Monday, September 6, 2010

The Black Friday Formula

Black Friday Photoshoot

If there’s anything that Formula412 is known for other than our music and stage show is our ever-changing image and photos. We embrace the importance of promotion and marketing. For the Black Friday event, we were stepping out of our comfort zone, taking big risks to reinvent AND reintroduce ourselves to the public. For a while, Masai and I had toyed with the idea of us wearing suits, but never really pulled the trigger on the concept. It just wasn’t time--yet. Part of that theme was to promote us as “grown-ass men". We wanted to been seen as musicians with experience. To put it simply--a new-and- improved Formula412. We both really liked the idea of Quentin Tarantino’s Resevoir Dogs theme. I’ve always dug the class and sophistication of the black fitted suits with skinny ties. Perhaps that influence comes from the old jazz cats, Martin Luther King and even from the Beatles. Once we presented the theme to the band, everyone was on board and we went full steam ahead with the idea.
Armed with one of Pittsburgh’s top photographer, a great location, and our rented suits (skinny ties excluded!) we sought out to get some quality shots. No one really knew what the pictures were going to turn out like. With a looming sense of urgency surrounding the Black Friday concert we knew we only had one chance to make it hot and it had to be right.
It’s interesting when Formula412 gets together for these sort of things, because it really is like a band of brothers. We all felt the pressure and importance of getting good pictures and video—and sometimes that stress is eased by constant jokes and ripping contests. At any given moment any band member will be the blunt of harsh jokes, ridicule or rips as we call them. I always imagine if someone from outside of our circle heard some of the things that we say, that they would assume that we didn’t like each other much. It’s very much the opposite. I think the dry, rugged, sarcastic humor are part of the bond, fear, insecurities, communication, frustration, emotion, excitement, pressure, and our individual commitment to the band. The funny thing is if anyone else would say a single word about anyone of us, there would be a problem. A big problem.
Once we were there, we let the photographer work his magic. We had previously worked with him on some other projects so the tension was eased. Jeff Swenson is an extremely free and creative spirit, but most importantly an amazing photographer. Our goal was to get strong group pictures and equally supportive individual shots. We all were sort of adjusting (except for Dennis) to how the suits were fitted. They seemed a little loose, so there were fashion technical difficulties throughout the day. Buttons braking. Safety pins. Lack of tie-knotting skills. Tight collars. Bulky jackets. You name it. Still, we had to push through. If we had to hold a pair of pants up with yarn and some gum, we would have done it to make it work. This shoot and the concert that it was promoting was far too important to let clothing defects stops us.
We shot for several hours. One of the cool parts of the shoot was when Dennis was playing in this old, dirty abandoned room. I remember it being so loud and acoustically unsound. The dude already hits like Bam Bam on steroids so to have him jamming in this old cement room was almost sonically abrasive. To truly get the essence of a Dennis Garner you have to have him playing drums. No question about it. So Jeff and his assistant braved the harsh cymbals crashes, monstrous kick drum and ear-splitting snare for great pictures. Throughout the entire day we had a video team simultaneously filming behind-the-scenes footage to get a feel for what the shoot was like. We always felt like it was a great idea to include that sort of content. At the end of the day, we are all such hardcore music fans, and nerds that we get inspired by artists we appreciate. Masai, Akil and myself are definitely the music history documentary geeks and love the behind the scenes footage of the groups and artists that we admire. We try to apply that concept to Formula412.
After a long day, a few thousand pictures, video production, poses, rock throwing contests, and repeated walking shots, we were done. The Black Friday shoot was complete and to this day in my eyes, our best look yet. The video and the photos speaks for themselves.
Byron Nash

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blog #3: "TALES from the FLIP"

"TALES from the FLIP"

In effort to bring up to date behind the scenes footage to the world much more quickly I (Masai Turner) decided to start 'TALES from the FLIP". It's a nice play on words for one of our newest gadgets ...the "Flip" camera. We usually have a bunch of video cameras and a video crew around us, but I figured this would give all of the people that watch us out there a much closer, personal look into what really goes on behind the scenes. Plus it will let me put footage up online much more quickly.

Episode #1
Like most great to decent performance bands...We are constantly trying to capture the raw energy and personality of our live show into our written music. It's at Sound Check that we come up with some of our best stuff. Unfortunately, because we perform a lot... we struggle to keep the same excitement and energy in a song that we've performed the same way 100 times. To get thru this... Many times at Sound Check we'll remix a song on the spot and perform it that way on stage the same night. The above video is one of those examples. We now have several versions of "You Already Know", but I like how spontaneous this version was.

When I got back to the hotel after Sound Check I was actually trying to watch some of the video so that I could hear the newest remix of "You Already Know" and I saw how many people were actually working while we were playing at the same time. We travel with a road crew of usually no less than 6 people, plus 6 band members. let's call it a Pittsburgh dozen. They work hard for hours before the band even arrives at the venue just so that we can get to a point the we can Sound Check. There are usually another 10 to 15 people working on making sure that when our road crew arrives that they can set up our equipment and get us ready. Staging, lights, sound, security, hospitality, box office, etc. Big-Up to everyone who makes the show happen Behind the Scenes...Stay tuned for future episodes of "TALES from the FLIP".

After I bought the original FLIP I found out that there was a HD version with rechargable batteries. Nash went out and bought it a couple of days later without even giving me credit for paving the way. NO PROPS! Sorry about the quality on this one...expect huge improvements moving forward.

Masai Turner
Formula412 Mic Controller


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Friday, April 24, 2009

Blog #2: I Never Even "THOUGHT" of it!

"Backstage whispering to management like... Change the order ain't no way that we could rock after them!"

Preamble Disclaimer: It's early...I'm congested...this blog might be all over the place...I usually just speak my mind much better in the morning... It's also gonna be long winded so if you don't like to read...go back on Myspace and read some spam. Now on with the show...

If I'm being honest, from the band's inception...we've have had to detour a lot. There is a band with a similar make-up that has been around since the early 90's that musical laymen compare us too often. Doesn't help that their from the same state and many non-Pennsylvanians think Pittsburgh is down the road from their hometown even though it's 300 miles away. This band is extremely creative and they have had the unique opportunity to actually make more than 2 albums (for those of you that don't know most Hip-Hop groups get dropped after their first or 2nd album).

When Akil Esoon (you'll meet he and I later... I promise) and I first started really discussing the path that we were going to take with our new "project" back in 2006 we decided that pretty much anything that the aforementioned group had done...we had to avoid it. We actually had a check that we did against this group for a while to make sure that we never were looked at like the newest version of this group. The comparison would have killed us before we got started. 3 years later, we rarely hear those comparisons anymore. I think I have only said this band's name one time publicly. I actually try to act like they don't exist (like Formula412 is the first all black Hip-Hop band). It usually works. Today I'm not going to say their name either (that's Jimmy Fallon's job), but I "THOUGHT" of them often yesterday after I got off of a business call that was scolding me for the way that my band had conducted themselves in recent weeks. The quote from above was a lyric that this band's emcee spit on their 3rd album (I believe). Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to detour from this striking similarity. It is what it is. When this dude THOUGHT of the lyric above I bet he was in the exact same position that we're in now.

Renaissance also reminded me last night via satellite from Philly (coincidentally) how we are also walking in the same path as MC Hammer right now (check her out at Who would have thought...Formula412 and MC Hammer have something in common???!!!

Just so that you have some foundation... Our plan in a nut shell from the beginning was "Take over Pittsburgh, then Take Over the World". Microcosm then Macrocosm. 9 out of 10 agree...Mission Accomplished on Part 1. By design almost immediately our band was filling venues up pretty well... then we started selling them out, consistently. I believe that the only time we had "opened" for another group before late 08 was our very 1st show.

[Note: I believe the band that we opened for went dormant soon after...then stopped playing altogether after a few failed attempts at revival.]

I never even considered that Formula412 has almost always been the Headliner in Pittsburgh and everywhere else that we play out of town. Something else I never considered is that we almost NEVER have an opener at our shows. With a production and sound the size of ours...6 band members/ 25's hard to sacrifice your sound quality and the work that we put into sound check so that an openers can mess that up. In Pittsburgh people usually have openers to sell tickets because they aren't that good at it or people aren't excited about seeing their group only. We haven't ever had a problem selling tickets or getting people to the show so it's an unnecessary step. I think our supporters love that they don't have to sit thru another act typically too. In my estimation...they'd rather hear a good DJ (Big up to Nate Da Phat, Selecta, and Nugget for holding us down at recent events). The point is... When you don't have an opener and you come out to a cold stage almost every time you play, you have to be hot (insert period here) Our show was developed to last an hour or more and it had to be entertaining and musical throughout. As a headliner without an opener almost every time that you have a marathoners mindset and discipline. So when asked to do a real quick's nothing!

Our requests to do "quick sprints" have recently increased. Unfortunately for the people that we open for, we've still been approaching it like a marathon. With training... discipline... planning... mental preparation, etc. We're working on that Macrocosm now. We're not rich. We don't sell a million records. Our name is not household (yet), but when it comes to the stage...ask around. It gets ugly!

Back track...
In the late 80's a very hot (by industry standards) up-and-coming entertainer was asked to join a major tour to be what he thought was a supporting cast member. He actually was supposed to be an opener. A few shows in, the tour had to rearrange the order because this young man and his over sized 3 ring circus were leaving the crowd spent. By the time the headliners came out the crowd had no more energy and were leaving half-way thru the headliners set. This young man's name was MC Hammer.

Yesterday I had a conversation about with a great new business associate of ours. This guy is really in our corner and is one of the few people that don't pull punches with me about things in this touring world. He is also the person that promoters and managers of the groups that we open for would call to lodge a complaint. Complaints have been lodged. As it turns's not good to take the MC Hammer approach. As an opener you are supposed to play at 70% and even if the promoter gets you on stage are expected to cut your set short. Rocking the crowd and giving them their money's worth is not what you're there for. It's just to make sure the headliner doesn't walk out onto a cold stage. DAH! I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT OF IT!

This emcee from that band that I was talking about earlier. I don't remember who they were on tour with at the time...but I do know that they had much of the same reputation then. They weren't rich (then)...they weren't millionaires (then)....their name wasn't necessarily household (then)... but on stage...IT GETS UGLY (still). I'd bet he had a guy that the headliner called when they were out on tour with people. I bet that guy got complaints about them every night. How they were "draining the crowd" and "playing too hard for an opener". Hopefully in the next few days I'll come up with a one liner that can address how angry that makes me. Hopefully I'll come up with a line that tells you guys how much harder I'm going to work on my stage game... how much harder my squad is going to go at much more we are going to prepare musically and mentally to dominate any opportunity that we have to reach Part 2 of our mission.
Until then... the lyric that started this blog means so much more to me than it did when I first heard it in the late 90's. Kardinal Official actually used it for a hook one of his records because he developed the same reputation when he got on top of his game (Big up to T-Dot! K.O. We'll see you at NXNE this year).

Sometimes when you already own a mansion & a yatch you get your ass kicked by cats that are hungry. My band is starving and kicking a lot of ass. Get ya Dukes up if you choose to allow us to open for you. If man will be expecting your managers call.

Post Disclaimer: Typically it's the whinny manager of the artists lodging these complaints. We usually end up being very cool with the artists that we play with. Whatever goes on behind the scenes after that is out of our control.

(Shout out to Busta Rhymes & Spliff by the way for not being shook after we got off stage. That situation could have easily went south for them, but it was dope to see how Real Actual Hip-Hop rises to that doesn't make phone calls).

Big-Up to for the image above and Renaissance (remember to check her out) for the guidance!

MT the MC
of the Formula412 ass kickers

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


(We're not rude, we'll introduce ourselves later) in a world where the majority of communication is done online... Formula412 got the false sense that having a Myspace page, then a Facebook page, then a Twitter meant that we were communicating who we really were and what we were about out to the world. WRONG! I took a few minutes to read over the messages, bulletins, and updates that we have sent out over the past year and I came to an awful realization: "OH NO! We only promote shows and our music thru those sites!" For a band like ours, the movement that our music has become and the journey that we take that movement on is equally important as the destinations that we reach with both. It seems that over the past couple of years we only have been making our supporters and haters aware of the destinations that we've reached. THIS BLOG IS FOR THE JOURNEY!

No disrespect to our ultra cool and laid back promotional efforts via the aforementioned social networking sites. We have gotten the word out that "Formula412 is Here" in a way that I believe is unparalleled comparing apples to apples. The problem is that the way that those sites are formatted and viewed doesn't allow us to "share" a time line and the steps necessary for growth and evolution. If used properly... this will be a historic log of Formula412 for a person that first hears about us in 2013. They'll be able to go back to April 2009 and read what steps we took to rise above and beyond our expectations (or what designer drugs we took to under perform and crash and burn to our demise).

Those that have been around us or seen us in action know that we travel with a documentary crew (usually always a video and photo camera). We have literally thousands of hours of video and thousands of pictures as well. What we've done in the past is cherry picked the best images or the coolest video and let the public see us at our best. In retrospect I think that this perspective is limited. I was digitizing one of our worst rehearsals the other day from a min-dv tape to Final Cut and I realized..."If cats knew how low we were at some points in our journey in the past...they would appreciate seeing us rock an arena or festival a lot more in the present and future." From today forward...expect a much more realistic and "Uncut Raw" version of Formula412 to be available for those interested people online. I'm sure for the industry folks...there still will be some polished flashy stuff that their minds can digest easily.

I'm not really sure how long these blogs are supposed to be...but my PINKY hurts (more on this later) so I'm going to wrap it up. We don't even have anyone aware of this blog yet. Expect over the next few weeks for it to be more of a catch you up to what we've been doing for the last couple of years...As we get close to the middle of may...expect the real present and real future.

Masai Turner
aka "The Front Man Behind The Scenes"
aka Formula412 Emcee