In their South African homeland, techno team MIC are bona fide pop stars despite an uncompromising biblical message. Manja Visser reports.
Natal-based techno band MIC are a sales phenomenon in South Africa. Despite unflinchingly preaching the gospel in their lyrics, Stephen Rothquel, Gunther Schroeder and Simon Willis, aka MIC, have scored in South Africa's mainstream music scene. Numerous appearances on national TV, gruelling tours throughout SA and successful videos have elevated the engaging band to the pop mainstream while the album 'Crazyworld' and EP 'Stories From A Dry Land' have been big sellers. The latter is now available in the UK through Word. I caught up with the trio after a storming performance at Holland's Flevo Festival and began by asking Simon Willis, singer, keyboardest and back up rapper what MIC stands for. "Originally MIC were a rap group and it meant MCs in Christ. But we were doing more than just rapping. So we kept the 'in Christ'. It's up to you what the M stands for. Some say it's 'monkees', others think it is 'man'." "Or 'musicians and missionaries'."
The band was founded by Steve. He experimented for a while with different settings, but finally decided to go on with Gunther and Simon. With his 19 years, Simon is the youngest of the group. Steve is 21 and Gunther is 23. When they don't tour, MIC give concerts in the weekends, take care of Sunday services and do schools work, where they sing songs and talk to the young people. "When there's time left," Simon laughs, "we rest. Or we record albums."
MIC's self-titled debut album appeared in 1993. Within a year 5,000 copies were sold. Despite studies and other pursuits, Steve, Gunther and Simon made time to extensively tour South Africa. By the end of the year the hard working trio had performed for about 120,000 young people.
In 1995 MIC's second album, 'Crazyworld', was released. The song "Save Me" off 'Crazyworld' did very well on secular radio. Later, "Save Me" was put on 'Now Dance', a secular dance compilation. The song "Runaway" was also successful. That one reached No 27 in the secular chart in South Africa. "We believe that this came straight from God," Steve continues. "We were often being told that we had to write crossover songs for the radio, but we're almost sure that we never are going to do that, because we write what comes straight from our hearts." Steve tells that writing a hit is not the goal of MIC. "When God wants to use our songs in the secular circuit, that's great. But we're not trying to create our own success, because at the end of the day it's only God who brings success."
MIC's third recording
is a 5-song EP, 'Stories From A Dry Land'. "Our manager came up with
that title," Gunther laughs. "Actually, we wanted to call it 'Tra La
La'." "But we're happy with the title," adds Steve. Gunther continues,
"We didn't have the time to sit down and make up a title, and our
manager thought this was the best title to represent the whole album."
The title, according to the guys, refers to the spiritual dryness of
this world. 'The album tells of some of the dryness that we feel,"
says Steve. "But it also gives an answer to that dryness. For
instance, the song 'Catch Me'. It says that we're not always that
perfect, that we can fall and that you sometimes, in your weakness,
feel like you're in a desert, a dry land. But we know that God will
catch us. He gets us out of this desert."
MIC are very busy. Currently touring South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, they're also planning to turn to Holland and visit the UK in time for Flevo and Greenbelt.
Finally, Steve wants to make clear that they want to keep both feet on the ground. "We're normal people who make mistakes. Like everybody, we've a dependence on God and we would like everyone to know that."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.