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Michael Knott, brash pioneer of Christian rock, dies at 61 : NPR

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A prolific songwriter, Michael Knott confronted his demons with each bombast and a quietly fervent spirit.


Matt Wignall


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Matt Wignall


A prolific songwriter, Michael Knott confronted his demons with each bombast and a quietly fervent spirit.



Matt Wignall

A whole business would not exist with out him, but few know his title. Michael Knott, a brash and sensible pioneer of the choice Christian rock scene who challenged the devoted to look at their faults and hypocrisies, died Tuesday. Knott’s reason for demise is at present unknown. He was 61.

“To me, Michael Knott was bigger than life,” wrote Stormie Fraser, his daughter, in an announcement. “He was a form, empathetic father and a artistic genius. There’s a lot extra to say about him, a lot extra to write down, however on this time of shock and profound grief, I can not record all that he did and all that he meant to us. I can solely say I really like him a lot that it hurts. It’s troublesome to just accept that somebody with a lot of my coronary heart has left this earth.”

Born Dec. 22, 1962, Knott got here out of Southern California’s Christian punk scene of the early Eighties, at first becoming a member of the ministry-oriented band The Lifesavors earlier than primarily taking on and renaming the challenge by the last decade’s finish. Like a lot of the music popping out of Los Angeles and its surrounding seaside cities, his L.S. Underground wrote groove-heavy, funk-tinged, flange-ful different rock — suppose Jane’s Dependancy and Pink Scorching Chili Peppers — with a gothic aptitude and a charismatic frontman who fancied himself a punk Elvis.

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The band’s 1987 album, Shaded Ache, was a haunting and sometimes hopeless meditation on mortality, abusive church leaders and sins of the flesh. “Our time has come / Let’s kiss the cleaver,” Knott threatens on “Our Time Is Come,” calling out false idols: “Your god is useless / Our God won’t ever go away us.” Christian bookstores — then one in every of few locations the place Christian information could possibly be purchased — banned Shaded Ache. Church buildings, too, banned Knott from performing following the album’s launch, foreshadowing many such clashes to return.

Nonetheless, these setbacks did not deter Knott from bum-rushing Christian Modern Music as soon as once more. CCM is a catch-all time period for faith-based music in in style codecs past gospel and hymns; again then, something fringe — like punk and digital music — was nonetheless new floor for this traditionalist business. Knott based his personal label, Blonde Vinyl, and in 1991 made a wild gambit, releasing 10 albums without delay with the purpose of purposely oversaturating the market. “The one requirement for a band to get signed to Blonde Vinyl is that they needed to be musically off the grid,” Knott shared within the liner notes for a current reissue of L.S. Underground’s The Grape Prophet. “Breakfast With Amy has go-go dancers at their reside exhibits? Excellent! I will signal these guys! If there was a band on the market — I did not care if it was techno, I did not care if it was punk — and so they have been musically off the grid, I used to be .”

His gamble labored. Christian teenagers and 20-somethings abruptly had a trusted supply for music that was cool, bizarre and heavy … and that their mother and father would approve. By Blonde Vinyl, Knott gave himself and others permission to be actual about religion and artwork, confronting each whereas entangled within the messy enterprise of blending them with commerce. The label went bust just some years later when its distributor went bankrupt. Nonetheless, if not for Blonde Vinyl, there can be no Tooth & Nail Data, the game-changing label that was initially conceived as a three way partnership between Knott and the corporate’s chief to today, Brandon Ebel. Tooth & Nail altered the course of the Christian rock business by launching and legitimizing the careers of MxPx, The O.C. Supertones and Underoath. Finally, Knott bowed out of the collaboration, however he did launch one album of his personal on Tooth & Nail, 1995’s Strip Cycle, a surrealist acoustic punk album indebted to the Violent Femmes.

Knott had his brushes with the mainstream. He signed to Elektra Data together with his band Aunt Bettys, and far later, auditioned to entrance the band that may grow to be The Velvet Revolver, a 2000s supergroup spun off from Weapons N’ Roses. However from the ’90s on, he largely launched albums underneath his personal title — recordings that confronted his demons with each bombast and a quietly fervent spirit. He was recognized to be confrontational, burning bridges with labels sooner than his prolific songwriting might sustain with. He publicly struggled with alcoholism, unflinchingly documented on “Double.

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“A person after God’s personal coronary heart just isn’t welcome within the Christian business,” he stated, laughing, in a 1998 interview. “I feel that the fault belongs to American Christianity — it’s cultural. Everybody runs away from consuming and smoking, experiencing and dwelling life, and so they find yourself being extraordinarily disturbed and so they lose all their religion and haven’t any hope in the long run.”

On 2001’s Lifetime of David, Knott took on a well-known Bible character. Within the Previous Testomony psalmist, Knott discovered a tortured and tangled portrait of grace … and maybe noticed himself. On that album’s devastating “Chameleon,” he sings:

I’m the adulteress
And the penitent man
I am the crafty wrongdoer
And the little lamb
And I really like all God’s youngsters
All however one
This chameleon

Within the eyes of those that cherished his work, Michael Knott understood higher than most that grace is not for the beloved, however the damaged.

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