The Christian songwriting partnership of MARK PENNELLS and ZARC PORTER chronicled through 20 of their recordings

Continued from page 1


13. Jump5 - Jump5, Sparrow, 2001
Zarc: After the success of "Jumping In The House Of God" in the US the manager of this new kids group Jump5 rang us up and said could we write a song like "Jumping In The House Of God", but not a rap, which is why "Start Jumping" sounds like "Jumping In The House Of God" with no rap! it was designed for the job really. I reckon it's one of our songs we're least happy about, but it's one that had a lot of exposure especially in the States. That's often the way it works. That song and another one "Throw Your Hands Up" which was a big song in America for Jump5, they basically allowed us to start Innervation, because when we started the Trust we had absolutely no money and no momentum. It basically paid our salary for a couple of years, and enabled us to get thebandwithnoname going. Without that we would have been in deep water. It was an amazing blessing to have that window where we were selling songs in America to acts like Avalon, True Vibe and Jump5. The royalties were funding all this ministry back in the UK.

14. Avalon - Oxygen, Sparrow, 2001
Mark: I was going out to the States three or four times a year at that point to pitch songs. I was sat in a record company exec's room in Nashville playing the song "The Best Thing", along with a few other songs, to this record company guy. In came the wife of one of the Avalon guys and said, "Oh, that's gonna be ideal for Avalon." She, apparently, had been in the room next door and heard the song through the wall. She took it to Jody, her husband, and played it him. At the same time I played it to their manager, Norman Miller, who's a friend of ours, so it was kind of like we had a double attack on it. They agreed to cut it straight away.


15. thebandwithnoname - The Blitz, Movation, 2002
Mark: We'd decided to start Innervation Trust. I think it started with the idea of moving further afield, because The Message was so Manchester-based, and we wanted to start doing stuff in other parts of the country, like Shine, which was the root of it. But since then we've done loads of things with The Message, we've done lots of projects with them, they even gave us office space for two or three years.
Zarc: When we're auditioning to put a band together we might find somebody who's a great singer, we might find other people who are good singers but they've got great hearts and they're great at communicating their faith with kids. The thing is to find somebody who's absolutely brilliant at all those things you end up looking for Superman or Superwoman. So very often what we'll do is sort of put a package together - somebody who can communicate really well, somebody who's a good singer, somebody who's a good rapper, somebody who's a good dancer. With thebandwithnoname we were very fortunate in that we had and still have some hugely talented people.

Mark: Even when you've got a band established it's hard to keep them going without there being a lot of personnel changes. Schools evangelism is very hard work. It's very hard to do the kind of work we do consistently for such a long time. Chip K has been doing it for nine years, which is absolutely phenomenal. I did it for years and did burn out because it is such hard graft. Because of the nature of the work, we plan for short term members.
Zarc: Each lineup of thebandwithnoname has brought something new and fresh to the table and it's been an incredible experience working with all those guys. thebandwithnoname have really enabled Innervation to expand and grow massively since it began and in the process have, of course, led thousands of young people into becoming Christians!

16. tbc - Talk Of The Town, Movation, 2007
Zarc: Everyone asks about this but we don't know ourselves what 'tbc' stands for.
Mark: Someone suggested 'Three Big Chickens'.
Zarc: They've just done their final concert. They have had a very powerful ministry. We wrote a ballad about the crucifixion, "Beautiful". The girls did it at Spring Harvest last year. They sat down and sang that song and there was a lady at the front who was crying her eyes out, she was really moved by it.
Mark: What better subject than the crucifixion can you write about? It's a great focus. For me, no matter what is happening in my life, the cross puts it into perspective. I think we have tried to mirror that in our songwriting over the years.

17. PureNRG - PureNRG, Fervent, 2007
Zarc: PureNRG were HUGE in the States of course. This was a cover of our song originally written for tbc "When I Get To Heaven".

18. Pop Connection - Pop Connection, Movation, 2009
Zarc: Andy Silver originally approached us because he wanted some songs to use in Primary schools in a pop style. But as we talked the project developed. We originally saw it as a bit of a sideline, but it has taught us a lot that we never thought about before. One of the workers will go into a Primary school for a week and teach a set of songs. On the Thursday, they will then record the children singing the songs, and the following week they perform them at a concert in the local Church where they sell their own CDs. It means that a lot of mums and dads who may never normally go to a church are getting into the building which gives the church a massive opportunity to let people know what they can offer them. It really bridges the gap between church and their local community.
Mark: There have been some amazing stories that have happened as a result. The song "Every Day Every Night" deals with bereavement. We were unsure because it is a subject so difficult to address. But it has been used to offer support and encouragement, allowing the children to express themselves and grieve. There have been a few stories like that which encourage us and have widened our thinking. It's a more gentle project because you work alongside the kids. It's great being full on or a bit more thoughtful.

19. thebandwithnoname - The4Points: The Best Of thebandwithnoname, Elevation, 2010
Zarc: The support base these guys have built up over the years are really going to miss them but I really don't think people have heard the last of Chip, Straf and Leon! It's been a privilege to work with such talented people. We're very pleased that the guys are going out on a high. People are telling us that "The4Points" track is one of the best things they've ever recorded and having LZ7 on the track adds something to their sound. The rap was written by Sammy G and is one of the cleverest raps you'll ever hear. Presenting the four points - that God loves me, I have sinned, Jesus died for me, I need to decide to follow God - was never going to be easy to make scan properly but to do it with such clever rhymes is something else. I think it was Mark's idea to use the bridge of "Oh Happy Day" on the track - we'd done a version of Edwin Hawkins Singers' classic on the Pop Connection album. But everyone says it works well.

BeBe Vox
BeBe Vox

20. BeBe Vox - All This Time (feat. Ad-Apt), OceanFall/Movation, 2010
Zarc: Down the years we've always relied on sales of our albums in Christian bookshops to help finance our evangelistic activities. But sadly for everyone the contemporary sales aren't anything like they used to be. Take thebandwithnoname. Their debut sold really well but each one has sold progressively less and less as the band has got bigger and bigger. We basically couldn't compete with illegal downloading. In some ways you could argue illegal downloading is a good thing because the message is getting out there more. But it was becoming a big problem for us trying to make the finances work.
Mark: We needed to go into the digital market, which can't be a separate Christian market. A download gives us some profile and will hopefully help with recruitment for future Innervation projects. We found the perfect singer for a pitch at the pop charts with BeBe Vox. We have been working with her for over a year now, developing her in the background, after seeing her win the Hope Academy Competition. We released the download single "All This Time" on 26th April after BeBe played nearly 100 schools. She's a fantastic girl with a fantastic heart for God.

Zarc: Just recently, the Rev Alistair Kent - the man behind the Facebook campaign that got Delirious?' "History Maker" into the Top 40 on Easter Sunday has decided to back BeBe's single which is obviously a huge bonus! We know that an electro-pop single with influences like Lady Gaga, Taio Cruz and 3Oh!3 etc is very different from a Delirious? classic but hopefully Christians will appreciate the ministry purpose behind the BeBe single and support it.
Mark: We want BeBe to break into new markets and be a witness there. We also hope that we can eventually generate some funds to put back to put into the evangelism in schools. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.