Bruce Swift of Sacred Warrior Interview Part Two

December 23, 2013

Interviewer: Olivier

Part one of Sleaze Roxx’s interview with Sacred Warrior lead guitarist Bruce Swift left off with the founding member about to answer what his favorite tracks off ‘Waiting In Darkness’ are, the band’s first studio album in 22 years and the debut of new lead vocalist Eli Prinsen. Part two provides the answer as well as covers the Christian pioneer metal group’s early beginnings and what led to the band breaking up in the 1990s.

Sleaze Roxx: What are your favorite tracks off ‘Waiting In Darkness’ and why?

Bruce Swift Sleaze Roxx InterviewBruce Swift: My favorite track off of ‘Waiting In Darkness’ is “Waiting In Darkness” — I think it is an awesome ripping tune. Lyrically, I think it is incredible and I just love the lyrics — we have to be really careful how we live our life. More than that, we have an enemy but we also have a God who is incredible. Musically, I just love it. It just has an awesome groove and it is not like your typical song where it goes verse chorus, verse chorus — it kind of takes you on a journey and does grooves. It is kind of a different arrangement and I really like it. It is kind of how I am trying to write a lot more of the songs now where it is just not predictable like that. “In Dust And Ashes” is another one of my favorites.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes, I really like that one.

Bruce Swift: That was the song when I wrote that we had the lyrics for it. That was one of the songs we had to make heavier so we added that part that goes dadada dadada where it just gets heavier from the verse. But the lyrics came out of that time where we were all suffering. I read the entire Book of Job one night. I woke up at midnight, I couldn’t sleep, so I read until like four in the morning the entire Book of Job. I wrote those lyrics that night, then I came out of it and it is like that is “In Dust And Ashes” man. I don’t care what it takes — skin for skin — if you made a deal with my soul, my body with the devil that is your business. But I tell you what — “In Dust And Ashes” — I repent. I don’t love that today because I’m successful, healthy, and happy. I love that today because I love God today and I love Christ for what he has done for me and who he is — not what I think he needs to do for me and what my expectations are for him. It is an awesome place to be and I am very happy in that place.

Sleaze Roxx: That is awesome! Let me take you back a little bit to your band’s history. Now, you, Rey Parra and Tony Velasquez actually played together in a secular band called Nomad starting in 1985 — before you converted to Christianity — and then Sacred Warrior got formed. What led to your conversion as a Christian?

Bruce Swift: What led to my conversion was — I was painting, and really for 18 years of my life, I really didn’t understand God and who God was or what God was. But when I was working as a painter I was working in a funeral home on dead people pretty much every day. It was just kind of like the question of the day — what happens when you die? I was working around death all day and somebody shared with me the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that there is a God and He has a plan for your life. At that point I said, well what do you do? How do you get into God? Because I mean I was literally a novice, I had no clue and he said the word of the Bible is God’s work — it will teach you, it will train you. And he said, if you will surrender your will to Christ, he will save you — you will never perish — you will never face hell. And then I said, you know what, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed as they say, but I don’t want to face death without knowing that I am redeemed — that I have entered into his plan on his terms so to speak, not my terms but his terms. And so, yeah, I surrendered my will to Christ and I said Jesus Christ, I surrender my will to you — I will follow you — I am going to seek your word and trust you. That was when I was 18 years old. I am 47 years old now so if you do the math, it is quite a while ago.

Sleaze Roxx: How did the other guys in the band in Nomad react when you became a Christian?

Bruce Swift Sleaze Roxx InterviewBruce Swift: Yeah, that was interesting. I went back and (former Sacred Warrior lead vocalist) Rey and (drummer) Tony were in the band. The guitar player and the bass player were pretty upset about it. They were like, “Nah dude, you got to give everything up” and on and on — but Rey and Tony were intrigued like, “Hey, that sounds cool”. Obviously Ray struggled for a longer period of time to surrender his will but Tony came around pretty quick. Within six months, Tony had received Christ, made a commitment to follow Christ and said I believe Jesus is who he said he was and I’m going to follow him — I am going to trust his plan for my life. Tony surrendered and within six months of that, Rey surrendered and that is where Sacred Warrior came out of.

So, it was about a year after and I remember Ray being at church with me — we told him that there is a play at church and there is going to be a drug dealer and all this stuff. And he is like, “Well, I’ll come and check that out” but Ray — he fought it man. He would get pretty pissed off and say, “If you are coming over to talk to me about Jesus, just shut the fuck up — I don’t want to hear it!” That is literally how angry Rey was about it and yet when I took him to that play, there were two seats left and they were up front. I remember him crying in the middle of the play — tears coming down his eyes. I was like, ‘What is going on here?’, and I put my arms around him and he surrendered as well. He went up to the altar and he ended up surrendering his will to Christ and yeah, so that’s cool — it was a really cool time.

Sleaze Roxx: Now, from 1988 to 1991, Sacred Warrior released four albums. What are your thoughts when you are look back at that era, which was really a pretty productive one for the band?

Bruce Swift: Yeah — my thoughts on that were — it was an exciting time. ‘Rebellion’, the first CD, was a very exciting time. We were just little puppies loving to play and write music. We needed held and the bottom line is Caesar Kalinowski helped produce the first CD and helped shape our song writing. None of us were really great songwriters at the time — what you hear is what we were. We did not have a great producer come in and just transform us — we just had a guy say, “I believe in you guys and let’s put a CD out”. He helped us a little bit and that is what you got. On the second CD, ‘Master’s Command’, we had no producer — we actually fired the producer that was supposed to do it. We ended up producing it with an engineer who did not even like heavy metal. So you got that CD and it was downhill from there. There is a lot of disappointment in the fact that we needed more help — we needed people around us — but I also looked at it as it was not God’s plan and it is what it is. I am still very proud of some of the stuff we did and very grateful for it. That was the biggest thing about ‘Waiting In Darkness’ — what we did not want to repeat was we did not want to put a product out that is mediocre. We wanted to put out what we have put our stamp of approval on and say we love it.

With ‘Waiting In Darkness’ we could not afford to hire producers and engineers and all that — we did it ourselves. Our bass player Steve Watkins is a very talented guy and he gets that stuff — but I am right alongside him producing, helping, arranging and writing the material. So, it really came down to not putting this out until it is good — until people are going to go, “That’s a great CD”. I feel we got it. I remember the CD ‘Obsessions’ — the record companies were like, “we need it, we need it” and we were not happy with the way it sounded but they said “it has got to be in print.” So they sent it out and it really sounds thin — it does not sound very good. Yeah, so there are a lot of disappointments but we are grateful. God uses it — he still does. I wish it sounded better, I wish we were better songwriters at that time but we needed help, we didn’t get it and it is what it is. But we learned a lot from it and I think that shows on ‘Waiting In Darkness’ because I feel like the song writing, the production and everything about ‘Waiting In Darkness’ is really matured and grown.

Sleaze Roxx: Why did the band break up in 1994?

Bruce Swift: What ended up happening is after about six years of touring — and we were playing out and recording music — everybody at that point had two to three kids each. Families were growing and I think we all came to the place where we were burnt out — I especially was burnt out, I had three kids. I mean we were gone a lot, so constantly they would be calling me and I just needed to be with my family. I think after six years we just came to the point where it was like, “You know what guys — it is break time here — I am burnt out.” Obviously when you get like that there can be inner tensions and stuff. We all have great love for each other, we are brothers, but it is like anything, when you are that stressed and you are always going there gets to be a lot of tension and stuff. So I think at that point we just decided it was probably best just to take a break and it ended up being a 12 year break. I did not play heavy metal for 12 years! I just played in church and played in little rock bands. So for me, I am having so much fun right now. Obviously, heavy metal guitar is a lot of fun to play. I love it — it is just a blast, you know? So yeah, that is how we broke up — we just kind of got that tired.

Sleaze Roxx: What led to the band reforming?

Bruce Swift Sleaze Roxx InterviewBruce Swift: Well, I was playing in church for quite a while in a couple of little rock bands. When I was playing with these guys we were jamming and playing some rock stuff — just more straightforward rock. All of a sudden a couple of ideas just started coming to me and they were edgier — and one of the guys said to me, “Man, that sounds like Sacred Warrior”. Well, a week later I got a call from Steve, the bass player, and he said “Dude, we are getting a lot of interest in people wanting to hear some new Sacred Warrior. Would you be interested?” And I said, “Well, it is funny you should say that. I have got a couple of riffs now” — one of them being “Living Sacrifice” which ended up on the new CD. I do not know if you are familiar with that song.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes. That is one of my favorites.

Bruce Swift: That is the song — the riff I had. The guys reminded me of Sacred Warrior and that is when I said, “Steve, I have a couple of riffs”. So I went over to Steve’s house and we put that one down. That was one of the one of the first songs that we started working on. Then I said, “Dude, I’m in”, and then we started getting calls — yeah, we got calls — would you come and do a show and we said “Heck yeah!” So we went and did a show and it did not go so great because we had not jammed in 12 years together. We just were not as tight as we have been. I mean, back in the day, we were tight — we were precision. But it is a little rougher and it is going to take time to build back into that precision. The bottom line is we started doing shows and next thing you know, let’s do this CD. Then, we just decided let’s do this again man — let’s do it. So that is where we are at, the sky is the limit at this point. We are just kind of waiting. We are taking it slow and saying, “Let God lead us and we’re looking for you to lead us and bring the right people and more and help me”. The bottom line is I just want to make great music because if you write great music, the sky is the limit, you know? And that is what it comes down to.

Sleaze Roxx: It has been 22 years since Sacred Warrior released their last studio album. How do you find that the record industry has changed during that time or since that time?

Bruce Swift: Well, number one, there is not much of a record industry anymore as there are a third of the record companies. Steve and I were talking about this last night and he said it is really quite an interesting thing because we’re backwards — we’re selling more physical CDs than we are online stuff. He goes some mostly sell online downloads rather than they do physical CDs. So, we have a few — we do not have a lot — but we have a few diehard Sacred Warrior fans and they don’t want downloads, they want the CD. And you know what? We are grateful for that. I was telling Steve last night that I do not care what comes of it. I do not have to be a full-time musician travelling the world. I do not have to do that. I would love to do this as a part-time thing if I could. I just want to make music. I love to play guitar and I love to do it for that. So I said, “Steve if we could sell 30,000 to 50,000 CDs man, we could do this part-time and do what we love to do and bless people with great music. We could financially do it where we could take some time off and just focus on music and that’s where I want to be.” So that is kind of the focus right now and if more comes from that we shall see — but right now I have like a small little vision that says, “Hey, I would like to be here and if it goes further than that, awesome”. But right now, we have kind of a vision and our goal is to be hopefully part-time and possibly full-time.

Sleaze Roxx: Are there any touring plans in the works? And in particular, when is Sacred Warrior coming to play in Toronto, or anywhere near it?

Bruce Swift: Well, I will tell you, we would love to play in Toronto but we need booking agents to contact us. See, that is the problem — we do not have a booking agent and we need venues to contact us and those venues are not reaching out to people. Those venues — you are reaching out to them. We are not really reaching out to anybody because we all have lives, jobs and things to do. We have had a couple of diehard Sacred Warrior fans call us and say they want to bring us to Puerto Rico or Switzerland — and Switzerland was awesome man, we went and played a festival there. I personally do not feel like we are ready for headlining. I think that we need to develop into that and play with a few bands. Not that we can’t, it is just we need to get back in shape. We have done one show with Eli Prinsen (vocals) and I was very excited — I mean he is an awesome vocalist. He is an awesome guy, but we need time to gel together.

So right now, we are kind of looking. We are just rehearsing and getting ready and if that takes a year, we are happy being content with that because we do not want to go out there and suck. We want to be really good and we want to play these songs like we play them on the CD. We can do that — it is not an issue — it just takes time to get into that shape so that is what we are doing right now. We are getting in shape and we are preparing, so if do get the call we are ready and we will be prepared for it. But we really do need a booking agent — we need somebody that is going to help us part-time. We can’t just go on a big tour because everybody has jobs and responsibilities. Four of us have job responsibilities that are pretty flexible because some of us own our own businesses. Steve is a fireman so he gets a lot of flexibility. So four of us could do quite a few shows where our singer Eli is definitely challenged because he works. His job is pretty demanding but he can get time off. It just has to be strategic so I think my goal — and that is one of the reasons that I am shooting for these goals — is to say if we could financially bring in enough income where we would pay for guys to work for the band so to speak, then we could actually do a tour. I would like to get there again someday to be honest with you, I really would. I would like to go out, tour and play out again — but it is a little complicated right now.

Sleaze Roxx: Last question and possibly a tough one — what are your top three favorite albums of all time and why?

Bruce Swift: Top three favorite albums of all time and why? Well, I know two of them automatically and I will tell you why. I will go back prior to Christianity when I was inspired just by metal and I will say Rush’s ‘2112’.

Sleaze Roxx: That is a good one!

Bruce Swift: It made me want to play guitar and it made me want to rock — I can’t explain it. ‘Van Halen I’ and I mean, I could go on — Iron Maiden’s ‘Number Of The Beast’. These CDs made me want to play hard rock and metal. But I will just stick with Rush’s ‘2112’. Next, Stryper’s ‘Soldiers Under Command’ — again, it just inspired me to love God but also to want to rip on a guitar. Number three — and as crazy as this may sound as a metal head — Jonny Lang’s ‘Turn Around’. I am not sure if you are a Jonny Lang fan.

Sleaze Roxx: No I’m not (laughs).

Bruce Swift: Yeah, it is crazy because the bottom line is it is not metal. But dude, that CD is one of the most inspiring CDs I have heard to date in as far as a guy who has lived his life as rock star on the road and yet he has come to a place where he has surrendered his will to God. He does it at that high of a level and he does it so wonderfully and his music inspires me big time. Those three CDs are probably a big part of my musical adventure in life.