Crag Jensen and Marc Jackson
Existe aussi en Version Française
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 in April and May 2005 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 paths in music?
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 myself, Crag Jensen (then Craig Quiter) – keyboards and backup vocals.
As far as introducing myself, 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).
Crag Jensen, in 2006.
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.
Dennis Alexander, producer of Rhema and owner of Pantheon Studios in Phoenix.
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]
Marc Jackson in 2006.
When 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?
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).
Crag Jensen at the Crab Pot, Top Sail Island, North Carolina (07-2002).
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.
Marc Jackson, on the set of Voyage of the Rock Aliens.
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.
1984 picture of Rhema. From left to right: Marc Jackson, Greg Bond, Bobby Freeman, Pat Byrnes, Crag Jensen and Jeff Casey.
In 1983, you find yourselves embarked on a strange little movie, 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."
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.
Pat Byrnes and Crag Jensen.
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.
Marc Jackson and Jeff Casey.
Why Bobby Freeman, the band's bass player, has been "selectively and unfortunately left out of the movie"?
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.
Bobby Freeman (1952 - 2002).
On a message left on the IMDB review of 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, I might 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 groups facing each other: the aliens played by the new wave band Rhema + actor Tom Nolan on one side, the shabby thugs of "The Pack" played by the rockabilly band Jimmy & the Mustangs + actor Craig Sheffer on the other side. How were the latter? Were they apprehending the movie the way you were?
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.
Ruth Gordon, Craig Sheffer and "Jimmy and the Mustangs".
Wasn't it a bit frustrating to have actor Tom Nolan as the leader of the band in the movie? Actually, was he ever really singing in the film? What about Craig Sheffer, did he have a vocal stand-in for the songs?
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.
Rhema and Tom Nolan in Teen Beat Magazine picture.
Regarding the music, what have been exactly your contribution to Voyage of the Rock Aliens? Were songs like Combine Man or 21st Century composed especially for the movie, or were they written long before?
Crag Jensen: They were written months before we ever heard about the movie opportunity. As I recall, these songs were our contribution to the realm of Techno-rock. Our producer, Dennis Alexander, laid down the basic tracks and certain members of the band would come up with words and melodies and whatever that went over the top of those tracks. Much of the basic music tracks was done on a Roland Juno 60, an Oberheim drum machine and some Simmons electronic drums thrown over the top. However, the Juno 60 was a low-end polyphonic synth, a sort of entry model in those days. And this added to the cheesiness of the music. Perhaps it was meant to be because that cheesy sound fit right in with the movie. Technology was not what it is today and even low-end technology was pricey back then. The Juno was all we could afford.
As far as my contribution exactly: I co-wrote the words and melody to Combine Man with Marc. Marc wrote the words and melody to Get Out and Dance, perhaps with some help from Greg. I wrote the words and melody to That's Life and Twenty-First Century. I also co-produced the Let's Dance Tonight session in an Atlanta studio as I recall.
Marc Jackson:Combine Man consisted of lyrics all comprised from the rantings of a mental patient Crag worked with at a day job he had. Crag and I just moved the phrases around to fit the music that Dennis Alexander wrote. (Very intentionally in the style of She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby.)
What about the choreographies? Was everything carefully planned, or did you more or less improvised it right on the spot?
Crag Jensen: We had a husband and wife choreographer team. I cannot remember their names for the life of me. I believe they choreographed Saturday Night Fever Two or some such thing.
Marc Jackson: Christ, what were their names?? In terms of the bands movements, I think they may have had suggestions but they really didn't choreograph us for the battle of the bands sequence. So we don't have them to blame. I will say that the smoke got very heavy during the various takes and at one point, during one of my infamous windmill spins, I did manage to clock Pia Zadora's camera stand-in squarely in the eye. She had a black eye for a week after. I felt horrible as you can imagine. Oh yes there is that scene where we are walking in time, outside during the 21st Century video montage. (God, why are you making me remember this?) I do think that those choreographers had a hand in those antics.
Globally, how did the shooting go? Would you have any anecdotes to tell us?
Crag Jensen: The shooting lasted for nine weeks during the mid to late fall of 1983. It went well and was, at times, a lot of fun, as we got to meet Ruth Gordon, Pia Zadora, Craig Sheffer, Gil Taylor (the lighting director for A Hard Day's Night and Hitchcock's Frenzy...), Allison La Placa etc.
Crag and director James Fargo's wife at camera.
Marc Jackson: The shoot was loads of fun. But I did have a scare at one point. Several months before the film, I had my wisdom teeth removed. All was well going into shooting until one night, after some very cold nights shooting outdoors, I discovered that my left cheek was swelling up. I thought "well, I'm done now. They'll be sending me home." I called some of the production staff who promptly got me a weekend appointment with a local dentist. He took care of the situation but the swelling would not go down for at least three days. This would not do since the aliens were shooting every single day. Miraculously, the schedule changed quite uncharacteristically, and I had 3 days respite while the swelling dropped. However, if you look at my histrionics during the scene on the bridge, just prior to the aliens magically removing the clothing from the unsuspecting earthlings making out in the convertible, you will see an ever-so-slight swelling on the cheek in question. Evidence of my trauma and near conclusion to my fabulous acting career.
After nine weeks of shooting in Atlanta, were you still full of hope and enthusiasm, or yet slightly disillusioned and lucid about the film's commercial prospects?
Crag Jensen: We were quite hopeful. We knew that if the movie were released – and we had little reason to believe that it wouldn't be – we might glean a hit song or two out of it, not to mention whatever notoriety or celebrity status the movie might throw our way. At the same time, we also knew that the quality of the film was a bit dubious, so we had at least a grain of caution mixed in with our enthusiasm.
Marc Jackson: I for one took on a very "get-down-to-business" attitude. We played out as much as we possibly could. We plugged the movie in every local interview and at every show. We milked it. I think the push was on from the whole band to prepare to support the effort no matter what the outcome of the film.
As far as we know, the shooting took place in October and November of 1983. But the fact is that Voyage of Rock Aliens has not been released before the end of 1987 in European cinemas, and before 1988 in the USA, where it went straight to video. Do you know why? When did you realise that this flick would probably never be a springboard to fame and fortune?
Crag Jensen: The reason it was not released wide scale in the theatres soon after it was made was because of a decision that Pia and her husband Meshulam Riklis took. It seems they decided it just wasn't her, and that it really didn't fit the image she wanted to convey to the public on her way to stardom. Whether this notion is or was true or not – I have serious questions but... the movie was put on the shelf and forgotten about after a few test releases. It later was released in Europe, as you mentioned, as well as on video a few years later.
Pia Zadora and her husband Meshulam Riklis.
This eventuality, the non-release of the film, actually and eventually put an end to the band. And it only took, maybe, a year and a half to do it. The springboard (as you put it now and we put it at the time) was gone. Curb Records would not release a song without that springboard and a record release was all we wanted in the first place. In the early spring of '85 Marc and I (at Jeff's urging) both decided to dissolve what was left of the band. We called a meeting at Bobby's house and announced our decision. Bobby and Pat were shocked and not very happy about this, but our decision remained the same. It was time to throw in the proverbial towel and get on with life without the burden of Rhema. Marc, Jeff and I could have started a new band or carried on somehow but Marc and Jeff decided to leave Phoenix for LA. I could not, or would not go with them. And that was pretty much the end of the band. Curb Records was also not happy when in '84 the band released lead singer Greg Bond. Greg went on to do more work for Curb Records but the rest of us didn't. The reasons for his release were varied and I only finally agreed to it because I felt Greg wanted to get out of the band. In any event, the band didn't last that much longer after Greg left, so it all seems pretty moot at this point in time.
Marc Jackson: This gives you an idea as to how little we were ever told about the film and its future. Only just now, in this interview, did I see in print anything that indicated the film had actually been released to European theatres. And while I'm on that point, I would like to apologize for any money that might have been put to waist by our friends abroad for having spent money to endure this film. I'd like to just put that on record please.
Did it really get released there? In theatres no less? You are having me on.
Voyage of the Rock Aliens was reportedly the last of three movies that were supposed to launch Pia Zadora as an actress, the other two being Butterfly (1980) and The Lonely Lady (1982). Both bombed at the box office, with Butterfly winning Pia a Golden Globe for best newcomer (though she had already acted as a child in the 1964 classic kitsch movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians), but her success was overshadowed by rumours that her multimillionaire husband had bought her the award. All of Pia's songs from the movie feature on her 1985 album Let's Dance Tonight. Did you have the feeling that Voyage of Rock Aliens was nothing else but a big showcase for Pia Zadora?
Crag Jensen: Of course it was, but I have already alluded to this fact.
Marc Jackson: Even in our naive states, all of us knew that the movie was bought and paid for by her husband for that exact purpose. But I personally didn't have much of an opinion whether it would work or not. Of course we all hoped that by some fluke, the movie might do something to that end but to be honest, we were more concerned about making the most of it no matter what.
At the bottom of a Bad Movie Planet's review on Voyage of the Rock Aliens, the webmaster published a few exasperated words Marc sent to him that basically explain (and understandably so) that if this movie is a bad one indeed, it doesn't imply that musicians who appear in it are bad too. Did this film actually damage your image as a musician or as a person?
Marc Jackson: Not in the least basically because no one has heard of it here in the States and unless you can tell me otherwise, not many in Europe either. I can honestly say that having done that bit of work has not even shown up as a blip on the radar. And so much time has passed now that the few people who I tell about it think it is hysterical that I had the experience and so do I.
As for the words I shared with that individual, if it were me critiquing the movie and I was writing about some other band that sounded like we did, admittedly I would have probably been that harsh. But can you blame me for pushing back a little?
In hindsight, from our "21st century", what look do you take at this experience? As far as you Crag and Marc are concerned, may we interpret the fact of having recently remade a 1982 Rhema song (and that one in particular, Living for Today) as a mark of nostalgia?
Crag Jensen: Maybe it was nostalgia, I really don't remember quite what inspired me to do the remake. Something to do I guess. It can be fun to look back just so long as you don't get caught up too much in the past that you reminisce about. I also liked the message for the Sa-Shu-Ah CD – it fits in quite well. "Right now, not then, right now, this is when..." We only ever have the Now. All Eternity is naught but in the Now, as far as I know. So live for the moment, appreciate the beauty and the power of every second that you find yourself existing within – for there is really nothing else.
As far as how I look at the experience – it was an important experience for me as I have already mentioned I think. And as far as the musical question – "Where will we all be in the Twenty-first Century," we will be, or actually are – still in the great Now. Struggling to make ends meet, struggling in an America that is not what we had hoped for or dreamed (or nightmared) could ever come to be. Most of us in the band have taken new significant others, we worry about our children and we try to take care of our parents as they approach their last days upon the Earth.
Yet in some ways I am exactly where I wanted to be – in a log cabin house in the country writing and recording music. And tomorrow I go to North Carolina to play piano and sing for three weeks. I seem to recall such a lifestyle floating through my imagination of a possible future twenty some years ago. And oddly enough, I still work with Marc.
Marc Jackson: I didn't write 21st Century and I think I co-wrote Living for Today but I don't remember. As for remaking the latter, I think Crag credits me too much. I sang a pass at it one night at his house and he flew it into one of his versions of the song.
As for nostalgia...
Writing these replies to your questions at midnight on a Sunday night while my girlfriend is sleeping is the most nostalgia I've had regarding this quite honestly. I don't revisit the old material. I think it is funny that Rhema is even a topic at all. But I respect the attention you place on it. And I don't mind talking about it because it is so obscure, and odd to talk about it so many years later. And Rhema can't really be called a "has been" because Rhema really never "was." Was it? I guess maybe it was in Europe? We never played a show there. We were never told the record came out. We were never told the movie came out. We never even got a copy of the soundtrack, or the film. I bought mine on e-bay only this year just to have to show to my kids.
Marc Jackson: "A very candid shot of me on tour at the airport."
You Crag told me you have a new CD coming out. Could you tell us a bit more about it? Where can we purchase a copy of this CD?
Crag Jensen: I started reworking the tune Living for Today almost two years ago. Marc stopped by one evening and did a quick vocal at my house (I then lived in Phoenix Arizona). Sometime after that I went on the road and by the end of the summer was facing a divorce. I moved my studio at that point across the country to my parent's house in a small town in upstate New York. After which I made a remake of another song I had written back in the eighties called Me & Mindy. This I did for my girlfriend (now my fiancée) Kimbra.
In December I wrote and recorded the title piece Sa-Shu-Ah at the behest of Dr. Christopher S. Hyatt (the owner of New Falcon Publications). He wanted a new piece for an Undoing Yourself CD. This is probably when the soul of the album started to emerge or take form.
I recorded several more pieces at my parent's house before purchasing a house near Jamestown, New York with Kimbra (about forty miles south of my Parent's house). I then moved my studio once again and continued to work on the album throughout the fall and winter of 2004. With the exception of Marc's lead vocal and co-writing on Living For Today and a few other guest appearances by my niece, my daughter, my son, Dr. Hyatt, Dr. Francis Israel Regardie, S. Jason Black – I played and sang and composed everything on the album. Also, part of the song Psychopath's Lullaby sounded quite similar to a bit in Marc's song (from the movie) called Get out and Dance, so I gave him some co-writing credit on that one.
The album is called Sa-Shu-Ah and Sa-Shu-Ah means that part of you that lingers deep inside of you and is the part of you that causes you to become your truest Self. It is the part of you that wants to run with wind, to become the wild and untamed animal within; it is, indeed, the "fire that burns deep within your soul." It is the catalyst for any sort of important change that takes place within you. It is that which causes you to undo the old and unwanted/unneeded and that which causes the divine and true You to emerge. It is the magical Being inside of you that causes you not only to be creative but also to channel that creativity into something tangible, poignant and meaningful. Also, the production is some of the best I have ever done – not to mention some of the songs are really quite catchy I think. That is to say the CD is as entertaining as it is serious or deep or whatever term you may want to use.
To obtain a copy you can check on NewFalcon.com and if they haven't got the page up yet, then please contact me directly at Crag66@aol.com and I will make certain you get one.
You also composed some music under the name of Zehm Alo(h)im – that you describe as some kind of a (pagan?) mystical alter ego – notably a disc entitled The Book of Thoth: a Musical Interpretation of the Tarot. What is your personal approach / conception of music and composition?
Crag Jensen: I really tend to shy away from formulas. My approach is to sit down to a keyboard or with guitar in hand or even my mandolin and start letting things come out. The Book of Thoth, however, was influenced by A. E. Waite's and Aleister Crowley's Tarot decks. I meditated on certain cards and then set what I felt inside to music. And it is some of the best music I have done to date I think. It is elaborately orchestrated (synthetically) and, from what I have been told, extremely addictive.
Although I have been known to call myself a Pagan (or Neo-Pagan) I am more of an Agnostic than anything else. Yet I will say that the Pagan thing has influenced my thinking and hence my art in many ways. The creation of art and / or music... is a form of Magic for me. It is the result and / or the process of drawing out that which dwells below the surface of the conscious mind. Sometimes all it takes is one musical line or a word or phrase and everything seems to almost grow itself from that point on. There is, as I have alluded, something going on that is outside the realm of frontal lobe thinking and willing. It is part of that that separates us from the other animals. It is a connection to a Force that dwells somewhere beyond our present understanding of science, reason and spirituality. Yet it is there and it works, and when it is working - one has then the knowing that it is working as one feels its relentless push to complete any given project.
Perhaps it is "God" or spirits or muses that do this work, this pushing. Or maybe it is one's higher Self or perhaps it is just an anomaly of the human mind – who knows? No one knows. I see it as part of the process of Sa-Shu-Ah. And having said that, I feel there is little left to say about this process. It just is what it is and that's all I guess. If you've felt it yourself then I think that you very likely know what I am referring to. If not then perhaps you should obtain a copy of the Sa-Shu-Ah CD or a copy of Dr Hyatt's Undoing Yourself at NewFalcon.com. Or maybe not – whatever floats your boat, as they say.
I know you Marc have released a CD, Comedy of Life. Looking for it on the web, I came across a few good reactions and understood it was some kind of acoustic pop music. Could you tell us a bit more about it? Where can we purchase a copy of this CD? [I ask you because your personal website, www.marc-jackson.com, doesn't seem to exist anymore]
Marc Jackson: Thank you for your interest in something I care a bit more about. I recorded and released this CD because I wanted to express some things very personal to me in an art form that would touch people. I sold it on line for a while but it is primarily selling when I play a live show. I generally play and sing with only my acoustic guitar. I took down the site because for the past year I have been writing a new theatrical musical. I literally have not played live in a year but will be performing in LA this summer because people have been thankfully asking me to do shows again. Now the musical is in the workshop phase and we are rehearsing I can get back to performing.
If you dig around on the internet you will find my e-mail address. And if you do, then I'll know you really want a copy and will send one to you straight away.
Maybe I'll do a show in Paris when I vacation there in 2006. It will be my first time in Paris and I am working feverishly on my French so I don't appear to you to be just one more obnoxious American in your beautiful country. It has been a dream of mine to visit there my whole life.
Do you have any other plans for the future?
Crag Jensen: Probably to do scores for motion pictures. The bigger the production the better. Other than that, I would like to finish the novel I am working on, record more albums, write more articles and whatnot for New Falcon, have a happy life with Kimbra and see my children more often. Not to mention – make some money – but we all need to do that now, don't we.
Marc Jackson: My plans are to continue to score for TV and Film. To complete and release the musical theatre work sometime in 2006. I am recording a solo CD under the name The Raw which is industrial rock which will be available hopefully by next year. I am working with a sculptor on a piece that features some audio sound creations that interact with body movement. It is a bit complicated to describe but I'm very excited about that. And as I said, I'll be back to performing new material as a singer/songwriter.
Well... here is the end, so, to conclude, in the name of all the members of our team, I would like to warmly thank all of you one more time for having been so open and so friendly. Best wishes to you and those you love!
Marc Jackson: Thank you for your interest and your inquiries.