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Crag Jensen and Marc Jackson

Si nous aimons rire d'un certain cinéma déviant, nous sommes très loin de mépriser les hommes et les femmes qui s'y sont impliqués ou compromis. Il nous a ainsi paru enrichissant de faire raconter le nanar et son univers par les gens qui l'ont vécu de l'intérieur. La diversité des intervenants et de leurs réponses nous a rendu encore plus proches du cinéma que nous aimons : vous découvrirez, au fil des entretiens que ces différentes vedettes ont bien voulu nous accorder, des informations précieuses pour le cinéphile et le cinéphage, des anecdotes cocasses et, en esquisse, le portrait attachant de personnages souvent hauts en couleur.
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Crag Jensen and Marc Jackson (page 2)

In 1983, you find yourselves embarked on (should I say "mixed up in"?) a strange little movie, The Voyage of the Rock Aliens, in which you play a bunch of E.T. scouring the galaxy in a guitar shaped spaceship in search of the planet which has invented rock'n roll music... As Crag yet explained how the band get into such a venture [in the biography of Rhema he wrote], I took the liberty to cut and paste the passage here so you can directly elaborate from it :

"Yet despite the cheap imitative cheesiness of the material - the old adage "it's not what you know but who you" landed the Rhema boys a better than average record deal with Curb/MCA after about a year of "perfecting" their new knack for absorbing and regurgitating every techno piece of shit song available to the common man. Actually - Dennis's girlfriend was a close friend and associate with Dick Whitehead, the president of Curb Records at the time. And Dick needed a techno-band for a movie he had his sights on supplying the soundtrack music for. Cheesy, sleazy, wheezy or not - Dick and Pia Zadora and Company flew their Lear Jets out to watch Rhema perform at a bar called the Phone Company in Scottsdale Az. Rhema then finally scored their first and only recording contract. They also found themselves flying to Atlanta for nine weeks to play bit parts as the Aliens in one of the worst movies ever made - Voyage of the Rock Aliens. With Stardom in their eyes and years of rejection suddenly (or seemingly) behind them - the Rhema boys checked into a Marriot somewhere outside of Atlanta. The next two months would find them spending hours in makeup tents, uncomfortable Alien get-ups, drunk on their asses in various hair salons until all hours of the night, sitting around movie sets waiting for their next scene to commence and generally enjoying the ambiance of the movie making world. Forget the fact that the movie itself was doomed from the offset. The script was devoid of any integrity whatsoever. The director, James Fargo, had his hands tied with a budget that would make Chuck Norris wince and the only people with real acting ability were the sardonic Allison LaPlaca, the acting coach Peter Stelzer and the by then quite feeble Ruth Gordon. But acting was not the centerpiece of this production, nor was the script nor even the music provided by Pia, Jermaine Jackson, Jimmy and the Mustangs and the Rhema boys. Spoofing was the centerpiece of this flick and spoof it did. It spoofed and it poofed and it blew it's way straight into celluloid oblivion."

Pat Byrnes and Crag Jensen

Crag Jensen : Yeah - the quote is quite accurate. But we were extremely fortunate to have landed those roles; the experience of making a motion picture is something I will always feel fortunate to have had. And our music worked well for the film as did Jimmy and the Mustang's music. The director, James Fargo, thought our guitarist (Pat Byrnes) was hilarious and added a great deal to the film.

In a spiritual sense, so to speak, we got into the venture because we worked hard and long and were really lucky. Perhaps Divine Intervention or some sort of Cosmic Synchronicity or whatever played a role. The little bit of money we made helped me get out of a day job I hated and freed me up to be creative for a good year or so. Looking back, I think it was a substantially transforming experience for everyone in the band with the possible exception of Bobby, the bass player.

Marc Jackson : The bio Crag wrote is stunningly accurate by the way. So much so, in fact, that I find it a tad bit disturbing that he recalls so many of the details. It was a walk down memory lane reading it.

Why Bobby Freeman, the band's bass player, has been "selectively and unfortunately left out of the movie"?

Bobby Freeman (1952 - 2002)

Crag Jensen : They only needed five of us and he scored the lowest on the screen test. That simple.

Marc Jackson : I would like to add that in looking back, one thing I regret is that the band did not insist that Bobby Freeman be included in the band that appeared in the film. Bobby has passed away but I did have a chance to tell him my personal regret for that not happening for him. The reason that we were given for him not being asked to be in the film was because he "failed the screen test." He didn't pass a pathetic screen test we all completely botched. None of us should have been hired, but as one can tell when watching the film, strong acting ability was not much of a concern. All the more reason in retrospect why we should have put the foot down for including him. We just didn't know our power back then.

On a message left on the IMDB review of The Voyage of the Rock Aliens, Crag again briefly explained this picture was supposed to be "a spoof on 60's beach movies with some (then) modern twists to it" and, could we add, some quirky homage's to old time TV shows such as Lost in Space or Doctor Who. Could you elaborate?

Crag Jensen : I don't think that quality shows like Lost in Space or Doctor Who can be compared to Voyage of the Rock Aliens. I hate even using Voyage... and Doctor Who in the same sentence. However - this is not to say that the movie cannot be appreciated for what it is. It is a silly piece of entertainment for whoever is in the mood or has a liking for this kind of stuff. It fulfils some kind of role I imagine. The similarity to Lost in Space is probably in reference to the robot. The Lost in Space robot was more than likely a model for the robot we used, at least until it became a fire hydrant. Even then, the voice and its gestures were rather similar.

Marc Jackson : Please, please, please, no one compare Voyage... to ANY of those great campy old shows of the "60s. Let me give you a clue as to the futility of this film from day one. Gil Taylor was the cinematographer for this film. Perhaps you know him from having worked on Star Wars??!! Anyway, I can remember on more than one occasion when Gil could be seen sitting in the lobby bar of the hotel after the daily shootings with a line of Heineken bottles in a row in front of him saying things like, "the battle of the bands will never work! Never!! I don't know what they are thinking." On and on he would go, in complete frustration. This was not a good sign.

Basically, there are two sides in the film : the aliens played by the new wave band Rhema + Tom Nolan on one side, the shabby thugs of "The Pack" played by the rockabilly band Jimmy & the Mustangs + Craig Sheffer on the other side. How were the latter? Were they apprehending the movie the way you were?

Ruth Gordon, Craig Sheffer and "Jimmy and the Mustangs"

Crag Jensen : Just like us, they needed an opportunity and some quick cash. As far as how they were: they were a bit cold towards us (or us towards them or both) as I recall. Except that the guitar player and I got along to the point that we stayed up late in his room one night and got stone drunk. Our music and our ways of living were somewhat at opposite ends of some kind of cultural spectrum in those days, or so it would seem.

Marc Jackson : I think so. They saw a record deal and took it just like we did. I got on great with the lot of them. But we didn't hang out much. Maybe there was a tad bit of rivalry there.

Wasn't it a bit frustrating to have actor Tom Nolan "imposed" as the leader of the band? Actually, was he ever really singing in the film? What about Craig Sheffer, had he a "vocal stand-in" for the songs?

Rhema and Tom Nolan in Teen Beat Magazine picture

Crag Jensen : Not really, having Tom posing as our leader was just part of the job. That is to say that we weren't calling the shots - the movie company, Interplanetary Productions was. When we went to Atlanta we all had long hair - they cut it off, they dyed it and they told us when to get up in the morning, what to wear on the set, where to eat at work and so on and so forth. And that's just the way much of the entertainment world is.
Craig Sheffer did not sing a lick of music in the movie - all a ghost singer so to speak.

Marc Jackson : We were doing a gig so it didn't matter to us that he was our leader. I liked having a real actor around. At least one of us knew what they were doing. For the record, Tom can actually sing well. But of course, you don't hear him in the film at all.

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