Interview with Keyboardist Marq Andrew Speck of the Christian Rock Band Sweet Crystal

By Mick Michaels

The Cosmick View: Hello, and welcome to
The Cosmick View/MBM Ten Pounder! Thanks for taking some time to chat with us!

CV: Describe your definition of the band’s sound and style and how does that definition uniquely describe the music?
Marq Andrew Speck: Thanks for having us! Along with founding band members guitarist Bill Blatter and drummer Steve Wieser, and now joined by newest member and bass player Martin Kuchar, we have been at the forefront of the Christian rock scene here in Michigan even before this genre had its own radio and broadcast outlets.

We started out totally influenced by the progressive rock English music scene of the 60’s and 70’s: bands like Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Atomic Rooster, Uriah Heep all left their musical marks on our writing and playing. We also listened to a lot of American bands like Kansas, Journey, Rush and Spock’s Beard to keep our creative juices flowing. It’s this background in progressive rock that continues to influence and direct our writing and live performances.

This latest album ‘7th HEAVEN’ continues where our last release ‘Got Your Six’ left off: songs of hope and inspiration featuring our signature guitar sounds, synth melodies, straight ahead drumming with just a few chanting monks thrown in for good measure.

CV: Today, everyone talks about artist and audience connection. Is such a level of connection actually achievable for an artist and if so, how have you made the connection to your fans?
MAS: For us, it’s been the live shows that have afforded us the most opportunities to connect with fans. We’ve all been playing since we were teenagers – actually Bill and Steve played together during high school. I came along later, during our college years and we all set out to make it our fulltime jobs (which we did for many years - 6 ½ tons of gear, 4-man road crew). The three of us – the core-founding members – have never stopped playing together since then (although live touring did stop for a time). In the beginning, we opened up for such classic rock acts as Bob Seger, Foghat, Nazareth, Steppenwolf and many more before finding our true path into the Christian music field.

Today? We think all social media sites can be an asset to a band, a solo musician, or pretty much any creative when used correctly. There are so many ways to get yourself out there…but always remember that thousands of others doing exactly the same thing so take heart, do what you do with a good attitude and appreciate what comes your way. Don’t put the media and websites on a pedestal in your life but as simple creative rungs on your ladder along the way.

CV: Is fan interaction an important part of the band’s inner culture?
MAS: Absolutely. Knowing that what you create as an artist can actually act, as a bridge between yourself and that person who listens to and hopefully likes as much as we a huge factor in keeping us moving forward.

CV: Can a band truly interact with its fans and still maintain a level of personal privacy without crossing the line and giving up their “personal space” in your opinion?
MAS: The guys in SWEET CRYSTAL feel this interaction is key to our longevity. Our trademarked slogan - Reaching The World, One Song At A Time ™ - pretty much says it all about our music, message, mission and ministry. We are here to reach out to a world with songs of hope and inspiration; a musical light at the end of every dark tunnel you might be going through because chances are good – we’ve gone through those very same tunnels ourselves and definitely have found a way out.

CV: Is music, and its value, viewed differently around the world in your opinion? If so, what do you see as the biggest difference in such multiple views among various cultures?
MAS: Wow, good question. We don’t know if other cultures value music differently but it seems that there are many more unique bands coming out of Europe than there are here in the States. It also seems other countries really appreciate original bands and new sounds where as the US seems more focused on recreating the past with its focus on ‘tribute bands’…at least in the local live performance venues and events.

CV: Do you feel that a band that has an international appeal will tend to connect more so to American audiences? Would they be more enticed or intrigued to see the band over indigenous acts because of the foreign flavor?
MAS: Actually that idea works both ways. International acts coming to the States, US acts heading over to the UK, Europe and Asia… there’s a definite mystique to experience the music from other countries and cultures. Thanks to the Internet, people can actually ‘see’ these acts online long before any tours or live events get created, and if there is an appeal online, there will definitely be a greater chance of a successful live event or tour for the artist to undertake.

CV: Has modern-day digital technology made everyone an artist on some level in your opinion? Have the actual lines of what really is an artist been blurred?
MAS: Yes – that’s both good and bad. We used to record all our rehearsals on CD as we played just in case inspiration hit and made copies of each get-together for the guys to take home and review. Now it’s direct-to-thumb drive or computer, complete with multitrack and mix options as we go. That’s the good side of technology at work. Instant gratification and if it’s not a keeper… just delete!

Technology today allows instant creativity and feedback, multiple methods of production and experimentation but also means that with so many choices, a person can get lost in the process and never complete anything. Software and plug-ins emulate every amp or instrument every imagined, drum beats and song structures created with a mouse click – and the spirit that makes a song original can truly be made lifeless because of the ease of digital manipulation.

Next is social media. What today’s musician has is an entire world that can be accessed, a gateway to distribute and promote their masterpieces in ways and speeds totally unheard of when Sweet Crystal started out…but that also means there is a continual flood of music being produced and released every single minute of the day and getting your music heard above that roar… daunting to say the least.

CV: How would you describe the difference between an artist who follows trends and one who sets them?
MAS: Besides being a 24 time Detroit Music Award winning band, two of the more interesting aspects of Sweet Crystal are our longevity and our staying true to our musical styling. The three of us founding members have been playing together for over 45 years and to this day, we don’t “chase” current trends in mainstream music but stay true to our progressive arena rock beginnings. The songs are new and fresh but the sound remains classic Crystal, which our fans appreciate. Artists that ‘chase’ trends are already falling behind. You can copy but you can never catch up so set your own individual course. That way, you will always be in the lead of your own musical race.

CV: Has music overall been splintered into too many sub-genres in an effort to appease fan tastes in your opinion? And has such fan appeasements, in actuality, weakened music’s impact as a whole by dividing audiences?
MAS: We don’t think so – sub-genres are just labels that can help a fan find new artists in the same musical veins that they already like. No one likes to be ‘pigeon-holed’ into a specific musical box, but sometimes it will be that label that will intrigue a new listener to at least give an artist a listen.

CV: What can fans expect to see coming next from you?
MAS: New songs already being recorded for our next release ‘8’, this time around featuring more lead vocals from Bill. We have a new promotion company (Rogue PR) taking the reins for a while to get the Sweet Crystal brand into more markets. Booking shows and benefit concerts to play again as we all get back to normal.

Basically we plan to remain exactly who we are for as long as can…because if it ain’t broke…

CV: Thanks again for taking some time and talking. It is greatly appreciated.