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interview // tonex

     biography (yotonex.com)

     Tonex ( pronounced toe-nay ) is a 20 something musical prodigy that has mesmerized audiences all over the world. All of this is accomplished through the power of God and the overwhelming amount of purity, truth and freedom in his music ministry. Tonex's parents, District Elder Anthony & Dr. E.B. Williams, are the Pastor & Co-Pastor of Truth Apostolic Community Church (P.A.W. California District Council #19) in Spring Valley, California where they have been in existence for ten years. Tonex serves as Assistant Pastor and Executive Director of Music Ministry along with his Wife Yvette. As you can plainly see, Tonex has many hats to wear. In 1997 an album that changed the gospel music industry forever entitled "Pronounced Toe-Nay" was released on an independent Christian label in San Diego. That album catapulted TONEX into Gospel music super-stardom without one cent of marketing used because quite frankly the independent label had none. ďI wasn't expecting a lot from them (Rescue Records ) I was just thankful that they gave me a chance." says the Stellar Award winning artist. That album garnered the attention of the producers at the Stellar Awards TV show and placed him on the billing. And "THAT" performance by TONEX on the 14th Annual Stellar Awards has compared to the same impact Michael Jackson made on the Motown 25th Anniversary special back in 1983. A re-release of the now unavailable classic album has been released as of September 26, 2000 on Jive/Verity Records. 2002 saw the arrival of the follow up to the epic masterpiece "PTN" entitled "02" which USA TODAY gave 3 out of 4 stars. That album garnered to number 1 hits "Bout A Thang" and the monumental church anthem "God has Not 4got" which was nominated for a Stellar Award in the category of SONG OF THE YEAR. This song stayed in the top 5 slot of the gospel charts for over a year straight. Tonex received a total of six Stellar Award nominations for the album "02" Tonex followed this release of "02" critically acclaimed EVOLUTION TOUR with Trin-i-Tee 5:7 & Men of Standard. Tonex literally "STOPPED" the show to point that the order of the line up had to be changed. After the 3rd show it was decided by the touring company that Tonex had to close the show due to the unbelievable impact that his set was having over the audiences. Tonex also won the 2003 Dove Award for Urban Album of the Year. Now in Tonex sets up the year of 2004 with his brand new offering entitled " OUT THE BOX". This is the first live recording and DVD from the artist and is bound to be an instant classic. The Double Disc CD and DVD features guest appearances from Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams & Sheila E. The supporting cast included a 10 piece band, 4 dancers, a 16 voice ensemble and a 40 voice choir. This was not just a concert but a production of epic proportions that had to be seen to be actually believed. In support of this NEW ALBUM Tonex embarked on a 40 city Nation-Wide Tour called EVOLUTION II . Following that up in the Summer of 2004 the OUT THE BOX World Tour which will start in Japan is already in the works. Tonex has always been known for his live performances which are second to none.

     the night, tonex out of the box dvd release party - seth wallace

Well, It's 1:30 AM and I'm back from Tonex's first public DVD release party held in Baltimore. I went to the event with "Majeye" who runs Aphire so that we could interview Tonex and see what this DVD release is all about.

We left for the event early to make sure we checked in for our press badges on time. It was at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore and I'd never been there. We found the place pretty well but we did have a little detour before hand. I accidentally motioned for Majeye to turn down an alley that I thought was the street (hey, it looked right!). There's a little more to the story, but I'll save it.

We parked, went in and took our reserved press seats in the front row (pretty nice VIP treatment). The church itself is a cavernous sanctuary with a full balcony and large stage backed by an even larger choir section. There were 3 large movie screens, 5 TV cameras in the sanctuary and it was certainly bigger than it looked from the outside.

The forecasted rain held off just long enough to keep the entering crowd dry. People filed in steadily and I realized that the whole lower level and some of the upper level would soon be filled. I donít have an accurate count but Iíd estimate at least 1,500 people were present. The air was filled with eager anticipation.

Denise Hill-Smith, better known as ďThe Gospel LadyĒ (on Washington DCís WKYS Sunday Morning Gospel show) was the MC for the night, and welcomed everyone to the premier showing of ďOut The Box: The Movieď. After that, the action really got started.

For those who already own or have heard the CD, you know that it was recorded live in one night. Well, this DVD is the presentation of that one night, and much more. Essentially, it combines the live recording with behind the scenes footage, commentary, preaching interludes and digital effects. It is part music video, part documentary and part live concert to put it simply. Camera angles are cut together like a music video and images are altered or highlighted with special effects to accentuate this high energy DVD.

Iíll venture to speak for everyone at the event by saying, once the music started, the whole audience was transported back to September 29th, 2003 in San Diego to relive the excitement and energy of that night of live recording. When there was prayer on the DVD, people said ďAmenĒ in the back row. When Tonex said to clap, we all clapped. Throughout the movie there was applause, laughing, hollers, yells and dancing right in step with the movie. We werenít watching a DVD, we were AT that concert in San Diego!

The DVD followed the double CDís track listing, keeping true, yet adding a whole new dimension to the musical experience. After the 2nd segment of apparently 6 on the DVD the lights came on and an emotional Tonex took the stage. Later, during the interview, he said that he was surprised at how much energy the audience had while watching. Over a year of effort led to this moment of its first public showing and he was humbled by the results.

When Tonex took to the stage in person, the crowd erupted. I donít think they reacted simply because they thought a budding ďGospel SuperstarĒ was in the house. I believe that after seeing the talent, diversity and dedication of the man Tonex in the movie, they had a clearer vision of what he is all about. Iíd venture to say that they applauded the sacrifice and heart of a man called to change gospel music.

There was more to come from Tonex this night, however. After singing two songs, Tonex proceeded to ďHave some CHURCH!Ē. You know what Iím talking about too. There was singing, dancing, preaching and praying for the following two hours of a scale not soon to be rivaled.

The nights program was altered due to the long praise and worship session and no more of the DVD was shown but I donít believe many people minded. Majeye and I went into the green room, where a tired Tonex relaxed for a few moments after the concert, and conducted an interview session. Tonex then headed out to sign autographs and chat with the large line of people waiting for him.

Overall, Iím glad I went. I enjoyed the DVD. As Tonex said, itís something ďthe whole family can enjoyĒ. The production and behind the scenes footage is interesting and the music and dancing is great. (Oh, did I forget to mention that Tonex dances the whole time, has a full band, a full choir and a dance team on stage? Sorry, Iíll try to fit that in next time)

To be completely candid, I listen to mainly hip-hop and occasionally enjoy gospel music. I picked up Tonexís first CD ďPronounced toe-nayĒ in í97 when it first came out and have kept an eye on him since. I think this DVD would make a good stocking stuffer this Christmas season for fans of gospel music. Iím glad I was able to see and speak with Tonex. Heís grown a lot over the years, as has my appreciation for the work heís doing to change the face of Gospel music.

     the interview

Word in the Nureau Underground is that you're going to be releasing an album called "Stereotype." Tell me a little about this project.


What? WowÖ Man, you caught me off guard with that, thatís some real underground news. UmmÖ wow. Dang, no one knows that!


They about to.


They about to, yeah. Actually I have four more songs to do butÖ  I am not stuck on that title yet. That is a tentative title. I will sayÖ it is not ďOut of the BoxĒ; itís definitely grunge hip-hop, like straight gutter hip-hop. Yeah, thatís my roots, like that what ďPronounced Toe-NayĒ, kind of started off and kind of got away from it so I am in a mood right now where I really want to get back to it. And also want to show people my skills lyrically show my skills there. Itís a dope record, thatís all I can say.


Time frame?


We are looking at June of next year.


In a 2002 gospelflava.com interview you mentioned that you ďwanted to do an all rap recordĒ of your own. Is that still in the future? Is that going to be part of that album?


No, no, no... that is separate, that is a T. Bizzy album, which will be probably right along the same time May, June, I already have 10 songs recorded. Itís hot, but itís a whole different persona, you have like Sean Combs, whoís like the CEO, then you have Diddy the rapper and Puff is the producer so itís like all these different names.


What inspired you to make your latest album, Out of the Box, a live recording?


Because most people didnít think I could do it live, ya know? Or they saw me live and then heard my records and was like why donít I hear on the album what you do live. So, it was the truth, itís a true record, so people could know the truth. Not just singing, but you know all the instruments.


How did you hook up with Montell Jorden for the devotional song ďYesĒ off Jordenís Life After Def?


He called me actually, Montel called me. And he has been a fan for a while. And we look alike everyone tell me I look like Montel or Teddy Riley. And then everyone tell Montel look like Tonex. So we hooked up more just to see if we looked alike and he actually also did a song ďI found LoveĒ off the Oakpark album, which is also an underground piece.


Youíve been very busy behind the scenes production-wise, working with a diverse list of artists: Unity Klan, Big J, Kelli Williams, Virtue, Soljahz etc. What motivates you to produce these different styles?


What motivated you to research my life like this? This is crazy. No one asks meÖthis is the first time I have been asked this questions! So what was the question again?


What motivates you to produce many different and diverse styles?


Because I get bored with my own music, I really do. Cuzí ďOut of the BoxĒ is now two and half years old for me, where it is only a few months old for the public. So then Iím producing people that helps me get more of the creative juice out in other ways if I canít get it out in my own successive records. It helps me get some of it out or else I get real frustrated, because I have so many songs and different styles.


What do you hope to accomplish with this DVD, Out of the Box: The Movie?


Making history. Changing the Gospel as a game, and when I die, them remembering when this came out. I remember when that came out, like you remember when Terminator came out or you remember when Independence Day; you remember what you were doing when these big blockbuster movies came out. Well I want that to be for Gospel what it was to mainstream counterparts a piece that stepped the whole game up or at least got people looking at new ways to present gospel records. Itís not just live itís the movie because itís part documentary, part reality show, part conceptual. Itís all things; so I guess its Beatleís influence.


How did that idea come in your head?


I wanted to present particularly choir music in a way, because most people donít think I dealt with choirs and thatís where I started. I donít currently like the choir music thatís out on the radio because it all sounds the same. But if I can take the core template of how it sounds, combine it with energy, innovation, interludes and an undertone theme throughout the whole thing. Because there really isnít a theme to it, except there is a theme. Itís like Seinfeld itís not about anything and thatís what it is about. You see what I am saying? Out of the Box is not, just when you look at it and hear it, it is what it is and I just wanted to do something a little different. I felt to do an O2 part 3 or a Pronounced Toe-Nay part 2 would be what the public would be expecting from me. When they think they know what I am going to do I am always going to do something the complete antithesis of what they think.


Why should people go out and buy this DVD?


Because if they donít, I wonít have any money. No, because itís a family piece, itís a family piece, the whole family can watch it and I love family. This will be what folks eat their Turkey too this year. I remember that Thanksgiving the year when, Out the Box came out, everyone body comes over ďLetís watch Out the BoxĒ. Whatever can bring the family unit together, because God is about family. They should purchase it because it is a perfect bridge and establishes a common denominator between parent and child that is something positive and filled with the word.


Have you done private screenings yet? Or is this the first major public screening? How did you feel, because there was energy?


This is the first of the pubic screenings. I was surprised because you never know; you just do what you do. And you hope people like it; you know how you reacted to it. But I didnít think they were going to reacting like they were at the concert. That was pretty amazing, and then while I was watching it, it hit me all over again. It was just like Lord have mercy this is finally out of the editing room a year later, all this hard work and people are actually able to watch it now and see the totality of my life as an artist and as a minister and as a pastor. I was surprised tonight, the response was incredible we only had to play two sections and there were four more left. So, that will give them something to look forward to it. And then there will be Inside the Box which is how all of that was made, and that is a separate DVD.



Special thanks to: LaRosa Johnson (http://www.trailblazinmedia.com), Alicia from Sweet Finesse (http://www.sweetfinesse.com), Seth Wallace (http://www.nomadspeaks.blogspot.com/)

and of course Tonex (http://www.yotonex.com)


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