Different chords

Chad Wachtel discusses his experience as a Christian in a secular band.



Guitarist Chad Wachtel, drummer Phil Shaheen, and bassist Dan Michcoff of Tijuana Panthers | goldflakepaint.co.uk

Sam De La Vega, Writer

In the secular music industry, gaining mainstream success while representing Christ is extremely difficult. Guitarist Chad Wachtel, the sole Christian in his band Tijuana Panthers has achieved the impossible.


Wachtel, along with bassist Daniel Michicoff and drummer Phil Shaheen make up the three-piece band Tijuana Panthers. This surf-punk trio hailing from Long Beach, California started making music in early 2008 when they released their first studio album “Max Baker.” Since then they have signed onto L.A. record label Innovative Leisure and released two other studio albums. Richard Swift produced their latest album, “Wayne Interest.” Swift has produced albums for successful bands such as The Shins and Foxygen. He also writes his own music, and plays bass for The Black Keys and keyboard for The Shins. Working with Swift alone ended up being a huge opportunity for The Panthers’ music to get the attention it deserved.

Along with recording, The Panthers gained success through constantly playing shows. They started playing house shows in Long Beach, but now play at huge festivals such as Coachella, Burgerama and Beach Goth. The Panthers have also played with some big names such as Jello Biafra, frontman of The Dead Kennedys and The Pixies, one of the founding fathers of alternative rock. Tijuana Panthers have put on one energetic performance after another, drawing more people to their shows. In October 2013, Morrissey, frontman of The Smiths, even made an appearance at their show in Los Angeles.

Musically, Tijuana Panthers are labeled as surf rock.

“We take inspiration from all over the timeline. From oldies like Buddy Holly to punk rock like The Buzzcocks. We even sneak in some vocal harmonies inspired by The Beach Boys. When you fuse that together, you make our sound,” Wachtel said.

Even though the Tijuana Panthers have risen to popularity in the indie music scene, Wachtel has managed to stay committed to his Christian faith. Whenever he is on tour, he is constantly surrounded by the sin, he said.


“It really is sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” Wachtel said. Even though he is surrounded by this partying lifestyle, Wachtel abstains from it and people surrounding him notice. At times, he is looked down upon and mocked because of this. There have even been times when his own bassist drunkenly mocks him during their performance.

“You definitely feel in the dark because you are apart from fellowship. I just remind myself that the testing of my faith develops perseverance,” Wachtel said.

Wachtel shines as a light not only through the way he acts, but also through his lyrical content. At every show, Wachtel makes sure to play their song “Prayer Needs,” a song about vulnerability with God through prayer and repentance. Even though the song’s meaning clearly relates to Christianity, “Prayer Needs” still stands as a fan favorite. Wachtel always has a big smile on his face when he sees the crowd happily dancing to this song.

Countless Christian musicians have fallen into the trappings of sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but Wachtel has stood strong.

“Being a part of the secular music industry has had it’s challenges, but in the end it is worth it because my faith has grown stronger and I have been able to express myself doing what I love most,” Wachtel explained.

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