Stepping from the tube at Ravenscourt Station, a figure waited to greet me. Six foot tall with grey shoulder length hair, draped in a long leather matrix style jacket with bulky doc martins peeking out beneath a pair of black flairs. Not what I expected the local church minister to look like but, then again, Darren Hirst is not your conventional pastor.
Religion wasn’t his first calling in life – rock music was. Ever since the tender age of twelve when he bought his first Eagles poster he has been amerced in the culture. He then decided to turned his passion in to a career by becoming a Music Journalist at the age of seventeen. Ten years later, after being introduced to the bible, he decided to give up writing to become a minister, that was until one of his idols presented him with an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
“I was half way through Bible College when I got a phone call from a member of the Eagles, he said that he had some of my previous work and wanted me to travel with them and review their world tour. I thought, well I’m at this college where everybody already thinks that I’m weird so I might as well go for it and be really, really weird” laughs Darren.
Now many people would assume that the party lifestyle associated with rock music would be the reason he initially wanted to quit. After all, the ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ persona is a stark contrast to the lifestyle of a church minister. However, that wasn’t even an issue for Darren, it was the reputation associated with Journalism that caused him to consider leaving it behind.
“You only have to turn your television on to see the practices in some of your biggest newspapers are pretty seedy. I mean, look at the scandal surrounding the News of the World with phone hacking. Obviously those stories came a lot later but it was still the same situation back then of the media treating people pretty badly.”
Fortunately for Darren he reached a point in his career where people started asking him to write for them. In fact, his strict religious beliefs have only helped to enhance his career in music journalism rather than hinder it.
“The thing was, when people first started calling me after I had given up being a journalist, the reason was that I was training for the ministry and working for the church at the same time and to some degree it makes you appear more trust worthy.”
He is now trusted on such a level that he often spends his evenings in musicians dressing rooms. No, not partying with a host of bikini clad ladies after a concert but offering advice and counselling sessions to those on the road.
“People started asking me questions and the majority of them don’t live near my church where I can provide them with answers. They also spend about six months out of twelve on tour and are in a different town every night so I told them that they can ring me or I can come to their dressing room to talk if something is bothering them.”
Still, you could imagine a Priest wanting to sit in a room with the likes of Ozzy Osborne while he tucks in to a bats head, or Alice Cooper who performs stage acts which involve being stabbed with a fake hypodermic needle on stage… could you? Surprisingly Darren did just that. Well okay, he didn’t witness Ozzy Osborne bite off a rodents head but he did strike up an unlikely friendship with Alice Cooper whilst working on a project.
“The background of it was that he had an album and I was involved in putting together some sort of strategy of how we would present it to the public.” says Darren
“The album is called ‘Along Came A Spider’ and there is a story within the album of this guy who is a serial killer and his thing is that he kidnaps women and murders them and then cuts one leg off of every victim until he has eight legs which he uses to create a spider.”
You might be wondering how on earth a Christian minister could form a close friendship with a rock performer who writes songs about serial killers dismembering bodies. However, through working with Alice Cooper, Darren soon realised that there is a lot more to him than meets the eye and they actually share a distinct similarity.
“I could relate to Alice as he told me that he is a Sunday School Teacher in his home town and is very religious but gets viewed strangely for not conforming to the look or lifestyle of a stereotypical Christian.”
However, you shouldn’t feel too sorry for Darren as his rather unorthodox lifestyle hasn’t stopped him gaining a hoard of celebrity friends. As I perch on his sofa surrounded by posters and rare band memorabilia, he casually drops in to conversation that I am sat in the very spot that Jarvis Cocker was sat in just two weeks prior enjoying a cup of tea.
“What can I say, I just love music. When I was a kid my bedroom wall would be covered in posters and one of the weird things for me is that those people who were on my wall when I was eighteen and nineteen are my close friends now which is nice.” Looking around he laughs before adding “I don’t think I’ve ever told them this but I’ve had the same Eagles poster on my wall in every house that I’ve lived in since I was 12, which I bought from a music shop on a family holiday to Blackpool. It’s still there now and one of the guys from the Eagles comes to the house when he’s in England and I’ve never told him that so I’m a real fan.”
As I walk around admiring his vast collection of vinyl it is hard to believe that Darren was ever going to give up writing about music to focus on the church. It is clear to see that he not only has the talent for it but the passion. All I can say is thank the lord that the Eagles called when they did or the music industry would be losing one great writer.