- Did you know that Mad at the
World released their seventh album this year?
- How many articles on Mad at
the World have you read?
- How many ads for Mad at the
World albums have you seen?
That wouldn't be much of a
surprise if they were your answers.
Mad at the World hasn't been the
focus of intensive marketing or promotion, which, combined with the
lack of national touring, has led to a lack of awareness of this group.
conversation with Roger Rose won't paint a full picture of the band, it
is hard to come up with resources about previous works of the
group--even their record company couldn't come up with more than a
one-page biography. But, I hope you enjoy a quick look into a band I
have long admired for creating quality albums on a very low budget, and
saying things that most Christian bands weren't talking about.
How long has Ben Jacobs been
in the band?
He's two albums new to
the band. Did you know that we just released an album called The
Yes, I've been listening to it.
Well, that's album number
seven. He also played on The Ferris Wheel, which is album
number six. Brent and Mike used to be in the band. Mike was with the
band all the way up until our fifth record and then Brent didn't join
the band until our third album. Our first two albums were like...
That was you and Randy.
Actually it was me,
Randy, and Mike.
I have those two albums. I like
Yeah, I like them too. They're great records.
I just switched styles just because we didn't perform our music well
live. That was the main reason. Sometimes I look back and feel like it
might have been a good thing to at least try to pursue that more,
live-wise. Who knows? It's easy to look back on your musical career and
wonder what would have happened if you had taken some different
directions. But we kinda did the first two albums with very
keyboard/techno type stuff. And then we did so bad performing it live
that we switched over--sort of rejected all of that and just went to
like a straight, four-piece, rock band type thing. And then we kinda
tried to really get into that and some of the members of the band, I
think more Randy and Brent, wanted to do more hard rock type sounding
music. We did that for a few albums; that took us to about like our
fifth album and then the last two albums have been more mellow and more
melodic, maybe a little more retro or more sixties-ish sounding.
The Dreamland Café
sounds kind of Beatlesque.
Yeah, it definitely did.
It's funny because I don't claim to be the best anything--I'm very
aware of my limitations, and right now what I'm referring to is in
response to what you just said: I'm thinking about my arrangement and
my producer abilities. I've done that actually on all of my different
schizophrenic stages of my musical career, whether it be maybe sounding
too much like Depeche Mode or Oingo Boingo in our first
two albums and the Pet Shop Boys or whoever. And then we kinda
sounded like a band called the Mission U.K. or even The Cult
for a while and then now it may be a little too much like The
Beatles or Jellyfish or something. I guess I'm apologizing
for that but I'm also admitting to it, which hopefully makes it a
little better. I do a lot of the stuff myself and it's hard to see
stuff when it's that close to you; you know it sounds stupid but when
something's right next to you, you don't see it as well. In fact, I
guess I'm saying all that to say that for my next project, I'm looking
forward to having somebody else produce it. [Laughter].
I was wondering if the next
album would be a country album--just kidding. [Laughter]
[Laughter] That's funny 'cause I've actually
cracked that same joke to different people when they say, "Well, what's
next for you?" No, I don't know what we will do in the future,
musically or style-wise. I try to always do different styles just to
keep things from getting boring, I guess, for myself. A lot of people
are very style conscious, maybe more so than I am. To me, I kind of
just try to look at the song and see if it's a good song or not and not
get too hung up on the drum sounds, the guitar sounds, how much
distortion's on the guitar, or whatever. I mean, obviously correct
production and little specifics do help or hurt something...
So Mike Link is not the same
Mike that was in the band before?
No, that's right. He's a different Mike. Ben
and Mike, where they came from was Mike Pendleton and Brent--they
didn't really quit the band--they kinda quit the band and got fired all
at the same time. [Laughter] It was after our fifth record and we
didn't know what to do for sure. At that time Randy, my little brother,
had been kinda working on a solo career, so to speak, with a band that
he called Rose. He had had, like, his second album out at the
time. And Ben and Mike Link are actually from his band and I was trying
to decide what to do with myself--do I want to just try to pursue some
kind of a solo career, just not do anything at all, or try to find new
members for Mad at the World... And he [Randy] said, "Just use Mike and
Ben, they love Mad at the World and they'd love to play in Mad at the
World--they know the stuff." So we tried that and they did fine and I
like them really well as people and they were just totally enthusiastic
about being in the band, so that just sorta happened by circumstance.
They worked out really well. I'm real happy with them.
Their names aren't on all the
songs and only your name is on some...
There's about three songs
on the new album that I pretty much do everything on and that is kind
of the result of a small potatoes--low budget deal. [Laughter] It's a
matter of scheduling and a deadline and not being able for everybody to
necessarily take off work and stuff. And on some of the songs I
just--this is actually the first album that I've ever played the drums
on--usually my little brother does--I played drums on every song on
this album except one and I'm not the drummer of the band. I'm the
guitar player and the singer, basically. But Randy was busy working on
some other demo projects for some other bands and working on some of
his own stuff and then he kind of just didn't want to play
drums on this album. It wasn't any bad feelings between me and him, he
was just really busy and he said, "Hey, you know this stuff a lot
better than I do. If you don't mind I'd love for you just to play drums
on it." At first, I thought, "No way, you play better than I do." But
then I thought if you don't know the material and you're not gonna
spend the time to learn it then maybe I would be happier with a drummer
maybe not as good but that at least knows the material than with
someone who's better and just kind of faking their way through it.
So in a way it's almost like
your solo album.
A little bit. But if I
was really doing my solo album I would've experimented more, musically.
Since it was a Mad at the World album I tried to keep in mind maybe a
band being able to perform these songs. But if I do a solo record, I'll
want to do a lot of different things with it. We all have full-time
jobs that have nothing to do with music which takes up 40+ hours a week
and then we all have our wives and lives on top of that and then just
trying to squeeze in a little bit of time for rest and then whatever
little bit that's left over, we give that to Mad at the World and it's
just not enough time. So we just kind of fake our way through it a
little bit, more so than it should be, that's for sure. But ideally I
would love to have a producer and have it done in a real recording
studio. I do all the Mad at the World stuff from my home studio which
definitely has its limitations. But it has its benefits too because I
can work on it for a while and if things aren't going well I don't have
to stress out because I'm in the studio at $50 an hour or whatever and
am wasting those tracks. So that definitely gives me a good working
environment. But ideally I'd rather have it in a better studio with a
producer and different players, maybe--orchestration and different
things. That may happen. By the way, this Dreamland Café was my
final album with Frontline so now I'm an unsigned artist and I'm
currently pursuing some other options for my future. I've been talking
to some different people but I'm not sure what I'm gonna do exactly.
Start your own label!
Nah, I don't want to do
that...Too many headaches with the business end of it. I mean, if I
didn't have another job--I'd already kinda considered doing that but
then I have such little time for the band right now. If I started my
own label, that time would just literally evaporate into nothing. And I
don't like the business end of it, I like the creative end of it. I
deal with the business end of it when I have to, but I don't
What's your day job?
I'm a mailman for the
U.S. Postal Service. It's nothing overly glamorous but it's a really
good job for me because it gives me time. I write most of my lyrics
when I'm walking down the street delivering mail. It's great [that] I
can do that. Literally when I'm in the process of songwriting, I'll
have the song in my head and I'll literally work it out, maybe have
verse one at my house and then some of the chorus and then I'll just
sing these songs in my head over and over again as I'm going up and
down the street. Then when I get to my Jeep, I'll get out my little
scrap piece of paper and write down these lyrics. So it's cool I don't
have to just waste time sitting in the studio. I can actually get some
fresh air and exercise while I'm doing it. And you get like four and a
half weeks paid vacation a year so I can kinda get a chance to do a few
flyout dates and stuff, but we really can't tour. I just got a call a
couple days ago and somebody wants us to come out to Germany and
surrounding European countries for like two weeks this summer so we're
looking into being able to do that. Unfortunately right after I got off
the phone with the guy I found out that the day he wants us to come
play is like the same day that Randy's first-born baby is due. So he's
not gonna go, so I'm gonna have to get a replacement drummer to do it
and there's no other time that they can really reschedule it because
it's going around a festival. So I was really disappointed about that
but if we don't go, there might not be a next time and maybe
it'll open the door to go back.
What's your wife's name?
How long have you guys been
No children yet?
How about the other guys?
Randy, my brother, is
married to Leesa and the other two guys are single.
Randy is 23, I believe.
Mike is 29, I think, and Ben is 32, and I'm 35.
How many brothers and sisters
do you have?
I have one other older
brother, Ray. He plays on some Mad at the World.
Who's Danny Rose?
That's my cousin. He
helps Randy out with his stuff a lot. He'll come down and hang with
Randy and record and write and stuff.
So you're primary pen for the
What is the concept behind The
I just left the
interpretation to be fairly loose, but I guess it could be interpreted
as a metaphor for the Church, or it could be a metaphor for
Christianity or Christ. There's a song called "The Dreamland Café" and
it just kinda talks about and refers to this fictitious little place,
The Dreamland Café, and it's a place where people are optimistic but
they don't mind people who have problems and aren't sad because there's
enough love to go around in this place. It's as simple as that, it's a
little metaphor for Christianity, the optimistic, hopeful side of
And that's a good thing?
Do you think, though, that
sometimes Christian music has over-glorified the optimistic side of
Christianity and has disillusioned some people in the process?
Oh yeah, I agree. I mean I am like the last
person in the world to try to create a plastic fantastic, sugar-coated,
"everything's perfect" version of Christianity. In fact, if a person
was to look at the majority of the whole Mad at the World musical
career in all seven albums, it's probably more optimism through sort of
the darker-side-of-life issues. So this album--if it's a little more
optimistic and hopeful--this is creating a balance for some of the
other lyrics. I felt in this album it was time to try to be a little
more hopeful. But even in that song, "The Dreamland Café," the second
verse talks about,
There's people who
smile and there's people who can't
We don't mind it
But if they stay around there is love to be found
And they'll find it
Sadness is a gift if sadness brings you back again
Jesus loves the brokenhearted castaways
Who've gone astray.
Christianity is a place of refuge for people who are broken and down.
It's definitely not just a phony, perfect version of Christianity as
in, "It will answer all your problems, make everything wonderful and
perfect." I would hope it's realistic but just a little more hopeful
than sometimes I've been in the past.
Do you feel like you guys got
a lot of flack for some of the stuff you did in the past, being a
little dark or pessimistic?
No, I don't think so. Like I mentioned, it's
being hopeful through some of those darker issues. I think in most of
my songs when I talk about things I'm always careful to point out the
hope, or the answer, or the possibilities through some of these issues.
I know that for a fact based on the mail I get, people understand and
they're appreciative of my lyrics. I have one song on the album The
Ferris Wheel called "Inside of Heaven's Gates," and to me it's like
the perfect song to be played at somebody's funeral. In that song it's
saying this person's eyes are closed but it doesn't mean he cannot
see--he's just seeing something new. It talks about that you'll be able
to meet this person in heaven again. That's just an example of what I'm
talking about--where it's a dark, heavy topic but yet there's
definitely an explanation or an answer within the topic. I've had
plenty of people write me and say that my lyrics minister to them in a
way that no other band has--but it's definitely God speaking to them
through my lyrics. And that's wonderful to me because that's what I
would hope would happen and it does. I'm just amazed that I can
actually have an impact on somebody's life because I don't even feel
like I'm much of a poet or a songwriter but I've been lucky and God
gives me some inspiration. That makes it worthwhile because I don't
really make any money at it. [Laughter] I mean I make just a little bit
of money but I probably spend more than I make, you know? So just
knowing that I'm making a difference..
What kind of reaction did you
get from people about the song "Isn't Sex A Wonderful Thing?" [which
was recorded on the album Boomerang in 1991]
That song, it's like I
said earlier, it's kind of easier to see stuff when it's farther away
from you. Looking back at that song right now, I wish I could have that
song over again to just write the lyrics slightly different. I think
that the lyrics were slightly a little bit too vague and left a little
bit of room for confusion or misinterpretation. My folks live about two
hours from here. They're in a small desert community, and this mom and
pop's Christian bookstore there--they don't carry Mad at the World
because of that song. My mom tried to tell this lady that this song is
trying to warn kids that this wonderful thing, potentially
wonderful thing, can also be potentially bad. And she just saw the
title and thought it was sort of like this Christian band promoting sex
saying it's a wonderful thing and didn't get it. If that's how she felt
then I blew it 'cause I should have made it more clear. But I
originally wrote the song out of frustration. Some girl that I knew, I
found out that she had been sexually molested when she was younger, and
I was very angry about the fact that humanity takes this potentially
wonderful thing of sex as God would want it to be and then messes with
it and breaks God's rules or laws, and then it can be so hurtful to
people. So maybe with an attitude of whatever cynicism or sarcasm,
that's how the lyrics came out in the song. The way I used to describe
that song is that I would say that, "The name of that song is not a
name, it's a question." I think on the album it even says: "Isn't Sex A
Wonderful Thing?" with a question mark so that right there was a hint
that it was begging the question to the listener. Is this a wonderful
thing or isn't it? And then depending on whether you obey God's rules,
it will be or won't be.
What is your perspective on
the name of the band now?
I'm as mad at the world as I've ever been, I
guess. [Laughter] The name of the band Mad at the World is still very
much appropriate now. The way I describe the name of the band is just
the fact that as a Christian my heart, and even my mind, should be
focused on eternal heavenly things--things that will last, and always
be there. And if I'm not thinking of those things that's probably
because there's some kind of a worldly distraction that's causing me to
look elsewhere. Like the verse I use to sort of describe the band, I
think it's 1 John 2:16; it says to "love not the world, neither the
things of the world" and then it lists different things--the pride of
life, the lust of the eyes and the flesh. And there's another
scripture, I think, a few verses later where it says, "If anyone's a
friend of the world, he's an enemy of God." So basically, as a
Christian, worldly things and worldly values can be your actual biggest
enemy or biggest distraction from the things you probably should be
thinking about or putting a priority on. So, in that sense, I would
hope that I'm still mad at the world.
What are some of your biggest
As a musician, probably I
would say trusting God and staying hopeful and optimistic during the
times when you feel like maybe you're walking through a valley. And
maybe you hear the voice of doubt saying that God doesn't love you
because you're not as worthy of His love as maybe you should be and
then not listening to that voice. I think it's an ongoing
struggle that every human being has to deal with and that's kind of the
essence of the Christian faith because there's so many different good
reasons to believe that God doesn't love you if you want to listen to
those reasons. There's so many questions and then the world, our
society, just seems like in the last five years, Christianity in the
media or Hollywood has turned into such a laughing matter or falls
under the same category as the David Koresh people. It causes you as a
Christian to sometimes feel like you're just walking through this
desert by yourself and the only thing you can hang onto is your faith
that God is real. I certainly believe He is, I mean I know He is. But
it's tough sometimes in this society--you feel like the whole world is
sort of writing off Christianity as this thing that was fine and dandy
for the '50s when people were more simple, but now God doesn't fit into
this more "enlightened" society, or whatever. And I certainly don't
believe that, but I think that would be my own personal struggle--just
to hang on to my faith as the Bible talks about, like a child. A child
doesn't have to know and understand, it just believes because it
believes, you know? And that's how I became a Christian and that's how
I want to stay.
As far as musically, I would
say... I don't know musically what to say.
Who are some of the people
that you turn to for advice, support, accountability?
Me and my wife go to a
small church here, about five minutes from my house, in Seal Beach. We
have a very kind, loving, young pastor. We're really thankful for this
church that we go to. Our pastor loves music and he really believes in
what we do. It's just great, we had a concert weeks ago and he put our
flyer in the morning bulletin and announced to the church that they
should all come see us, and about half of them did come.
[Laughter] It was really great to feel that he believed in what we do
and is supportive. He's kinda hip, in a way, he reminds me a little
bit, if you can believe, of Ace Ventura a little bit. [Laughs] If you
can imagine Ace Ventura mixed in with James Dobson a little bit... But
this is like the one church that I've never found myself daydreaming or
being bored or tired during church--which, unfortunately, sometimes at
some other churches--I have felt that way.
Accountability? To my wife. That
definitely is something that God uses to keep me on track when maybe I
might not want to be. I'm reminded of that I'm not just here for
myself, I'm also here for her now too. And, of course, my family. I've
been born and raised in a family of all Christians so we help support
each other and pray for each other. We can always talk to each other.
And the band, as well. We're kind of like a family, when one person is
down we will check up on him, pitch in and help in some way.
As a band that can't really
tour, you probably don't have too much interaction with the fans--or do
you get a lot of letters? How does that affect you?
We get letters and we do some dates. We've
played Cornerstone. The band's been around for seven years, and we've
played Cornerstone three of those seven years. Jokingly, sometimes I
refer to our band as the "best kept secret in Christian music." I don't
think we're the best band in Christian music by any means, but it's
weird that after eight or nine years there's so many people that have
never even heard of us. That can be a little bit disappointing at
times. Hopefully something can be done about that now--maybe I can get
on a label that may be able to help us more.
Frontline isn't well known for
their publicity and marketing.
It's been a little bit frustrating, but on the
other hand, I don't think any of us are prepared to quit our jobs and
go live out on the road. So I will share a bit of responsibility for
that. I've described (and this is not cynical, I think it's just more
realistic) the Christian and the non-Christian music industry kind of
like if you can imagine an aquarium the size of a big baseball
stadium--that being the secular music industry. Then off to the side, a
couple feet from this gigantic aquarium, a six-inch little fish bowl,
that doesn't intersect--that's the Christian music industry. So
sometimes I feel like, "Why do I want to kill myself to try to be the
biggest fish in that six-inch fishbowl?" Like even here in California,
we're supposedly where there's opportunities--in my city there's
probably ten record stores and then in the whole county, within a half
hour, there's like two Christian record stores, and one of them carries
my album and one of them doesn't. My first three albums aren't even
available any more, they're already out of print. There's only a
limited amount of space, even in the stores that do carry it, and
there's so many new bands coming out that, "where are they gonna put
all that product?" To me, it's almost understandable why it's so
limited. I think radio is very biased against Christian [music], I mean
if there's anything blatantly Christian about the lyrics, it scares
program directors and music directors, and they don't want to offend
their audience. It's kind of frustrating to see what seemingly is
pretty much these pre-defined boundaries. I am not too hung up with
hoping to be very successful.
It's expensive to fly out the
band. It'd be different if we were on tour and just passing through. We
could play so many other places, which really we should do--it's a
shame not to. We kind of made our own little mini national tour back
about two albums ago. It was like the only time we actually did. We
flew into Minneapolis and then drove all the way down to Florida and
back up, back to Texas and then up to Oklahoma, and came home from
Oklahoma. We were gone for about a month and we played every place in
between. It was great, but we all burned up our whole vacation for that
year. It was a little bit tough because we did it on a lower than low
budget. But it wasn't discouraging because there was a lot of people
everywhere we played. It was just so weird--you go to a town you've
never been to before and there's people who know every lyric of every
song. [Laughter] It definitely made it seem more real, to where when I
came home and was writing my next song, you can almost visualize all
across the country people are literally gonna hang on every little word
that was coming out of my hands. It made it more real and
exciting--gave me more responsibility.
Is a mainstream record deal
something you would consider or seek?
Well, I have mixed
emotions about that. I used to think that I wouldn't want to do that
and I'm not sure how I feel about it now. I think I probably would
if the opportunity presented itself. Basically, I wouldn't say no to
it. I used to think, "Oh, I wouldn't want to do that because that's
selling out." It's kinda weird to say that. I mean, I go to work
everyday and deliver letters to people. I deliver Playboy
magazines and everything else, and who am I working for there? Am I
working for myself, for the post office, for God, or for the devil?
What am I doing? I'm just doing a job and I'm not expected to be
necessarily a walking/talking preaching mailman evangelist. I'm just
expected to do my job. And that somehow is okay.
But if I've been in a Christian
band before then it would somehow be so terrible to do a mainstream
album. I would be more than happy to do a blatantly Christian album on
a mainstream label if the world would accept it but they don't--they
wouldn't--because of their own bias. I definitely
wouldn't do anything that was against my morals, or Christian values,
lyrically. But if I could just write about maybe things that were
wholesome Christian value type things and messages--whether it be love,
friendship, honesty, family, fun, or what not--and especially if I
could have a label that was gonna be supportive of me, and appreciated
my songwriting, my craft, and they had the budget to make my album
sound incredible and were gonna market it, I would consider that. But I
wouldn't even necessarily want it or hope it but I would pursue it. In
fact, today I did send express mail three copies of my new album to a
producer who produces this secular band The Grays and Jellyfish.
They're like the style of what Mad at the World has done, and I wrote
the guy a letter and said, "I've just completed my contract with a
small, Christian label. I really appreciate your work, would you be
interested in possibly working with me on producing the next album?"
told my wife,
"I'm gonna do this one thing and see what happens and we'll play this
by ear." So if this fellow calls me up and says, "Oh, yeah, I would
love to work with you and I have some contacts with Capital Records, I
have a meeting set up with this guy, I want to do your record," I would
definitely consider it but I don't even expect that necessarily to
happen. But if it does, you heard it first here. [Laughter]
As far as Christian labels, it's
weird, 'cause like I've mentioned I'm thirty-five years old, and I
almost feel like I don't know who my audience is necessarily. I don't
know if kids want to hear the kind of music I write and if they don't
that's fine too. I can write to whatever the audience does want to
hear. But I don't even know if there's an audience for me. It's weird.
Still, it's great. I wouldn't
trade it for anything. If I never make another album, to be able to
have seven albums recorded and distributed world-wide, as little in
numbers that they sold, but they still are out there and as long as
it's helped some people, and I know it's helped some people,
and people have enjoyed it and been encouraged by it, then it
definitely gives me a lot of satisfaction. Just for that alone.
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