After taking a near-fatal dose of cocaine, Joseph Rojas found salvation in the back of an ambulance. The frontman/guitarist of popular Christian rockers Seventh Day Slumber experienced a troubled childhood in the housing projects of Victoria, Texas. His mom bought him a guitar to try to keep him out of trouble, but it took the life-altering experience of a drug overdose on his own living room floor to wake Rojas to Christianity, to God, and later to Christian rock music with a message.
“Don’t ever give up,” Rojas said recalling his painstaking battle with addiction. “There were times I was trying to quit, even before I gave my life to Christ, and it just seemed so big. It seemed so overwhelming and huge, that even if I wanted to quit, I couldn’t. That’s where the thoughts of suicide came in.”
Turning to God gave Rojas the strength he needed to not only kick his addiction but became the inspiration for Seventh Day Slumber. The Dallas-based Christian rock group will headline Saturday’s Rock the Park festival at Metzger Park Amphitheater in Louisville.
“Giving my life to Jesus, I didn’t have to do it on my own anymore,” he said. “Sometimes problems are too big to handle on your own, but they’re not too big for God.”
Seventh Day Slumber formed in 1996. Within a few years, the band found itself on a major label. In 2005, their “Once Upon a Shattered Life” album hit No. 1 on the Billboard Heetseekers Albums chart. The band’s latest album, “Found,” was released in late July drawing rave reviews charting via both Billboard and Christian SoundScan.
Just prior to major label success, Seventh Day Slumber found itself in a unique position of balancing their faith with the temptations of mainstream success.
Here, Rojas talks about that challenge, the specific event that helped inspire the band’s hit song, “Oceans from the Rain,” as well as the positive message of Seventh Day Slumber prior to the band’s local appearance.
Q. When did you first start playing guitar?
A. “I got my first guitar when I was 12. My mother ordered in through a Sears/Roebuck catalog. It was just an outlet for me. I was getting in trouble a lot, and she bought it for me so I would have something to do. I was self-taught. I was learning cover songs, Metallica and Stone Temple Pilots, other stuff I was listening to at the time. I didn’t know there was Christian rock music.”
Q. How have your influences changed over the years?
A. “I have a lot of respect for all the bands in this industry who make music for kids to be able to listen to and rock out, but the message of hope is there. But I don’t like just rock music. On my phone, my playlist is anything from Casting Crowns to Chris Tomlin to Skillet to POD. It’s all over the spectrum. Our music is influenced by our worship style and not just rock.”
Q. Is it a challenge to balance the music with the message? Sometimes it seems like the focus with Christian rock bands tends to be the tag of “Christian rock” itself, more than the music.
A. “We still write about hurt and pain. I want our music to be honest and open. For me, I went through a lot of hurt as a kid. I was a drug addict with no hope in my life. I ended up with a $400 a day cocaine addiction. I was in and out of jails and institutions. When I was 18, my mother gave her life to Jesus. I decided to commit suicide at the age of 22. In the back of an ambulance, I gave my life to Jesus.
You’ll hear my story and us relating to a lot of kids who are hurting, and it’s not just to teenagers but also adults as well. Maybe it’s not drugs or alcohol. Maybe it’s divorce or something else that’s happened to them where they’re hurting. We want to make sure we speak to that hurt.
“The problem with bands I used to listen to, they meet teenagers where they’re at. Teenagers are angry or are hurting, and they’re going through it. But the problem is, there’s no solution. What I feel like is different with Seventh Day Slumber, is we’ve always spoke to the hurt and the pain and the struggle and the anxiety, but we also paint Christ as the solution to those things that are holding you back and keeping you down in your life. We feel like it’s important to also write about the struggles we go through as Christian men. We’re not perfect, and we make mistakes. The message of hope is always there, but we won’t want to look like we don’t make any mistakes or have any hurt in our own lives, because we do.”
Q. With songs like “Oceans from the Rain” and “Surrender,” did you sense you had something special during the writing process?
A. “With ‘Oceans from the Rain’ specifically, we really did. We were sitting in a beat-up old bus in Arkansas waiting for the venue to open so we could load in. We had just signed our first record deal. We were sitting there saying, ’Now that we’ve got this label, we’re gonna make it. Now that we’re recording in a million dollar studio, we’re gonna make it. Now that we’ve got management, now we’re gonna make it.’ We realized something in that bus. We began to feel ashamed that we put more trust in a label and a management company and a studio and a producer than we did in Jesus. ‘He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.’ (Philippians 1:6)
“God doesn’t just start something and not finish it. We repented that day and said a pretty scary prayer. It was, ‘God, if this ever becomes about anything other than you, take it away from us.’ We’ve always made sure to keep him first. We’ve made mistakes along the way, but we’ve never sold God out for money or a chance at mainstream fame or whatever other temptations that come along for what we do in our industry.”
Reach B.J. at 330-580-8314 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @BLiskoREP