Back in 1995, I was just getting started in my journalism career. I carried a love of Christian music, so I dove headfirst into every opportunity I had to interview my musical heroes. For this interview with Carman Licciardello, I was invited to speak right after his “R.I.O.T.” project released. We spoke in a conference room at Sparrow/EMI Christian Music Distribution. I was 24 years old and armed with every question in the book. For one, I was editor of a youth magazine and I wanted a variety of opinions on a variety of topics we could pull from. Secondly, who knew when I would ever sit down and have another interview? Turns out I never did. Reading back through, I realize this is an extremely long interview with some offbeat questions, but now, with his passing, I’m glad I have it. It was my chance to hear the heart behind the man, and I think it definitely comes through.
As you have the opportunity to minister to so many people, including a vast amount of young people, what would you say is the greatest obstacle facing them today?
I think it’s the looseness of our society, as far as having no standards, no boundaries of right and wrong. So much garbage coming over the television set through movies and through music. Nobody can define what profanity is anymore. Nobody can define what lewdness is, or obscenity. It’s all just sort of mixed up altogether. So kids don’t have any standards to live by. The Word of God has been eliminated from almost everything, especially in our schools. So we’re raising up a generation that has no boundaries, has no morals, has no absolutes, no sense of right and wrong, only what they feel is right and wrong. And in a society like that, anything is possible. So how could you judge someone? How could you judge their actions, I should say.
What message would you give them?
The best thing to do would be to follow the Word of God because death will bring about death. The Word of God will give you life. It will show you how to live life to the absolute maximum., it’s the rulebook. It is the instruction manual for life. God gave it to us for our benefit, not for His. We need it, He doesn’t. He is the Word. To find out how life works, that’s what the Scriptures are all about. That’s why He gave them to us.
Your new recording RIOT came out this past week across the country. Explain the ideas behind a “Righteous Invasion of Truth.”
Well, the word RIOT in our society, strikes a chord. You know, it’s a hot button. All of a sudden, when you say Riot, you think of the Rodney King trial or whatever else is going on in another city, some riot that happened. Webster’s Dictionary, it has a lot of different definitions, but one of them is “an unrestrained uproar in a public place,” and to me, that’s something we would do, as Christians, to make our voice known. It doesn’t have to be that way, maybe not necessarily ideally be that way, but that’s sometimes what it has to be to get it out there. So, we wanted to have a Righteous Invasion of Truth into a city, into a life, and sometimes it takes something forceful to do that. Our goal is to start 39 Riot centers, which would be an inner-city church just geared toward inner-city youth. and gang members, stuff like that. In 39 of the top cities, so it coincides with the tour.
Can you tell us a little bit about the video?
On each release, there will be four concept music videos – songs. and in between the songs, there will be drama segments, all the drama segments will be connected to each other. So it’s almost like watching a television program like “Columbo” or “Murder, She Wrote.” And instead of cutting to a commercial, we’ll cut to a music video. It’ll have something to do with the theme, what the storyline is, and it’ll cut back to the storyline after the music video is through. And then, when it will be time for another commercial again, we’ll cut to another music video. So, it will almost be like watching T.V. And part one will be about an hour and part two will be about an hour. Each one will have four music videos on it.
How far along are you?
We have two of the music videos complete and all of the drama complete. And we have to finish off six more music videos. Within the course of probably the next ten days, we will finish three more music videos. No, I’ll probably finish four more music videos and we’ll have two more to do later.
The America Again campaign was widely advertised and promoted. What is the current status of the petitions?
Well, we got all the names. It took a little while after the tour was over to collect all million, but we did get the million. We’ve made probably about four or five scheduled attempts to bring them to the President, all of which were canceled for various reasons. So getting to the President is a real difficult chore. We have the names. He knows we’re here. He knows what we wanna’ bring to him. They schedule it and they cancel it. They schedule it and they cancel it, they schedule it and cancel it, so we’re still plugging away. I can’t help but believe that we will get them to him at the appropriate time. It may just be later than sooner.
What is a Christian’s responsibility in the political arena?
I think immediately, our immediate responsibility is to vote for those that hold a value system closest to Scripture, closest to what we know to be right and wrong. I think that’s the immediate best bet. Secondarily, would be for people who are born-again Christians who really feel called to politics to really pursue their goals, because they’re very much needed (laughs). And to help take our country back to the principles that it was founded on.
You have stated that you would like to unite the country, including denominations.
Part of the ministry has always been for me is to unite the generations and the denominations, that’s a little phrase I feel that the Holy Spirit put in my heart. So it always rings throughout my head, whenever I’m planning a concert or writing an album or doing any sort of ministry work. Will it minister to the body? Will it bring the body together? Will it bring the generations together? Will it bring the denominations together?
How is that going to happen? How are we going to unite?
What the Lord has shown me to do individually, I mean everybody has their part, and my part is, you know, what I mainly have is the music and now what we’re doing on video seems to be playing a very big part, too, the film. To find a common ground that everyone can agree on, and as we get to that common ground, give each other a little bit of taste of what the other person’s doing, so that way, they can have an appreciation for it. It’s like when you make a stew, the peas will always be peas, the carrots will always be carrots, the beef will always be beef. The beef never changes into a potato. The potato never changes into a carrot. A carrot never changes into a pea. But if in a stew, you scoop up a potato, when you taste that potato, you’re gonna’ taste a little bit of the beef, a little bit of the carrot, a little bit of the pea. So when people come to a concert, we all agree that we’re gonna’ come together to worship the Lord Jesus Christ – we’re gonna’ create a stew.
Suppose there is a certain person who has never heard of your music and only has time to hear one song. What song do you think would best represent Carman?
Well, I think the one that would probably be the most reflective of who I am as a man, as my own personality, would probably either be “Sunday’s on the Way” or “The Champion,” something like that. Because it incorporates storytelling, worship, and scriptural Truth done in music pictorial imagery, something that’s really different, hopefully creative. If it’s to represent me as a Christian, which probably would be more what I want to represent as, I think that’s more important, would be “Serve the Lord.” That pretty much spells out my faith. And the commitment that I have for the Lord. So if I had to put one song in a vault that would represent my life and industry, it would be “Serve the Lord.”
What has been the funniest moment in your musical career?
Boy, so many incidents. I think when we first started doing Holy Ghost Hop. I had this keyboard player, Willie Davis, Wild Willie. We went to a black church together for about six years. And we’d see when people would start dancing in church and the way they dance at a black church and the way they dance at a white church is totally different. Doesn’t seem like by and large that the white people have the same rhythm patterns that the black people do. So he was always teasing me, he’d say, “when you start doing this song, you gotta’ get all these uncoordinated white people, getting up and making a fool out of themselves.” (laughs) When we started doing it, every night somebody would hit the aisle and just start making us just die laughing. Cause I’d always say, “look at this guy over here,” and he’d fall out and he says, “you see? I told you.” So every night it was just a new experience.
What music influenced you the most while growing up?
Well, there were so many things. My father made me listen to big band music. My mother worked in a country/western group, so I used to listen to country music. And in order to get work in New Jersey at the time, I had to play in an oldie’s band, and then I played in a top 40 band. So, I’m a real melting pot.
What music is currently the top in your CD player?
I don’t have any (laughs). I haven’t listened to anything lately. I can’t think of the last disc I bought, probably whatever somebody gave me. I’m not a real big music buyer. I don’t listen to a whole lot. The only time I ever really listen to music is to learn from it.
I’m going to throw out a few topics we’ll be covering in our magazine and you can talk about them if you have something to say…
Anointing to me is everything. It’s the only thing that’s really going to make the difference in a song or a sermon. You have to have the anointing. Without the anointing, you’re just doing stuff that technically you’re pleased with but practically is ineffective.
Young people being called into the ministry
If you deeper your ministry, God will broaden it. Make sure your ministry is deep. It’s up to God to bring it before the world. Most people are afraid of the move of the Holy Spirit, in worship or
even in their own personal lives. It scares them. Anything that’s not written down in the bulletin, most people will eliminate from their personal experience. And it’s easy to hate people that follow the leading of the Holy Spirit because there’s certain innate jealousy in all that. I’m surprised by how many people, artists, and ministers, are scared to death of the move of the Holy Spirit. Because it just may go outside of their plan and not ask their permission.
Overall, the church is still very segmented. It’s very difficult for one church to want to work with another church on anything period. I think in that regard, most of the church is still very prejudiced. If you show me a church that’s willing to work with another church down the street to win souls, I think that church is really making progress; setting a standard.
Vision for the Harvest (our theme for our youth department)
I think you need to pray first and ask God what He would have for us to believe. Like when we did Texas Stadium, I was believing God for 5,000 souls. And to stand on it, you know, trust that you can hear from God in prayer, and then when you hear from him, you figure out what’s the most important thing, what do you believe Him for, then stick with it. Stick with what God is telling you. But Find out what He’s telling you first and trust your ability to hear from Him.
As soon as I get my first chance to go, I’m going.
Coming Soon . . . Part Two, The Lighter, Personal Side of Carman