Rock Is Lit

Zachary Lazar, Author of 'Sway'

Episode Summary

In this episode, Zachary Lazar and I talk about his rock novel, ‘Sway, the connection between early Rolling Stones, the avant-garde filmmaker and occultist Kenneth Anger, and Charles Manson and the Manson Family. Later, Tony Sokol drops by to talk about the Stones’ actual involvement in the occult, then very special guest Zeena Schreck shares her memories of her godfather Kenneth Anger and gives her insight into some of his work.

Episode Notes


Zachary Lazar and I talk about his extraordinary rock novel ‘Sway’, a story that reimagines the early days of the Rolling Stones, including the romantic triangle of Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith Richards; the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; and Charles Manson and his followers. We also talk about the Stones at Altamont, Aleister Crowley, the Jewish mystical tradition, poets William Butler Yeats and William Blake, the difference between the Christian idea of Lucifer and the mythological Lucifer, the challenges of writing about real people in a fictional setting, my family’s tangential connection to the Manson murders, Joyce Carol Oates’ short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, Joan Didion’s titular essay from her book ‘The White Album’ and the moment the 1960s ended.

Later, two special guests drop by to add real-world context to the fictional story presented in ‘Sway’: 

First, playwright, journalist, editor, and musician Tony Sokol briefly talks about the Stones’ involvement in the occult and with Kenneth Anger.

Then, Zeena Schreck, who is an artist, musician, Tibetan Buddhist yogini, and the goddaughter of Kenneth Anger, as well as former High Priestess of the Church of Satan (founded by her late father Anton LaVey), shares her memories of Kenneth Anger, including how her father made him her godfather and her personal and working relationship with Kenneth. She also talks a bit about her background and rebuilding her life as a Buddhist in Germany. In addition to this, Zeena discusses Kenneth’s interest in Aleister Crowley; the making of and background on some of his iconic films, especially the 1969 film ‘Invocation of My Demon Brother’ (a movie that figures large in Zachary Lazar’s novel ‘Sway’); Kenneth’s relationship with Anita Pallenberg and her influence on the Rolling Stones; and how Kenneth’s work influenced MTV and music videos.

For bonus material featuring Zeena Schreck, visit the Rock is Lit Vault.



  1. “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones
  2. “Torn and Frayed” by the Rolling Stones
  3. Clip from ‘Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome’
  4. “Mr. Crowley” by Ozzy Osbourne
  5. “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones
  6. Clip of the real Charles Manson speaking
  7. “Sway” by the Rolling Stones
  8. “Dancing With Mr. D” by the Rolling Stones
  9. Clip of Mick Jagger’s soundtrack to ‘Invocation of My Demon Brother’
  10. “Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones
  11. “2000 Light Years From Home” by the Rolling Stones
  12. Theme from ‘The Godfather’
  13. Clip from ‘Blue Velvet’
  14. “Midnight Rambler” from the Rolling Stones Hyde Park Show, Live 1969
  15. “Summer Swelter” by Zeena Schreck
  16. “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones

*All images, music, and mementos of Zeena Schreck are used with her approval and cannot be reproduced without her permission.


Zachary Lazar’s website

Zachary Lazar, Facebook, @ZacharyLazar    

Tony Sokol, Twitter, @tsokol

Link to Tony’s article “The Occult Influences of Sympathy for the Devil” in ‘Den of Geek’

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Christy Alexander Hallberg’s website

Christy Alexander Hallberg, Instagram/Twitter, @ChristyHallberg

Christy Alexander Hallberg YouTube

Rock is Lit Vault

Link to Christy Alexander Hallberg’s essay on the Manson Family, “Shifting Phantasmagoria”: