Having arrived at the name of .. uh ... THEBANDWITHNONAME, Britain's hottest rap/dance evangelists are poised to make a huge impact. Tony Cummings met the band with a name.
Every few years a new Christian music act emerges that makes Cross Rhythms throw caution to the wind and predict international popularity for the blessed bunch. It happened in 1992 when Cross Rhythms prophesied big things for The World Wide Message Tribe and in 1996 when it predicted Delirious? would go far. Now your favourite magazine is once again going out on a limb to proclaim that the stunning new rock/ dance/ rap aggregation thebandwithnoname are the most significant new act for years. Their music is a turbulent, eclectic blend which connects powerfully with British youth. But it's more than creative freshness and stylistic originality that singles thebandwithnoname out from the pack. They carry a powerful spiritual anointing with the potential to lead tens of thousands of young people to Christ. Such things have already been prophesied over them. At the Manchester launch of their first single "Take Up The Tempo" in April many prophetic words were given, promising much fruit for this trio of zealous Gospel communicators. With the release of their dazzling album debut 'The Blitz', the momentum for thebandwithnoname is daily picking up speed.
The band - rapper Chip K, deejay/MC DJ Presha and singer/dancer The Bobsta - are the spearhead expression of the Innervation Trust ministry. Manchester-based Innervation was formed by successful songwriter and Tribe founder member Mark Pennells and songwriter/record producer Zarc Porter. The plan is that thebandwithnoname will be a template around which evangelistic music ministries - utilising the band's songs, choreography and even backing tracks - can form their own aggregations to impact a particular city. This intriguing idea of replicating dozens of grassroots music ministries throughout the British Isles will obviously take awhile to achieve. In the meantime thebandwithnoname will be out there whipping up church support and doing their share of face-to-face evangelism. I began my chat with this uniquely talented trio by asking Chip K how a young man from Florida ended up in such a spearhead British ministry.
"My dad was the worship leader in a church in Florida until I was about 12. Then God called us as a family to move to Jerusalem to work with an organisation, International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. I worked a little bit there with the Christian Embassy but from the age of 12 to about the age of 18 or 19 I travelled with my family all over the world. Even though we were based in Jerusalem we travelled to about 25 different nations, ministering together, we all sang together. My sister and I did some dance stuff together. We had a little album of our own called 'Back To The Drawing Board' under the name The Kendal Family Ministries. At the age of 19 I went to college in Pasadena, California, called The Living Word Bible College and it was connected with Mimestry's School Of Performing Arts there. I got a two year Ministry Arts Degree with them, and the Bible College as well. That was where I met my now wife Helen from Newcastle. We were really good friends, got married at the end of it and lived in Newcastle for about a year then I got the call and somehow hooked up with these guys.
"What happened was that my wife and I sent off an audition video for The Tribe. About a month passed then I got a letter from Tim Owen saying that they would like us to do an interview with them. So I went down and talked to Andy Hawthorne. I was really nervous. I couldn't believe that I was sitting in a room talking with Andy Hawthorne, it was just huge! I was a big fan of The Tribe. For Mimestry I would choreograph Tribe songs or other dance-type songs - Raze, I was well into Raze - anything that was current. Basically Zarc Porter - anything with Zarc's name on it I would be like, 'Oh, I gotta listen to that. ' So I met Andy Hawthorne and he asked, 'How do you feel about being a missionary to Manchester? ' I had to say, 'To be honest, I don't feel called to Manchester. I believe that God is calling me to take things further afield; maybe Manchester as well, but I wouldn't limit it to Manchester. ' He said, 'Okay, fine. ' At that time they were talking about starting another band. To cut a long story short, what ended up happening was Andy gave my details to Mark and Zarc and talked to them and it sounded like Innervation was more up my alley. Both Andy and I agreed on that; the whole idea of Innervation setting up schools teams, not just to Manchester but across England effectively and then all over Europe and all over the world. That was more along the lines of what I felt called to. Then we had an audition with Mark and followed through. We were given a choice - we could both be a schools team or I could be in a touring band and my wife could take on a different role with Innervation. That's the option that we've chosen. And that's how I've found myself here today."
If Chip K brings the "mosh" out of thebandwithnoname, MC Presha provides it with its club music savvy. He spoke about his journey both musical and spiritual. "I was brought up in Stroud in Gloucestershire. My dad has a degree in town planning but he's a professional graphic designer. That's come in handy with Innervation stuff. I was really into art too. He used to deejay as well which is where my musical side has come from. My mum can't sing! I've always been into rap and started off. . . We moved to Folkestone in Kent for two years - my dad felt he wanted to start up a church in Stroud, so that led us down there. He got pastoral training and all the knowledge and spiritual growth he needed from the church down there. My uncle and auntie were the youth leaders and so that really opened up for me. I was involved a lot in that with my cousin. We started doing little raps in school. That introduced me into that - it was like a hobby, a fun thing to do in church, rap about Jesus. Then we moved back up to Stroud and my dad started up a church there, Christian Life Fellowship where my whole family go. He felt it was needed for that area. Because I'd got so involved in what was already established as a youth group in that other church it was kind of hard for me. We had to start the youth group in my dad's church as there was no one else, which was a good experience for me, it helped me grow a lot. I had to do a lot of youth work and I was the youth leader for a while. It was only me and my brother and a couple of mates.
"Then we started doing youth club nights in the local town. We'd hire out the normal Friday night nightclub, three floors, and me and my friend who's a DJ would just run the night and do a great atmospheric club night for Christians, either on a Thursday night or Sunday night. The nights were called Sacred. My brother used breakdancers with his group called Faction. Me and my friend, called Reece, who was then DJ Rycos. I was actually called MC Blest then - that was how I got into MCing. The way in which that led to this was I was at Soul Survivor last year with our church youth group and DJ Dougie Ross was doing one of the cafes in the tents. He was doing very mellow dance music and my mate DJ Rycos said, 'Get up there and do some MCing with him.' I was going, 'I don't know if I really want to.' He just went up there and asked on behalf of me and Dougie Ross said, 'Yeah, come on up. ' So I did some and they said it was really cool and did I want to come up and help them warm up for The Tribe in The Pulse the next night? I was like, 'You're joking!' because I was there the previous night and was going for it and I thought, 'No way you're going to get me up on stage!' Anyway I thought, 'Right, just pluck up the courage and do it.' So I got up there and did it and that was where I got introduced to The Tribe and all the guys there, Edi Johnson from Psalmistry and all the people backstage that night. So they knew of me then, if you like. That led on to doing Planet Life, warming up there, and 2K1 and another Planet Life. So my name was kind of up there in Manchester.
"This is where Mark and Zarc got hold of it. They were on a 14 day fast and on the 14th day Zarc really felt that. . . My name had been passed around. The rumour was I was working for NGM because they'd said to me, 'You need to come and do this. . . this would be great for you, a great opportunity.' I was giving it up to God to see what he wanted me to do. Anyway, Zarc said, 'I'm going to give MC Blest Adam a call, call NGM and try and get hold of him and see if this is a better opportunity for him. The secretary was like, 'Who?' Zarc got hold of my personal number and left a message. It was the day after I was driving home from work and went through 13 sets of traffic lights and every set was on amber and I was thinking, 'This is strange.' So I got home and prayed about it and my mum was like, 'There's no explanation for that. It could be coincidence, it could be God. Pray about it.' I felt God saying, 'Don't take anything, don't just grab anything. Don't forget about it but just stay and wait on me.' Sure enough the next day, a message on my phone 'This is Mark Pennells from Innervation Trust. Interesting opportunity. . . Would you want to come up and meet us and have a chat about certain things?' I was like, 'Okay, he hasn't given much away.' So I went up and met them, met Chip. They told me about the vision, told me about the work of Innvervation and what they were setting up. My initial instinct was really excited, like when people were saying come and do NGM I was getting really excited. But I thought no, I've got to pray about it and make sure it's right. They prayed about it, I prayed about it and now I'm here!"
The singing talent of the trio rests in the extraordinarily fluid vocals of Bobby 'The Bobsta' Stearns. He ran down his biography. "I was born in London but in my early years moved back to Hawaii. My parents were working with YWAM so we were living on a base there for the first 12 years of my life. I was given a grounding in youth work from a very early age. My mom headed up Kings Kids. Living with missionaries for the first half of my life and being able to experience different cultures and experiencing missions in far afield places, living in the Philippines, Far East Asia, that was an amazing opportunity. My dad also headed up the pre-school for YWAM child youth ministries in Hawaii as well. So seeing it first handÉ My parents dragged me to Scotland in my mid teens. They basically moved to the UK to work with YWAM out here. So there was a big culture difference, leaving Hawaii to move to Scotland. I went to Glasgow University and studied politics for some reason, for four years. It was interesting. My whole life I've been in the arts, as it were, whether it was performing with Kings Kids, going on missions around the world and I went to Stage 84, a stage school, for awhile. But when I was at university I got my big break as it were in terms of my musical career. It came when I worked on a programme with a secular band as a backing singer. From then on I was doing a lot of backing singing, a lot of session work for various different bands and it was through that that I connected up with producers and management companies across Britain. As far as hooking up with these guys, it came at a time when I had gotten quite far in the secular industry but not far enough. A lot of different things were happening in my life in terms of after the break up of my parents' marriage, lots of crazy stuff at university, fallen away from God as well. Through some friends of mine I hooked up with these guys, Mark and Zarc down in Manchester and was able to escape from some craziness and to meet with God in a new way. They were very excited about using me as a singer as well."
Despite having seen a bit of the big time mainstream music world The Bobsta is excited about stepping into the financially demanding realm of music ministry. "I think you have to have another passion that goes beyond being excited about music and I know that for me from a very early age God was birthing something that wasn't just musical. It was for missions, it was for evangelism, for using my voice and the giftings God has given me to see people's lives changed. So that surpassed just making good albums. That's why I hooked up with this project." Chip K is convinced that God is powerfully active in Britain at this time. "I think that theCall was another indicator that God is at work. I love that article that says, 'Every great move of God is always preceded by a huge move of prayer, ' and it's awesome to see this beginning to happen. Before I even came out here to England I was in Uganda. Cindy Jacobs was there and she prophesied over me. She said, 'Chip, I see that it's time for you to open your mouth and speak my Gospel. ' I was doing mime at the time, never said anything, never sang anything. She said, 'I see you joining a small band and this band is going to go all over Europe. You are going to be part of this band that goes and sees this great move of God, this revival happen. You are going to use a Roland. ' I thought, 'How bizarre! ' I'd never owned a Roland in my life! Later on when I was in Zarc's little studio, everything there is a Roland! The keyboard, the different desks he uses. People have prophesied that we'd be on Top Of The Pops. People have been prophesying huge stuff like the band being a spearhead for unprecedented revival. We serve a mighty God with mighty plans."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.