Back to the Bride book
The week that we returned Troy and I had two meetings to
discuss the future recording possibilities with Benson and Rugged records. The
first was Benson, which we had to drive to Nashville for the encounter. Mark Q
who was an A&R fellow placed in the position of rock guy met us on time. He gave
us the discount tour of the building, which he referred to as a machine. The
entire time in the building I was thinking Bride does not need walls. I could
see the walls of Benson shrinking around us. Q attempted to sell us Benson as
our next home but neither Troy or I was impressed or comfortable with the
surroundings. It felt like Sparrow, a bigger Star Song.
The next day Michael Betts the president of Rugged records flew into Louisville from LA to lay his plan on the table. Michael seemed very sure of himself and the abilities of his much smaller company. He referred to himself as a maverick of the record business. He was a man who did not fit in with the industry and he was proud of that. He even spent time the following day at Troy's house watching band videos and listening to demo songs, which never made it on a Bride record. He seemed to be in full agreement that we should pursue the rock style and drop metal altogether. He was also in agreement that we should be self-produced. "He said I am signing the band not a producer." He said everything that we wanted to hear and that in itself was frightening, yet there was honesty to Michael and no walls. He left us with many things to consider and we were considering Rugged far above all the rest. "Would they be around in a year?" "Would Michael take the money and run?" "Could we sell 100,000 on this small label?" "Should we take a chance?" It was time again to pray. More often than not, we prayed to our favor attempting to force the hand of God to do what we wanted. We would learn in time that this is not how prayer works. We were very strong willed and hard headed and even though we prayed, we were not necessarily looking for God's answers. Like many people caught up in the moment, we were thinking whatever is best for Bride, whatever can make us bigger. It was hard at the time for us to see God in the small things. But He was there. The Bible tells us even if I make my bed in the lowest hell He is there. I could not imagine trying to get comfortable in a place that the church deems outer darkness full of literal fire and torment but that thought is for another chapter.
The following few weeks we got offers from Benson in the form of them sending Mark Q to one of our sold out shows at the King's Place in Columbus Oh to look at the live show then report back to the big wig's what he saw. Jonathan Watkins from Star Song called in one last effort to pitch the new and improved Star Song at us once more. Since Star Song had been bought by EMI it seemed like that they might be back in the running. Troy and I studied the situation from every angle and prayed hard to find God's direction.
Prior to a show in Lancaster Pa early Nov 94 Troy and I signed a one record agreement with Michael Betts and Rugged Records. This seemed like the most logical move because it did not tie us up into a multiple year agreement. We had no doubt that this was where God had directed us. A smaller label with great faith and we were going to help push them. I knew there was a bigger picture that was being painted by the Lord but I could not put my finger on it. Maybe I would never see the great plan entirely but I knew that God had one for us if we would remain faithful and steadfast in His calling. It had been a hard and rough six records up until now. We had truly paid our dues. I did not expect things to get easier. I really had no ideal what to expect. We had plenty of new song's that would take us away from the metal side and put us into the rock side but only God knew what the future would bring. Rugged Records
After our departure from Star Song times grew a bit dark. We felt like a ship without a port and wondered who was going to allow us to dock. The Lord opened up the door at Rugged Records with Michael and Monica Betts. Michael was a former drummer and expressed a heart for being true and honest with his bands. He wanted to stand out as the Maverick in the Industry. Michael showed his real desire to work with us by flying into Louisville and meeting with us over dinner. At the Spaghetti Factory in downtown Louisville, we talked about our concerns and he shared his vision of where he hoped to go with his new label. All of this personal contact by Michael was very refreshing.
It was not long and we were back in California recording a brand new Bride record. This record would prove to be the biggest change musically for Bride we had ever attempted. Deep down we had hoped to produce a record that would remove the metal label from the name Bride. The Guns n' Roses comparisons were flattering but now it was wearing thin. We brought in percussive instruments and experimented with many different rhythms. We brought in female back up singers, which we had not done, to this degree in the past. Our song's were toned down and less driven and we felt we had a record, which reflected the changing market.
The critics and the fans were taken off guard by our sudden departure from the screaming metal and they appeared confused by this change. They still called "Drop" a metal record and the reviewers approached in that manner thus leaving us with a bad taste in our mouth. No one understood the record and brushed it off as a mistake on our part. Fans wrote letters and begged us not to ever record another album like "Drop." They wanted to hear the Bride they had known for all these many years. A Bride with aggression and attitude. Fans believed that we had attempted to record a heavy record and failed. They could not fathom the possibility that we intentionally recorded a lighter record.
Reflecting back on the "Drop" album, I can see where people missed what we were trying to achieve musically. We should have recorded a straight acoustic record and that may have pacified the unforgiving fans. "Drop"
would mark a tragic time in the future of Bride. This one album was
instrumental in practically putting a halt to Bride all together.
Michael Betts and his wife were great to us but Rugged Records were just too small of a label at the time to meet our needs and concerns as a veteran Christian Rock band.
With the Industry getting a face list, the secular market dictating a rapid pace of new sounds Rugged and bride stood alone. In order for Bride to have had success with "Drop" Rugged would have had to changed their marketing approach totally. Instead of playing on what we had in the past and we were Rugged should have reinvented the band. Bride had responsibilities too that we failed to execute. We should have taken on more live shows even though they were percentage dates. This may have kept us in the public's eye. The percentage dates normally were not a good ideal through the week because people just did not want to go see a band live on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. However history dictates that we failed somewhere and it is likely since we played so few dates that year, that we were partly responsible for the CD falling short of its estimated sales.
The brightest thing to come from Rugged was they released my second solo project called Dale Thompson and the Religious Overtones. I had decided to try my hand at the blues and I brought in the finest blues musicians in Louisville to back me on the project. I used Jerry because of his background as a blues drummer. The project turned out extremely well. Even the Bride fans seemed to like it.
Another bright spot was, I also got the opportunity to produce an album for Rugged. A band called Nailed, which I had stumbled across, had a terrific sound and I had presented them to Michael and he liked them. The Nailed album was my second hand at producing and though it could have been better, the final was result was a good heavy record that the fans seemed to enjoy.
Bride also shot a cool video for the song Mamma. Michael's uncle built the Batmobile and I got to drive in San Diego in it with P.K. Mitchell.
With Bride playing fewer shows in those two years than ever before it seemed our audience had vanished and record sales were embarrassing.
One of the ways Michael attempted to promote the "Drop" album was with a
parachute jump. He invited the media, and ran a contest for people to win
an opportunity to jump from a plane with Bride. We also believed Michael was going to use the footage in a music video for us. Troy and myself always wanting to be prepared signed up for a jump at home a few weeks before the Rugged Records jump. Both of us jumped tandem at about 13,000 feet and caught it all on camera. The big day for the Rugged Records parachute jump rolled around and there we all were at the airstrip waiting. It was like a little party of a few Bride fans only a hand full of media and us hanging out around the grill stuffing ourselves with hamburgers and hotdogs waiting for the clouds to break. The clouds never broke and the party shifted from the airstrip to a laser tag room where we had a blast.
The time came for us to make a decision as a band as to stay on Rugged or go through the treacherous process of trying to find another label. Our confidence in Rugged was depleted and we felt in limbo but were considering resigning as a last option.
Here is a letter, one of the bright points from this time: "You played two shows in Central PA last weekend, one of which in Wynfield (Friday night). I am emailing you to tell you about some of the things that God is doing in my life and how it relates, at least in part, to your show last week. First of all, I saw you guys on the Scarecrow tour back in '94 in Lancaster, PA, and it was the best show to which I had ever been. Bride's stage abilities were incredible and I really liked it that you guys just stopped the show cold...no encores....and then you preached. It made me tremendously excited to hear that you were coming back to PA (only this time, I had to drive 2-1/2 hours!). Well, I was at the show last week and as usual, the music was great. But what you said afterwards really struck me. You spoke about a number of things, but the one topic you hit several times was "walking in the newness of life". I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church, and to be honest, it left me bitter. I was angry that everyone around me in that church talked about God and being saved (which I was at age 7), but there was never a real burning heart for Jesus. When I was 21, I knew I wanted to know more about a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus, not just the rules. To make a long story short, I left the fundamentalist background and went to a non-denominational church that showed me what I was looking for. It was about this time that I saw you guys in '94. Anyway...over the last few years I have been letting emotions guide so much of life, including my relationship with God, that I about go crazy sometimes. Kind of, like...If I do not FEEL that God is close, than he must not be. But listening to you speak on Friday night and driving home thinking about what you said, I realized that I had let the pendulum swing too far from the hard, dispassionate fundamentalist upbringing to a new emotionalism that was just as bad. I realized as I read the New Testament they handed out along with you, that God is so much more than how I feel. I realized that in all things, I can give thanks because of what He has ALREADY done for me and what I have to look forward to in eternity! You also talked about "walking in victory"...a phrase that takes me back to my fundamentalist days...but nonetheless in my current situation sounded like real truth. That's something else that helped me Friday night! Your speech during your preaching was littered with Bible. God's truth is able to do so much more than our words ever can and apparently, you recognize that. That makes me feel very safe listening to your music. Getting back to my point, though, was that since Friday night, I cannot get enough of reading the Bible. It is the first time in my life I have had a real hunger for reading it! It has been wonderful just sitting down and reading entire books at a time like 1 Peter or Ephesians. I know I cannot retain everything, but just the exposure to His truth is already helping me live my life in His strength and with His peace. Thank you. Thanks for using His words instead of your own. Thank you for being willing to preach when so many bands (even good ones) aren't willing to offend anyone or supposedly bore people. Let me say that when God's truth goes out, if people are bored, their hearts are hard. You have helped me realize that my relationship with God is based on an unchangeable base (the Bible) and yet my relationship can be an emotional one (allowing me to feel peace). I hope and pray that you and the rest of Bride continue to preach the Bible and tell people (both Christians and
non-) that Jesus loves them and can change their life. He has mine and you were a part of that. I just wanted to drop you a note and encourage you."
1996 Rik Foley returned to the band (primarily as a songwriter) with a new attitude. He was older, wiser, and ready for responsibility (we thought). Steve was moved to second guitar, which he said he did not mind. Bride found itself in a hard position. We were now back where we began "a five piece band". Music was going into many different directions, none of which Bride was accustomed to or groomed for. This meant if Bride was going to exist to carry on delivering the message of Jesus Christ, we would have to conform to the new musical styles arising. Culturally we did not have a full grasp and we certainly did not live the life style of the alternative bands but as we viewed music from a distance, our examination was thorough. With what we thought to be a clear picture, we changed direction. Bill Reed made us an offer we could not refuse. He was willing to hire the lawyers and shop our new material to the secular market. With all of the Christian labels being bought up and swallowed by the secular companies, I could see little difference between the two. We would not compromise our message and would shop Bride to the world. If they wanted us and signed us then glory to God, if they did not receive us then glory to God. It has always been our deepest desire to preach the Word of God to all the world in season and out of season. Our daily prayer remains...Lord use me as an vessel and a instrument of your love and peace, Lord send me.
We played some shows as a five-piece band and the sound was thick and tighter than I could have imagined. Steve was an excellent guitarist. We were preparing for an upcoming show and I called over to Rik's to see if he needed a ride to rehearsal. His sister answered the phone and gave me some incredibly shocking news. She said Rik has gone to Italy. Without a word to anyone in the band Rik packed his bags and had left us high and dry.
I guess I should not have been shocked but I was. This was not the end of the world. I believe Rik figured Bride was done and that we would not rebound and that was one of the main reasons for his sudden abandonment. But Rik was very good on walking out on people. Rik would be proven wrong.
Though this came as a shock, it was very much in Rik's character. He was a free spirit and as far as I was concerned from this point on, he could remain free of Bride. Though I was pretty well steamed by this betrayal more than anything else I was disappointed. I actually had been duped into believing that Rik had finally focussed himself on something positive. At the point of his departure, I felt closer to him than ever. I would not let my guard down again "I thought".
Steve went back to bass and we our writing focussed on this Seattle sound that everyone seemed to be caught up in. Nirvana, Pearl Jam , Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden introduced this dark sound that shadowed and engulfed rock music as a whole. Lyrically they were singing more from the depth of hurting souls and strange visions and this was light years away from the whole party atmosphere that 80's metal had produced. Obviously the public in some way dictated this change and Bride was out of touch with the attitudes of the public. Once again we went back to the drawing board to see if we could understand these strange days.
Back to the Bride book