An Interview with Transform DJs

YS_Interview_NOV16

Fusing electronic beats with a Christ-centered message, Transform DJs are known for their high-energy concerts that captivate audiences internationally. The raving trio from Denver, Colorado is comprised of DJ Omni (Tim Heil), DJ Jonathan Burgess, and Taylor Franklyn. Here, the group shares about their debut album, Never Alone (2015), and their missionary endeavors as Transform DJs.

PM: How does Electronic Dance Music (EDM) stand apart from other genres?

Taylor: The primary difference between EDM and a lot of other genres is that we make everything using the computer and synthesizers, as opposed to tracking and recording music live.

Jonathan: We’ll still track a live vocalist, we’ll still record our own vocals and—once in awhile—we’ll add samples of other real instruments, but primarily it’s electronic.

Taylor:  So many people are attracted to EDM because of how huge it sounds and how you can really craft the sounds to convey a specific emotion. You’re not stuck with any specific guitar sound or anything like that. You can shape it and create something completely unique and original.

PM: Music artist David Thulin spoke about your band, saying “Transform DJs have figured out how to worship Jesus while clapping hard to EDM bangers.” How do you do that?

Jonathan: That’s a great question. I think that we worship Jesus by choosing to turn our focus, our lives, and our gaze upon Him regardless of what we’re doing, regardless of a specific genre, doing whatever it is that we’re doing in life. Typically in churches there’s some form of music, whether that be hymns, rock bands, or something else.

We’ve just taken what we already do and continued that process, but now it’s a new style of music. That’s really the heart of it. We’re honoring Him through something that we love.

At our shows it’s a big, massive party and we have lots of people dancing. It’s high energy and everybody’s celebrating. But then we bring that same style of music that everybody’s singing and dancing to, and we have lyrics on the screen. We have lyrics being sung or played through this huge sound system with traditional worship songs that everybody knows—like Jesus Culture, Breaks Every Chain, No Longer Slaves—and now this party has turned into a massive worship party, and people are along for a ride on the wave. That’s how we express it practically, but we really feel that we can worship God with anything.

Tim: As Transform DJs, we have three pillars: Jesus, Life, and Worship. The worship pillar is what Jon’s talking about, where we worship Jesus through the music. From an engaging standpoint, we’ll play songs that people know and play remixes of those songs. So, even for the people who may not know about dance music or they may not even like it that much, they can at least engage in the sense of, “Oh, I know this song. I see the words on the screen, it kind of feels like what I’m doing at church so I can at least engage on that level.”

PM: Awesome! I read of your most recent tour to South Africa. Tell us about your experience there and how your music is received internationally.

Taylor: South Africa was amazing. Like any tour, it’s always a lot of work. It’s more than just showing up and playing music. We got to do some awesome outreach. We did a set in the middle of a market in downtown Johannesburg. It was awesome because it was in the open, outside of some restaurants, and people would just come up and start listening to it.

Jonathan: We were working with the church called Cornerstone. They have multiple sites and there’s one in this uptown area. There are a lot of international people there, so it’s this great opportunity to share the news about the church.

We were passing out information, saying: “Hey, just around the block is where the church is.” We not only did a public set, we did a worship set inside the church. We were there inviting people to church, passing out tracks, and sharing our heart for other issues as well. It was a pretty powerful time.

We also went into schools and did the chapels and invited those kids out to the youth group. Some of them came out to the church concert as well—which is our heart. We invited kids who would not normally hear about Jesus out to a concert.

Taylor: From the shows we’ve played and through the conversations we’ve had with people, I think our music has been very well received internationally—maybe even more so than in the United States.

Jonathan: We just put our first album out in October. We’ve had a lot of people loving the album, but a lot of our tour happened even before it was released. So when people saw us, the energy, the reaction, and the crowd, it was very positive and exciting.

PM: I read of your strong message of defending the defenseless. What makes you so passionate about this cause?

Jonathan: Over time, I’ve realized that it’s just Christianity lived out. Our primary thing is to see people come to know Jesus and salvation. Jesus told us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, as the greatest commandment. But then He offers a second, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves. So we don’t want to neglect loving our neighbors. We might ask, “Who is our neighbor?” We might ask who is the “least of these” (Matthew 25)? We look at these examples Jesus gave, and oftentimes, they’re the weakest or the unlikely.

We recognize that there’s a portion of our society that literally has no voice. In an effort to live out our Christianity, we don’t want to neglect the weakest who have no voice. We believe one of these groups is our pre-born neighbors. They’re image bearers of God as well. We want to defend them, be with them, give them a voice. Other groups that are subjected to injustice—most of the time—can speak up and rally, or different groups can try to gather or organize. But the unborn literally are counting on us. And if they’re counting on the world, they’re definitely counting on believers in Christ who are living our their Christianity. If we can be faithful to loving Jesus with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbors, I think we can make it—we can make an impact to the pre-born.

If we could just do a party, then we come up short. If we have people have a good time, we come up short. But if we lead people to Jesus, if we can defend the pre-born and raise up an army, to literally call for the immediate abolition of abortion, and we can lead God’s people into worship in spirit and in truth, then we have accomplished what we want to accomplish: Jesus, Life, Worship.

PM: Amazing! What is your favorite Bible verse?

Tim: Tranform Djs’ Scripture is Romans 12:2—“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). That’s always there. But my personal favorite verse was always Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” I used that growing up. I was very active in sports my whole life. I often had people doubting I could do certain things. And I always used that as a motivation to push myself, but also to use the gifts that I did have to give glory to God. I played basketball through university and Philippians 4:13 was always one of my key verses.

Taylor: My favorite verse is definitely is Psalm 33:3 (NIV), “Sing to Him a new song: play skillfully, and shout for joy.” It’s a massive part of the reason why I continue to make music and help other people make music, because I believe that is very important. And I like to emphasize “a new song.” With Christian music, it’s easy to get sucked into playing the same handful of popular Christian worship songs again and again. Part of our goal is to create fresh new music for the Lord.

Jonathan: My favorite verse is Matthew 28:20b (NIV) “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The reason why is because I’ve always been very motivated as an evangelist. And evangelists typically really hang on to what’s been called the Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-19. Those verses are very famous, as they should be. But tucked in off the back of that Great Commission is a promise that no matter where we go, how we find ourselves, what our circumstances are, that He is with us always to the very end of the age. With Christ, we never have to be alone again. That’s the inspiration—at least in part—for the name of our recent album, Never Alone. And that’s the message we try to get out with Never Alone: He is with us and it’s a promise. With Him, we’re never alone.

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Captain Pamela Maynor, Editor