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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

Theirs names won't evoke much to the common and profane people. But for the unrepentant fans of this celluloid candy called Voyage of the Rock Aliens, Craig Quiter alias Crag Jensen & Marc Jackson will be forever worshipped as the unforgettable NOPQR and AEIOU, two goofy aliens flying their guitar-shaped spaceship in search for the planet that has invented rock'n roll music. Their absurd quest will lead them to... Pia Zadora.

Enjoy here Crag and Marc both sharing their memories from the set, as well as their outrageously 80's musical experiences via their late techno-pop-rock band "Rhema", which sadly didn't survive the failure of the film. It appears the split-up of Rhema was for the best, as both Crag and especially Marc now work successfully in the music industry. As Marc put it about his participation to Voyage of the Rock Aliens: "It certainly is not consistent with who I was, or have become as an artist".

Interview conducted by John Nada

Hello guys, and thank you for being kind enough to accept answering our questions. To start with, could you please briefly introduce yourself and (the late) band Rhema to our readers? What have been your respective career path in music?

Crag Jensen

Crag Jensen (formerly Craig Quiter) : Rhema started out as a Christian, Latin, soft-rock band in the 1970s in Phoenix, Arizona. Shortly after I joined (in late 1979), the band turned secular and dropped the Latin stuff as well as took on a harder edge. We also became a secular band, dropping much of any interest in evangelising in the early eighties. Also in the early eighties we became a studio session band in the Phoenix area. This eventually led to our connection to Curb MCA records through Dennis Alexander, our producer at that time as well as the owner of the now defunct Pantheon Studios. It was out affiliation with Dennis and Pantheon that led to the landing of our songs and ourselves in the movie - Voyage of the Rock Aliens.

The members of the band, at the time we flew to Atlanta Georgia to film the movie, were as follows: Marc Jackson - Guitar, back up (and lead) vocals and keyboards; Greg Bond - lead and backup vocals; Jeff Casey - drums and backup vocals; Pat Byrnes - Guitar and backup vocals; Bobby Freeman - Bass guitar and backup vocals; and, of course myself; Crag Jensen (then Craig Quiter) - keyboards and backup vocals.

Crag Jensen

As far as introducing myself, that is a rather difficult question to answer I think, so I will keep the introduction as simple and straight forward as possible. I am a composer, singer, keyboardist, guitarist, producer and author who lives near Jamestown New York. I produce music in my home studio and do some touring as a pianist and vocalist - mostly in the duelling piano venue. My live shows are, by the way, a whole lot different than the music I create in my studio. I only play live to make money these days - otherwise, I have little interest in it. My heart is in the studio it would seem.

Right now I am working on background music for television documentaries as well as composing music for movie trailers. I just started doing this a couple months back at the behest of my old friend and fellow, former Rhema member Marc Jackson. So I can't tell you exactly where any of it will wind up. Marc's company (Zoo Street Music) has done stuff for the History channel and recently for a television mini series on NBC called Revelations.

I also am releasing, or have released, a new album called Sa-Shu-Ah (Music for the Psychopath) on the New Falcon Label. Marc contributed to this CD as well - but it is mostly me. There is an old Rhema tune on it called "Living for Today." Marc sings most of the lead on the new version and we co-wrote the song in the early eighties. The theme of the album is, in a nutshell, to un-program yourself so that you can think for yourself so that you can be yourself and hence become all that you can be. In my humble opinion - we are like stars that can chart their (or our own) course through the Universe - if we so decide. At least - that is my contention.

As far as the style or genre of music I am playing and recording these days - well - it runs the gambit. I do big orchestral, neo-classical pieces and I do grungy rock and roll sometimes. And sometimes I even do jazz things or country (the latter two I do not plan on releasing any recordings of anytime soon).

Dennis Alexander, Rhema producer and owner
of Pantheon Studios in Phoenix.

Marc Jackson : I played AEIOU in the movie Voyage of the Rock Aliens. I was a mute alien and was the token nerd of the group. I won't bore you with any redundancy, as Crag has filled you in on my history with Rhema. Except to say that Rhema precedes Crag's involvement by a good two years. In fact I co-founded the band when in high-school in the late '70s with a bass player friend of mine Huron Claus. We did all Christian music and were based out of a Christian high school located in Phoenix, Arizona. We played "coffee houses" and performed in front of youth groups at churches for a couple of years. Greg Bond had joined the band at that point singing back ups. Neither Greg or myself sang lead then though we had solos.

We morphed into a Christian art-rock band and added Crag and a drummer whose name I can't remember. I do remember that he stuttered when he tried to say the word "polyrhythm" which reflected how well he played them. Rhema was then cursed to find a good drummer and would often simply perform without one.

I felt the band should get serious and go for a Christian record deal. I don't think everyone was understanding what that meant and I left the band for 8 months. When I returned, Greg Bond was singing lead, Jeffrey Casey was on drums, Bob Freeman was on bass, Crag was still on keys and Pat Byrnes was on guitar. I don't know how it happened but I rejoined the band and we were doing '80s pop rock. Not Christian which was a foretelling of the culmination of my personal beliefs as well, but that is another story entirely.

The new Rhema was very derivative. Scratch that. We copied other bands outright. We morphed and morphed into a band that was really not bad at all, but nothing like you hear in the movie. That was largely the creation of one Dennis Alexander, our "producer." That was his concept and he deserves really all the credit/blame there is for the sound.

Marc Jackson today

Currently I run a music company in Los Angeles, California. We have two music supervisors for TV and Film, a music publishing company and two in-house music composers (myself included). We have composed music and/or created main title music for theatrical trailers, television series, DVD special features for Disney, E!Televison, VH1, NBC Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. ABC and others.

Currently we are scoring a film for the Oscar-winning producer Jim Wilson who won it for producing Dances With Wolves and has produced many other hit films. [The 2006 documentary "Laffit: All About Winning", directed by Jim Wilson and narrated by Kevin Costner. Marc Jackson's filmography has substantially fleshed out since the record of this interview]

Reading the short biography about Rhema Crag has written, to say you are hard on your former band is to make quite a fiery use of euphemism... Rhema is notably described as "an 80's pop schlock techno cheese band that quite graciously although somewhat inadvertently blessed the whole wide world by never quite making it" ! Objectively, do you really consider you were that bad... or was it just some kind of a cynical way to prevent potential mockery and get rid of the frustration of never having rose to fame?

Craig Quiter at the Crab Pot, Top Sail Island, North Carolina (07-2002)

Crag Jensen : I got the term - 80's pop schlock techno cheese band - from Frank Zappa one night at a recording session. As far as blessing the world by not making it - while the statement may be somewhat tongue in cheek, there is a grain of truth to it. The music was not where it should have been. Some things, however, were quite good. If the various band members had been internally liberated so that they could have been truly creative, so that they could have more easily tapped into their deepest and most artistic Selves - I think things would have been dramatically different.

Both Marc and I have redone songs we wrote in those by-gone days (as I have previously mentioned), so I guess neither Marc, nor I at least, think that all of what we did back then was so bad. Some of these statements are just a way of laughing at one's self. If you take rock and roll all too seriously - it ceases to be rock and roll anymore. (David Bowie or Mick Jagger once said that - I can't remember which - maybe both - who knows).

1984 picture of Rhema (Marc Jackson, Greg Bond,
Bobby Freeman, Pat Byrnes, Crag Jensen and Jeff Casey)

Marc Jackson : The four songs in the movie don't represent what Rhema was at all. That was the sound of our producer. Or at least 80 percent of it was. I think we all had resolved that we would ride this film release out and then go play the music we wanted. The sound we had live was quite different than anything we recorded. We let the producer dictate way too much of what the sound was but he did after all get us the deal with the record company, so we allowed it. As far as ridicule for having done the film goes... I have to admit, I am hoping that the band and the film are mocked by as many people as possible. I don't relate really to that entity anymore. I would love it if Voyage of the Rock Aliens became a cult favourite. There is no "bad" publicity as far as I'm concerned. Please just spell my name right, which I see you have and I thank you.

In terms of having done the film... few people can say they were paid so much money that they could live for over a year on the income for having done essentially no more than stumble around on someone's movie set. It has not helped nor hurt my career in the least. Jeffrey Casey and I literally called Curb/MCA records and requested to be un-signed from the contract after the film was not going to be released in the States. They gave us no argument.

Since the band I've recorded with Richard Marx, toured with Donny Osmond during his comeback, with Roger Daltrey as a guitarist/keyboard/singer. I've toured across the country as a solo artist and performed on stage with Sheryl Crow. I auditioned as lead singer for Toto. I've been on 7 or 8 nationally broadcast TV shows. But even that stuff is old news. Honestly, I don't look back too often. But when I do, I've actually done more than most people can say and the shit I'm doing now is more than I ever expected to do.

I love that I did the film and that I was in Rhema. Lest we forget... The 80's were cool in the 80's so I'm proud of everything I did even back then.

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