“We call ourselves ‘Christians who play music,'” says drummer Ted Kirkpatrick, mastermind behind the highly successful Christian metal band Tourniquet. This power-metal trio has released ten top-selling albums since 1990, yet still holds an underground audience. “Some Christian traditionalists would say that we’re playing evil cut-time rhythms and distorted guitars tuned down to B with yelling vocals,” Kirkpatrick says. “But to us it’s just notes. What counts is the lyrical content, and mainly what our lives portray. That’s really what shows whether we’re genuine or not.”
Tourniquet’s music goes way beyond traditional Christian music concepts and extends much further than the basic metal format. Kirkpatrick is a self-taught drummer, guitarist, and keyboardist, and he writes most of the music and lyrics for the band. Yet he doesn’t read a note of music. He’s also a huge classical music fan. “A lot of the guitar riffs I write have a definite drumming influence in that they’re very rhythmic,” he says. “In fact, they seem to have become a trademark of the band’s sound.”
As for other musical inspiration, Ted mentions some of the masters. “Neil Peart was certainly an influence on my playing,” he says. “I learned to play practically every Rush song. Another major impact on my drumming came from watching Carl Palmer on television doing a drum solo on ‘Karn Evil 9’ back in the ’70s. And I’ve really learned a lot about being an aggressive drummer from watching Simon Phillips, more so than anyone else. That type of progressive approach also helped to teach me how to think of the drumset as a musical instrument and not just a noisy timekeeper.”
Kirkpatrick is also a world traveler in search of rare butterflies and insects, which he says counters his hectic metal career. His travels have taken him to Papua, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Amazon Basin of western Brazil, and beyond. “I’ve been to places where they’ve never seen a white person before,” Kirkpatrick states. “I have no choice but to stay in top physical shape with the kind of music we play. Climbing mountains and chasing insects and butterflies through swamps keeps me physically fit. It’s very therapeutic as well. The sounds of the jungle help in creating new song ideas. I do a lot of my writing in the jungle.
“Many of our lyrics simply focus on what we all struggle with as a human race,” Ted adds. “We’re just trying to open people up to think a little deeper about why we’re all here.”