Mint Condition: On & On, Pt 2

AHHA: So they did try to Hip Hop you out. Rick: Well yeah. It came out in the [news]paper… what all record companies are trying to do is get a hit producer on each artist to help them sell. Stokley: The producer became the artist. AHHA: Do you feel that there are any themes or […]

AHHA: So they did try to Hip Hop you out.

Rick: Well yeah. It came out in the [news]paper… what all record companies are trying to do is get a hit producer on each artist to help them sell.

Stokley: The producer became the artist.

AHHA: Do you feel that there are any themes or topics that haven’t been expressed in R&B or other types of Black music that you would like to explore?

Stokley: One of the best love songs I’ve ever heard is Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’ about his daughter. When you talk about love songs people think it’s just that romantic adult love thing. But it would be cool to hear more about family, different dynamics of love. You got love for Hip-Hop – along those lines and things like that. Also I like narratives, when you’re talking about someone else’s perspective and you have a narrator for me. I think those things would be cool to hear, what we try to promote too from a male perspective is a real feeling about what men really go through. Sometimes you get a little vulnerable, sometimes you get scared and you wanna cry and how you kinda combat that is it turns to violence ‘cause you don’t wanna cry. These are real feelings, everybody goes through them – quit frontin’.

AHHA: Is there any music that inspires you from today’s young artists?

Rick: I like Van Hunt.

AHHA: I think I broke the grooves off that CD I played it so much.

Rick: We like artists that everyone else would hate. Everybody ain’t gonna be able to sing and dance and be the greatest, but they might have something else to offer.

Stokley: I like Anthony Hamilton, Bilal, and 4th Avenue Jones.

AHHA: You have outlasted other groups, have classic material and a loyal fanbase, yet you have no industry awards or recognition. How do you deal with this?

Rick: You know what? When Stevie Wonder calls you, that’s a reward right there. Whitney Houston… when you hear Gladys Knight on Oprah and Oprah asks her, ‘If you were on a beach somewhere who would you like to have there to sing to you?’ and she said our name… We’re winning way more awards than a lot of other people.

Stokley: Our whole thing is we don’t need any awards to validate us and tell us we’re good. Obviously anybody in this thing thinks that they’re good, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. We’re trying to acquire our talent, fertilize it and grow it up.

Rick: If you think about some of the other artists that never got their due until 25 years later [like] James Brown, we have nothing to complain about.

Stokley: Really to me, no disrespect to any other artists or anything, but the way they give so many things out it almost seems like it’s in some ways cheapened. So to me it doesn’t mean as much, but of course it’s extra gravy. It’s great if it happens, but really we find joy in our craft. What we do on stage and you get that back from the people. That’s what we’re trying to inspire some people to do. We do what we do and really make people feel good about themselves.

AHHA: What’s the best song that you feel you’ve ever recorded?

Stokley: I can’t answer that, all of them are special for different reasons. We recorded some stuff, we sang some stuff, we played some stuff live. All of them have a special uniqueness for me. A moment in time where certain things were inspired lyrically. It’s hard to do that, it’s real difficult.

Rick: In the past, for me it probably be ‘So Fine’ or ’10 Million Strong’ off the top of my head.

AHHA: Were there favorite recording sessions that you recall as being memorable?

Stokley: Yeah. ‘Someone To Love’ being one of ‘em, ‘So Fine’ being one of ‘em. Some of Definition of a Band and From The Mint Factory. There was some originality going on with the kind of double drumming me and Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave did. A lot of the interludes, it was a special moment. A lot of energy in Flyte Time Studios going on at the time.

AHHA: You did ‘Call My Name’ with Prince. How did that collaboration come about?

Stokley: There was a local club in Minneapolis, and I was playing drums with this band every Wednesday, and we’ve played with people who have worked with Prince throughout the years. Prince came down one night, he was jamming, nodding his head and throwing hundred dollar bills at me. I was like, “I’m about to keep this, bro”. After that he was telling folks he wanted to work with us, and his assistant called us and told us to come up.

Rick: Actually a friend of mine called me – I think I called Stoke and told him Prince was trying to get a hold of us.

AHHA: How can you not be overwhelmed by that? I mean, you have to be cool on the outside, but inside aren’t you like, ‘Oh sh*t’?

Stokley: He started so much, he’s the reason we’re doing what we do. If you just look at his whole legacy, he’s really a trailblazer. In music and in business he’s done stuff that nobody’s done. So it was incredible to have the opportunity to sit there and talk to him a couple of times. He’s a brilliant man at what he does, you can say whatever else about him, but the man is brilliant. To watch him work, the way he puts things together.

AHHA: How much pressure do you guys feel to carry on the Minneapolis legacy?

Rick: I’m not necessarily thinking about Minneapolis, I’m thinking about the band period. The Black band to carry the torch for the bands there, of course, but also Earth Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players, those kinds of people. People are looking at us as being one of the last great bands, and hopefully we’re not the last.

Stokley: It’s good to start with the community first, you gotta start with something and each little bit helps. I think that’s why we’re doing a lot of stuff at home this time, we kept kind of a quiet existence at home. We worked everywhere else and came home and lived.

AHHA: Do you guys have any unreleased material or exclusives that you could give to your fans?

Stokley: We’re definitely going to do that. We want to post stuff up there every week or every month, a fresh new song where people will be able to stream it. They gotta have some reason to come back to your site other than merchandise, we create so much music all the time – our archive is crazy. We got a lot of stuff.

AHHA: Do you guys ever think about doing a DVD, having someone follow you around during live performances?

Stokley: Yeah we were talking about that in the last few weeks, we need a big videography of all this stuff, the traveling and things that we’re doing. We’re definitely going to try and figure out how to do that.

AHHA: Who would you like to produce outside of your own band?

Stokley: It would be great to work with Jill [Scott], [Erykah] Badu, folks like that who fit our mold, as well as people like Ciara – there’s something we could bring to that whole scope. I’m looking forward to developing someone that nobody knows, kind of like what Jam [and Lewis] did. That’s more challenging to me, making our own Ciara, our own Janet [Jackson], our own Anthony Hamilton. There’s so much you can get out of that, the psychic rewards alone are like, ‘Wow we just created this out of nothing, from this raw gem, we shined and buffed it up and it’s shining like a diamond now.’ It challenges us to really try to mold along with that artist, they come to us obviously with talent and we’re all going to grow and change together.

Rick: A lot of the artists I would like to work with, I don’t know if they really need me, because I like what they’re doing right now. A lot of other artists out there could use better songs and better music behind them to match their vocals.

AHHA: You guys have been primarily marketed to an urban adult contemporary audience. If there was any other crowd you could market to with your music, who would it be and why?

Rick: It would probably be the rock crowd, because we have that in us – we’re not somebody that’s trying to do rock, we are a rock band. But our ballads we write just touch people in a certain way that I can’t explain, that they just love. But we gotta do something on this record to get out of the box to [reach] other people. Even if it’s releasing songs to college radio, we gotta let people hear this stuff.

AHHA: What do you want people to know about Mint Condition at this point in your career, with this album?

Rick: Basically, we take this serious, and we don’t f*ck around. We’re just trying to bring a healthy alternative, give people something else to listen to instead of whatever they’re used to, to take them on a ride, take them on a rollercoaster – hip them to some certain styles of music that they don’t normally listen to. I’ve heard Black people say we were the ones that introduced them to Rock & Roll.

Stokley: We’re on a mission, and expect to be challenged. That’s it for now, stay tuned to