How did you get started doing parodies?
We asked that question to ApologetiX lead singer/lyricist J. Jackson:
Well, the earliest parodies I remember were in grade school, and they were written ABOUT me, not BY me! I learned quickly from the other students, though, and also from Mad Magazine (their "Sing Along With Mad" features) and comedy records and eventually Weird Al, too. So I was rewriting songs about my friends and enemies from grade school through high school. In college, I did parodies to entertain my friends and eventually performed them at the annual journalism department banquets.
My first Christian parodies were written specifically to help me to do two things: First, to learn the Bible. Second, to learn the guitar. I'd always been a singer from my choirboy days (yeah, that "Choirboy" song is based on my personal experience) in grade school through my garage/bar band days after college. I briefly tried my hand at playing bass for a few years in college, but I had started learning to play the guitar right before I became a born again Christian. Still, it was hard for me to sing and play simultaneously.
After the big change occurred in my life, it seemed like God increased my aptitude and coordination, so I was eager to practice accompanying myself on guitar while I sang, but I kept figuring out how to play old guitar licks that had words I wasn't comfortable singing anymore. Meanwhile, I had read the Bible through a couple of times and was looking for a way to memorize verses, names, books and stories.
Looking back, the parody idea seems like a natural progression of things, and I'm sure God was leading me all the time, but back then I thought I'd just kind of stumbled upon it. Even though I'd already written a lot of parodies in my life and performed and published them publicly, I didn't think of myself as a parodist. But the ideas started coming to me for biblical parodies, which allowed me to learn the Bible and the guitar at the same time. I didn't have any aspirations of using them to become famous; I just wanted to learn the Bible and the guitar.
Eventually, I started playing them at various Bible studies I attended (I was already playing original songs and other Christian songs there), and people actually liked them! One day, a guy named Karl Messner saw me playing them at a Bible study in downtown Pittsburgh, and he suggested we get together and jam. We did that and became fast friends. We acquired a few other musician buddies over the next two years and started getting together on a regular basis to jam, to eat, to talk, to pray and to read the Bible. We played a mix of parodies, songs by other Christian artists and whatever classic rock we all knew how to play, which I wrote parody lyrics to as fast as I could think of them.
Back then, we didn't have a name, but we often played the Bible study where we first met, and the teacher there emphasized that his Bible studies were not a substitute for church. He'd advertise it as "absolutely positively not a church." Consequently, somebody from our ranks -- Karl, I think -- decided to start calling us "Absolutely Positively Not a Band" or "APNAB" for short. I was never a big fan of that name, so when our first big concert opportunity came up at the Paradise Club in Irwin, PA, I was eager to get us a real name. We all agreed on ApologetiX (For more information on that, see the FAQ "Why the name ApologetiX?").
The place was packed for our debut, March 27, 1992. We performed a mix of songs by other Christian artists and our parodies. We didn't know if people would accept the parodies or throw vegetables at us (This was before Veggie Tales elevated vegetables to a higher status in Christian circles :) Much to our relief and amazement, the audience LOVED the parodies and kept asking for more! Soon we were the unofficial house band at the Paradise Club and people from other venues were asking us to come play for them. We decided, "Well, the parodies may not be totally original, but at least they're half original; it's better than doing cover versions."
As time went on, we perfected the parody technique and saw that it afforded us an incredible opportunity to teach and reach many people that ordinary Christian rock couldn't. And God kept opening up new doors for us, so we kept on doing it.