Living Sacrifice was a pioneer for Christian metal. Before metal was popular, or even accepted, in Christian music, Living Sacrifice existed to release ‘the metal onslaught’. I recently spoke to Living Sacrifice vocalist Bruce Fitzhugh about the growing popular of metal, going on hiatus, and the crowd-funding craze.
Gabe: I know Living Sacrifice has been around since about 1989. What was the metal scene like in Christian music at that time?
Bruce: There really wasn’t much to it honestly. The metal scene in general was very thrash oriented. And that’s what we were listening to at the time. We were into bands like Testament, Metallica, Anthrax…stuff like that. Those bands probably had the most influence on us wanting to do something heavy.
Christian-wise… There wasn’t that much out there. There were bands like Vengeance, Believer, Deliverance, and the Crucified. We really identified with the band Believer who was more like a European thrash-sounding band. And Crucified was more of a hardcore-crossover metal band. And we had become friends with those guys. And that’s how we got started.
Gabe: How has it been for you to see the growth of metal since you guys have started?
Bruce: It’s been cool! I think it’s gone through phases. In the early-mid 90’s, when we first started playing, metal was not very cool. I remember there were bands that came out and said, “We’re not metal, we’re just heavy.” They would say that because metal was just so uncool. And I remember not digging that. Even after we put out our 4th record Reborn, the tagline for the promo for that record was “Let the Metal Onslaught Begin.” And that was just us saying “We’re a metal band.” We didn’t really care what anyone would say or think about metal at the time…that’s who and what we are.
Ironically, when we decided to go on hiatus mainly to family obligations around 2003, there was a crazy resurgence of metal. There were a lot of American metal-core bands that emerged like Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God. To be honest, we kind of missed out on the metal resurgence.
Gabe: You didn’t start out as the lead vocalist. What was that transition like moving from just a guitar player to being the vocalist while playing guitar?
Bruce: Our original vocalist, DJ, was the bass player and vocalist. That transition for me was pretty tough! When we all decided that I would take on the vocals, I basically had to figure out how to play and sing some of the songs. The newer stuff we did was probably easier because we were writing the songs with that in mind. But some of the old stuff, I had to relearn how to play it while singing it. It’s a little tricky honestly! It’s like that trick where you rub your belly and tap your head at the same time (laughs). And even to this day, there are songs that we’ll try to do that are just rhythmically difficult for me to play and sing at the same time.
Gabe: I know that you guys started out on R.E.X. records. You guys went to Solid State records after that. What was the biggest difference between those two labels?
Bruce: With R.E.X., this was very early on in the process of being a label within Christian music and metal…so it was difficult for them. But then they switched their focus to a more commercial-sounding-type bands such as Sixpence None the Richer…bands like that. So R.E.X. started out as a heavy label but then they shifted their focus towards anything and everything that they thought would sell better. The guy that started the label, Doug Mann, left…and he was our main contact. He produced our first record along with Kurt Bachman from Believer. So when Mann left, we didn’t really have much of a connection to the label anymore.
So after we left, Tooth & Nail had just started up. Tooth & Nail was very punk rock so we were a little hesitant with them because we were a metal band. It came down to the passion of the owner, Brandon Ebel. He really loved heavy music and wanted to work with us. So we eventually decided to give it a try. That was in 1997…and the first record we did with them was Reborn. So we felt like it was a good thing for us.
Gabe: I would say looking back, at least from my memory, both the Reborn and The Hammering Process records were the peak of Living Sacrifice. That was such a fun time to be a music fan!
Bruce: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s when we were on the road the most touring and performing, with those records. We had the largest crowds during that time for sure.
Gabe: You talked about going on hiatus primarily because of family. Even with family obviously being a good priority, how hard was that still to come off the road?
Bruce: I can only speak for myself… I was ready to take a break and come off the road. We were playing club shows a lot in that time…and that was okay..but it didn’t really support a family very well. So that weighed heavy on me. And we didn’t have management at the time so a lot of that responsibility was falling on me as well. I just felt like I needed a break. And I felt like the only way I could do that was call it quits. And then after I stepped away from it for awhile, I had a different perspective of it. I felt like we could still create music and do shows without making it a full time gig. It doesn’t have to be something that is our only job. That was part of the reason for coming back and starting back up in 2008/2009.
Gabe: It seems like any artist that has been around as long as you guys have, it’s hard not to get jaded by the industry. How have you not allowed that to happen for you as an artist?
Bruce: Sure… There’s two forms of jaded. What it comes down to is if your songs are good and they like you, you’ll gain a certain amount of success and popularity. For us, I feel like what we did was great and relevant and very good for that time. And even today, I feel good about the records we’ve put out. And even today, they’re only so successful. So it is what it is. As far as being jaded… When you’re in the middle of it, you might say “We’d be bigger if…” But the bottom line is it is what it is. And what you have to celebrate is the people that do enjoy and appreciate your music.
Gabe: One of the biggest things in music today is doing a crowd funding campaign and releasing a record independently of a record label. Have you guys ever considered doing that?
Bruce: I think that if you’re going to put out your record on your own, you’re taking on a lot more responsibility. And there’s a lot that goes into that: Marketing, publicity, and the money behind that. Not to mention paying for the recording, the mixing, the production, etc. We’re just not in the position to do that. Even to crowd fund it or release the record independently, it requires a lot of time and effort to put the packages together for the fans. And then everything is on you to have it manufactured and have the artwork done. None of us have that much time (laughs). And Solid State records has been great to us! So we are very comfortable with putting out records with them.
Gabe: Is there any timetable for Living Sacrifice putting out new music?
Bruce: We’ve got some ideas floating around but everybody is super busy right now. So no, there is no time table right now.
Gabe: Well when that does happen, I’ll definitely be checking that out. Thanks for chatting Bruce! Take care!
Bruce: No problem!
Follow Living Sacrifice on Twitter: @livingsac
Great interview! Living Sacrifice will always be one of my favorite metal bands.