(Band Interview) Knuckle Sucker

I previously wrote a post on my recent discoveries of new music courtesy of Thumper Punk Records. They are kind enough to give me some recommendations. I first ask for bands that sing Reformed inspired songs. One of punk bands they gave is Knuckle Sucker, which hails from Huntsville, Alabama. They call their music doxological punk-rock. Their sound is similar to pop punk bands like MXPX and Reliant K . I reach out for Zach, vocalist and lead song writer of Knuckle Sucker, to talk about punk music and Reformed faith.

Kindly tell something about yourself and how you came to know Christ?

My name is Zach Thornton, and I am the impetus behind the Knuckle Sucker project. I work full-time in the cybersecurity field so Knuckle Sucker is my musical side project.

I was blessed to be born into a Christian family so I was surrounded by the people of God and the teachings of Christ before I can remember. My own personal profession of Faith came when I was 5 years old, and I was baptized. The rest is just a story of sanctification in God’s grace.


So how did you get into punk music? What do you find in punk that appeals to you?


I think my first CD I ever purchased with my own money was “Two Lefts.Don’t Make A Right” by Relient K, so pop/ punk rock has been pivotal part of my personal musical formation.

What are your band’s influences and your favorite artist?

I am only speaking for myself,but I’ve already mentioned how Relient K and a lot of Christian Punk / Rock was a deep influence for me. Additionally, like I mentioned playing so much church music, it would be hard to ignore the influence of modern worship music song structure on my thinking. I think the other category I should mention is Christian heavy music. Living Sacrifice, Underoath, and Norma jean all followed swiftly after RK, though their influence is certainly less pronounced.


I like the DIY culture of punk music. Is it still alive despite the culture embracing the digital age or does it diminished it?


I think it’s a bit of both. Like I mentioned ,I’m not a professional musician or deep into DIY punk circles, but everything was DIY for me and my mates on this project I think the advent of the digital age has opened up a lot of tools for people who want to do DIY, so in a way there’s more and it’s very alive. But with so many more making music,and it’s so easy to create a Bandcamp / SoundCloud and self publish, sometimes I wonder if that’s brought a real dilution of quality. Maybe some would count this project as that dilution! But I think it’s a net positive for the DIY world and Christian music.


As creatives in the line of music, how does spirituality specifically holding on the doctrine of grace help you as you play as a musician? How important is being grounded to the Bible as you write songs?


Abraham Kuyper once said “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”. Since.everything is Christ’s, I think it’s imperative for Christians who make music to apply every word of God to every domain of life, especially music and lyrics. That’s not to say every lyric must come directly from the pages of holy writ, but the scripture must be the foundation and deepest influence of every lyric we write . Kuperian Punk Rock I’ve called it a few times before.

Specifically on the doctrines of grace, believing that God is sovereign over salvation and cannot fail to save certainly influences, how you write about salvation. But it also bleeds into all other practical areas. God cannot fail,his word does not return void, he saves and accomplishes his mission perfectly,he will rule until he puts all his enemies under his feet. These are glorious truths that give us hope and are the whole reason why we sing and play.

You have said as we are chatting online, you once have a struggle in finding good and godly music, can you tell us something about that?


I want to listen to music that glorifies God from musicians who glorify God. Simple as that. However, in the genres I’ve mentioned already Christianity is certainly the exception, not the norm. And even in Christian music or where there are artists who call themselves christian, an examination of their lyrics sometimes gives me a lot of concern as to how Christian they are. Even some of the artists I mentioned as influential I no longer listen to, because they have clearly abandoned the faith.

I kind of suspect it’s hard in our present time as the temptation is always to compromise in order to sell more. Whether it’s to the secular market, where the pagans are not attracted to Christian lyrics, or to the contemporary Christian scene who frequently are not attracted by deep theological truths.


But every now and then you come across an artist who seems to genuinely want to write to the glory of God. My hope in this project was to contribute in my own small way to that list.


You have this album out, Alien Righteousness and I really enjoyed it. So tell us about it and the process in producing that album?


I’ve dinked around for years at writing my own music,just odd demos and low quality recordings. But as I got involved at a local church, I got connected to a couple of really high caliber musicians who were interested in recording / producing music. I sent then some of my pretty rough demos and asked if they wanted to record parts based on those demos. Matt Tucker used to tour with some bigger names awhile back and his own drum studio and tracked all the drums at his house. I worked with Sam on the bass and vocal tracks at his home studio and he laid down all the guitars after that.


All of this was done with equipment we already owned, and nothing that’s in the mega expesive category. Back to the DIY thing,it just really showed me how much can be done at home if you have talented friends!


Any follow up album that is in the way? You mentioned you want to write songs based on the doctrine of grace or TULIP.

That would be interesting. I would love to make more music, especially contributing more to the dearth of solid Christian music we’ve discussed. I’ve demoed out a similar five-track album about the doctrines of Grace, and I’m working on demoing out a sort of post-millennial punk rock Pilgrims progress album.


Not sure if/when they will ever be made though. I’m a lot more.busy with 2 kids.now and not all the original 3 guys go the same church or live in the same town as we did when we made it. But I hope Knuckle Sucker can continue in some form.


Thank you for this opportunity. Kindly invite our readers to check you out.

Yes, and thank you for the opportunity to be included on your blog! Our music is available as Knuckle Sucker, and our album Alien Righteousness on both Spotify and YouTube, or for download at Bandcamp.

(Did you enjoy what you read? Did this article help you? If yes, you can say “Thank you” by sharing 10 Pesos or more at my G-Cash or Paymaya account: Marianito Gonzales – 09163315535. For international friends, you can send it through Paypal: nitoymgonzales@gmail.com)

Rabbit Holes

Many folks (me included) are complaining of the entertainment content they’re consuming. There is too much woke-ness or SJW on social media, TV, movies and comics they usually indulge. While some parts of these movements do have some good things we should consider, the problem is that mostly they have the bad stuff that sometimes goes against our Christian conviction. So as a pop culture nerd myself, I have to stop reading and watching when these things pops up (aside from the profanity and violence it has). I know there is still good and clean content out here but I need to consider Christian content first. So the question is, what stuff will I consume and where would I go when all of these unnecessary and ungodly agendas permeate to those I’m currently enjoying?

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(Interview) Jerrel Pilarta on Rap Music and Doctrines of Grace

When you hear the word “rap”, what comes to your mind? Probably you’ll think about popular rappers like Francis M. or Gloc 9. You might also think of the message of their songs that you hear on the radio like nationalism, peace and unity.

But do you know there is a Christian artist who raps about the gospel? In fact, he raps about the Doctrines of Grace or Calvinism in his latest EP. I connected with Jerrel Pilarta, an indie gospel rap artist and we talk about Calvinism, rap music and his new release titled TULIP.

How did you came to know Christ?

I grew up in a Christian household, so ever since bata pa ako lagi ko ng naririnig ang Gospel. Pero for me, I believe last 2016 ko lang na fully grasp ang Gospel at natanggap ng buong puso. Nung na realize ko na kahit sobrang makasalan ako, papatawarin pa rin ako ni Jesus if I will repent and accept Him as my Lord and Savior. Dun nag-sink in sakin ang ibig sabihin ng grace.

Who introduced you to the doctrine of grace?

Read More »

Rivers and Robots Concert Experience!

It pays to check the IG Stories.

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Without it we might have missed the opportunity to watch Rivers and Robots live. I’ve been listening to them for quite a while but their newly released album, Discovery, got me hooked to this Christian indie band from Manchester.  A combination of acoustic, indie folk and atmospheric sound (that’s the “Rivers”) with a bit live electronic (that’s the “Robots”) blended with Ogden’s smooth vocals creates this once a bedroom project into a 4 piece band. Later on I appreciated their early albums and Jonathan Ogden (the lead vocalist) solo EP’s. I’m into metal core right now (with bands like Wolves at the Gate, For Today and Memphis May Fire) and listening to Rivers and Robots (plus that IDM group, Tycho) are polar opposite of my diverse musical taste.

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Our preparation for the concert took us a month. First I bought 2 tickets from SM Batangas City (by early November, I grab one for Joan) since it’s so hard to get it online. I then check the location on Google Map because I’m not familiar with place. It’s near Magallanes which is the first provincial bus stop going to Cubao. Then the venue is part of Green Sun hotel.   I told my wife that the concert venue has a hotel so she decided to book us a room with free breakfast buffet. We don’t want to go home that night after the concert, tired while travelling 70 miles back to home. We rather hit the sack right away after the show. This trip is my late treat for my wife’s birthday and as a gift to Joan’s 18th birthday debut. We had her choose between having a debut celebration or going to a concert with hotel accommodation. Obviously she picked the later. Good girl!

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We hit early in the road to avoid traffic since it’s a Friday. We checked in the hotel about 3 PM, took some rest to prepare for the concert. Then it started to rain heavily. By 5 PM, we took a 5 minute walk to the nearest Jollibee to have our early dinner. Good thing the rain had stopped. Going back to the hotel, we first check the venue to see if people are already there. It was on the 3rd floor of Green Sun. Well the folks who got the meet and greet tickets were still there so we headed back to our room and change our clothes. So by 6: 20 PM we fall in line to wait for 7 PM for the doors to open. The line wasn’t that long or overcrowded.

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Once they ushered us in the Eye (sounds like Illuminati stuff!) we were treated to a spectacle of 360 degree proportions! I haven’t seen something like it (the band was surprise also). Walls turned into canvas as it projects some artworks and videos related to Rivers and Robots. But we are more interested on where we will sit. I ask the ushers for their opinions but my wife suggest we should seat near the stairs of the stage. It’s free seating as the ticket indicates so since we are early to come in we get to choose the best ones. The place is not a big concert hall as we expect so anywhere you sit you’ll be close to the stage. That It gives this intimate feel to the concert. Not bad for us who got the 500 peso ticket.

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As we look around, people are filling up the seats but there are still vacant seats when the show started. We estimate 400 people in attendance. It took 1 hour and a half for the show to begin (why that long Becca Music?!), and since some of the concert goers are eating their dinner on their seats as they wait for the band, I decided to go back to our room to get some bottled water and our raisin bread because we started to feel hungry. But soon as I got back to our seats, the band enters in and took the stage. People starts to clap and cheer as each of them climb up on stage and took their instruments. They’re ready to give us an awesome night!

They open their show with Dreams, the first song in their latest album then followed by the second song also on that album, Call Your Name. The repertoire consists of mostly their new album and few of their earlier songs:

We Will Overcome

Be Still

 Author/Perfector

 Satify

My Refuge

Fall Down

 Brighter than the Sun

Boldly I Approach

Burn For You

Acoustic set– The Bridegroom and White as Snow

Home

Provider

Overflow

Lift Up My Eyes

Shepherd of My Soul

Know You More

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 The crowd favorites were the first two songs, Provider and Lift Up My Eyes. Jonathan sang two solo acoustic that made the whole venue went pin drop silence.

The 1 hour and 30 minute show ends with the song Waiting for You. With its catchy and happy vibe it launches us in feel good mood. After that, that was it! It’s a wrap! We trying to cheer them back to stage for an encore but they didn’t. One whole set with no breaks and no front acts. Anyways the show was a blast. What more can we ask for.  The band was amazing! Even as I write this (after 3 weeks) I can still feel that performance. Listening to them in Spotify is one thing and it’s another level to see them live.  My wife and Joan are now hardcore fans of the band (my wife’s” fall into sleep” music is Jonathan Ogden’s EPs and Joan listens to Discovery while doing her chores).

After the show I approached a familiar face to say Hi. Its pastor Kit and his wife. We had our pictures and talk for a moment. Would love to chat some more but I told my wife and Joan wants to go to our room because they’re so sleepy. Another familiar face we met (by accident) is Phoebe, daughter of author Marlene Legaspi-Munar, in the elevator going down to the lobby.

Before we go to our room I check them in the hall to their rooms. No soul found. I think all the guests (including them) are now sleeping. So we went inside to call it a day.

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The next day, me, my wife and Joan lost all hope to have pictures and get the CD signed by the band. But as we check out of the hotel that morning so sad and a Grab taxi is waiting for us outside, all of the sudden we saw Jonathan walking at the lobby. That was after I decided to go to the bistro to check if they are having breakfast. Nathan was there so I ask for a signature and a picture. Coming back to see my wife and Joan, Jonathan was at the lobby (I think he’s shot a part of their video blog) going to the bistro to have breakfast. Wow talk about providence!  We took the opportunity, have pictures and got the CD signed. I wish to go back to that moment because I have lots of things to say to Jonathan. The only words I was able to say was “Are going to have breakfast?” I should have said something else! Anyways, we went home so happy and with a new appreciation of the band. Thank you Becca Music for bring the lads of Manchester to the Philippines!  And to Rivers and Robots God bless you as you reach the world with the music and the gospel!  Hope to see you soon!