There's a sly smile that highlights Paisley Yankolovich's face. It's the kind of bemused calm of knowing that the Christian performance artist's journey with Jesus is less a sunset-showered walk on the beach than an adrenaline-pumping roller coaster that invites people to hop on and throw up their hands at each hairpin turn.
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Yankolovich's own life has never been a straight line between points A and B: "I had no intention of doing gospel music," he says. "I went to bed one night realizing I was going to quit my job." Once he was all in, it was all about pursuing his mission from God in a way that was as passionate and exciting as the bands and artists of his formative years in the Hollywood underground scene — a sharp contrast to the sterility of most Christian music. "If we're dealing with the creator of the universe," he ponders, "why is our creative process so boring and derivative?"
Yankolovich's music is indie-electro-pop with solid dashes of industrial influence. His unique singing voice — more affable, growl-tinged Muppet than Marilyn Manson — carves out his complex spiritual life in words. With his DIY ethic, he's gone freebie platinum, figuring that he's distributed over a million albums between handing them to folks and having them downloaded from his Web site (www.paisleyyankolovich.com). He casts his net even wider, constantly reaching out to fans and potential listeners on MySpace via his page, www.myspace.com/paisleyyankolovich.
Noting that he probably wasn't the only black sheep looking to flock with others, he created his Church Diverse ministry to reach out. Raising children with his partner, Bob, Yankolovich understands the ups and downs of a Christian life a little less ordinary. At Church Diverse services, held at the Alternative Health & Wellness Center in central Phoenix, Yankolovich isn't a fire-and-brimstone preacher as much as he's an evangelistic Eddie Izzard with the charm, sidebar humor, energy, and fashion sense that implies. The church regulars are a devoted bunch who warmly praise Pais' ability to weave his knowledge of scripture (he's studied extensively with some of the best-regarded Biblical scholars) into sermons that move beyond parroting straight-from-Jesus'-mouth red letters.
Yankolovich has proclaimed himself the most controversial Christian musician in the world, but it's not a matter of being on the fringe as much as it is just being himself. Simply, he says, "I have found the most effective way for me to make Jesus relatable to people."