Interview: HARD LOOK

HARD LOOK is a Christian Metalcore/Deathcore/Industrial Metal band from Fort Worth, Texas. The band is comprised solely of Christopher Johnson on vocals, guitars, bass, drums, synth etc. The purpose of the band is to bring the Gospel to the darker corners of the earth. I had the pleasure to chat with Christopher about his debut full-length, his conversion, theology, among other things.

What is your musical background and how long have you been involved in the metal scene?

Christopher: I have been in several small bands growing up, but nothing really stuck or went very far. The most successful project I did was on vocals for a band called Monarch, from Waco, Texas. I have been a guitarist, with skills on other instruments as well, for nearly two decades, so I really wanted to showcase my musicianship as well as my vocals. HARD LOOK has been a band for only one year, but there will be more years ahead.

How did the project start and why did you go the solo-project route?

Christopher: The project started because I knew I had what it takes to do all the music myself, so I bought the equipment and software I needed and learned how to produce myself. I went with the solo-project route because I have a very specific mission and vision for the band and I don’t know anyone near me that shares this mission and vision.

What's the meaning of the project's name, HARD LOOK?

Christopher: The meaning of HARD LOOK comes from the common saying, “take a hard look at…” which in the context of my ministry, means that people need to take a hard look at what’s at hand, being the impending destruction of the world and the only salvation being the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does your writing and recording process look like?

Christopher: When I write songs, it stems from a guitar riff that I create while practicing, then I like to program the drums first, knowing what the song should sound like in my head, then adding guitars next, then bass, then samples & synths, and lastly vocals. This order is not always the same, for instance, sometimes I will write guitar first, then fill in drums, then add loops & samples, then bass and vocals. It really just depends on what I hear in my head, then I try to actualize that on the song, during the recording process.

What are some of your biggest influences musically and lyrically?

Christopher: Musically, my biggest influences are Fear Factory, Megadeth, Impending Doom, In the Midst of Lions, Dawn of Ashes, and many others. I have such a long list of musical influences that it would be boring to read.* Lyrically, my biggest influences are For Today, Sleeping Giant, Impending Doom, In the Midst of Lions, With Blood Comes Cleansing, and Zao.

In an explanation video for the song “Genesis, you mention the album being somewhat of a concept album, could you expound more on that?

Christopher: Basically, the album “The Great Tribulation” focuses on the trials and tribulations we face heading into the end times, as well as prophecies stated in Matthew and Revelation. There is no particular order and not all songs fit this concept, like Trepidation, Digital Dystopia, and Quarantine, but the overall theme is there. I wouldn’t actually consider it a concept album, despite there being common themes. I did place Genesis as the first song, after the prelude, for a reason though; that reason being that Genesis is the first book of the Bible and I wanted this song to also be at the beginning of the album.

You recently started a two-piece beatdown band, tell us more about it. What will set it apart from HARD LOOK?

Christopher: I recently joined the band SPITE THE BEAST with Rick Elran from Pennsylvania, who does all of the instrumentations, with myself on vocals. This band is also a Christian ministry that seeks to reach those who like violent sounding music but with a message of hope, love, strength, and sound doctrine. The allure of SPITE THE BEAST is that Christianity is not tame and submissive but strong, rebellious (against the ways of the world), and intense. The single “Accuser” is out now, and will be on more platforms in the near future, and the full album is currently being written. Stay tuned!

How did you become a follower of Christ and did it in any way affect the course of your musical career?

Christopher: I was raised Christian, but in my teens I rebelled about as hard against Christianity as a person can. In my wandering phase, I recall listening to the Impending Doom album, “Nailed. Dead. Risen.” and I was reading along in the lyric book and started to cry and my whole body started to tingle and I felt, what I know now is, the presence of the Holy Spirit. I was curious about what more of those lyrics meant and found myself at first reference the Bible to find out, then to full-on reading the Bible. I soon after gave my life to Christ and have never looked back since. All of my previous bands were secular, but this renewal of faith inspired me to reach others like how Impending Doom reached me. HARD LOOK will always be a Christian band.

How would you describe your theology? You’ve mentioned to me in passing being a bit of a Lutheran and a Baptist.

Christopher: I think this is still accurate. I consider myself a hybrid of Lutheran and Baptist. It seems like the main argument comes down to infant baptism[paedobaptism (opens new window)]. versus adult full-immersion baptism[credobaptism (opens new window)]. The Lutheran will argue that infant baptism is valid and holds true for life, and that if one wants to publicly show allegiance to Christ and be renewed in Spirit, they can participate in the Lord’s Table. The Baptist will argue that a cognizant believer should show their allegiance to Christ and be renewed in Spirit by full-immersion baptism as an adult, and that infant baptism by sprinkling is not accurate to Scripture because of the specific examples of full-immersion baptisms in the Bible. My personal take on this is “Why not both?” I believe in the validity of infant baptism and also the validity and merit of adult baptism by immersion. I see no reason why we cannot adopt both practices and see no scriptural argument against this stance. Also, I don’t necessarily see much of a need to align with one specific denomination other than to maintain traditions, which are important, but not an absolute reason to pick one denomination and stick with it. This may or may not change as I grow in faith. Only God knows and I trust Him to lead my steps.

What are some of your favorite passages of Scripture?

Christopher: Some of my very favorites are Acts 16:31 (opens new window), Romans 12:2 (opens new window), Proverbs 3:5-6 (opens new window), Proverbs 16:9 (opens new window), John 3:16, John 14:6 (opens new window), Matthew 24:9 (opens new window), Ephesians 6:11 (opens new window), Ephesians 6:16-17 (opens new window), and 1 Peter 5:7 (opens new window). These are the favorites that come to mind, but there are endless verses that important and amazing.

Acts 16:37 - And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world,[a (opens new window)] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect

Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths

John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

You’re currently attending Bible College. How has the experience been for you thus far and what’s the long-term plan?

Christopher: The Bible College experience has been truly amazing and I have not only been growing mentally, but I’ve been growing closer to God spiritually. The end goal for this is to become a pastor. My degree will be in Christian Ministries. I hope to first be a youth pastor for a while, then my long-term main goal is to lead my own church, all the while, making music for the Kingdom.

What are some of your favorite Christian metal bands that are new to the scene?

Christopher: Some new Christian Metal bands that I really enjoy are Firebrand, Whom I Serve, Forerunner, Daygraves, Diamonds to Dust, As Lions and Lambs, Antiviper, Timoratus, Symphony of Heaven, Brotality, and Fire From Heaven, just to name a few. The Christian scene in heavy and extreme music is on fire right now! I love it!

What should we expect from you this year?

Christopher: This year, you can expect a brand new full-length album, more video content, new merch, and more features (guest vocals) on other Christian bands’ songs. Stay tuned!

What’s the best way fans can support you?

Christopher: The best way, as of now, that fans can support HARD LOOK is to purchase the albums and singles. This is the best way to support this project. The second best way is to purchase merch. If money is an issue, sharing links and talking about the band with your friends is equally appreciated.

Thanks for doing this, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Anything else you’d like to add?

Christopher: Always a pleasure chatting with you and my final message is this; Take a hard look at the world around you, realize that it is destined to perish, accept that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, for He is the only way to be saved. If you seek the truth, seek Christ because He is the way, the truth, and the life.

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