Many thanks to Tim Rossiter for sending me a link to this 1992 Cross Rhythms interview with the enigmatic Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus. The interview was done right before the band released Mirror and covers the four-year gap between Mirror and The Gift of Tears, their difficult recording process, and of course, their music’s religious overtones.
Would they describe what they do as Christian Art? They seem equally reluctant to put themselves in this pigeonhole. “We don’t really know what resonance that label has for people,” says Jon [Egan].
“It’s hard,” says Bronek [Kram]. “We don’t see anyone doing anything like what we’re doing in contemporary music. We draw on sources to create things which are not just collections of other people’s work, we create something new out of the sources we use. The way we put together pieces, the way we create whatever it is we manufacture and present, there’s nobody else who’s doing what we do, as far as I can see or hear.” It’s a common enough boast, but one probably justified for once. “Enigma?” suggests Jon. “No,” says Bronek, “not at all. There’s the difference, if you don’t hear it, then I don’t know what you’re listening to.”
And yet most of their songs have biblical sources. “What you call Christianity, what is conspicuous, is there because it’s a common language between us,” says Jon. “It’s the only set of images which enables us to express what we want to creatively. The level of commitment to those images varies from member to member but as a group we use them because it’s only the language of the sacred which enables us to express those particular impulses which produce the work. It speaks in a tongue which we’re responsive to.” Les [Hampson] continues, “Artistically it’s very satisfactory, a very productive environment.”
We discuss briefly the use of Christian symbols and names in pop: George Michael, Madonna and Bros adorning themselves with crosses, band names like Jesus Jones, Enigma and the KLF using Gregorian chants. Jon announces a forthcoming Madonna cover version. Bronek suggests that it’s nothing more than a marketing ploy. Jon’s not so sure. “I don’t know but I suspect it’s to do with the vacuous nature of modern materialistic society, there’s a hunger for something deeper.”
Of all of the terms I’d use to describe the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, “contemporary music” wouldn’t be one of them. Their music has always had an “out of time” feel to it, as if it’s coming from another place and time that is completely alien to our own, yet strangely familiar and even nostalgic.