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Sweet Crystal - 2001 Interview with Marq Andrew Speck

INTERVIEW: Sweet Crystal (Apr 2001)
Detroit Rock City, of the Sweet Crystal kind, says Marq Andrew Speck.

April 2001: A trio of musicians from Dearborn Heights, Detroit USA, going under the handle of Sweet Crystal. They are: Marq Andrew Speck - vocals, keyboards and drums, guitarist Bill Blatter and drummer Steve Wieser. A very resourceful and productive team, who have been in the music industry for absolute ages. Like a fine wine, sometimes these things take a while to mature gracefully. As has their album 'Still Standing...'. GLORY-DAZE talks to vocalist Marq Andrew Speck about life in the 'not so fast lane' of Detroit Rock City..

Marq, you've described the album as being a 'labor of love' for you and the other guys. Just how long has this album been in the making?
Actually, we started seriously recording the tracks for 'Still Standing..' almost eight years ago. Some of the songs were written as far back as 1985. We started putting the first tracks down on an analog Fostex 16 track in my sister-in-law's basement and finished the last track ('In Your Name') on a Tascam DA78-HR digital multi-track at Nightcrier Studios, our own place at last.

Tell us about what it's like being a Christian band in the heart of 'Motown' territory?
We've always been here in Motown and have probably benefited greatly from the wealth of talent and music this place has produced. The Christian message in our music has never caused us any concern, both professionally or personally.

Sweet Crystal appears to be more of a project driven entity. Did you guys come together via the band or via your involvement with Nightcrier Music?
This might be a stunner for some of your readers, but Sweet Crystal as a band started out with Bill, Steve, myself and another individual (bass player) in 1972.. yup, thirty years in the making. If that doesn't classify each of our new songs as Classic Rock, I don't know what would.

Marq - top left, Bill - top right, Steve - bottom left

The album then is a mixture of styles, but the production quality is something you spent a lot of time getting right?
Sometimes too much time.. a problem with most artists self-producing is that they can easily become too close to the music and start missing the feel for what they are doing by become overly concerned with the minutiae of what can be done in a professional studio setting. That's where an outside 'set of ears' can sometimes help you decide when a song or performance is solid (my wife does that for me, thank goodness). I almost became a slave to the technology I own, spending more time tweaking parameters and discovering new toys than staying on the course of finishing the CD.

What prompted you to cover a Chris Eaton song?
For a couple of years here in Detroit, I've been the host of a local 'live' cable talk show that also had a live band (which featured Steve and Bill along with other talented musicians), a live audience and a variety of guest ranging from sports figures to media folk. We always tried to perform two or three songs per show that had to pertain to whatever topic the show was addressing and one show had 'Do You Believe In Love' as a covered tune that I got to sing. I liked the song so much, I incorporated it into a local dinner theater that I acted in and eventually decided it was a strong enough song to cover on the CD. Never have regretted that decision.

Chris is well known to readers of this site, and is an awesome talent in his own right. Was there an opportunity to use any of his other songs? (or anyone else's for that matter)
Sweet Crystal started out in the club scene as a 'cover band' and have always enjoyed playing other people's music. Heck, the first song we learned as a band was Pink Floyd's 'Echoes' - pretty ambitious for a bunch of youngsters right out of high school. The next CD will cover a Yardbirds song that Billy smokes on!

On each song there is a little message in the liner notes. What is the overall theme that the listener can take from these songs?
What we have discovered in making 'Still Standing..' is that there is a way for each of us to stand strong in our beliefs and to be able to handle whatever life throws at us. We hope that each listener can go away from a Sweet Crystal song feeling just a little bit better about themselves and perhaps encouraged that who they are is important in the overall scheme of things. We hope to both entertain and inspire with our songs.

Give us an idea as to who D.J Stevenson is? I am suitably impressed. Is she keen on doing a solo thing herself?
DJ is an incredible singer who has her own following here in Michigan. I've used her for almost all my corporate projects (more on that later) and on the two cuts on 'Still Standing..', which by the way, were written for a movie shot here in Detroit. She has a powerful voice (gotta pad the input on the mic preamp when she starts singing!) and we are working on a 4 song demo for her right now to try and get the industry's attention. You can get to her home page (with some demo MP3s) by the link at our homepage.

Sweet Crystal as a musical vehicle... You obviously get out and play live. How far out of Michigan has the band spread it's musical web?
We traveled as far east as the Atlantic Carolina coast, all through the Midwest US and very far into Canada. As a matter of fact, we played so far north that on the way to one gig, we passed the Arctic Watershed Line.. the point where all lakes and rivers flow into the Arctic Ocean. What the heck were we doing there?

Has the band appeared at any big Christian festivals like Cornerstone for instance?
Never had the occasion to do a big festival like Cornerstone, but we have had the good fortune to have opened for such acts as Bob Seger, Steppenwolf, Nazareth, Stryper, Foghat, Blackfoot, Geoff Moore and The Distance, and a host of others at a variety of arenas and venues.

Lets look briefly at the Nightcrier Studio. This is your facility I take it?
Brand new for us. Open less than a year and it's the first time we've been able to spend as much time (without worrying about the clock) on whatever we want, whenever we want. Feel kind of spoiled, actually.

What sort of projects have been composed there, and what is the most important piece of hardware you have in the studio?
We've done quite a few songs for Ford Motor Company and some other corporate clients. We are currently recording/editing a 50 tape series for General Motors and also did two songs for a movie soundtrack that is currently playing on HBO. The most important piece of gear, believe it or not, is a combination Furman power conditioner/regulator that cost a couple of thousand dollars. It actually saved all of the equipment the other day when a huge electrical 'dead short' should have toasted all the gear. Besides the safety issue, having clean, constant AC makes everything work and sound better.

Just looking briefly at the music scene in general. On the melodic rock scene at the moment, who are artists that are currently catching your ear?
I am almost overwhelmed by the great music out there. I listen to Spock's Beard, Ten, Marillion, Queensryche, Royal Hunt.. heck, I'm afraid who I might miss mentioning by listing all the artists I enjoy.

Do you think there is a large divide between those crossover Christian artists playing the secular route, as opposed to those caught up solely in the CCM environment?
I hope not. Music is music and if your intent is to spread a little Good News through the airwaves (or bandwidth as the case may be), there should be no condemnation from any camp for what God can and does use.

What sort of advice can you offer any up and coming artists who wish to make it to the big time? (apart from booking studio time at Nightcrier!!)
Don't stop.. and don't think you know everything that is too happen. I believe there is a plan for each of us. Pride is a killer.. don't ever boast in your own skills and accomplishments, but let others make their own discoveries about you and your music and you might be surprised at who steps up to help you succeed.

Surely there must be a future direction for Sweet Crystal, now that you have some recorded product out there in the market?
We are in pre-production for the first video to support 'Still Standing..' We are also adding new elements to the live show and are already deciding on what new songs to record for the next chapter in our musical lives. It's all good.. but some is definitely better!

So, there you have it readers. The good gospel from a man in the know, and one ensconsed in the kingdom of melodic rock and roll. Thanks to Marq, Bill and Steve and everyone else associated with Sweet Crystal.

Visit the Sweet Crystal team over at

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