June 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Music Interviews

By Brad McBrayer  

Over the last few years, Christian music has been riding the successful wave of Modern Praise & Worship. Many industry insiders attribute the origins of that wave to a certain stream of sounds coming from a particular band… namely SONICFLOOd.

This band, who made its debut in 1999, has weathered many storms in the meantime.  Using testimony and song together, SONICFLOOd continues to venture around the globe proclaiming the name of Jesus and ushering its audience toward praise for our Father.  Recently, TCP contacted the band to get to know them a little better.  One might say we received a “FLOOD” of email answers.

TCP – Where did the name SONICFLOOd come from?
Rick Heil (Lead Vocals):  Revelation 19:6 talks about a great multitude worshiping the Lord and says it sounded like many waters and peels of thunder, so a great flood of praise must sound when we worship the King of kings!

TCP – SONICFLOOd is credited by some as the band that kick-started the wave of Rock Worship popularity.  How do YOU see your band’s role in this?
Rick:  I believe the role of SONICFLOOd is and always has been to lead others in worship to the Creator of the universe through music and through our testimony.  When SONICFLOOd came on the scene in ’99, it was God’s favor and timing that placed us at the forefront of the ‘rock praise’ movement – no planning from any person could have made the timing so perfect.  God was moving by the power of His Spirit on the band to pursue Him to the point of letting go of everything that seemed secure and safe in the music business into a world of abandon…. Desiring only to worship Jesus and to share it with the world.

TCP – Being credited with that – the popularity of Rock Worship – is significant in Christian Music circles.  Does that help you or hurt you, though, in making new music?  Does it make it easier to be accepted or does it make expectations too high?
Rick:  If I’m always trying to please everybody else, then I become paralyzed to what I feel the Lord is trying to do through us as a group.  Besides, I most likely have the highest of expectations of what the Lord can do through SONICFLOOd!  As far as the critics are concerned, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

TCP – Third Day (Offerings, Offerings II) and Michael W. Smith (Worship, Worship Again) followed SONICFLOOd’s 2000 Dove Award for Praise and Worship Album of the Year, with Doves of their own after forays into that genre.  Does SONICFLOOd get any satisfaction in seeing established artists follow your formula and receive such recognition?
Rick:  I pray that none of us (artists) are following a formula, but following the leading of the Holy Spirit. That said, I receive satisfaction when I hear about people being changed from the inside out because of the connection and interaction between a Holy God and His creation through this thing called ‘worship music’.

TCP – SONICFLOOd has literally been around the world, what has been some of the most memorable moments on the road?
Chris Kimmerer (Drums):  Riding elephants in Thailand, for sure!  The hungry church in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand will always stick out in my memory.  Holding onto little babies in a South African orphanage is also a pretty amazing memory.  Oh!  And then there was the time our tour bus caught on fire…while we were still inside!  Yikes.  The road offers a LOT of memories!

Rick:  Oh boy!  That is so hard cause we have seen so much that has changed all our lives forever.  We have been in the most diseased and filthy slums in India, South Africa, and Thailand and even though the children in those areas were in all kinds of pain, we were always greeted with the most beautiful smiles you could ever witness.  One orphanage in particular we were invited to was having their daily devotion time and when these children would sing their praises, they would sing with EVERY ounce of strength that they had – we were so overwhelmed by their passion and joy.

Justin Ostrander (Guitars):  The most memorable moment on the road for me was when we were in Chang Mai, Thailand, and we got to play an acoustic set at a small International School led by a few American families.  We played on a very small stage in front of a packed congregation in a tiny, very hot room.  The sound wasn't the best, and we were all playing on borrowed instruments, but God really moved that evening, and people were all going nuts worshipping. We had just played some really BIG shows in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, and to be honest, I didn’t think that a little acoustic show in Chang Mai would amount to much.  But then, God shows up and rocks the place.  It was awesome.

TCP – The current members have vast experiences with various other successful bands, how does that influence the music of SONICFLOOd?  Was it easy for each of them to adopt the full-on worship style of your music?
Chris: Certainly all the members of SONICFLOOd are great musicians!  I believe God has given each of us fantastic opportunities as musicians.  But it has come as a result of a lot of hard work and diligence; as well as sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  As far as "adapting" to the "style" of worship music, I believe that all the guys in SONICFLOOd are worshipers.  It is who we all are.  And it is who we encourage all of God's people to be.  Whether or not we're playing music that "sounds" like worship music or not; we are all worshippers!

Grant Norsworthy (Bass/Vocals):  I have found the transition from a “Christian” pop-rock band that mainly sung about our perspectives on God – to SONICFLOOd, a band that primarily invites the listener to sing along to songs that reach out in praise to God – (to be) pretty seamless.  I sure have learned a lot. What could possibly be a better reason to sing a song than to connect with the Creator of the universe?

Rick:  We are so blessed to have the immense amount of musical experience that’s available to us in the group; it gives us the freedom to focus more on what’s happening spiritually during the concerts and less on who’s playing what part.  I believe that worship starts in the heart and if it’s there, then it’s in your song. The Lord is always teaching us more and more of what our worship is supposed to feel like and sound like.

TCP – With the popularity of Praise & Worship today, is it hard to be different or come up with a “new sound”?
Rick:  Again it’s important to be true to what the Lord is doing in you no matter what’s going on around you.  It’s easy to get sucked into the thinking that you have to sound a certain way or look a certain way or alter yourself to what the latest trend is so that you will be accepted…. By who?  Our desire is to be faithful stewards of what the Lord has given us without tainting it with our insecurities.  Honesty is the best policy.

Grant: There are a lot of very creative people making this music.  We work hard to have a “SONICFLOOd” sound and display creativity worthy of the Creator.  But in the end, it’s simply more of Him and less of me that I need – much more than to be “different” or have a “new sound”.

TCP – How does SONICFLOOd find the balance in concert between promoting your records and promoting Jesus to the audience?
Chris:  Haha.  Most nights, I am pretty sure we forget we have records to promote!  I don't feel like any of us is holding out for the bottom line.  And so we're not really as concerned about the T-shirt or CD or picture you may buy on the way out of the show.  Instead, we're concerned about the Compassion child you may sponsor, or the things God has spoken to you that evening.  Balance?  We'll head out to the merchandise table after a concert just to hang out.  Most of the time it turns into prayer, hanging out, and making new friends!

Rick:  The focus is Jesus and if the focus becomes something other than Jesus then repent and get back on course with Jesus.  The Lord is the One who raises and lowers, promotes and demotes and if you delight yourself in Him then He will give you the desires of your heart.  We promote the Lord and then we make our albums available to the public through our record label whose gifting is getting the word out about our music.

TCP – Rick, besides playing a huge part in your testimony, how has battling Crohn’s disease affected your music?
Rick:  Dealing with any long-term illness puts things in the right perspective. You start to realize how fragile life really is and that the Lord is the only person who can take the pain away.  So when I’m writing music, I find that I come up with lyrics from the path the Lord has taken me down… a path of having dealt with pain or thoughts of suicide to having complete freedom and healing by His power.  I also have a great passion for seeing others experience the freedom that I’ve found in Jesus, so I write a lot about the Lord as the Greatest Healer in the world… reaffirming the Lord’s character toward the hurting and the broken.  My God is a Good Father who will never leave you or forsake you!

TCP – A distinguishing part of your concerts is your ministry time, when the band comes offstage to pray with members of the audience who come forward for prayer.  How did this ministry time evolve and what role does it play in your performances?
Grant:  The prayer that happens as part of a SONICFLOOd concert started happening in response to Rick’s leadership.  He just started doing it and we – the band – followed his lead.  It’s true that we now expect it to happen, but it’s not an overly thought-out or premeditated thing.  Often I will just pray with people, rather than for them.  Sometimes I get someone to pray for me.  It’s a powerful time, hopefully where we can get out of the way and see God move.

Rick:  I love to share my testimony of how the Lord has healed me – heart, soul, mind and strength and then invite whomever forward for prayer for whatever.  It’s a time we don’t take lightly because we believe in the power of prayer and we also believe that the Lord is there to do His wonders!  The prayer time was something that we started one night during a sonicpraise event in Nashville.  So when I went from playing bass to singing lead, back in 2000, I made it a permanent fixture in every event from that day forward.  In Rev. 12:11, the Word says that we “will overcome the evil one by the word of our testimony and by the blood of the Lamb” and so I desire to encourage others of the hope that is Jesus for those who believe on Him – He forgives all our sins and He heals ALL our diseases! – Ps.103

TCP – SONICFLOOd just finished a 56-city tour in 2006 with the International Mission Board and has played numerous overseas concerts. Can you tell us about SONICFLOOd’s commitment to international missions?
Chris:  We're called to go out into the world and love on people.  America gets a lot of love.  Even Canada gets some love.  But so often the poor and the needy are in corners of the earth that we may not even think to look in.  We have been fortunate enough to see a lot of those places, and hugged a lot of unhugged people.  "Stay the course" says the Holy Spirit – and WHAM!  Another 5 weeks in Asia!

Rick:  Our commitment is to our Lord, Jesus Christ and where He leads – we will follow.  Throughout SONICFLOOd’s history we have had many opportunities to go all around the world – round and round again – and take the Good News of Jesus to just about every continent.  Our travels have changed us, taking us out of our comforts and conveniences and as a result our faith in Jesus has grown.  Our desire is the same for every brother and sister in Christ that they will go where they are called and live passionate lives of love in the Power of the Holy Spirit for Jesus…. Let Him lead you and experience life abundant forever!

What equipment does each member of the band use?

Rick Heil, vocals:

Mics: Sennheiser wireless mic – ew365G2
Guitars: Gibson SG metallic blue guitar
Amps: Gibson Firebird VII Marshall Amp – plexi 50watt through a 4/12 slant cabinet

Chris Kimmerer, drums:

Drums: Ludwig Drums exclusively.  Currently, 2-26" Vistalite Kick Drums, 14/16/18" Vistalite Toms, Black Beauty Snares.
Cymbals: Sabian Cymbals exclusively.  Currently, 15" HHX Groove Hats, 19"
Vault Crash, 18" Evolution Crash, 18" O-Zone Crash, 20" Medium Vault Ride.
Sticks: Pro-Mark drum sticks exclusively.  Currently, T-808 W model.
Mics:  Sennheiser Mics exclusively.  Currently, e901, e902, e905, e908, e914, e602.
Monitors:  Westone in-ear monitors.

Justin Ostrander, guitar/vocals:

Guitars: Gibson, Fender, and Don Grosh guitars
Amps: Gabriel Sound Garage amps.

Grant Norsworthy, bass:

Bass Guitars:
1974 Fender Precision 4 string with Hipshot D tuner
1991 Ernie Ball Stingray 5 string with Hipshot D tuner
Cort SJ-B Acoustic Bass
Gallien-Krueger 1001 RB-II heads with Neo 4X12 speaker cabinets

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