Interview with Pittsburgh’s Formula412

Formula412 on stage by Jordan Beckham

We had a ton of questions for Formula412. The band was preparing for their CD release concert on Saturday 4/16/2011, but Masai Turner (the voice) took some time to talk about the highly anticipated album, thoughts on Pittsburgh, plans for the future, and even got a pre-launch look at the new iFormula412 mobile app!

What are your Pittsburgh backgrounds/bios?

We all grew up in Pittsburgh and went to high school here. I grew up in East Liberty/ Highland Park in Elementary School (Fulton), Stanton Heights for Middle School (Arsenal), then I lived in Squirrel hill for 2 years of High School and then “The Hill” for the majority of last 2 years (Allderdice). After that I moved to Oakland for College (Pitt), and the list goes on… Mostly East and Central Pittsburgh though.

How did you meet and start Formula412?

I knew everyone in the band before we were a band. Each member has crossed paths on shared bills or artistically many years before there was ever a Formula412. We should have started this thing in 96 instead of 2006. We all had mutual respect for each other so it was easy to come together. Respect is everything.

What is the idea behind the name?

The Formula was the mixing of different genres and elements. 412 is what you have to dial before calling any of us on the phone.

Your music is very original and has a unique delivery, but which genre will record shops categorize the album?

Record Shops should categorize us under “Good”, “Dope”, “Real”, “Worth your hard earned dollars”, “Worth listening to more than once”, or “You won’t be mad after you buy it.”

Being a major part of the hip-hop community, would you be against people referring to Formula412 as a rock band?

No. I’m sure some people see us as more rock than hip-hop. Depends on how you listen to music and what you listen for. Was Run-DMC rock? Is 99 Problems rock? At the end of the day as long as they feel the music and it makes an impact… Call it polka. What do I care.

Being a band that is more performance based, what is the most memorable live show you’ve ever witnessed from another performer?

The Fresh Fest. Changed my life.

Having deep roots in the local music scene (Strict Flow, etc), how do you explain the outburst of success and international fame that Pittsburgh artists are receiving lately?

I credit it to talent, focus, direction, tenacity, taking the high road, having a vision beyond the limits of the 3 rivers, etc. If you are speaking of Wiz Khalifa, you can’t call it sudden or an outburst. He, Benjy, Artie, E. Dan, the whole crew has been focused and driven for 5 years minimum as a crew. When did Prince of the City come out? 06′ or something?  It takes any successful artist/label 5 years to “make it”… And here it is 2011 and cats act like Wiz is an overnight success. Nope…NOPE. In my mind this is the first time all of the things in the list that I started this answer with have remained constant behind one artist. That’s why the notoriety is international now. We have always had the talent in Pittsburgh. There “SHOULD” have been many other “stars” from Pittsburgh well before Wiz. They just never have put the whole Formula together. The Rostrum Team has.

Who are some other local musicians that people should get to know?

The people that we have featured on our albums are the people that I think you should get to know. Black Sun, Phat Man Dee, Sonji. There are so many others. Pittsburgh has talent. Go see them all… It’s kind of like going to a record store. You have to look through the whole pile. The good ones will be obvious when you see it if you know what you’re looking for.

You worked with Bill Paladino on your first major video, what was it like? Who had the bus idea? Did you use a real helicopter?

That concept and production was all Formula412. We have a great friend at PAT that really helped us bring it to life. Once we had the production complete and the concept worked out we called Bill in to shoot it. He also obviously edited the hell out of it  Due to zoning laws I can’t comment on the helicopter or the friend of ours that is a pilot for channel 11 news’ helicopter. 🙂 Paladino is a cool dude. He actually had several local directors on that shoot. Dave Prokopec, Kevin Kaufmann, I even think Paladino’s little brother was out there on that shoot. The video is dope because we had dope cats shooting dope performers.

Do you take the bus in real life?

Yes. I used to ride the bus to work when I worked in downtown Pittsburgh. That’s actually where I wrote “Step to the Rear” if you look on the windows… You’ll see the stickers that became the hook to the song.

Shortly after the Tsunami in Japan, you released the video for Gotta Give. Was that a coincidence?

Coincidence? No. Necessary? Yes. It’s a message that was important to us. I hope that comes across in the music, lyrics, and the energy of the band in the video. David Prokopec (director) really did his thing on that video. We love it.

The video was shot at the Carrie Blast Furnace, what do you think about the plans to turn it into a museum?

I love history. It depends on what kind of museum it is. As long as it tells the real story of what happened there and it’s impact on the region (both good and bad), I think it’s a great idea. I hope they leave the majority of the art and the graf that has been done there. It’s uniquely Pittsburgh.

There is a high level of awareness in your music, how do you apply these messages in your own lives? Are you vegetarians, do you recycle, eat organic, etc?

Akil is a vegetarian, I recycle, our music is organic. I think that we realize that we have a voice so we have to use it sometimes to raise awareness of topics that we think are important. You won’t hear me say things that I don’t believe in… so yeah.

The new album is called Reality Show, you are doing a great job with your blog and Picture of the Day entries, but have you considered producing an actual reality show for your fans – like Wiz’s DayToday?

We actually went a step further. There will be a short film in the fall that captures the creation of the music on this album. The video for “Reality Show” is like a trailer to the film. We have been shooting since we stopped promoting and touring the first album. It’s going to be something special. Stay tuned.

What’s your favorite venue to play live in Pittsburgh?

I hope that it’s Mr. Small’s after Saturday. We’ve never really played a show there. Up until now… The Turmoil Room.

Where can people usually find you hanging out?

Honestly, these days we’re studio rats. We’re either rehearsing, in the studio, or on airplanes.

Lot of tattoos… any Pittsburgh related ones?

We don’t have any Pittsburgh specific tattoo’s in the group I don’t think. I have a couple of scars that I got in Pittsburgh. They are permanent like tattoos… Does that count?

Do you think Pittsburgh is boring?

No. Pittsburgh is not boring. It’s the inspiration behind our music. It’s the center of our support system. It’s the site of some of our best concerts. Boring people don’t represent like our supporters do. I think the city is what you make of it. Any city. I’ve lived in New York and it was boring when I was boring. I’ve lived on the West coast and it was boring when I was boring. I lived overseas and it was boring when I was boring. The geography and the separation of the city by the three rivers has always limited people’s movement and engagement into the scene. If you’re willing to go through a tunnel and cross a bridge, that’s the first step. The second step is open mindedness.


Don’t miss the CD release concert!

When is the show?
Saturday, April 16, 2011
9pm-11:30pm (doors open at 8pm)

Where is the show?
Mr. Smalls Theatre (map)
400 Lincoln Avenue
Millvale, PA 15209
(412) 821-4447

How much are tickets?
$12.00 only! (few tickets still remain – click here)

But I can’t make it to the show!
Buy the new album here

What else should I do?
Get the free Formula412 iPhone app. Android app. Blackberry app?

Connect: Say412.com | Formula FourOneTwo | @Formula412