What did you grow up listening to?
When I was growing up, there was no such thing as "Contemporary Christian Music." The Christian radio stations played only music that you would hear in churches on Sunday morning. As a result, I would listen to mostly secular music such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AC/DC, etc.
Then some Christian bands began to come on the scene, such as Stryper, Petra, and Rez Band. As Contemporary Christian Music became more popular, some other bands began to form such as Barren Cross, Bride, Whitecross, etc. Then in the 90's, the market was flooded with many bands that fit into the category of punk, hardcore, thrash, and death metal. Most of those bands were considered "underground" bands until some of the record labels began signing them to record contracts.
What prompted you to create Tempered Steel?
Back in 1987, I began as a volunteer DJ at WAY-FM (WAYJ) here in Fort Myers, FL. I started out doing the overnight shift (12am-6am) while still working a full time job. As I began talking to a lot of the listeners, there was a definite interest in the "heavier" style of music.
I truly felt the Lord prompting me to start a Christian heavy metal show. The station agreed to allow me to air a show once a week on Saturday night from 12am-2am. After broadcasting the "live" show for 2 years, I syndicated the program and started recording a studio version. I sent the show to several radio stations around the country for airplay. One of those stations included a shortwave network. Then the Lord led us to end the show in 1999.
What was the inspiration for the show's name?
The primary purpose of the show was not simply about the music. I believe the Lord led us to start the show to proclaim the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our main objective was to share the "Word of God," which in scripture is referred to as the "Sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17).
In focusing on the "sword" itself, the idea was that the sword is made out of "tempered steel." When a metal object is "tempered," it involves the process of hardening the metal.
Simply put, our desire was that the show be a type of sword, or the "Word of the Spirit". We wanted that "sword" to be used as a strong & powerful tool to reach the listeners with Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:12).
When did you first have the idea to record and distribute cassettes of the broadcasts?
I began recording the "live" show when we first went on the air back in 1989. I gave the tapes to our listeners who in turn passed them out to their unsaved friends. This enabled us to reach many more people beyond those who tuned into the show each week.
After we were on the air for 2 years, we came into contact with several radio stations that expressed an interest in broadcasting the show. I agreed to go into the studio and record a weekly 1 hour show.
Was this around the time that it became too expensive to mail out cassettes to everyone on your mailing list?
When we first started airing the "live" show, I sent cassette tape copies of the show to those on our mailing list. I eventually had to stop due to the lack of funds to cover the cost. It was around this time that we made contact with a few radio stations that were interested in airing the show.
How far away was your furthest cassette subscription?
Our mailing list consisted primarily of those living here in the U.S. However, we also mailed tapes to several countries such as France, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, etc. We came into contact with a number of people overseas by running ads in several Christian heavy metal magazines. The main magazine was Heaven's Metal.
How many stations picked up your pre-recorded show?
When I first decided to syndicate the show, I prayed that the Lord would lead us to the radio stations that HE wanted us to air the show. I recorded a demo tape that I mailed out to several stations. I eventually ended up airing on about 10 stations. Although I truly wanted to obtain far more stations, I simply left the results in God's Hands. I felt that the Lord accomplished His purpose for the show. I always told the Lord that I would work just as hard whether we had 1 or 100 stations!!!
How did you go about discovering bands to use on the show?
One of the primary objectives of TEMPERED STEEL was to promote as many bands as possible. Our effort to discover bands for the show was accomplished mainly by getting our hands on all of the Christian metal mags. I would read all of the album reviews and determine which bands fit our format. I focused primarily on the "underground" bands who had not yet signed a record contract. Since they did not receive any promotion from a record label, we did everything we could to try to give them as much exposure as possible. It was also our desire to provide our listeners with a wide selection of bands. Our constant prayer was that the Lord would lead us to the bands He wanted us to use on the show.
Tempered Steel had a run of about 10 years. What prompted its departure after such a long time?
When we first started TEMPERED STEEL, we did it as a result of the direct leading of the Lord. Although the Lord had not called me into radio as a full-time career, I do believe He opened up the opportunity for me to do this Christian heavy metal show. Since I felt that the Lord was behind the forming of this ministry, I always told Him to use it however He sees fit. It is clear to me now that the Lord's intention was that this would only be a temporary ministry. Then in August of 1999, He revealed to me that the show was to come to an end. There was no specific circumstance that brought about the end. It was simply in God's divine sovereignty that it was over.
What kind of surprising resistance did you encounter? What kind of surprising support?
I must say that the overall response to the show was quite positive. Although the church community in our area was not really used to this type of format, they understood that we were trying to reach the "heavy metal" crowd with the Gospel. They also knew that to accomplish this you had to use the type of music that they liked.
Although they did not prefer this music themselves, they were tolerant of it because they knew our objective. You simply have to meet people where they lived. It is best explained by Paul when he wrote, "And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews..." (I Corinthians 9: 20-22).
However, I did on a few occasions have a parent tell me that what I was doing was absolutely WRONG!! They even said that they felt the music I was using was from Satan!!!! I just simply tried to explain to them the vision behind T.S.
I will have to say that the most surprising support we received was from the "older generation" (those in their 50's & 60's). Although they could not stand the music, they understood what we were trying to do. They stood behind us 100%!!!
What were a couple of highlights & disappointments that really stand out in your mind?
One of the main highlights of the show was the opportunity to broadcast on a shortwave network. It was sort of like the equivalent of airing on satellite today in that you could pick up the show anywhere. You didn't have to broadcast the show on a local AM or FM station. But, of course, you needed a shortwave radio which most people didn't have and the quality wasn't nearly as good as regular radio.
However, the most rewarding accomplishment to me was the opportunity to reach the unsaved. It was tremendously gratifying when a Christian kid would tell me that they were able to get their unsaved friends to start listening to the Christian metal bands. They may not have been able to get them to go to church but they were able to introduce them to the bands which proclaimed the Gospel. My prayer was always that someone would accept Jesus as a result of listening to the show.
The only real disappointment I experienced with the show was not being able to get on more radio stations. However, I simply had to accept the fact that the Lord was in control and that He would get the show on the stations that HE chose. Unfortunately, it wasn't as many as I would have liked!!!
After 10 years of hard work, what was it like to have that weekly block of time back?
I must admit that it was quite an adjustment after leaving the radio station. After spending every weekend recording the show for 10 years, it was kinda like, "OK, NOW what do I do??!!" Anytime you do something for that long, it feels rather strange when you stop.
However, I must add, doing the show every week was NOT at all like I was making this huge sacrifice. Although it required a lot of time and effort, it was never like "work". I never felt like I was giving up my weekends when I really wanted to be doing something else. In fact, there was NOTHING else that I would rather be doing!!
Since the show ended back in 1999, I believe the Lord is in the process of preparing me for what He wants me to do next. HIS will...NOT mine!!!