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ApologetiX article in True Tunes Magazine, "No Apologies"
Mon., Sep. 22. 2003 10:17am EDT

No Apologies

Dateline 09-22-2003

No apologies for ApologetiX By Joanne Brokaw

In the land of rock music, parodies get no respect. Sure, we laugh, but do we really treat the artists like serious musicians?

Maybe it`s time we did.

ApologetiX, "that Christian parody band", has been turning popular rock and pop tunes into musical bible lessons for almost a decade. They`ve been called everything from "cheesy" (CCM Magazine) and a "novelty act" (The LA Times) to a "vital part of the body of Christ" (WZZD, Philadelphia, PA), but the band offers no apologies for their mix of offbeat sense of humor and solid spiritual grounding. (Think Weird Al meets Spinal Tap meets Billy Graham.) They`re simply serious musicians who don`t take themselves too seriously.

The group grew out of a Bible study near Pittsburgh, PA in the early 90s, where band co-founders Karl Messner (guitars) and J. Jackson (vocals; the group also consists of Keith Haynie on bass, and Bill Rieger on drums) were leading worship. One evening, J. played a cover tune of the Tommy James and the Shondells` hit "Mony Mony", substituting the words "Jonah, Jonah" and telling the Bible story in song using the familiar melody. People loved it, and before long, the group was receiving so many requests to perform at events that they developed a regular tour schedule and gave themselves a name: ApologetiX, a take off of the Christian word "apologetics", which is a defense of the Christian faith.

"We`d write songs so we`d remember what we learned in the Bible study," Messner tells me over deli sandwiches one afternoon in Nashville. He says the group hopes to not only entertain fans with some good clean fun, but share the message of salvation with unbelievers, and teach people about the Bible using music.

Consider "La Bible", a parody of Richie Valens` "La Bamba", which is a favorite with Sunday School teachers for helping kids learn the books of the Bible.

"That`s how we learned the alphabet," he says, pointing out that the "Alphabet Song" is actually a parody of "Twinkle Twinkle", written by a 21 year-old J.S. Bach during a trip to Paris (just one example of the odd trivia Messner spouts at will).

Borrowing music from everyone from Linkin Park and AC/DC to the Beach Boys and Bee Gees, ApologetiX adds their own lyrics about God and the Bible, while doing almost flawless parodies of both the musical and vocal styles of the original artists.

Their seventh and latest release, Grace Period, includes parodies of Springsteen`s "Born to Run" ("Born Above"), the Who`s "My Generation" ("Regeneration"), Puddle of Mud`s "Blurry" ("Flurry"), and Simon and Garfunkel`s "Cecilia" ("Cornelius"). The songs are catchy, and whether you like it or not, you`ll be singing along. Case in point: "Baa! We're Lambs", sung to the Beach Boys` "Barbara Ann":

"Baa Baa Baa, Baa Baa We`re lambs Baa Baa Baa, Baa Baa We're lambs I'm a lamb, in God's hand, I'm a lamb "

You get the idea.

"We would very much like to do our own songs someday," admits Messner, and says that in fact they did a mixture of covers, parodies, and original material at their very first show in 1992. He says people sat through the original material - politely - and then jumped and screamed when they did the parodies. It`s been all parodies ever since. (Well, almost ever since. A year after Messner met his then girlfriend, Debbie, he sang an original song to her from stage with the last line, "Will you marry me?" She said yes.)

"It`s like this," Messner says of the whole parody act. "God has given us a very, very supernatural favor. There are bands working so hard who haven`t seen even a fraction of the success we`ve achieved almost without trying."

Which isn`t quite true: ApologetiX has probably worked harder than most bands to get where they are today.

Certainly, it`s taken a while for the music industry to take the parody act seriously. "In the beginning, we pestered some record labels with, `Hey, would you like to sign our band?'" Messner smiles. "They all said get lost."

Undaunted, they formed their own record label, Parodudes, Inc. and moved on.

"A lot of bands say they have a record label and all they have is letterhead," Messner says, leaning in to make a point. "We have a label, we have a promotions staff, we have a distribution staff, we have a staff - and they live and breathe ApologetiX." In addition to solid distribution here at home, the group recently signed an agreement for major distribution in Australia - where they average 2 CD sales a day, enjoy radio airplay, and have yet to play a show. Their international fan club boasts 26,000 hard-core fans, and averages 50 new members a day.

Now that they`ve tested the waters and found them safe, labels are interested. In fact, ApologetiX turned down an offer to sign with a major record label because they would have lost money in the process.

"We sat down and open-mindedly talked to them," Messner says of the label execs. The group shared the numbers on ApologetiX - distribution, money, booking - and asked the label would they could contribute.

According to Messner, "They said, `You`re doing more for yourselves than we would have done for you, and we wouldn't have expected to get as good of results`."

They get so many requests to perform (some from as far away as Romania), that they've had to limit their schedule to 100 shows a year ("which equals 400 days of work", says Messner, because the band is steadfast in their commitment to both quality entertainment and ministry.)

But most importantly, the group is using their success to share God's Word and truth with anyone who will listen. They've captured the attention of Christian radio, The 700 Club, Focus on the Family, The LA Times, and even shock-jock Howard Stern.

"He played us on the air," says Messner of the infamous radio show host. "And then he made fun of us." But that's ok with Messner, who knows God's Word will not return void. Even when it's set to the music of Led Zeppelin.

Author Joanne Brokaw

Source author`s interview

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