of peace but just got to have music running in you car, in your room, on your MP3 player or whatever, everyday all day long, something’s just wrong! I know some maybe do not like what I say but I know what I’m talking about after 30 years of doing this, and I’m saying this to make us stop the train before it is too late and let’s revaluate why we do this and God will be there for us. I’m moved much more today by the presence of Him, no matter music style or shape, and I’m looking for those that are ready to give everything to find it…I do not think traditional praise music is too exiting either, in fact most of it is boring, there’s no boldness. But these last years I have touched some areas I never have been in before and that’s the direction I am exited and thrilled to move into and I know the rules are to turn off to be able to listen, and of course fasting, praying to enter into this but this cannot be done in a legalistic or religious way, because God cannot bless that! There are songs that are anointed but very few artists that carries that EVERY time they move in that gift…I’m not negative but that’s what I see for the moment. I want the real thing, not the pumped up hype that tells us this is the new thing, or this is what we need to follow, maybe we can have some new sounds coming and going but that doesn’t really change life’s, but I have actually much more to say about this…there’s so much revelation coming in this area now and we need to be first not last again. But it cannot be said in short words.
DVP: If your funeral was next week, what would you want people to say about you during the service?
UC: This guy did what God told him to do and He fulfilled the calling that was on his life, but I honestly most of all wants to hear that from Jesus, I won’t be there anyway so who cares, people have a tendency to put a glory on you when you’re dead, and I could care less about that! But I do not want people to dress in black, this is not some black, sad death trip, even though I understand we miss one another for not being there for a while, but we are in fact seeing one another on the other side. So this is really a step into the future after we’ve finished our task here on earth! My best friend John died last year and that was a very strange feeling, and I was sad and I mourned but I also rejoiced over the fact that he’s in heaven right now waiting for the rest of us soldiers to get there as well, but he really was a true General!
DVP: How are the other guys from Jerusalem?
UC: They are doing fine, some of them I see more often than others…we are pretty busy doing many things in different areas not just playing in the band….But we will have our 30th anniversary this year, so we must find a way to celebrate that, we’re looking for a way to do something fun. As you may know there are kind of 2 constellations of the band…The guys that was with me from the beginning in the end of the 70’s into the 80’s and that’s Klas Anderhell, drums (he’s on the MTV video of Jerusalem's "Constantly Changing" and "It’s Mad”, now playing as pro in many bands in Sweden) and Anders Mossberg, Bass (now living in Oslo, Norway and also working as a pro) Dan Tibell Keyboards who does, when he’s not playing with the band, working with computers and stuff. These guys did the European tour ”på ren svenska –97, where we also recorded a live CD (double) and that’s how they started to come back into the picture again. They also did play on Jerusalem Volume 1, 2 and Warrior, that record was also our breakthrough worldwide 1981-82. The guys who’s on the Can't Stop Us Now and Dancing on the Head of the Serpent and the Prophet CD who you may know more about was…Peter Carlsohn, Bass (he has done a CD-project together with Michael Ulvsgard, drums and Reidar Paulsen, keyboards and some other guys), but he’s presently running a company (together with Goran Buller our former soundman) that’s serving banks etc.. But they all live in Gothenburg, so we see one another now and then of course. Peter, Michael and Dan and me are the ones that‘s been the longest together, and these guys did most of the USA tours including the MTV videos in the 80’s. This year we are booked for several festivals in Europe but that will probably be with a mixture of these guys. Reidar Paulsen is the one I have most contact with for the moment, (he’s great in running the Cubase and Nuendo) so he will come down to Gothenburg next week to help me doing some work in my new studio, I have both an analogue and a digital platform installed, so that’s great, I kind of still like to have the ability to work on a tape recorder if I feel like doing so.
DVP: When I went to the Exodus Festival in Victoria, Texas in 1985, Jerusalem was on the bill, second to last, I think. I don t remember exactly. But you guys were stuck in Utah because of the airlines strikes at the time and had to get re-routed at the last minute. The promoter picked you guys up from the airport and rushed you to the festival (taking place on a big ranch), where you were even pulled over by the police. I imagine you guys were kind of worn out with that kind of rushing around to get somewhere on time, etc. During your set, right before you played "The Wind is Blowing", a low level of clouds came in, the kind that look like they are squished puffs atop a sheet of glass only a few hundred feet above our heads. When you sang the line, and the wind begins to blow, a wind pushed the clouds over our heads like a beautiful divine video. And then you spoke about cities (maybe it was the song Sodom ) and you rattled off cities in Texas like you knew them very well. And then you led the audience in a song called "Love is my Weapon", and then you hopped off the stage and gave me a hug, and other audience members, and we all turned and started hugging each other. It was a very powerful moment. It really seemed like an anointed event. What are your memories and/or thoughts of that?
UC: Texas concert…yes I remember that even though it is not totally in fresh mind…I remember the police stopped us bugging us for having drugs or something, thinking Peter was hiding something in his shoe, until the lady who drove us told them that we were”nice Christian boys from Sweden” and they let us go, guess we looked suspicious with the long hair and all, but they would not have found anything anyway. But we were very late for the concert because of that and had to go up on stage immediately but I remember it was a good concert were God met with people, that’s what He did…Think REZ band was on the bill that evening as well, and in fact they were the ones opening up the doors for us in America, Glenn Kaiser called me from Chicago one day wanting Jerusalem to come over for a tour together with them. They were, and still are great guys I’m still grateful for what they did. It is a story of itself, I mean, the way we came over to the US and everything, but that has to be for another time. We have always been very serious with what we are doing and still are, this is far more than just play music and have fun and we have always made a priority in fasting and praying before tours and special events…We have fasted for 2-3 weeks many times all together before we did concerts, I mean the whole band including the crew, because we’ve known that we’ve been all together in this, and we have surely seen results out of that, that we probably would not have seen if we didn’t. I’m not talking about being religious but being serious…. and I’m not saying this to put a glory on ourselves but to give artists and bands a motivation to step out of the comfortable zone…. it’s not about us, it’s all about God after all! So the Texas concert is one among many where God met people in a new fresh way and I’m grateful that He chose us to do so. And I still give hugs, believe me.