Soundtrack Interview

An exclusive interview with Gregory Markel
Gregory Markel, former member of The Prime Movers and
songwriter of "Strong As I Am" speaks frankly about the
song, the film and his time in the band.

MCRS :You wrote the lyrics and sang lead vocals on 'Strong as I am', correct?
Could you tell us about story behind the song ?
Father look in my eyes
[Gregory Markel]  Yes, the song was composed as repeating arpeggio on a keyboard, shortly before I auditioned for The Prime Movers. Originally, there were 3
verses, each addressing the most important people in my life at that time; my Father,
my Mother, and my girlfriend. There is a 4 track demo of that version somewhere....
The final vocal melody was a result of improvising random words on the demo, with the
song's lyrical direction suggested by some of the random phonetic sounds therein.

See me as I really am Lyrically, the song alludes to the profound nature of parental influence in our lives. 
The good, the bad....the struggle to know forgiveness for parental "mistakes", the inherent need for  emotional connection, and ultimately, unconditional love.

Shortly after joining the Prime Movers, (Who were already signed to Island Records 
as a 3 piece), I showed the song/demo to the band. Though there was initially
resistance, it was eventually embraced. Joint song writing credit appears due to a
mutual agreement amongst band members to share song writing credits on all
songs, regardless who wrote them. Later, the Prime Movers successfully had me
removed from their songs, but not mine. Let's face it, 
the best lawyers seem to rule...

Did you originate the music score for the song or was it a collaborative effort ? You made me
[Gregory Markel] The arrangement of the song as a drums, guitar, bass and vocal
piece was a collaborative effort amongst band members, with me making the determination to drop the last verse referred to above. Later, when the song was
recorded, the producer, Chris Tangerides, was responsible for the keyboard parts
and sounds.....much to his credit, I feel.....Hello Chris! 

What can you tell us about the video shoot ?
[Gregory Markel] I had been fired prior to the video shoot, by a certain member of the
band who's megalomania I evidently was threatening....ha, ha... I had returned to my
glorious singing waiter job, when the bands manager called to ask me if I would
consider making the video with the band, even though we were no longer together.....
who'd say no to that? While I don't recall the director's name, I do recall him being
Italian, and formerly directing some Miami Vice episodes.

{Note: The director in question was Dante Spinotti}

We actually got together once, in the old rehearsal studio, to perform the song for
the video's director, bad blood be damned! We was gonna be on MTV!  Woohoo!

The video was shot on top of the Pacific Stock Exchange building helipad, in 
downtown Los Angeles. Though there was definitely some gray vibes between
myself and certain parties in the band at that point, we all behaved and the
shoot went well, though I was a bit anxious when asked to stand on the edge
of the building with nothing but a rope tied round my waist...
Tell me how it feels now

Behold your flesh has come of age Describe how it felt to see your song integrated into the movie.
Actually, I had mixed feelings. The song was very personal, about
my parents, and to hear it as the backdrop for a murder scene was quite jarring.

How did the song end up in 'Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe' ? ..with a cover this good, the movie must be great....
Haven't a clue, though I did find out about this, and later, with the
help of BMI,  (A performance rights organization), prompted the responsible film
company to properly register the song so that we would get paid for it's performance.

Forsake me, you break me Are you still in contact with any of the former band members?
Just the guitar player, Gary...who's a member of Dread Zeppelin, by the way....oh,  and a recent love letter to a certain member of the band after your site 
alerted me to a very, uh, "subjective" take on the genesis of the song. 

You obviously have a great deal of pride for the song, is it the favorite
from your own pen ?
Strong as I am
It's definitely one of 'em, but not only because I like the song, but because people continue to respond to it on a very emotional level. It obviously such a universal theme lyrically....I always get comments on the song  at live shows, and emails about it to this day. One recent one, from YOUR site!)....I continue to perform the song...a recent live acoustic version can be  heard here:  http://www.gregorymarkel.com/music.htm , and I'll be performing "Strong as I am", and others, at a benefit for the Red Cross and NYFD 911 Fund, November 4th, at the Coconut Teaszer, in Hollywood, CA. 
More info:
http://www.gregorymarkel.com/performance.htm

There's something about this thing that scares me Tell the readers what you are doing these days ?

Gregory Markel] After the Prime Movers, I was in a band called "Altered State",
(http://www.alteredstate.com), which released 2 records on Warner Bros., one of 
which had a #1 single at radio, and was mixed by the legendary Bob Cleermountain.  The second album, "Dos" was engineered, produced, and mixed by Ben Grosse,
(Fuel, Filter, Ben Folds, Sixpence None the Richer, Vertical Horizon), and had a
new version of "Strong as I am" on it, at our managers insistence!

Currently, I'm exploring a solo direction involving a more adventurous guitar and
vocal focused approach, found at:
http://www.gregorymarkel.com . I recently
auditioned for the part of "Roger" in Spike Lee's theatrical version of "Rent", and
I'm writing songs for "Jackie Chan Adventures, " an animated cartoon on the
WB network.

Anything at all you wish to say that cannot be expressed in the above
questions ?
Strong as I am
[Gregory Markel] Thank you for featuring the song on your amazing Manhunter
site, and giving me the opportunity to speak. Also, a deep thanks to all who have
cared to make an emotional connection to "Strong as I am."