Ghoti Hook - Christian Ergueta
By Andrea Saylor

Christian Ergueta
All The World's A Stage- An Interview With Ghoti Hook

On March 4, Ghoti Hook played a show at the Break Through Cafe, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had graciously agreed to an interview, and we were planning to sit down together and have a nice, orderly, chat. Of course, this didn't happen, because, well, things in life never go quite according to plan, especially if you're living in the hectic touring musician's schedule, as Ghoti Hook is. So, I- along with my cohort, camerawoman, and dear friend, Christina- ended up videotaping a somewhat segmented interview. Not quite organized, but sure a lot of fun. The nature of our experience might best be understood by viewing our tape, which is why the transcription ended up sounding a bit like a script for a play. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show...


(Enter guitarist Mark Lacasse, bass player Christian Ergueta, interviewer Andrea, and camerawoman Christina. Much background noise from crowd and opening band sound check.)

Andrea: Do you guys find that there is a big dichotomy between the Christian and secular markets?

Christian: Big, SAT words: dichotomy... Sadly enough, yeah, there is. I don't think there should be. I think music is music, rock 'n' roll is rock 'n' roll. People sing about what just whatever the band wants to sing about. So, whatever the person wants to listen to is what they want to listen to. I think it shouldn't be really split up. It should be the in the same category. To just have a Christian music industry, to me, it's very exclusive, it's like, well, let's have some people of the Christian faith to like say, "This is ours, I don't want anyone else to have a part in it." I like it much better, as a band, where everyone in our band, we're all Christians- our music is for everybody, not just for Christians. There shouldn't be a dichotomy; I believe there is.

Andrea: This might be like a potentially, I don't know, sour subject, but, as far as-

Christian: Lemons.

Andrea: Right... So- as far as "Songs We Didn't Write," I've heard criticisms of that album as, you know, not being quote unquote "Christian enough," you know, saying "Well, you had too many secular songs," or, you know, I've kind of heard particular lyrics actually pointed to as, you know, "Well, maybe this isn't appropriate." People say that kind of stuff. What would your response be to that criticism?

Christian: First of all, you don't have to buy it, you don't have to listen to it. That's okay. Our music is made for people to be entertained, for people to be encouraged, uplifted, to have a good time. A plethora of different reasons, you know? So-

Mark: Another SAT word.

Christian: Yes... So, as far as "Songs We Didn't Write," it's a cover record. It's exactly that- songs that we did not write. Some of the songs were written by Christians, some of the songs were written by people who weren't Christians. All the music we consider to be bands that have influenced us in one way or another, either musically or maybe stylistically, and that's what it is. It's Ghoti Hook expressing, you know, kind of like, this is a little bit of the roots of where our music has come from. And lyrically, we made sure to be, like, pretty certain that it wasn't going to be anything that was going to be too offensive to anyone, because it's not our goal to be a stumbling block or to be a drag or something to somebody who might not understand what we're trying to do, but... I don't know. What do you think, Mark?

Mark: (momentarily distracted by merchandising concerns) I wasn't in on the whole conversation.

Christian: The whole "Songs We Didn't Write" thing. Some people say it's not "Christian enough"... All these secular songs...

Mark: Well, I mean, it's not meant to be a praise album, obviously. It's like, it's just like you said, it's just songs that have influenced Ghoti Hook... I mean, I can't fully speak because I wasn't in the band when it was done, you know, but this band, I mean, I've listened to some of those bands growing up, too... I don't know, some people, some Christians like rock and, you know, that's what- like myself, I wasn't a Christian until, like, just a couple years ago, so I didn't grow up listening to, like, other stuff. I don't know... it's just kind of like a representation of where we're at, or, I mean, what our influences are. And like you said, we tried not to pick anything that would be a stumbling block to people and just tried to, I don't know... To me, good music is good music, and some of those lyrics are kinda dumb, but...

Christian: It's like, we're not gonna advocate anything that's lyrically, you know, lyrically offensive, or morally offensive that contradicts, you know, something that's biblical because truth is truth, and right is right... If it doesn't cross that absolute line, then we have liberties as Christians.

(Background noise of opening band sound check becomes overwhelming)

Mark: Maybe we can continue this later.

Um... Christian Ergueta

(Enter Christian, Christina, and Andrea. Behind the merchandising table, again, finding time to talk while Element 101 sets up.)

Andrea: This is kind of related to the Christian and secular market question, based on a rumor I heard. Is it true that you guys are signing with Sony?

Christian: Right now we still have a record coming out on Tooth and Nail Records. We are considering different options, but, uh, as far as I know, we haven't talked to anyone from Sony. We talked to other labels, but we haven't talked to Sony. If you know something I don't, please let us know!

Andrea: That's what I heard, I don't know...

Christian: But, like I said, we're really happy with Tooth and Nail right now. They're doing a great job with our CDs and stuff. Things are great. They did a really good job doing this record. It's called "Two Years From Never," it's coming out. It's gonna be great. We have distribution right now through EMI, which is the same people who distribute Marilyn Manson and Hanson, and lots of praise music, too, so, all you people who have a problem with this Christian/secular mix, when you buy a praise tape, it's going to the same people who probably get money from Marilyn Manson and things like that, because of the distribution system. So, don't be fooled.

Andrea: Can you tell us what labels are interested in you right now, or ones that you're looking at?

Christian: I can tell you that Tooth and Nail Records is interested in resigning, but until we're not under contract anymore, I can't really discuss that.

Andrea: Okay. This is also kind of related to the new album... It seems like you guys have had this image of being, like, you know, wacky, or silly, that kind of thing-

Christian: Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo!

Andrea: Right.

Christian: I'm crazy! Crazy Christian!

Andrea: How do you feel about that? Do you think that's accurate? Or do you think that's changing?

Christian: I think we're maturing. I think since "Sumo Surprise" came out in 1996- This (indicating a Sumo Surprise CD) is basically a "best of" of our music from 1994- well, '91- until '96. So, all the goofy, retarded kind of songs that are really fun to jump around to and stuff. It has a really childish kind of sense of humor, very much reflective of the time where we were, where we didn't really think of as many issues or as many things in life. "Banana Man" had some of the silliness but not as much of the silly sound. "Songs We Didn't Write" wasn't our music, so it basically has a mix of everything. And our new record- it's been two and a half years since our last original record... It's a lot more serious, about what we've learned in the past two and a half years in the band. Ups and downs, struggles, a couple goofy things but it's been a hard two and a half years, so, it's gonna reflect that.

Andrea: So you would say that the new album is more serious, basically?

Christian: Yeah, it's more serious, because we've had to deal with a lot more serious things in our lives. Like our drummer just got married. That's a pretty serious step, you know? There's a lot of relationships, ups and downs, a lot of just hard times in the band. We have the new member that we brought on, just adjusting to him, writing new songs, being on tour, dealing with people who don't necessarily agree with us and think that because we disagree on something, kind of like you said earlier, we're not "Christian enough." That's kind of really hard, because we as Ghoti Hook, we do what God is calling us to do as a band, and more importantly, as individuals. And it's painful, sometimes, to see that people doubt your faith. And that's okay, it's not really for them to judge, but they have theirs coming whenever God gives it back to 'em. And it's not really for us to worry about. We just want to be able to show love, and try not to be bitter.

Christina: And just because you're public and stuff, people tend to kind of judge you more, just because your job is...

Christian: Yeah. I think Ghoti Hook is one of the most honest bands you'll find as far as talking to people, and ask us a question, we'll give you a straight answer. We're not going to give you the answer that's going to be popular for the youth groups, or popular for this type of people, or this type of people. We're going to give you exactly what we think, and what's in our hearts. Same thing comes out in our lyrics. You're gonna see stuff that people aren't gonna like. There's songs about Christians getting pregnant, you know? It's like, "Oh my gosh!" Sometimes Christians do have sex, and it's a shame that they do it when it's outside of God's plan, but there are consequences. There's a song on "Banana Man" that's about abuse, and abuse happens, in Christian homes and non-Christian homes, and it's really sad. One out of four girls will be raped, you know, by somebody they know. I mean, that's something that isn't really talked about, that makes people uncomfortable, but it's something that's very true. And to shy away from it, and not to speak or sing about it, to me it's not really being real, or relevant to the culture, and that's what we want to be.

Andrea: Well, thanks for addressing those issues.

Christian: Any time.

Andrea: Along the same lines here, how does being a Christian affect how you view music, or the arts in general? Like, what's different in the way you approach it because of your faith?

Christian: How does music, and the arts- How does being a Christian involve those things? How do I view that, as a Christian?

Andrea: Yeah. How is your view of the arts changed by your faith, by the fact that you believe in God?

Christian: Very simple. It all goes back to creativity. Our biggest example of creativity is our Creator, which is God. Whether you're a Christian or not, whatever was that first thing, you know, that is what created everything. I argue, I believe, I know that that creative force had a will, had a mind... So, it shows two things. Being part of His creation, we reflect our Creator. Any piece of art will reflect what their creator did. Our music reflects on us as a band. An artist's painting reflects what they're thinking, what they're feeling. So, we as humans are a reflection of God. And, I mean, you look at things like, why do people have blue eyes? Why do some people have brown eyes? Why do they have green eyes, you know? It's not like it really serves much of a purpose. It's because it pleases God. So, as a Christian, I want to make sure that when we're doing our music, when I'm playing my instrument, that I'm doing it to the best of my ability. Not for me, not just to do it, because, to be frank, it has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with me glorifying God. That is my purpose. And when I don't do a good job in it, it frustrates me. It makes me mad, because I can do better. And when I'm not doing as good as I know that I should, and I can, it's as if I'm not giving God all the glory. So, when you look at different kinds of arts, to me, as long as it's not sinful, as long as it doesn't cross the line of being not biblical, I think it's to be enjoyed. You see a rainbow, an ocean, things that aren't "Christian" or "non-Christian"- they're beautiful, and you can look at them as beautiful. When you hear music, whether it's Christian or non-Christian, and it's good, it pleases you, it entertains you, it makes you feel good, I think that's beautiful. If it's going against something biblical, that's where you draw the line.

Andrea: So, you basically just said that- I'm assuming that you're speaking for the whole band- as Ghoti Hook, your purpose is to glorify God, and...

Christian: That is the purpose for living.

Andrea: Right.

Christian: That is the only purpose for living for us. That's why we were created.

Andrea: So, how do you maintain that spiritual focus? Especially when you're on the road, and you know, you're tired, or whatever.

Christian: It's a really hard thing to do. Imagine being with your family all the time, which, most people are with their family a lot, but all the time, I mean, four, five, six hours a day in the same vehicle, traveling, only to go into work together, at a show, because it takes a lot of work to sell merch, to set up the table, to hang out and talk to the kids. I mean, all that is part of it. And then, to only go and hang out, again, eat, sleep, you know? Twenty-four seven, you're with the same people. Imagine being twenty-four hours a day with your family. People you know, and love the most. People you know, and hate the most. Hate is a strong word. But, it's like any relationship. It's a hard thing and it's a hard balance. We've been together since 1991, so it's longer than more marriages in America right now. Nine years, almost, in November.

Andrea: You talked about Ghoti Hook being a job. Would you consider it more of a job, or....

(Enter guitarist Jamie Tolosa, who speaks briefly with Christian and apologizes for the interruption.)

Christian: This is Jamie, by the way.

(Jamie flexes his muscles.)

Christian: These are the viewing public out there. Jamie has big muscles. Show 'em your better side! (Christian turns Jamie around.) We were talking about that the other day... (Exit Jamie) But, okay, go on.

Andrea: So, is Ghoti Hook, do you consider it a job, or is it more of a passion, something you do because you love to do it?

Christian: This question is different for different members of the band. I will start with me since I'm the one being interviewed. For me it is very much a job because it's lots and lots and lots and lots of work. Way more work than 40 hours a week. I would at least double that to 80 hours a week- easy. When we were touring with "Banana Man," we did 180 concerts a year. That's a lot, you know? So, I see it as a job. Passion comes into it because the reason I do it isn't necessarily a passion for the music. It's a passion for obedience to God in my life. He wants me to be doing this, and I know that and I want to be pleasing him. That's why I can put in so much effort. For some of the other guys, I think that has a big part to do with it but, we have like Joel, for example, our singer, who's a major songwriter, and Mark. Their passion in life, besides just work, tends to be writing music, making great music, and they do a great job of doing it. So-

(Enter Joel Bell, lead singer, abruptly.)

Joel: My name's Christian, blah, blah, blah! Everybody loves me!

Christian: See, can't you see the passion in his eyes?

Joel: Oh, sorry, did I ruin a serious moment?

Christian: We were just talking about how passionate you were, and how you did this, and you were great at what you do.

(Joel bows and exits.)

Christian: So, are we wacky? You take it for what you just saw. It's an image we're trying to counter, somewhat... We can't help being who we are. We can be like that... Yeah, so, obedience to God in our lives being number one. Passion about the music for some people in the band. I love the business aspect of it. I enjoy it, so I'm passionate about that as well.

Andrea: Who are your heroes, and why?

Christian: My heroes and why… Paul, from the Bible, is my hero, because he didn't care about what was going on in his life. He just cared about what God wanted him to do, and I feel very much connected to that, even when things are sucky. Not to sound crazy super-spiritual or anything, because that's kind of silly, I just think it's important for Christians nowadays- anytime anyone believes something, to actually live what they believe, not just say that they do. I think a lot of times people might say "Oh yeah, I believe this, I believe that," but their life doesn't really show… They don't live what they believe, so, to me, that kind of makes it irrelevant… As far as like, bands or musicians, that's a little harder. There's tons of bands, tons of things that we admire, people we appreciate, but I hesitate to put any one person in that category.

Andrea: What kind of music do you like to usually listen to? Favorite artists?

Christian: Morrissey. Morrissey is probably my favorite artist, tied with Saviour Machine. I like the kind of darker stuff. I like The Cure a lot… There's so much music, I couldn't even tell you. Go to the web page., on the biography page, it has a bunch of bands I like.

Andrea: If you guys could start Ghoti Hook all over again, what would you do differently?

Christian: I wouldn't join the band! I would be making lots of money, and I would have a wife and child. I'd have a nice house. That's what I would be doing. But that's only thinking on my terms. I guess I would practice more. I would practice my instrument more, practice music more, just because in a band, you make the biggest contribution by the music that you write, the things that you contribute musically, because the end product is a record. So, that's something that I would like to focus on more.

Christina: Did you guys go to school for music?

Christian: No, but we all took it somewhere along the way. I've played the cello since I was in fourth grade. Joel was a drum major in his high school. Adam played drums in his high school. I think Jamie took piano, and Mark played guitar since he was like, I don't know, junior high? A long time.

Andrea: All right, we've got a fun question here, and if you want I guess this is your chance to embarrass the other band members. What are some of the embarrassing things that have happened to you, being involved in this band?

Christian: I hate that question, because it's really hard for me to get embarrassed… I have an attitude that things don't really bother me that much, and if they do, I say something about it right away. So, I don't know. I'm sorry, I'm the wrong person to ask. Oh! I did lose about 300 dollars worth of Morrissey tickets!

(Enter Joel)

Joel: Hey, it's me, I'm back!

Christian: Tell them something embarrassing, Joel.

Joel: Something embarrassing?

Christian: Yeah. I hate that question.

Joel: I joined this band called Ghoti Hook.

Christian: Oh! I know what it is! "Banana Man"!

(Exit Joel.)

Andrea: What kind of stuff do you like to do besides music?

Christian: I like to talk to people. I like to observe people. Especially things I don't necessarily understand. Like, a researching kind of thing. I like watching people a lot. Put me in a mall, or put me anywhere by myself, and I'll have a great time. I like to observe different cultures of people, like seeing teenage boys or teenage girls or senior men, senior women. Just different groups, seeing how they react to different things. It's really interesting. You get to learn about people that way. The more you understand people, the more you can relate to them, the more you can make an impact on their life… Oh! Coca Cola! I love Coca Cola! Coca Cola cans, Coca Cola bottles, Coca Cola anything. If you have any extra, please, send it my way.

Andrea: Okay, you kind of made me curious with that last answer. I'm kind of wondering what your observations about the average teenage girl have been, because you happened to mention that. It kind of made me wonder…

Christian: My observations of the average teen girl… I think being a teenage girl is the hardest stage in life for anybody. I don't know, I just observe and I see how difficult it is. The biggest problem is self-image problems, and I think that's really big in America. In Europe, I didn't find it as much of an issue. We were there last summer. But in America, the most beautiful girl thinks she's fat, ugly, and that nobody likes her. That really bums me out, because that's all coming from a really humanist world view. If she would look at herself- especially being a Christian girl- if she looks at herself as a daughter, a child of God, God is king of kings, so that would make her daughter of a king, which is a princess. And that's not like, "Oh, that sounds so nice, that's so pretty-" No. It's like, if you are a Christian, you are a daughter of the king of kings, you are a princess. Whether you like it or not, whether you want to believe it or not. That means you deserve to respect yourself and think of yourself as a princess, and not let anyone treat you any differently than that. If they do, it's an opinion of some one who's totally way off, and wrong. So, that is the biggest problem with teenage girls. And it causes them to make a lot of really bad decisions that they will, as they mature and as they see themselves from a better perspective, they'll grow to regret, and it's really sad. And I don't think the boys help the situation. Nor do the magazines that the girls go out and buy.

Andrea: This is the last question… If there was just one spiritual principal that you could teach every one in the world, what would it be?

Christian: I think it's number eleven in the twelve step program… I think it's something like… That the only thing you pray for is the strength to be obedient to what God wants you to do. I believe that that's what it is. Because if you're living your life in obedience, and asking God for the strength for that, than everything in your life will be in God's will. It's a pretty simple step, and I think it makes a big difference in the way that you live. Again, it's believing, and living what you believe. And, if anyone's out there that's watching this that is not a Christian or does not know Jesus Christ, or has no clue at all, don't take my word for it, because of my experience, and my life and what God has shown me, be skeptical! Ask questions. It's okay, you know? It's not a bad thing. There's the Bible, that's the word of God. Look at it, study it, see if it's true, see if it's false. Ask the questions. Don't be a wimp, and sit around and just believe what everyone else says, or what other people might say about it. "Oh, it's a fairy tale," whatever, it's what a bunch of different people wrote. Study it for yourself. If you're not willing to do that, then you better not say anything about it. But if you are, I challenge you to look at it and you will see it will totally make a difference in your life. It will make it clear that Jesus Christ was who he said he was.

Andrea: Thanks!

Christina: Thank you very much.

Christian: You're welcome.

Now Jamie's Interview

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