Your Heroes Are Dead

As I complete what is likely to be the first third of my life I have lived just long enough to objectively see changes in myself, and more so in my heroes. Happily, most of my inspirations have shuffled off this mortal coil. Men like Huxley, Orwell, Russell, and Hitchens, have made their beds and now I happily sleep in them. That said, my most important and defining hero is very much alive and as the two of us grew, we grew apart.

Andrew Schwab, journalist, frontman, and the light in a dark room, was the voice of reason and angry hope for myself and many like me. His frustration with both the church and corporations resonated clearly through Project 86’s albums, notably Truthless Heroes (Sept 2002). His books conveyed the confusion and frustration so many of us had previously been unable to articulate. He was larger than life on stage and exuded an untouchable presence off it. He didn’t shy away from exposing the dirty under belly of religion and the record industry. More importantly, he didn’t complain and minge without purpose. He inspired people to be angry and stand up against injustices.

He was our spokes person and we his rabid followers.

He was so willing to bite the hand that fed him (i.e. the church and the almighty record labels) he inspired us who intuitively knew there was something wrong with the church and gave us hope to make music on our own terms. For years his books, posts, and lyrics reflected this unyielding need to buck and better the system, then something happened. He softened. His lyrics became less singular minded and individually disempowered. His writing, once poetic and brash, became devotionals. Even his stage presence became accessible and congenial (for a rocker). I do not know Andrew or anything about his journey other than what he has volunteered to the public, but put to it I would wager the change was marriage. That and a need for peace. Like so many young men out to fight the world and make a difference to the masses, all they really wanted is to matter to one special person. Andrew’s social media activity around the time of his marriage focused less on social action and more on gardening and sports. His Blog once looking to identify and solve hypocrisy and inequity in the church became a Bible study. Even his latest book, Tin Soldiers, is a devotional work book riddled with cartoons.

Let me be clear I am stating his later work is good on its own merits. In contrast to what made me and others like me love his earlier work, it seems soft, pandering, and without original zeal. One could even argue Andrew now supports the system he so vehemently (some would say virulently) railed against. Again, it is not that he has stopped putting forth effort and passion, but it feels like The Matrix turned into Matrix: Revolutions. They are good movies for completely different reasons, but one clearly pushed the boundaries. The other sat back on its laurels and gave the masses what they wanted. I think the change in the not so “Macabre Schwab” can be summed up by comparing some lyrics written about 10 years apart.

S.M.C . (Sunday Mass Consumption) circa 2002

Big business ain’t easy
I’m sure you’d agree
Especially when the product is eternity-
To stay one step ahead we must achieve
And turn this holy temple
Into a factory
Is there anywhere you can run
To hide from these thieves? –
Cause eternity’s on sale today for a fee

Faith is buying me away
Buying me a way
To convert the masses into little servants
Faith is buying me away
Buying me a way
Buying me into your home (soul)

Our sanctuary of this high-rise
Our steeples our billboards
Our slogans our converts
Oh don’t forget to buy this T-shirt
As you leave
And open up the offering box
And give until it hurts
Show me an open heart and we’ll steal it away
Cause eternity’s on up for sale for a small fee today
You Know

This altar is a stage
Our sponsor must be paid
And maybe even make the front page

Blood Moon circa 2012

Eyes ablaze
The knife held high above your
Head is framed against the constellations
While my back is splayed upon this altar
Might you just reveal where this is headed?

I brought you to this pinnacle
The height above the desert sea
To wash away the blemishes
In burning holy offering

I know you came from me
Your blood is in these veins
I know you came from me
There can be no other way

Yes, relent, transcend
Reverse this madness
Call to mind the curse
The pain that’s promised
Search within and admit
You cannot do this
Wait, reflect, recall
When she was barren?

You, my only progeny
My tears may never ever cease
I long to give you sweet release
But I cannot disobey

Stay your steel and sheath the dagger
You have shown this day
Belief beyond your reason
Gaze above and count
Those lights, my heavens
You gave his life
Your wage is endless
To trust is to obey

In the end I am sad at the loss of a hero, but I am at consoled feeling Andrew Schwab is happy and at peace in his life. To paraphrase him, “My hero is dead. He was all in my head. When nothing is left I’ll start again.” Andrew, if you happen to read this, you should know you saved my life once. Thank you for your work and may you become a new hero to many.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.



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