Tooth & Nail: A Story 20 Years In The Making
Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO.
I started “working” with the Christian music industry as a bit of a music nut. My youth leader had done a good but somewhat limited job of introducing me to Christian music. Meanwhile, my college music experience had exploded; a ton of people were on my hall, all with their own music collection.
Get the 1 hour Tooth and Nail documentary DVD in YLO 100!
My beginnings in the industry mirrored a lot of teens at the time: I knew the big names, but where were the Christian bands that would meet my need for New Wave, Metal, or Rap? I didn’t expect Petra or Steve Camp to become something they weren’t, but I was hungry to find music “outside” what I knew in the industry. Then I came across Frontline Records, and I started to hear some of the sounds that I needed. My hunger for heavy or strange music began to be satisfied when those kinds of albums showed up in the selections for Youth Leaders Only.
At a Youth Specialties conference in San Francisco (not the huge ones you know of now—it was so small that all the booths were in a tent in the parking lot of the hotel, and there actually was a shrub in our booth space) I was walking around looking at the t-shirts, greeting other ministry people I knew, and then I encountered a booth that said “Tooth & Nail Records.” I looked down at their table and saw one CD. As I met and talked to this guy named Brandon, I discovered that he had just split off from working at Frontline, so my desire to hear what was on that CD sparked.
The band was Wish for Eden, but the album name and artwork was the catchy “Pet the Fish.” As I put it in my CD player, I was hooked. Deep and heavy, it was the music I was looking for (and I knew kids were looking for it as well.) Pet the Fish went into the YLO box and our relationship with T&N was started. At that time, interlínc was going to many student conferences, introducing students to new music. For two whole years, it never failed—we would put on “Green” from Pet the Fish and students would rush our table. “Who is that?!?” they would ask.
We would put headphones on them and let them browse other cuts from the album. They would almost always smile big, take off the headphones and ask, “What else do you have?”
For the next few years, Tooth & Nail albums were a staple in our YLO box. We were very happy to have someone making music for kids. Some youth leaders weren’t quite ready for T&N’s move into genres that other Christian record companies were reluctant to serve. I remember having to put a warning on our Bible study for the group Chatterbox. The crazy thing was, even though the youth leaders weren’t ready, the kids were. I was stoked to see kids trade out their Nine Inch Nails CDs for Chatterbox.
One of the best, and polarizing, bands we served and shared with our youth leaders was Demon Hunter. I still remember a youth leader telling me, “Mark, if you put another Demon Hunter CD in my box, I’m cancelling my subscription.” I worked to calm him down a bit, and said,
“Remember the value that you are getting. If you take one of your CDs and stick it in your desk drawer, it’s still worth the membership.” He calmed down, agreed with me, and took to heart shoving Demon Hunter CDs in his desk drawer. A couple years later he found me at a conference and said he HAD to share a story with me. He went on to share how one Wednesday night, one of his student brought a friend. This friend walked in with the full-metal wardrobe, piercings, etc. The youth leader said he didn’t quite know how to connect with this student. Then a voice said, “What’s in your desk drawer?” He went and retrieved the CDs, approached the student, and explained how he had these CDs with music he couldn’t stand, but that the student might like. The student took the CDs and then started coming to youth group. Demon Hunter had become their connection!
Get the “No New Kind of Story” DVD in YLO 100!
There is a long list of T&N bands, fun cover art, great videos, and multiple thousands of kids in youth ministries that discovered and devoured music that built up their faith. Thanks, T&N, for your faithfulness to find bands and music that kids wanted. Thanks for being renegade.