Christian Guitarist Fights Liver Disease With Faith, Metal

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It amuses the assistant editor of this blog to assign the stories about Christian musicians to the former Satanist. Still even our dark, bitter heart is moved by the words of Houston's own Billy Vaughn.

Vaughn, who was recently feature in Christian metal magazine Heaven's Metal, is the lead guitarist and founder of Shining Force. He is also suffering from Hepatitis C and late-stage cirrhosis of the liver, and is rapidly on the way to a transplant.

Nonetheless, Vaughn's faith and his music continue to pull him through his health crisis, and he is planning on releasing a solo CD featuring guest vocalists like Jimmy Brown of Deliverance, Rey Parra of Sacred Warrior and and Rex Carroll of Whitecross. $1 from each of the forthcoming CD's sales will be donated to liver-disease research.

With so much going on in his life, we were honored Vaughn took a moment to sit down with Rocks Off.

Rocks Off: Has your illness affected the way you perform or write music at all, or perhaps the content?

Billy Vaughn: Yes, it has affected the way I play guitar. Due to the combination of liver disease and medication taken, there are severe cramping in my hands, feet and arms. I may not be able to play in the future, but will continue to do my best and hang in there. My speed has slowed down, I'm not as quick as before.

At times, it is extremely hard to stand onstage and make it through an entire set. By God's grace, I am able to make it through.

RO: Would you say that your music is the soundtrack to a struggle, or to a sense of acceptance?

BV: I would say neither. My music is a message of hope to others that have this disease. It is a message that God does not change, he is still the same. God stands by us through the bad times as well as the good. He is the same God that healed in the past and still heals today. We may change but God never does.

RO: How supportive are the other Shining Force members about your condition?

BV: The members of Shining Force are very supportive. Randy Dickey is like my brother, he continues to encourage me and says my healing is coming. Ralph Mendez worries about me all the time. He says, "Bill, if you're feeling bad then we need to cancel a show." All members put me first before a show.

David and Dan are always praying for me, my health and my family. Richard says, "Billy if you can't do the show or your hands start cramping just stop playing and I will take over from there." I've never stopped playing during a show, I always keep going. People come to hear us as a group and that is what we give them.

RO: What came first for you, music or religion?

BV: t was Jesus first, I don't believe in Religion. Religious people try to make a name for a church or any type of religious group. I am a nondenomination[al] Christian. In fact, we are all Christians whether it be Catholic, Baptist or any religious group. I put Jesus first, before the name of a religious group.

After I became a Christian, I asked God to teach me to play the guitar. I told God I would play the guitar to worship him and that is what I have done since he taught me. There have been a few pointers from my friend Mike Heald and Rudy Ochoa.

RO: If you had the chance to play one song in a private concert for God, which one would you play and why?

BV: The first song that comes to mind and stays, is Kari Jobe's song titled "Revelation Song." This is a song that worships Jesus who is God and gives him honor glory and thanks. It's a beautiful song and I listen to it when I feel sick or just down. This song helps me to understand that Jesus is in control at all times.

RO: What can you say through your solo CD that you may not be able to say through your work with Shining Force?

BV: Nothing much, just that Christians help each other and help those who are in need. God's people will come to the rescue of their own brothers and sisters and help anyone who seeks answers. We have an answer to those who are hurting and that are sick. The answer is Jesus heals broken hearts, does miracles and can do all things if you give him a chance.

RO: Will your solo work affect the release of the new Shining Force album?

BV: The release date for the Shining Force CD should be in about three more months. My solo CD will not be released until the end of spring or beginning of summer. My donation money from the solo CD will be going to the American Liver Foundation for research for chronic Hepatitis C and last stages of cirrhosis of the liver.

Rocks Off wishes Vaughn a speedy recovery.

Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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