War Rocket Ajax Biography
"That band is 'going secular!'"
It's a concern that most Christian music listeners hear all too often. If I had a quarter for every rumor about XY Band dropping their loyal church following to pursue more "worldly" fans, I might actually be able to finish all the laundry stuffed in my closet (in other words, I'd be a rich, rich woman).
To understate it, the complaint of "going secular" is infinitely common. And yet, this phenomenon is producing a rather unusual effect—some of us Christian music listeners are beginning to feel slighted. After all, why should bands view the world of Christian music as only a stepping stone to bigger and better things? Whatever happened to more Christian bands openly claiming and embracing their Christianity? The great Larry Norman sure had it right when he asked, "Why should the devil have all the good music?!"
The answer is (obviously) that he shouldn't. And lucky for us, he doesn't. Because as more and more bands shift their emphasis to the secular scene, there are at least a few who are doing the exact opposite.
War Rocket Ajax is definitely one of these few. The rollicking rock and rollers from deep in the heart of Texas represent a total reversal of the Christian-band-going-secular trend. Strangely enough for a Christian rock outfit, War Rocket Ajax began with its roots not in the church scene, but in the secular club scene. As Lance Jones, guitarist and lead singer, recalls, "I got saved in '95 and me and Ruben (drums, BGVs) had been in a [secular] band called Molotov Cocks. And I quit that band when I got saved. I guess about a year later, something like that, Ruben called me up and he got saved."
Add to that the presence of bassist/background vocalist Ben. "[Ben's] dad was an elder of our church," Lance explains. "So he was already there at my church, and I had started to talk to him a little bit about playing, anyway. And then when Ruben came along, it just seemed like the thing to do. That's when My Friend Fil started."
Thus began the punk rock odyssey formerly known as My Friend Fil, now under the War Rocket Ajax moniker. "It was just real exciting in the beginning," Ruben chimes in. "We had already known each other, like how we played and stuff. Ben came naturally to us and was perfect for the whole outfit. And I guess it just grew from there. God just worked it to where we are now. I mean, we didn't really have to do anything."
Except search for a guitar player. Since their first gig in December of 1997, Lance, Ruben, and Ben have been trading out many a would-be lead guitarist, in hopes of finding their musical Prince Charming. The requirements? Skill, fun, and enough punkabilly sensibility to ensure a happily-ever-after future for all. Sounds like some tough standards, but the search may have finally ended with the recent addition of new guitarist, Joe Curiel.
"He's fantastic," Ruben gushes about their new member. Lance readily agrees with the estimation, concurring that Joe is "a talented guy. He can play all instruments, all rock and roll instruments, and probably some other ones we don't even know about. Plus, that means we now have three back-up singers in the band. We've figured out how to make this thing rock, and it's really working, especially with Joe in the picture."
And rock it does. At any given War Rocket show, you'll find dozens of punks, preps, and folks of all sorts, all rockin' out to the band's trademark "punk rock from the wild, wild west!!!!" And despite the oh-so-huge San Antonio music scene (that there was sarcasm, kiddoes), WRA pulls in some of the biggest, liveliest crowds this side of the border. With a host of die-hard regulars bouncing and screaming word for word with every song, a typical WRA show could easily be described as hyper-energetic. So how exactly did the band pick up its super-fun, even slightly frenzied mass of followers?
"Most of that happened because [Lance] and I were in the old secular scene, just knowing those people," Ruben explains. But WRA shows also sport a pretty hefty concentration of Christian attendees "because we have two separate followings." In order to accommodate the band's split personality (at least as far as fan appeal goes!), the War Rocket rockers even had "two separate shows for the [CD] release party."
"So we [had] the Christian show and the heathen show!" Lance chimes in with a laugh.
But in all seriousness, there is undeniably a substantial difference between the two scenes. And Lance, Ruben, and Co. have developed their own way of bridging the gap between the two audiences. "We relate to the other one," Lance says of the secular scene. As Ruben notes, "that's where all our old friends are."
These old friends also serve to remind the band to "remember where we came from." Lance easily recalls what it was like to be a part of their scene. "Me and Ruben didn't like to be preached to, so we don't go preaching to our friends. But they know where we stand, and if they ever want to talk to us, they know that we'll talk to them straight."
With such straight talk, you might expect that the boys have received their share of backlash from the secular scene. But as Lance remembers, the only time he ever encountered trouble was when he quit Molotov Cocks after accepting Christ. And who gave him the most flak about it? None other than his current drummer and War Rocket compadre, Ruben. "I'm very guilty of that, very guilty of that!" Ruben admits laughingly. My, how things change! From his perspective now, Ruben can testify that in the end, "the music really overcomes the prejudice of what people might want to say."
Also, Lance is quick to mention how the group strives to combat the prejudice of the good ol' "Christian band" stereotype. "We try really hard not to be the typical [Christian band], [who might] go out, play a couple of songs, preach, give an altar call. We try not to do that. Everybody's heard all that stuff a thousand times. We're not afraid to say it again, but we just don't want to say it in the same old way."
And ultimately, that's what War Rocket Ajax is all about—clinging to God's constant truths but presenting them in new ways. Though they acknowledge that "the music is really secondary to being a Christian,"
the rock and roll foursome realizes that music can be a valuable tool for relating their Christianity. And like their label (Bettie Rocket Records) states, the mission " is all about a passion within us. This passion is not about sales or attendance rates but it is about God and life! In living this way, we believe we will find happiness in our own lives and in the lives around us."
So here's to War Rocket Ajax—presenting an awesome God, a hearty dose of Texas happiness, and a rollickin' live show, one punkabilly anthem at a time!