How did you get your start in music?
Well, I was actually born into it. During my childhood my dad was in a Christian rock band in the 70’s and 80’s called Sweet Comfort Band. So I sort of grew up under the delusion that one could make a living and support a family, while playing music. Anyhow, I started playing bass when I was fourteen and I started playing music for a living when I was about 17 or 18.
I started engineering and producing records for a living when I was about 24. My uncle Rick owns a recording studio, and he used to let me go in there and try to make records, when I was a teenager. Eventually people started hiring me to help them out. I learned about recording on old analog gear, and then picked up Pro-Tools skills and such along the way.
Give us an idea of some of the projects you’ve worked on.
I’ve worked with all sorts of different solo artists and bands, both Christian and secular… So, I’m pretty much a whore… but I’m an expensive whore, so it all works out.
In the OC indie music world… I work a lot with Richard Swift and Frank Lenz; both on their individual solo projects, and for other people as well. This year we worked on several projects together including, new stuff (and old stuff) from both Swift and Lenz, Kat Jones… Richard produced an amazing record for a female artist named Sylvie Lewis.
In the CCM world I’ve worked with Crystal Lewis; Matt Redman; Kim Hill; Rita Springer; Kevin Max; All Together Separate; Preisthood; Phil Wickham; The Kry; Maranatha Music; Vineyard Music; and many others.
Frank and I have played as a rhythm section both live, and on several dozen records, including many of the artists the above, as well as; The Lassie Foundation; a new project from Reese Roper for Five Iron Frenzy; Holly Nelson; The theme music for the Ryan Seacrest Show… All over the map. Richard and I are next-door neighbors now, and we’re currently in the process of building a studio between our 2 houses. It’s going to be called “The Compound of National Freedom.” We have several different projects slated, that we’re working on together. So, if anyone out there needs to make a record, they should give us a call. It’s basically going to be a factory.
I’ve also been working for over a year with an artist named Jessica Dobson who recently signed to Atlantic. A few weeks ago I also played a little bass on the new Eisley record.
Describe what it is like for a musician to work in the Contemporary Praise and Worship music world.
Hmmm. Loaded question. Personally, I’d like to see the entire Christian music industry dismantled. I think it’s ultimately unnecessary, and somewhat farcical. I think that any time you mix money and ministry, the message gets convoluted.
If you’re a Christian artist, and you want to sing about Jesus; or write about Jesus; or paint Jesus’ face, then go ahead and do it. Why would you want to limit your appeal, by only letting people have access to it through Christian bookstores? If the world won’t tolerate your art, because of your chosen theme, oh well. You’ll have to turn it into a parable then.
What trends excite and trouble you in the world of Contemporary Christian Music?
The only trend that excites me is that I see it disappearing in the near future.
Not too long ago, I was asked to help put together a Christian boy-band that was going to sing worship music; and give young Christian girls a different kind of Idol… A young good-looking Christian boy with some choreography experience… That’s troubling….
What was it like to work on Richard Swift’s EP, “The Novelist”?
Well, it’s always great working with Richard. Richard has a clear vision about what he’s going to do, long before we ever record a note. So, basically I just hang around and make my services available to him. He doesn’t really need a producer, at all. He explained the whole concept to me, and how he was trying to create an image of 1938 sonically, and I tried my best to help him do that.
What role has music played on shaping your worldview, and has your worldview shaped the kinds of music that you work on?
My worldview is a summation of everything that I encounter… and music is certainly a part of that. But I don’t think that I really try to identify with certain artists over others. Each one has a separate influence that is unique to their offering. But I could say the same thing about books and movies.
I think the experience of being a musician has given me a broader perspective on the world as a whole. I’ve toured the U.S. extensively, and have also spent quite a bit of time overseas, so I get a kaleidoscope of perspective on macro sub-cultures… especially in the church. After a while you’ve seen the under-belly of just about every major (and minor) denominational branch. I think that experience has vanquished well placed misconceptions about Christ, and helped embolden my understanding of who he really is.
As far as my worldview shaping the music I’ve made… I try to bring everything to the table through music. Ultimately every experience in life – good and bad – builds your character. The more experiences you have, the more you have to offer to others. My job is just to continue growing, never being content, striving beyond striving.
Give us a list of some of your favorite cd’s and artists.
Beatles; Radiohead; U2; Bjork; Blur; Cream; Crosby Stills Nash and Young; Daniel Lanois; Blackalicious; Jimi Hendrix and the Experience; Pink Floyd; Van Halen; Tribe Called Quest; Jaco Pastorious; Smashing Pumpkins; Stevie Wonder; Joni Mitchell; Erykah Badu; Broadcast; Sam Phillips; Jellyfish; DJ Shadow; Lauren Hill; Marcus Miller; James Taylor; Aretha Franklin; Harry Nillson; Charles Mingus; blah, blah, blah.
Company was a great, fresh-sounding cd, in my humble opinion. Can you give us an insider’s view of how the project came into being, and what the recording process was like?
Well, I was only really involved as the mixing engineer. Which generally means, I do whatever I want, and Swift and Lenz make a few comments, and I lay it down. I think I mixed the Company record in one day. I might have played bass on a couple of tracks… It’s been a long time since that record, so I can’t really remember too many details.
On Company II, I didn’t do anything, because they recorded it all at Sonikwire, while I mixed another record…. You gotta get your cheap studio time when you can.
What recording that you have worked on that you are most proud of?
I don’t know… I’m not really “proud” of any of it, because every project is dependent upon a cast of characters that each bring different things to the table. That being said, I’m happy with how Jessica Dobson’s record turned out. I’m happy with the work I did on Sylvie Lewis’ record earlier this year… I’m happy with the mixes and mastering I did on the new version of Walking Without Effort. I’m happy to be making records at “The Compound of National Freedom.”
Do you have any advice for any young musicians?
Sure. Listen up kids… You can always be better… Every opportunity to make money playing music is a good opportunity. You could be digging a ditch.
What is in your musical future? What can we expect from Elijah Thomson?
Richard and I are going to be developing a few new artists. One of which is a Neo-soul project (i.e. Erykah Badu; Jill Scott). We’re very excited about it. It will be an analog lover’s delight. We’ve been recording demos for the Jessica Dobson project since July. We’re also working on the next Richard Swift project.
I’ve also been working on a novel (fiction), which I’ll hopefully finish by the end of the year.
Any other comments?
I have a small website without much on it, but I’m working on changing that.