Meet The Whosoevers: the men who baptise rockstars
The Whosoevers recently baptised Of Mice & Men's Austin Carlile, but who are they?
The Whosoevers are a punk rock Christian group based in southern California, who give talks at high schools, rehab centres and churches. Korn’s Fieldy and Head are involved, and it was co-founded by Ryan Ries, who recently baptised Of Mice & Men’s Austin Carlile. We spoke to Ryan to find out how it came about, and why it’s the most rock ’n’ roll religious movement around.
What is The Whosoevers?
“It’s a movement that was started in 2009. I was on a trip to Israel with the lead singer from P.O.D, Sonny Sandoval, and he told me about this name, ‘The Whosoevers’, and said he saw it as a worldwide movement. I had a history of managing a professional skateboard team and working in the music industry doing festivals, and I told him, ‘Yeah, this is something we can start.’ Four months earlier, I had OD’d in a hotel room on cocaine and Xanax on a skateboard tour in Panama City, before I found God.”
How did you end up OD’ing?
“That was actually the third time I’d OD’d in a hotel room. I was living the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, having fun. I started off partying old school when I was 13, smoking weed and drinking forties. The evolution of that lifestyle progressed, and then 18 years later, there I am using heroin, smoking crack and doing cocaine. By that point, I'd already lost 16 friends to drug overdoses and suicide. So I was 32 and I knew that I had to make changes in my life. Even though I was making tons of money and travelling the world for a living, I was going to end up dead.”
What happened on that night?
“Adrian Lopez, a professional skateboarder, walked in and found me with cocaine all over my face and a ball of coke on the counter, and he started trying to wake me up and cocaine was coming out of nose. He called my dad and said, ‘Hey, we think we’ve lost your son’, so my parents started praying, and by God's grace I came out of it in the morning. I stole the Bible from my hotel room, jumped on a plane to LAX, and read it for six hours straight. When I landed, I felt peace for the first time in my life.”
How did Korn get involved with the movement?
“When I got home from that Panama trip, I went to a Christian bookshop to buy a Bible, and I saw a picture of Head on the front cover of his book called Save Me From Myself. Growing up, I didn't listen to Korn, so I'm like, ‘Who's this guy?’ He stood out. And they told me he was the guitar player. I got his book, and it was like reading my own life. When Head gave his life to Jesus, he ended up calling Sonny from POD, and told him what was going on – he was the first point of contact. So when Sonny and I started The Whosoevers, we were going to go out and speak in Las Vegas, and I asked him to invite Head out to chill. Then I called Lacey [Sturm, ex-Flyleaf singer]. At the speaking engagement, I invited everyone up to tell their stories. And that was the birth of The Whosoevers movement.”
So what do The Whosoevers actually do?
“Me and Sonny just went around telling our stories – at rehab, at high schools, pretty much anywhere they'd let us have concerts. And then it turned into this snowball effect, and started building. More people started finding their identity in it. On Thursday and Sunday nights, I teach ‘Punk Rock Jesus Stories’. I teach the gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – basically, all the stories of Jesus. I study it, and then I break it down and make it very simple to understand. I do a webcast, I do a radio show, and I have a little venue I teach it at, where people come in – skateboarders, tattoo artists, musicians. If you've got tattoos on your face, you're not going to stand out.”
Are you a rock 'n' roll Christian group?
“I don't like to pigeonhole ourselves, but if you look at the people who founded it and started it, it's people in the music industry, skateboard industry, surf industry – it's all the subcultures. We all overlap each other. At the end of the day, it is rock 'n' roll at the roots of it.”
Why do you think people should get involved?
“No matter what you're going through in life, God has created you with a purpose, and I think they key to life is that we find the reason why we were created. I would dig in, and don't get caught up in religion and what you've been force-fed, because most likely it's not true. Do your own homework, get the Bible, read the gospel of John, and see what Jesus has to say to you personally. I think Christ has been misrepresented to culture, but he is real and he is alive.”