The Wild Frontier
Pushing Back The Darkness - Word Record And Music Group - 1986



"When you put this record on your turntable, I want it to sound like my band is in your living room," says Randy Stonehill of his new Myrrh/LA release." I want it to have that graphic sensibility, that you can play it and close your eyes and see these guys playing and sweating on your carpet."

The Wild Frontier is the kind of album that many Stonehill fans have been waiting for: It's the one in which he finally kicks loose, goes for the gusto, ties his rock and roll shoestrings, what have you. But Randy isn't rocking out just for the sake of rocking out. It's that gutsy because the gospel that Stonehill is singing his guts out about is that vital, and he doesn't want to deliver it with anything less than his all.

"I'm not going to try to downplay my excitement about the album, because I don't think I've ever been as excited about a project," he enthuses. "As opposed to that just being hype, it really is my honest feeling, and it's because there are solid reasons for that. It's a return to the heart of rock and roll, it's a return to basics, we're taking chances in the studio more than I ever have. There's blood on the tape!

"For the first time, I've really found the intellectual/emotional connection between my art and my faith, in that I want to take the joy and the commitment that I have in my relationship with the Lord and translate that onto vinyl. Maybe that sounds like it should be a simple equation, but it's harder to do than it is to say.

"The thing is, this is the '80s. This is a scary, tense time in which we live, and I feel that as a witness--or as a statement of faith in your art--you have to do something that is passionate and intense enough to even be seen within the whole turbulent scene of rock and roll. If you even want to be heard or recognized, the times demand that kind of power punch.

"And I just think we're onto something here, pal.This is the first time that I've ever done vocals where I come out wringing wet."

Stonehill didn't come by this new attitude all by himself. He says that producer Dave Perkins had the same emotional and spiritual investment in the project that he did, and it was Perkins who told Stonehill not long before recording was to begin that he should forget all the songs he had previously written for the next album and start from scratch. Randy took a deep breath at that point, but felt musically challenged in a way that he never had before to come up with something that was completely fresh and current. With the help of Perkins--who also co-wrote a number of the songs and played guitar--Stonehill has indeed come up with a radical departure from his other work that is, at the same time, totally and radically Randy.

"I'm not knocking my old stuff--I think it has elements to recommend it--but inch by inch in my past, step by step, I've slowly sort of gotton [sic] drawn into the comfortable pop-rock mainstream I didn't realize that until I started feeling unfulfilled or uncomfortable with what I was delivering on record, and I started listening to things that I heard were 'the edge'. I started listening more to the Alarm and U2 and the Waterboys and Big Audio Dynamite, and I realized that what I was doing was pretty controlled and pretty polite. In other words, I sort of felt like my music had gotten to this zone where I was only just hinting at the periphery of rock and roll.

"Rock and roll is something that has to move you emotionally, has to go beyond your intellect. And this makes sense to me as a Christian too-- we're trying to win hearts here, and you're going to win hearts by people listening to the record and thinking to themselves, 'Man, I don't know if I agree with this guy or not, but he is committed!'

"The thing that goes hand in hand with trying to communicate the passion and the commitment I feel about my faith is that musically I've found the vehicle to do that, and it was right there in front of me all the time. And it really is a return to my first love. This is a real heavy tip of my hat, so to speak, to my musical roots. I'm going back and doing a band-oriented album that stylistically is very close to the music that inspired me when I was 13 and 17--and that's the Byrds and the Rolling Stones, the early wave, the American wave and the British wave. But I'm taking that and I'm keying it up to make it work in the '80s. I'm taking my initial inspiration and then adding to it what I've learned in 20 years.

"Yeah, everything's on the line with this one," he laughs, "but that's good. I think that's how our daily relationship with the Lord has to be, too. I see the parallel, and it feels right to me. We have to get up in the morning saying to God, '0kay, everything's on the line here. So this day, let the big wind of the Spirit blow through, and I willfully, consciously choose to say to You, let's do this.' You can't be living with that kind of attitude and be making these sort of careful albums, trying to manipulate the public to some sort of prescribed response."

As should well be apparent by now, it's not just the music on the album that's adventurous and bold, it's the whole attitude. Nowhere is that more apparent than the title track, which is the umbrella under which all the other songs fall. It's a call "beyond that great horizon" to something bigger, scarier, more exciting and more rewarding than anything Davy Crockett ever imagined in his wildest dreams.

"To me, the wild frontier means the walk of faith, and that really is the last frontier," says Stonehill. "It's that journey that only you can go on as you hold onto God's hand in faith and you say, 'Look, I willfully choose to go where You lead me, to throw away any of my little, brittle, constricted ideas of what this world is about or what my life is about'. That's definitely the wild frontier: putting your heart on the line and entering into a spiritual battle that we become aware of when we choose to open the door of our lives to the bigger reality--which is God's idea of life, as opposed to our own carefully planned worlds.

"I think most of us somewhere in our hearts suspect it's a frontier; I would say the majority of us are not out there. And I would say so much of the church, unfortunately, has treated it like some sort of a wishing well, throwing a coin out the window into it hoping that that'll be some sort of tribute to God and He'll say 'Okay, yeah, I got your name and your number', while we're still comfortably back in the living room. The song is a call to me, as well as to everyone else, in a sense to stand on the rooftop and say, 'Blow, wind, blow...'"

For further information, contact:
Chris Willman at'Myrrh/LA Records
(213) 850-5757

Originally published in a 1986 issue of Pushing Back The Darkness from Word Record And Music Group.
Special Thanks To Randy, Pauline & Leonard Stonehill for contributing this article.