Paul David Simmons interview
By: Pieter van Wingerden
Date: July 25, 2004
Pieter van Wingerden: It's been almost a year now since you've joined the band. Can you describe how it has affected you personally to be a part of Petra?
Paul Simmons: It has been, and is, such a blessing to be a part of this band. The guys have become like family to me. I am part of something that has history. These guys paved the way for Christian rock, that's pretty cool. I am very grateful to be in a situation where I can use one of the gifts God gave me, and share about His grace at the same time. This is new for me, and I thank God everyday!
Also, the people I get to meet and talk to are amazing. We are in this together, you know. I believe God wants us to be happy and trust Him. And to hear how He works in other people's lives gives me strength. Petra is the most fun I have ever had!
How did you end up being in Petra?
A good friend of mine named Dan Rudin, who is an amazing recording engineer, was working with Petra. I've known Dan for years. Anyway, he knew they were looking for a drummer, and told them about me. He wasn't sure what I was doing, but I think he knew how God had been working in my life and probably thought I would be a good candidate. So I got a call one day from Wayne [Seboa], Petra's manager, about the audition. I was on tour with the Shack Shakers, and didn't think I would be able to do it.
The thought kept going through my mind … PETRA … that just might be something I needed to try and experience. I had known who Petra is, of course, but never really KNEW, you know.
I wanted to try out. I had to fly to Nashville from Detroit after a show, at 5 a.m. I drove to the audition, jammed with the the guys (whom I had never met, by the way) and caught another plane to Cleveland to do a show that night. WOW! It was wild. Plus, I learned the wrong songs for the audition. It was funny, but the guys were great.
We played Creed, The Noise We Make, Amazing Grace, then I learned Jekyll & Hyde and we played through that, too. I was blown away by the new record!
About a week later Wayne called with the good news, and I am having the time of my life. This is the short version...ha ha ha
Can you tell something about your musical experience prior to Petra? Did you play in other bands? What kind of bands?
I have been playing drums for about 27 years now. I grew up playing with my brothers Mike (guitar) and Jamie (bass) in Metal bands doing our own songs and cover songs too. We learned a lot from each other. I also played on the road with the band Black Oak Arkansas in the mid 80's. And many many bands in Nashville, doing records and shows, anything to play. I also thank God everyday for never leaving my side while I tried to live my life on my own all those years. Not long ago I was playing with a band called Th' Legendary Shack Shakers, touring all over, and recording as well. Great band! Those guys are good friends to me. I had to take a break from touring with them, because it was getting hard to do. Lots of club shows, and I have a hard time these days in the clubs. I feel very isolated sometimes, and it hurts my heart. I was feeling like God had something else for me to do, And they understood completely. Good friends!
It sounds like Petra is your first Christian band. Have you been a Christian for a long time? Can you tell something about your religious and family background?
I grew up going to church, but never really gave my life to God. My family life was great growing up. We have a close family, and I am very grateful.
When I was about 15 years old, I was playing in a band and I thought I would be a rock star soon. I was living my way, so to speak. So I didn't go to church anymore, moved to L.A., played music, worked many jobs, moved back home, went on the road, started drinking and drugging, and lost sight of what real happiness is. I was trying to fill myself with things of the world, instead of God's love for me.
Let's just say God had a better plan for me, and saved me from myself. That was about 5 years ago. My life is so much better today! God removed the desire to drink and drug from me. He is showing me that I can depend on Him and trust Him with all my problems, and my joys too. I have been in many bands, and always wanted to be positive, but this is my first Christian band.
Over the past year, Petra has had a few special events. Tell me about how you experienced the following shows:
The live TV-recording with TBN in September 2003
That was fun! Although, it was one of my first shows with the band and I was a bit conservative. I think we get better and better the more we play together.
The awards ceremony in Mexico City in October 2003
That was my first time in Mexico City. That place is HUGE! I was amazed. The people were very friendly, and it was an honor to be there. John sang Jekyll & Hyde in Spanish (kinda) ha ha!
The European tour in June 2004 (Is it any different from playing in the US?)
I love going different places, and experiencing different cultures. One very cool thing about Petra is that we have a long history, and people all over the world have a Petra story.
The reunion concert June 12, 2004, when you replaced Bill Glover of the original Petra
I had a great time doing that show. I wasn't sure I was going to play with the original lineup until a few days before we got there. So I learned the songs on the way from Switzerland, and made a lot of notes. Those guys were writing some amazing stuff in the 70's. I'm glad I was able to do it. But I wish Bill could have been there, too.
At Petra shows you usually play a drum solo. Can you tell how you prepare to do a drum solo and what it means for you to play a solo?
Well, I never know what is going to happen when I do a solo. I just go for it. I want to work out something with Greg, to make it more of a musical piece. That would be cool, I think. When I do solo, I am hoping that people enjoy it. I love when a drummer does a solo, but then again, I'm a drummer. :) What do you think?
We've heard Petra is working on some new material. Are there already plans for a new studio album? Can you tell something about the musical direction Petra is taking?
We are all working on ideas right now. I have my drums set up at my house, and record my ideas there. Kinda rough them out. And we will definately be rocking, that is for sure.
What is your vision for Petra's ministry? What are your dreams for Petra?
I hope we can continue to play for people, and pray with people, for a long time. I just want to please God, and be willing to go where He takes me.