IUP Christian Rock Band
The Christian rock band, featuring lead singer, songwriter, and founding member John “J” Jackson ’86, specializes in Biblical song parodies. Famous rock songs, including “Freebird,” “Play That Funky Music,” “Cat Scratch Fever,” and “The Monkees’ Theme,” get a makeover with a Christian attitude. Familiar lyrics are distorted inside recognizable melodies, with a good dose of humor added.
“I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church,” said Jackson. “In high school, I was on the liturgy committee that planned church services for the school, and I was even a eucharistic minister for a short time. Music has had a strong influence in my life since I was a child.
“At IUP, I was a member of the choir and was in a production of Godspell and a revue of Amy Grant songs. When I became a born-again Christian, I wanted to spread the word about what the Bible and Christianity were really about.”
A journalism major, Jackson worked for three years in the printing business and almost ten more in public relations. He formed ApologetiX in 1992 with lead guitarist Karl Messner, operating the band as a side industry before going full-time in 1999. The band’s name was inspired by the word “apologia” or “apologetics,” which originally meant “the defense of the Christian faith.”
Left to right: Keith Haynie, Jackson, Karl Messner, and Bill Rieger
“When we picked the name, it was because Christian apologetics was really important to us,” said Jackson. “I wanted to be able to help others know why they believe what they believe. So we chose the name ApologetiX, adding the ‘X’ on the end to make it look more modern and to ensure we had a name that nobody else had ever used.”
In addition to their parodies, the four members of ApologetiX have all written original music and lyrics for Christian songs. They take the responsibility seriously to be “fishers of men,” using their song parodies as the bait. “We can relate to a huge number of kids who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Christian book store or the Inspirational section of record stores,” said Messner on the band’s website, www.apologetix.com.
“My journalism teachers were extremely influential,” said Jackson. “David Truby urged me to pursue comedy professionally and has stayed in touch with me over the years. Randy Jesick, Bob Russell, Jim DeGeorge, Pat Heilman, and Craig Swauger were also very encouraging and taught all of us journalism students not to set our expectations too low. Those teachers inspired some of my first public parodies. I wrote spoofs about them at my senior IUP journalism banquet, and they liked it so much, they actually asked me to come back to school for the next year’s banquet!”
Jackson lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, Lisa, and daughters, Janna, Heather, and Kelly.
ApologetiX has recorded eight CDs of their twisted tunes. Their latest, Adam Up, was released in December. Their tours take them across the country, from Maine to California and even back to Indiana, Pa., where they played at the Indiana County fairgrounds in August, 2003. CDs and t-shirts are available on their website, as well as much more information on the band members and their tour schedule.