ApologetiX Featured in L.A. Times
Sat., Aug. 17. 2002 1:40pm EDT
J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX (That Christian Parody Band) here.
Hey, just wanted to let you know that ApologetiX is the subject of a feature story in the Los Angeles Times today.
As with any news article, there are a few facts and quotes that aren't quite presented the way I hoped or thought they would be (for example, I told him it was really important that people know that we although we don't pay royalties like Weird Al, we don't GET royalties like Weird Al ó and the radio station should be KAIM, not KAMI), but the writer, William Lobdell, was a very nice guy and a good listener who seemed genuinely interested in the subject matter. He did the best he could with shrinking an hour-long interview into a news article. And he had none of the attitude that you might expect from a staff writer for such a large and important newspaper.
>From the Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2002, Religion Section
To view the original for yourself, go to
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Zeppelin and Eminem Parodies? Word!
By WILLIAM LOBDELL, TIMES STAFF WRITER
If you call the Christian parody band ApologetiX a novelty act, you're about five centuries behind the times.
Martin Luther, the 16th century church reformer, was the "Weird Al" Yankovic of his day--minus the humor. The father of the Reformation took scores of popular songs--hits of the 1500s--and rewrote the lyrics to reflect biblical themes. His goal: to create hymns that Protestant congregations could sing lustily from the pews, something not done in the Catholic Church at the time.
"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world," Luther wrote. "It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts and spirits. A person who ... does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs."
J. John Jackson, an evangelical Christian and co-founder of ApologetiX, shares Luther's love for combining trendy music and Scripture into consumer-friendly songs.
For more than a decade, Jackson has been rewriting lyrics of hits from artists ranging from AC/DC to Led Zeppelin to an increasingly appreciative audience.
"Keep the Change," the 2001 CD by ApologetiX, climbed into the top 15 on Christian music's bestseller list with song parodies such as "Babylona" (from the Knack's "My Sharona") and "The Real Sin Savior" (from Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady"). And hopes are even higher for the Pittsburgh-based band's seventh CD, the 20-track "Grace Period" that will be released later next week on the band's own label.
"Whenever an new album comes out, we jump on it," said Michael Shishido, the program director at KAMI-FM (95.5), a Christian rock station in Honolulu. "Our listeners just eat it up. A lot of the words are relevant to a Christian, and it's just downright funny." As part of a nationwide tour, ApologetiX will give a free performance at Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest on Aug. 29, playing songs from its latest release, including Train's "Drops of Jupiter" ("Drop of Lucifer"), the Village People's "YMCA" ("YHWH," a Hebrew reference for God), and David Bowie's "Suffragette City" ("Sufferin' Just Finished").
Some of ApologetiX's songs are just this side of silly, like "Baa! We're Lambs," taken from the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann": Baa Baa Baa Baa Baa we're lambs Baa Baa Baa Baa Baa Baa I'm a lamb--in God's hand--I'm a lamb He's got a flock of lambs who know Him Robbers cannot steal 'em from His hand
Others, like "Cornelius" (Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia"), earnestly tell the story of an obscure biblical character. Cornelius was a Roman soldier whom the Apostle Peter converted to Christianity. Cornelius--was favored by God He prayed to Him constantly, daily Oh, Cornelius was in the army A pagan believer from Rome Cornelius! An angel from God Came straight to the spot he was praying Oh, Cornelius! Acts 10 in verse 3 The angel said Peter must come to your home
And a few were written as mnemonic devices to help Christians memorize parts of the Bible or names of the apostles. "La Bible" (its genesis was Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba") takes listeners through all 66 books of Scripture, a godsend to Sunday School teachers everywhere.
"It's a concept that is incredibly cheesy," said Matthew Turner, editor of CCM magazine, which reports on the Christian entertainment industry. "But they do it really well."
Adds Jackson, 38: "Whether you think it's hokey or not, you're going to listen."
Jackson, a veteran of garage and bar bands who became a born-again Christian in 1988, initially wrote the parodies for himself for two reasons: to better his guitar playing and to learn verses of Scripture by heart.
He soon began playing the songs for his Bible study group, where he hooked up with the future band's lead guitarist, Karl Messner. After a few years, they formed ApologetiX (which took its name from "apologetics," meaning a formal defense of the faith) and nervously debuted in a Pittsburgh coffeehouse in 1992, unsure of how the crowd would react to their mix of rock 'n' roll, Scripture and humor.
"I didn't know how we would be received," Jackson said. "But the people went nuts."
Through word of mouth, ApologetiX was booked, usually for free, at other events: gigs at churches, Christian bookstores and birthday parties. Three years later, they made their first television appearance on a local Christian show, and in 1997 released their first CD. The band now has 15,000 e-mail subscribers who get updates on the group. The band will play 100 dates on the road this year.
The band also received a heaven-sent gift in 1994 from the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices ruled that the rap group 2 Live Crew was allowed to parody Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" without permission and without paying royalties, allowing groups like ApologetiX to record any song they liked if the lyrics were changed.
Unlike Yankovic, ApologetiX doesn't receive permission from the spoofed artists or pay them royalties.
"In the perfect world, there would be a compulsory licensing system," Jackson said, "where you could pay a flat rate for any song."
But he says the legal red tape and artists' sensitivities make it impractical for his band to get permission.
And besides, he wonders, why is music so different from other parody-rich fields?
"I grew up reading Mad magazine and watching 'Saturday Night Live,' " he said. "They make their living spoofing things. I want to be seen as having some kind of talent and not looked at as some parasite."
The band, whose members are married and range in age from 32 to 44, can mimic a wide variety of artists from rapper Shaggy to Elton John with varying degrees of accuracy. The hardest part, Jackson says, is shoehorning biblical lyrics that rhyme into familiar melodies.
"There's some meaty teaching in there," said Jackson, adding that he has apologetics experts look over his lyrics for theological errors and taste. "I don't want to offend God."
Band on a Roll With the Rock of Ages
Samples from Scripture-based lyrics by ApolgetiX, a Christian parody band:
"Monkey Scheme" (Parody of "Theme From the Monkees")
Here they come -- talkin' down at me I get the funniest looks 'cause--I said I don't believe They say we were monkeys They think they're sayin' something profound But where's their missing link at? There weren't any bodies found
"Daniel" (Parody of "Daniel" performed by Elton John)
Daniel's with lions tonight in a cave I can see their red pale eyes testin' his faith Oh, and I can see Daniel waitin' to die God, it looks like Daniel--won't be around in my life They say it's a pity though I can't intervene Daniel, just was the best slave who ever served this king Oh, and, even so, I can't change the law Lord, I'll miss Daniel--Oh, I'll miss him so much Oh oh oh--Daniel, my governor You are bolder than me--do you still feel so brave? Are you more than a meal? You're wise and kind--but you face roarin' lions Daniel, will they starve? Will your faith save your life?
"Story of a Squirrel" Parody of "Absolutely (Story of a Girl" performed by Nine Days)
This is the story of a squirrel Whom God preserved when He drowned the whole world And while things looked so dark and Noah's ark Was absolutely flooded--yet she's fine How many days were they there? Afloat in the boat it was over one year And how come the world didn't prepare? Meteorologists said it would clear How could they stand that raining? Where was the hope in the souls of the crew? Life on the waves is severe When it's Gilligan's Island combined with a zoo But Noah was aware the world would get sprayed And the rain would never fall in quite the same way But two of every creature would come out of things OK
"Love the Jews" (Parody of "Love Me Do" performed by the Beatles)
God loves the Jews--You know I have proof Our Lord was one too--So please love the Jews John was a Jew--and Mark and Matthew They all were but Luke--So please love the Jews
God is good!
-- J. Jackson Lead Singer/Lyricist ApologetiX (That Christian Parody Band) www.apologetix.com firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.