Phinehas: Metal, Mosh, and True Inspiration

Based out of the City of Angels, Phinehas present a ferocious brand of metal on the spiritual side of the spectrum.  One listen to the sonic intensity found within their debut Red Cord effort thegodmachine, and you’ll want to dive headfirst into the nearest mosh pit.  In addition to their dynamic music, the lyrical content found within thegodmachine is introspective and enlightening.  We check in with one of the Phinehaus members to find out more about the spiritual yet raging anthems of this up and coming collective.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Phinehas, and how long the band has been together.
My name is Lee, I’ve been playing drums for Phinehas for a little over 3 years now although the band was originally formed in 2001.

Where did you get the band name Phinehas and who came up with it?
The name comes from the Numbers 25 in the Bible. Phinehas was the son of Eleazar and there is a pretty brutal story of which he is the centerpiece. The part that really hits home for me and what the band wants to really be associated with is found in verse 12 & 13b (ESV): “I give to [Phinehas] my covenant of peace…because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.”

Is there any story or concept behind the CD title thegodmachine?
Oh yes. Sean is one of my absolute favorite writers and he actually came up with the idea and arc for the album before some of the lyrics were even finished being written. The word “godmachine” represents the void in our hearts that we keep trying to fill with extraneous things (sex, money, pride, relationships, music, etc.). It doesn’t necessarily even start out being bad-it can be anything that we put our time towards that vacuums us in but leaves us unfulfilled in the end. For instance, music is a beautiful thing. I love playing it and listening to it, but I can easily let it come between me and God. We are very good at being distracted by anything and everything in this world. People are fickle, and we are always left broken and empty by these things because the only thing that can truly fulfill us is Jesus Christ. It is in this brokenness where I often see Jesus the clearest because I finally realize that there is nothing that I can do for myself to fill my heart besides a relationship with the Creator. It’s this journey from being captured by “godmachines” to being enveloped in the true love of Jesus while we are in the broken state that we attempt to portray in the entirety of “thegodmachine“.

What is the idea for the lyrical content of I Am The Lion?
Sean helped me with these answers since he’s the one who penned all of the lyrics. I Am The Lion is about the depths of addiction and the absolute helplessness that comes with it: “I know now what it is to be helpless, like a foot on my neck to the ground. I’m longing to rest in the hollow of Your hand.” The verses are essentially a call out from God telling us that He can redeem this if we give it to Him: “I’m always peeling back your skin to rip the legions from your heart. Every scar you leave yourself is a jewel in the making“. We can only blame others or the devil for so long before we realize that we are given a choice as to whether or not we’re going to humble ourselves and give it completely to God or start blaming ourselves instead. Sean and I don’t think that it’s the devil that’s strong, we think it’s us that are weak. When we finally do give it up-when we release our grip on the belief that we can fix ourselves-God comes in, rips everything to shreds, and gives us a new heart.

Select two other Phinehas songs and what inspired the lyrical content?
Sean wrote this answer:
There are two songs on the new record that are very personal to me and my experiences. I wrote the lyrics to this album during a very dark time in my life and it definitely shows. The second track on the album, titled “Bad Blood,” it is my anger towards a person who was close to me who hurt my family in an unforgivable way. I can’t go too far into detail, but the line “grieve that your body was so worm eaten inside, crawling with infection fed by your lies” describes my disgust towards this person. At the same time that I am so angry, I can’t help but pray for that person because I believe nobody is beyond the grace and love of God. Another song, “My Horses Are Many,” I wrote about prosperity christianity in the bible-belt of America. Growing up in Texas, I witnessed first hand how a money hungry pastor was taking advantage of his congregation by preaching tithing sermons every sunday for a year in order to construct a building the size of a football stadium (a shrine… a “god machine”) when they couldn’t even fill up the pews that they had. It landed the church in debt and drove a lot of people away from church. There is nothing wrong with tithing to a church, but manipulating scripture to say “tithe or you aren’t right with God” is wrong and brainwashing in my opinion. To top it off, when the pastor was confronted by my brother on this subject, the pastor gave him a signed copy of a book he wrote. Arrogance, greed, and carelessness should not be a pastor’s greatest traits.

How did you wind up being signed to Red Cord Records?
Once we finished the record, we started shopping it around a bit. Our good friend Steve Sloan that we met via indievisionmusic.com started doing A&R at Red Cord Records and he told me that he wanted Phinehas to be his first band that he helped Red Cord sign. Negotiations with other labels weren’t really going where we wanted them to, so we started talking with Joey, the owner of Red Cord. Negotiations were tedious, but Joey was sure to let us know that he loved our music and really wanted to be a part our journey to see how far he could push us. We ended up landing in a place that we were very happy with, so because of that and the support of what we were doing, we ended up signing to Red Cord.

What could one expect from a live Phinehas show?
Our live show has been the pinnacle of Phinehas since before I joined the band. I loved going to see them live, even though they were just a local act. Their performance was always so passionate and energetic, but musicality was never sacrificed. I believe that we have carried that tradition on even through our line-up being turned upside down, and fans have consistently edified that belief in talking with them after shows, which I am so grateful for and humbled by. So to sum it up: lots of headbands, windmills, guitar-solos, stick-flips, and sweat.

What do you think of the current Los Angeles music scene and how does Phinehas fit into the scheme of things?
We love being from the greater Los Angeles area, but I don’t think it has been immune to the decline that has been seen throughout the music industry. However, whether there will always be tons of people that want to go to shows or buy CD’s, there will always be people that can be touched by music. We want to be a light in a dark scene. To paraphrase something our good friend Seth Webster from Before There Was Rosalyn said, amidst overpopulation and over-saturation, the only thing that’s original anymore is honesty, and that’s where we strive to be.

What was the experience like playing Cornerstone?
Playing Cornerstone was an absolute blast. It was definitely ridiculously hot and we had some technical difficulties on both nights, but the shows ended up being amazing. Red Cord Records day was promoted phenomenally, so there was a buzz and a packed tent through the end of the night. We headlined Sancrosanct Stage on Thursday and were direct support there on Friday, so our set times were midnight and 11:20pm respectively. Even though this meant we were competing with bands far more well known then us relative nobodies, God blessed us and humbled by giving us two hard-hitting sets that we will never forget. If you want to check it out, our second set is actually viewable on our youtube: http://www.youtube.com/phinehastechnology

Would you consider Phinehas to be a Christian band or ministry? Why or why not?
I definitely would, though it may not be in the traditional sense. We have actually tried to mirror Jesus’ ministry in focusing on reaching out to people that have been neglected and rejected, especially by the church, because that is something that has happened to all of us. We want our music to help bridge a gap for them. Often times, they don’t understand what we mean by “Christian” because it’s been people that call themselves Christians that have rejected them because of who they are or where they came from. We simply want people to know that Jesus loves them and we love them where they are at, not where someone else thinks they should be.

An elderly lady at your church finds it enchanting that you are in a band and would like to attend a Phinehas show. What would you like to tell her about your band before she makes the trek to your next concert?
That’s actually very ironic because this has definitely happened to me more than once! I simply tell them the truth: we play metal and have a good amount of screaming during our set. I’m thankful that they want to support me but I completely understand if they want to pass after I describe our music to them. Even if they aren’t fans of our genre, generally people in this situation have always expressed complete support of our ministry even if it’s a scene they aren’t a part of, which is really cool.

Any final words of wisdom?
I just want to say that we are able to play music and move people not by anything that we have done, but because God has blessed us to get to do what we do. In our own strength and pride, we fall 100% of the time. We are nobodies that want to tell people the Good News of the only true Somebody, Jesus Christ.

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

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