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gary mann's story

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Copyright 2009
by the Barnabas homeplanet website

PART 1 - God had to save me first!

I moved to Los Angeles from San Diego (where I grew up) in 1978 at age 28. I moved to get a much better job as a computer operator for a large insurance company, since there were few opportunities in San Diego. I had 3 years experience, but at a dead-end job going nowhere.

I was NOT a Christian yet at this time, and still single, with a girlfriend of five years, who remained in SD. So, I was making the trip back and forth almost every weekend to hang out with her and our wordly friends, go to the beach, get high, party, etc. About 3 months after the move (March), I was making the trip when my trusty Datsun pickup started running awful, almost dying on the freeway. I pulled off at a San Clemente exit, and coasted to a stop on a residential street, but in front of a vacant lot.

So, I'm there messing around under the hood, seeing nothing wrong, when someone appeared and asked me if he could help. At first, I resented it, since I figured I could fix it myself. Back in the good ol' days, I did tune-ups and most of the work on my vehicles myself when they were easier to work on. Anyway, he said he lived just a block away (he was walking home from a store), and if I could limp the truck over there, we could work on it. So we sputtered and backfired a short distance to his house, and the first thing I see are several vehicles with "Jesus" stickers all over them. I didn't think much of this. I had no bad attitudes or anything - I just ignored it. I was basically an atheist, not believing in a God or creation.

Well, we messed around some more, and he suggested running a jumper wire from the coil to the distributor, in case the wiring was bad, and this fixed the problem instantly. I could not see how, but it did. He invited me inside to wash my hands, and invited me to stay for dinner - it was about 5 PM by now . I declined. I had to get on the road. But I was very grateful and thanked him a lot.

I think I said, "I don't know how to thank you." (I was basically a nice guy). He says to me, "Has anyone ever told you about Jesus?" I said no, since honestly I had never heard "the gospel" before. And I didn't have any attitudes or anything, and remained very open to what he was saying. He showed me a tract - the one where you're on the throne of your life, where God should be - and led me through the basics of salvation. I just listened and said "uh-huh" a few times. It sort of made sense, but I wasn't sure why.

He finally asked me if I was ready to "accept Christ", whatever that was. I said yes, and he just had me read the salvation prayer on the back of the tract. I'm a sinner, need God's forgiveness, ask Christ into my life, etc. When I was through, he asked me, "Where is Jesus Christ right now?" I swear I felt there was someone standing behind me looking at me, but I don't understand how. I said I don't know, and he said, "He's in your heart". That's when it happened. I felt a rush of the presence of God filling my heart. It was very real and overwhelming. This is sure hard to describe. I have since heard it described as God filling a God-shaped vacuum we're born with that only He can fill. Well, this is good enough. I instantly knew God was real, He loved me, He created me (and everything), and my life would be changed forever. I know now, of course, that salvation is an act of God solely. God came into my life by His own good will. I was not "searching", but was definitely ready, as it turned out.

I did have to leave. After thanking them a lot more, I was back on the road - to see a spectacular sunset off the California coast. I was crying a lot, I could barely drive. I knew that it was God who had made me, and made my eyes to see the absolute beauty of His creation in a sunset, the birds, the smells of the ocean, the coastal hills shining in the setting sun.

And he caused a "chance encounter" with someone to get me saved.

P.S. When I took the truck to a mechanic a few days later for them to check it out, he looked at the wire that had "fixed" the trouble (it still ran fine), and he says, "What's this wire doing here?". He pulled it off, and of course the engine still ran just fine without it. I have to believe God caused a vehicle to break down, for no reason, at a particular place and time, for one of His willing saints to save a wretch like me.

PART 2 - Well, I had to meet Monte, didn't I?

So here I was a baby Christian, no bible, no church, and no friends at all in LA. I went to Guitar Center a few times just to hang out and look at stuff. One time I was looking at the notices and Monte had posted a card asking for "Christian" heavy metal musicians. He drew a fancy border on it, and the writing was cool. Well, I guess I was a Christian now, and could play metal, so I called him up. Monte was living and working in an animal hospital in Santa Monica. We talked a little bit about music, but, once he found out a little about me, he mostly was concerned about getting me into his church, Grace Community with John MacArthur, getting me a bible and some books, and for me to start growing! We went to a Christian bookstore in Westwood, and I bought Hal Lindsey's "Late, Great Planet Earth", and something by C.S. Lewis I think. I bought my first bible at Grace Community. MacArthur had (still does) an active tape ministry, and I started on his Gospel of John series, probably 30 tapes or more. This was an outstanding beginning to learn about Christ, and I remember most of it to this day.

On the personal front, I did tell my girlfriend (who was a sort-of-Catholic, not Christian) that I had gotten "born again". She said, "Well, you're not going to want to see me anymore." I had no idea what she meant, and we didn't argue about it. I loved her. Within a few months, I knew our relationship couldn't continue as it was, and in December of that year (1978), I drove back to LA one last time after telling her we were breaking up, and I never saw or heard from her again. That was one of the toughest nights of my life. Leaving ALL of my old life, driving away from my hometown, leaving everything behind, including my best friends. I wouldn't call this a "leap of faith", since I didn't know what that was yet. I knew we couldn't stay together. I was definitely changing, and she wasn't.

My life had been turned 180 degrees around. This wasn't a "phase I was going through", like we see occasionally on some stupid TV sitcom. This wasn't a struggling, grit-my-teeth decision I made to change my life: God did it. My life wasn't that bad by worldly standards. I was a "good person". But now I knew the truth that God had made me, loved me, and wanted me to have peace and joy, and live a different life with his guidance. I just knew this inside. God would always be there, in this life and beyond.

So. back to the band. I started learning Monte's songs: Directory Assistance, Father of Lies, No More Blues, etc. We needed a name for the "band". Monte did not have one. I'm pretty sure I came up with Barnabas, because of it's translation, Son of Encouragement, and also at this time, the other "rock" bands were called Gentle Faith, Servant, or other names that were pretty weak sounding for a ROCK band. I wanted a name with an edge. I don't remember any other considerations.

Somewhere along here, before I met Nancy, I wrote some of my first attempts: BC, Crucifixion, Star. The latter two intended totally to be concert songs, with long spaces for guitar jamming, and I wrote that bass solo in Crucifixion, which I've always played almost exactly the same way. Monte was very good at the shorter, radio-playable metal songs with a great message. I was into Kansas and Yes pretty heavily, and wrote in that vein. Kerry Livgren was my hero. Sure glad he's a Christian now! The song Star (written later in Iowa) is directly influenced by Kansas.

By the way, I started piano lessons when I was 9 or 10. My mom figured I had some musical sense, and got me started. I did pretty good. I hated practicing, and one time was out flying a kite in the back yard when my piano teacher showed up. I got called to come inside NOW, and had to quickly reel in a few hundred feet of string, which became a tangled mess unusable from then on. I learned my lesson. I can't read music hardly at all anymore, and play piano totally by ear. I got a guitar and taught myself starting as a young teen. I switched to bass in my early 20's.

Part 3

We did find Lance as our first drummer, and the girl singer that he knew, Carolyn, and David Storrs played a second guitar at that one show we did in the picture under "History". Monte had gotten married to Roxanne by this time, and she hand-made the crushed blue velvet pants  I'm wearing!

Carolyn Joy was one of the most beautiful female singers I'd ever heard. She could serenade the birds out of the trees just singing solo with her  acoustic guitar - unfortunately (looking back on it), we didn't include her doing a solo song in a show, as I recall. I would have loved it.  The next drummer we met after Lance was actually nicknamed Roy - his real name was Rojelio. I hope I spelled this right, but I always liked to say his real name: Ro-HEY-Lee-Oh!

We rented a warehouse-sort-of in a business district to practice at,  where there weren't any homes around so nobody would complain. We met Kris (I don't remember how), and he replaced Roy. Somewhere in here, Nancy Jo answered an ad Monte placed in Recycler I think? She definitely had a hard-edged, powerful style of singing that would fit in with a rock band. Nancy had only been a Christian a short time, after basically miraculously surviving a motorcycle accident which occurred some time before we met her. She had 2 kids, Richard and Lisa, who were 5 and 7 at the time, and was living in Huntington Beach (or Hermosa?).

Obviously, a very major part of Barnabas' sound was due to Nancy. Female singers in ANY rock band were very scarce in the 80's, and she was one of the best, especially with the opportunity to sing Monte's great songs, and Kris's outstanding lyrics - even though Kris's were quite challenging for her at times. This was mostly due to MY music being a little too tight and fast for her to fit all the words into the space allotted!

I wasn't interested in Nancy to begin with, treating this as a "business" situation. I guess she liked me for some reason (I was single, of course), and before I knew it (4 months), we were married and I instantly had 2 great kids in my first marriage. I was 28. Richard and Lisa are to commended for putting up with everything. Rehearsals almost every night, moving all over the country to new schools, living in several "band houses", and still being great kids.

Anyway, our friendship and contact with David Storrs led to him getting us into an LA studio on off-time (late nights) to record a demo 45 single, Directory Assistance and Nicodemus. I still love Nicodemus. Monte played the most beautiful acoustic, with nice studio effects to enhance it. It was fun for me to play easy, non-aggressive bass along with the acoustic parts. This was also my first use of my first synthesizer, a Crumar. David Storrs developed the roller-rink style sound for DA.

This was also my first time in a studio. I'd never experienced the "red light 'duh' syndrome". You know, David starts recording, the red light goes on, we count down to start playing, and somewhere I goof up, or forget what to play (even though I've played it before many times), and everything stops to start all over again. Even if I played the right notes, David would suggest a better-sounding way to play it. This was a learn-as-you-go process, which was invaluable for all of us on the later albums.

This single was sent to Praise Records in Canada, who said they'd press and distribute an album, IF we could record it ourselves (no up-front money to pay for studio time, in other words...). Well, of course, we were ecstatic and praising the Lord mightily!

So, Hear The Light was recorded at night, on studio down-time, with David Storrs engineering for us. We couldn't have done anything at all without him!

We all piled in a van and made a long trip up to Oregon to meet with Servant at the Highway Missionary Society. We were supposed to get "advice" on what to do next to become a "full time" ministry, from those who knew. The advice was to move to the Midwest to be closer to many large cities for touring.

Well, we took the advice. Before I knew it, we piled everything my family owned, the kids and their stuff, and musical equipment into a van (mine) pulling a trailer, and headed directly to Resurrection Band's home base commune in Chicago. Kris drove his own car, The Famous Chevy Nova. We stopped at Nancy's father's house in Des Moines before continuing to Chicago.

Rez Band's home in Chicago was a large multi-story older hotel (?) that lots of people lived in and worked out of. A definite commune. They put us up in rooms for a couple weeks before we rented a house out in Schaumburg. This stay was a whirlwind of experience. You really have to be called by God to live in such an atmosphere. They fed the homeless, and anybody else who showed up (including us, of course), every day. Many local businesses donated food to them, like day-old donuts, bread, etc. This was one time in my life I got really tired of eating donuts (day old)!

I got a job at Hammond Organ Company as a programmer. We moved into the house. A short time later, Monte and Roxanne left LA and drove out to the house in Schaumburg. They didn't get to experience the Chicago commune stay...

So, we set up in the basement and started practicing again. I think we did one show in Illinois?? Help me out Kris. Well, we managed less than one year in Illinois before moving to Des Moines, and I bought the Famous Band House there, where we practiced in the basement. We recorded ALS and Feel The Fire in Des Moines at Triad Studios with Tom Tucker The Great! (Engineer - he made us actually sound good!).

More to come.

Feb. 9, 2009: After a few years' interruption, Gary sent us the following continuation. Hope that this isn't the end of the story... homeplanet

Part 4

Well, I left off in Des Moines at Triad Studios with Tom Tucker The Great. I worked at an oil company as a programmer the whole time we were in Des Moines. Everybody lived in my band house, a large, older 2 story house with a big basement where we practiced. I got to mow the yard, remodel the kitchen, shovel snow, get firewood, etc. the whole stay.

Sometime along this time frame, I bought an Apple II computer interfaced synthesizer called alphaSyntauri. It had 2 interface cards in the Apple’s slots, one for the keyboard, and the tone generator card for the sounds. A program ran the whole thing, and many effects were able to be created and saved to disk. Also a multi-track (non-tape) “studio” for recording the notes and saving to disk for playback. It was just a lot of fun, although very impractical to drag to a concert. Anyway, I developed (over much time) the beginning to Subterfuge. The whole thing was programmed in tracks, tweaked, added to, saved to disk, and replayed in the studio before the band comes in. I certainly wasn’t sure this thing would work, but the experiment worked out I think. Looking back on this period (mid 80’s), the computer technology compared to today seems pre-historic. Floppy disks, for crying out loud? A 10 year old today would say, “Huh?”. I still have the computer and the disks. The setup is not working. I may have to do some soldering some day, and try to revive it.

I also used this Syntauri on other songs, although played on the keyboard normally like a piano. Aliens is filled with the Syntauri all the way thru, and the bridge in the middle with those exploding sweeps down to Hammond organ-sounding chords was played in the studio using one of the saved effects I modified to set the time-of-sweep, etc. The base programmed sound was the excellent organ that came with it. I don’t recall much about the development of this – mostly experimentation. The challenge, of course, is you can make great special effects on any synthesizer, but to time it correctly to fit the song, not overpower the song, not “jump in front” of everything else (just in the “solo” spot), and not show off from start to finish.

Example:

The sequencing staccato notes in the middle of Aliens was on the Roland synth, in “sequence hold”. I could pound a 4-note single chord, carefully, and with the speed set close to the music’s speed (to get 1/16th notes), the sequencer would play the held notes in quick succession using that chord’s notes, until the next chord is hit to replace it. Hard to explain, but this part gives me goose bumps when I hear it, to be modest. Sometimes, with no hope of success, a few things you try out work out nicely. This was one of those parts that nobody else even heard before I did it in the studio, and then I guess they liked it.

There are also tone spectrum problems which I learned from recording. If any instrument (including guitar) is in a certain frequency range, and you’re trying to use a great sound by itself, BUT it’s in the same spectrum as another instrument, your ear can’t distinguish the 2 apart, and, at worst, all you get is a bad-sounding muddle. I hear music all the time with this problem. A lot of groups have a bass player, of course, but the guitarist is using so much bottom end (which does sound great by itself), that you listen to the whole song trying to pick out what the bass is doing with little success. The same with keyboards. Even if it’s just background “stringy” fill, it has to be adjusted to stand out a little bit. More volume of a track is not the answer.

Which reminds me of the famous “race to the top” of the track volumes in the studio. During post-recording final mixing, everybody wants certain parts or sections louder, so you end up half the time with ALL of the tracks getting louder, which does no good at all to emphasize a certain part. So, with a good engineer (like Tucker), you pull everything down and start over, and then compromise. I was in a Christian band with people I loved, and we still had lots of problems in the studio. Everybody goes in hearing in their head what they want, and it’s very hard to get it to sound that way in the end. I have a good ear, so I could be critical and short at times, to which I ask forgiveness for my fellow-players wanting to kill me.

I didn’t get after NancyJo very often at all, since she was so blasted good to start with, but we did have our opportunities occasionally where I was commenting on “holding the right note”. Barnabas music was challenging for any singer. We wanted the lyrics understandable, of course, even if rushed, and when she got a chance to hold out a syllable, it needed to be dead-on in my opinion. Nancy is not your typical what I call “warbler” – you know, “killer vibrato” every time a note is held out. She would power out a word with no tone variation, so she had to have it right, and usually did.

Example:

In Aliens, “one big happy family AGAIN!” “Again” held out forever, it seems – she was PERFECT every time, and I still get chills.

I do recall a couple of specific instances where I was hearing something wrong, but we had to take the time to discover what was going on in replays, thus trying everyone’s patience. (On the studio clock, of course).

In If Love Brings Love, the middle instrumental bridge combined the synthesizer (Roland), and Brian’s guitar in a harmonic duet, which was beautiful I thought. The very last note, a high C, to be held out by guitar and synth (very Boston-like, but not an exact rip-off, heh, heh), was really off on playback. After review, it turned out that the high note Brian was holding was slightly off key with the synth note. I’m not certain of what we did to fix it – probably faded the synth way down so it would not appear so bad, and let that beautiful guitar fade out. (You can tell I like this song).

Stormclouds: I tuned my low E string down to a D, for those low bomp – bomp notes at the end. During playback, the expected dynamic boom-booms were non-existent. So, during final mixing to master tape, poor Tom had to remember to bump up the bass track on the boom-booms for those 2 notes, then back down so the rest of the higher bass notes would not be TOO loud.

As an aside, music by the band Boston, Tom Sholz, are exceptional productions and mixing, in my opinion, which is part of why we still hear 30 year old rock songs by them almost everyday. When you listen to these critically, your ear can pick out everything. For me, they are very “ear-friendly” to listen too, since you’re not straining to pick out the parts if you choose to.

OK, as long as I’m on the subject, I’ll vent with a pet peeve of mine. These days, any nasally-airy-voiced bleached-blonde “singer” can get someone to program a cheap drum machine, a few sequences on some synthesizers, go into the studio for a little while, and call it a “hit”. If you force yourself to listen, you hear just what it is. A cheap, unimaginative, dance song, about shaking your booty or something. And they call this “music”? And rap “music”???!!!

Uh, where was I? Well, I mostly enjoyed the snow in Iowa, being a California kid. My father-in-law (whom I loved dearly), took ill in this period of time with heart problems and passed away. Not much more to say. I know that I was not growing spiritually at the time. The Band and The House was too consuming.

We all moved to Oklahoma City (Edmond) from Des Moines in ’85 or thereabouts. We had one more album to do of the 3 in our contract with Light. This ended up being Little Foxes, which to this day I do not own a copy of. Maybe I’ll buy one some day. Edmond, OK, where the postal guy killed a bunch of people, was my PO. I was there that morning, trying to go in and check the mail, and here’s cops and reporters all over, and it took awhile to even find out what was going on.

I bought my first (and only) little programmable drum machine, and started writing some of the music to Kris’s lyrics for Little Foxes. I had the misfortune of writing some basic drum parts for Kris, which I didn’t feel comfortable with, but we had no choice, given the time constraints. I would play the bass along with the drum machine, and write down chord changes, and basic word phrasing from Kris’ lyrics.

It looks like I ended up with 4 total songs on LF. We did not have anywhere to rehearse for a while, so this was the only way to get some music done for the expected album. We did rent a warehouse for awhile to play in, but I don’t recall the time frame. It seems like most of the music for Little Foxes was written before this time. I vaguely recall showing Brian the chord changes and stuff in Auschwitz ’87.

Little Foxes was not fun. To me, it was a begrudging commitment, but we did it. I don’t remember the studio.

Once again, we lived together for a while in a house in Edmond. Nancy & I, Lisa and Richard, Brian and Kris (before Kris met Ellen). We could not practice in the house. We sporadically attended MetroChurch. I don’t recall how long it was before we “broke up”. I moved my family to a different, smaller house, Kris got an apartment, etc. Brian left the state, I think, but Kris would recall better than me. NancyJo & I were not doing well. The end was inevitable.

To his eternal credit, Kris spent many a late night putting up with me visiting at his apartment, discussing Life, The Universe, and Everything, including our incomprehensible God.

I moved to Texas in 1989, eventually remarried, and have been there ever since. I am a Web Developer (.Net).

By the way, I have never made a dime from any album or CD sales ever. All the expenses of concerts, transportation, instruments, houses, practice place rentals, vehicles, food, toilet paper, kids school supplies, etc. were borne by the “band”, mostly me. We got some sporadic “love offerings” at a few concerts, and plane tickets to go out of state to a concert a couple times were provided to us, but that was it. We were always in the hole. But, somehow, God did provide. He always provided me with a good job quickly when we moved all over creation.

It was “interesting” and “different” having Barnabas as my life for several years almost full time. We met a lot of great people, several characters, some unusual Christian brothers and sisters (such as Barefoot Unknown Guy in Shaumburg, IL, don’t remember his name, but he had decided to go barefoot, even in the snow, until the Lord returns), had times of plenty and starvation, heat and cold, running vehicles and broken down vehicles, a few satisfying concerts and some total disasters, some really good music and a few clunkers I’m not proud of, some very special accidents in the studio that worked out great, and somehow lived thru it all. I was down below 150 pounds, with hives and nerves, from the stress in Illinois for awhile – I’m a normal 6 feet, 170 or more for a slender guy.

God bless all of you, and (see below), I hope for the Lord’s soon return.

-- Gary Mann

“Some say the end is near. Some say we'll see armageddon soon. I certainly hope we will.” Tool