112 – Interview [2005]

112

If anyone had told the soul boy members of 112—Q, Slim, Daron and Mike– that they’ll still be making records nine years after their self-titled debut dropped from r&b heaven, they might not have believed you.

“We thought we might make enough money to open a laundry or something,” Mike jokes. “We never thought we’d be sitting here talking about our fifth record.” Still, with a solid fan base, three platinum-plus albums, a Grammy and even Vibe magazine wondering in the 20 Questions when Atlanta’s premier soul singers would be releasing their next record, could a new chapter in the lives of 112 be far behind.

HIP: It’s been a while. Did you guys take a break to get back to life? Where have you been?

Q: We’ve been in the lab recording. For us it takes 3-4 months. That’s where we’ve been. We’ve been trying to make a quality product—it’s our fifth CD.

Does it get easier to record over time?

Q: With each album we just have to focus on what we do. We will meet and discuss what we want to put out there. What do we want people to know about 112? What do we want to introduce them to this time? We know the formula but once we know the direction we go to it. We have Daron in the group who is the producer so we have our own studio in Atlanta so we set the trend and then for diversity we add a few producers. Once we set the direction the rest is easy—we just go in and create.

When you got together to record what did you decide you wanted to do?

Q: We wanted to get the swagger back. With the Hot & Wet album we didn’t reach the success we wanted. There were some writers who said we lost our step and couldn’t do it without Puff. So we went in the studio with the mindset that we had to show ya’ll that we are still the best R&B group in the industry. We’d blow those things they said up on the Xerox and hang them on the wall and when we were singing in the studio we’d look at those write ups. Those made us want to sing to our last breath. We had to dig deep and let our music show and prove.

What was the feeling in the group when you received the negative reviews? Were you surprised?

Q: Yeah. It was something 112 wasn’t used to. From 1996 until now we have always had success. We were the most played R&B record in the history. So when we got this it was unfamiliar territory. The true test of our character was that we were able to rise above the rubbish and were able to get another chase to do better.

When you read the reviews did you question yourself and the group? Did you wonder if what they were saying was true?

Q: The first thing you have to do is look at yourself. If more than one person is saying something you need to strip it down and take a real look at yourself. There were things that we lacked on and could have done better. We could have taken that next step and make it more on point. So we sat down and we decided we’d go back to our work ethic that got us there.

Do you think you took it all for granted because you were on top?

Q: You have to look at it like this… on our fourth record we got big checks and bought cars and big houses. So the work ethic lacked and wasn’t like it was on the first three albums. On the Hot & Wet album we’d go in at twelve and leave at eight. So once we sat down and thought about it we realized what we lacked. It was a good album but we had to refocus.

DARON

Do you think you took being a star for granted?

DARON: It was a real interesting situation that through our career we always had a bad contract so a lot of the motivation was the money because we had to make money and pay our bills. Originally we got in the business for the love. But we lost sight of why we love it. So when you get your money and are set and you forget. We lost sight of what got us there—it happens in any profession.

You moved to Def Jam right?

DARON: Yeah.

Was it a good change of scenery?

DARON: I could say it helps in a lot of ways. There have been some nice additions like Jay-Z taking over. There have been good changes where we stand especially for a group that does hip-hop and R&B.

As the group’s producer do you find it hard to judge what you should stay and what shouldn’t because you have personal feelings in the tracks?

DARON: It’s always different. From an emotional standpoint you go with what feels right. If the room goes crazy you know it’s good. I think the biggest part of a good song is connecting with people in a personal way so they know who you are. If you look at certain artists they have a deep connection with people because they feel like they know who they are.

I always think of Marvin Gaye.

DARON: Exactly. Even Eminem. You know who he is and where he came from. I feel like I went to high school with him or he lived across the street from him.

Do you try to feel like you are touching people in each song?

DARON: We’d like to. It started when we were just four cats singing in a parking lot—we wanted to touch people.

MIKE

Is it wild that fans will buy a record and wonder why it took so long but they never realize you have a life too?

MIKE: (Laughs) Yeah. That’s how it goes. It’s almost where we are iconic and we aren’t even real. They want their artists nice and chiseled and smile when they see us. I have problems too… can I cry too? (Laughs)

Is it a lot to handle?

MIKE: When we got into music it was for the music and didn’t expect the celebrity thing. It was overwhelming and we were so green to the situation and didn’t know what we got ourselves into. Everyone just assumes that all we do is sing. I’ve heard people say ‘if all I had to do was sing it’d be straight’ well if all I had to do was sing I’d be straight, but there is more to it than that. We aren’t just musicians. We have to sacrifice our lives. I can’t remember the last time I went to a park and just chilled without being harassed. And if you go somewhere someone will say ‘isn’t that the guy from’ and you don’t know if they want an autograph or if they want to get me for my diamonds or gold.

Because your career is based on your voice does it drive you crazy when you get sick or when it lets you down?

MIKE: Let me tell you something, my voice is my best friend. It’s everything I wanted to be; its Confident and powerful. The person that you see is a reflection of my voice. When I lose my voice I lose it. I lose it mentally, too. Once you lose it you don’t realize how important it is. As a matter of fact I think we’re going to get insurance on our voices right now. (We both laugh)

So is it a gift or a skill?

MIKE: Both. When we first started it was so raw and natural and was a gift from God. But over a period of time and being around different musicians and training it becomes a skill. Once I started to sing opera I realized it was a skill rather than being in church and letting whatever comes out come out.

SLIM

I was just talking to Mark about losing his voice… it’s not like a guitar player whose string breaks and gets a new one…

SLIM: I know. The great thing about being in this group is they cover you, now if I was in another group I don’t know (laughs).

People tend to think musicians think about music all the time.

SLIM: Yeah, music isn’t always on my mind. Sometimes music will drive me crazy. If I’m not with the guys I turn music completely off. But it does make me appreciate what I do. If you saw me and didn’t know who I was you’d probably think I had something to do with the sports world or something. I love sports.

I love sports, too.

SLIM: I could talk to you about sports all day—from basketball to football to golf and tennis. I love old school cars. I love rides.

Are you all Falcon fans?

SLIM: No. I’m spread out in my sports. With football I’m an Oakland Raiders fan—I bleed silver and black. With basketball I’m a Dallas Maverick fan. With College Basketball I’m Arizona Wildcats fan. With baseball I’m an Atlanta Braves fan.

I’m a Buffalo Bills fan.

SLIM: You’re a Bills fans? I have a cousin that plays on there.

Who?

SLIM: Takeo Spikes.

He’s your cousin?

SLIM: Yeah.

He’s the man.

SLIM: He does his thing.

Just like 112. (cc–We went on for about ten more minutes talking about sports and it might bore readers, but I can tell you that the members of 112 are great guys and are definitely doing their thing).

+ Charlie Craine

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