PROJECT 86: The End?

The 90’s was a decade of change in the heavy music soundscape and only the innovators survived. While pop metal was booted from the throne, nu metal bands like P.O.D. and Project 86 took their place and gave us great music to feast our ears upon. With rumors of the end approaching for P86, it was high time to get things straight from the horse’s mouth- the always articulate main man Andrew Schwab. 

Paint me a picture what it was like starting the band Project 86 in the 90’s. Did you imagine to be making music more than a quarter century later?

Andrew: Kind of a long tale! (I am working on a book which documents my journey through Project 86, starting in the beginning. Shameless plug – it’s available for preorder at and should be done later this year ;). To keep it simple: the desire was to play some shows and record some music. There was never a long-term plan, but just a focus on the next goal ahead! One rehearsal led to another. One song led to another. One show led to another, and so on. I have always viewed each record as potentially the last, every show as potentially the last. I have been pleasantly surprised every time I have been proven wrong!

Every year rock bands hang it up, and never in the same way. Some retire, only to unretire in a few years. Others tour until their bodies give out, and many – quite frankly – play long past their prime. Obviously you’ve given a lot of time over to wrapping this part of your life up with a bow and sending it off with some closure. When did you know it was time for P86’s swan song, and how long have you been planning this?

This has become a complicated question in recent history, in the best possible way. I announced the end of Project 86 for two reasons. First, I felt creatively exhausted. Second, my voice, which has always been a massive source of difficulty, finally reached a breaking point. 

Let me discuss the creative part of this, first. With each successive record it had become increasingly difficult for us to come up with new ideas, while being chased by the high bar of our early history. It just no longer felt…free, fun, or exciting. I knew it had to be destroyed in some form, I just didn’t know what that would look like when I announced it. I had no plan, but I knew I had a passion to set fire to the name. What I realized through making OMNI was that the last Project 86 record was Sheep Among Wolves, our 2017 release, the 10th Project 86 album. The new record is the start of something wholly new – P86:OMNI. Maybe that statement sounds like semantics, but for me it represents a fresh start. For lack of a better way to put it, Project 86 made post-hardcore/rock, and P86:OMNI makes cyberpunk metal set in the OMNIVERSE.

On the subject of my voice…

During the Truthless Heroes era I developed a vocal cord nodule. It reached the point where I was scheduled to have surgery in 2003. At the last minute, after praying about it, I cancelled the surgery and never went to another vocal coach, doctor, or speech therapist after that. Over the years, I assumed it was only getting worse, and that I would eventually lose it completely (I say “assume” because I never went to a voice doctor ever again-until 2022). 

Then, I blew my voice out very bad in 2022 after coming down with COVID. I was convinced I had lost my voice permanently, after it didn’t come back for about six weeks. Finally, I did what I feared most for two decades: I went back to the doctor. I was resolved to hear very bad news, but I received the opposite: the nodule was gone and my vocal cords were totally healthy! I wasn’t prepared for that. The world spun around me as I walked out of the doctor’s office, the burden I had been carrying for years had finally been lifted. I can’t put into words how much lighter I felt.

Not coincidentally, on OMNI I found a new voice – a heavier voice – after so many years and so many records (actually I had been singing this way in the live setting for many years, but never on a record). After tracking the first song, my producer, Beau Burchell, turned around and said to me, “Dude, you have never sounded this good.”

My response was, “I have never felt this good.” 

I was no longer losing my voice when I yelled, and it was because I was singing with a lower, more aggressive tone. Turns, out the patented “Schwab shout” was the thing that was killing me for so many years. 

Truly, I have never enjoyed making music as much as I do right now, at this moment. And the key for me has been making more aggressive music, which really doesn’t sound much like what people associate with Project 86. It is a very freeing feeling!

While Truthless Heroes and Knives to the Future were also concept albums, Omni is your first storyline, a dark sci fi tale about an evil corporation in a dystopian future. I see hot button topics from the news the last few years weaved throughout. Can you tell us what germinated the idea for Omni and explain the plotline briefly?

I have always had a hankering to go further with sci-fi and futurism in lyrical concepts. The pandemic felt like the end of the world, so that was the initial catalyst for me to finally go deeper with it all. It felt very natural to write with a new level of urgency and poignancy, if that makes sense.

I have always reflected on the through-line of man’s relationship with technology and how it relates to the end of days. As I got deeper into it, I started reflecting on the Tower of Babel story. It’s hard not to conclude that the tower is being re-formed through our interconnectedness and the emergence of AI. 

All of above served as a foundation for everything I have been working on. OMNI is an exploration of transhumanism as it relates to current events. OMNI, Pt. 1 examines what would happen if a big tech invented an application which offered all of us eternal life. OMNI, Pt. 2 is a look at the back stories and philosophical underpinnings of the two heads of the OMNI Corporation.

I love the idea of mankind thinking he’s eliminated God, and suddenly God speaks. All throughout history, creation is forever seeking to eliminate his Creator, thus making himself god. Yet, God always has the final say. I feel like that’s a great metaphor for Christian metal. We exist in a genre that insists there is no god, and wants to blaspheme him, but Christian bands are still out there recording and playing because God is real, and still speaking to anyone who will just listen. What say you?

Most heavy music is very God-conscious, even if much of it comes from the opposing viewpoint as myself, you, and most who would read this. I find this validating in a very ironic way. If God isn’t real, then why spend so much effort reacting to his alleged non-existence? To me, it’s always felt very punk-rock to take the opposing viewpoint than most of the heavy music world. And I love the challenge of making music that hits just as hard, yet without the crutch of blasphemous lyrical content.

How did Omni get to be a double disc? Was that always the intention?

Initially, it was supposed to be a single record. We added the second album as a part of our pre-order campaign, and the fans jumped on board in supporting it. It was definitely something I wouldn’t do again, but I am thankful we did it! 23 songs is a ridiculous amount of music.

P86 has always evolved, but this is clearly the band at its heaviest. I described it to the other Heaven’s Metal writers as ‘if Becoming the Archetype and Klank had a baby.’ Who or what drove this change for the heavier? Was it a conscious change?

TBH, I never really wanted P86 to settle into the hard rock thing it became after DBL. I just kind of rolled with it, always compromising with the band on where we ended up sonically. This time around I finally just said “We are going to do something more extreme, and I am not going to stop the train until we get there.” This sound feels fresh and exciting to me. I can’t wait to explore it further!

Favorite P86 album, songs, and memories for you? Truthless Heroes, ‘We Caught You Plotting Murder,’ and the infamous mudfest at Purple Door are mine.

It’s very difficult to pick favorites, at least when it comes to records and songs. It’s like picking a favorite child! Obviously, DBL is high on the list. We found the sweet spot on that record. I just love the energy of it, and most of my memories are good ones from that era. When I first heard the song “Stein’s Theme” in the studio, it was a very special moment. The Wait for the Siren era was also special to me because it represented a brand new start. There was some excitement surrounding that release, and the song “Fall, Goliath, Fall” was the most commercial song the band has ever written, by far. I think that song would have propelled us to the lofty goals we had back on Truthless Heroes, had it been written then. One of my favorite memories was the first time we played in Germany, back in 2001. It was just a very exciting experience to leave the country for the first time. When we came to find that people thousands of miles away knew our music and lyrics it was very humbling. In fact, many of my favorite memories involve European adventures. To me, in many ways, it feels like home even more than the USA.

Your take on the christian metal industry today? Better or worse than when you started in it? How can we improve?

First, I wish those making metal music would take more risks. I have always thought that making music for “the scene” inhibits individuality for artists. The bands that I love have their own, unique sound, and I feel like that should always be the goal for any artist. I don’t enjoy hearing the same riffs and blast beats over and over again. Get weird, people…this is where the magic happens!

Second (and this is for those specifically making Christian music), I would love to see more creativity in lyric writing. I don’t personally believe you need to write telegraphed, obvious lyrics in order to make something that is inspirational. Engaging the imagination, to me, is the job of the artist, rather than simply telling the audience what they want to hear. I am much more moved by abstract, clever lyricism than I am by obvious messaging. 

Hopefully those comments don’t come off as overly critical…you asked for my opinions, so I am giving them, lol. 

Is this really the end? When the last note is played, will it be relief or bittersweet for you? Why?

The end of Project 86 is nigh. Come see the band retire the old songs at one of our select shows over the next twelve months or so. This is the beginning of P86: OMNI, at the same time. I hope anyone who reads this will come along for the ride.

What is next for you, Andrew? I know you wrote for us in our HM incarnation and Doug Van Pelt still calls you a great writer, and you’ve written several books. I hope you will continue that even if P86 is done. Tell me about the novelization of Omni.

Tell Doug thanks! I have always had a hankering to write sci-fi/futurism, and finally took the leap by writing this novel! The story is told through the eyes of a high-level employee of OMNI, the big-tech company which becomes a technocracy in 2041. It’s a bit of a projection of what-if scenarios, based upon the current trajectory of AI. What would happen if the transhumanism dream became reality? What would the world look like if the virtual and physical realms completely merged? And, most importantly, what would happen if a big tech company could engineer perpetual life for all through creating a new iteration of our species?

The Novel is an expansion of OMNI, Part 1, but it also is a stand-alone story that those who are not as familiar with the band can appreciate (or at least, that is the goal). As of this article, we are in the final phases of editing, and folks can pre-order the hard cover version by visiting our store at The goal is to ship out the pre-order copies by summer. A little qualifier: it is a pretty dark tale, and one that I am not certain fits into the Christian fiction subgenre. 

On behalf of the fans, I just want to offer thanks for the decades of memories, shows, great music, thought inspiring lyrics, and hope you brought with P86. May we all leave a legacy of using the talents God has lent us to honor him and make His name known. Blessings, Andrew. Keep in touch with, please.

Thank you, sir. Project 86 may be dead (for now), but P86:OMNI is just getting started!

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