Over my years in gospel music I’ve had the opportunity to be at the beginning of the careers of such gospel greats as Fred Hammond, and Deitrick Haddon. So when I found myself introducing a new band called HotSauce, I didn’t know what I was in for. After hearing this band perform, I knew that once again I was afforded the opportunity to see the beginning of another great group hailing from the city of Detroit.
Since that point two years ago, HotSauce has become one of the most in-demand bands in the Detroit area, and with the pending release of their debut project, HotSauce is going to let the world know why “Detroiters like their chicken with HOTSAUCE.”
HotSauce consists of 8 multi-talented musicians, singers, songwriters, and plain old love-to-have-fun young men, from the ages of 16 – 24. Four of the members are brothers; Dyrel Johnson (Lead Vocalist, saxophone, and flute), Gary Johnson (Percussionist and bassist), Marquis Johnson (drummer and vocalist), and Eric Johnson (keyboardist and music director). The other members are Otis Shelton (trombonist and vocalist), Lawrence Washington (bassist, drummer, and keyboardist), Drew Hicks (keyboards, bassist, and talk box), and Jeff Ponder (saxophone and vocalist).
I recently sat down with the members of HotSauce, and had an evening filled with laughter and heartfelt moments.
Carl B: Where did the name “HOTSAUCE” come from?
Marquis: We were all in the basement trying to figure out a name. My mother was upstairs cooking chicken, and I was smelling the chicken and thinking about HotSauce, so I threw out the name “HOTSAUCE”. Everybody was like yeah let’s try it. So we tried it and it worked out. It became an attention getter. When people hear that name it draws them and pulls them in.
Carl B: How would you define the “HOTSAUCE” flavor?
Otis: The HotSauce flavor is one of a kind, it’s more than just music, it’s like a potluck; it includes many ingredients.
Carl B: My first taste of HotSauce was at a church service. How has HotSauce expanded and why?
Dyrel: Over the past few years we’ve grown as individuals and also as a group, so our music style from what you first heard has changed. We’ve matured as writers, our personalities have matured, we’re growing into “HotSauce.”
Carl B: Who had the original vision for “HotSauce?”
Eric: It actually started out as a jazz combo. We were scheduled to do a performance and we needed a name and the name stuck with us.
Carl B: So the group started with the four Johnson Brothers?
Eric: Well the four brothers and
Brother Ponder. Otis went to high school [Detroit School of Fine
and Performing Arts] with us, Lawrence met the band through our
sister group PreZence (pictured below), and we met Drew through
Carl B: Has “HotSauce” come up against any opposition because your flavor crosses so many cultures and boundaries?
Drew: A couple of places we’ve walked into and have not been accepted. We were scheduled to perform at a church in Pittsburgh and immediately they thought we were thugs off the street and they wanted us out. We were in jeans and baseball caps. During the performance, right in the middle of our worship, a lady asked us to take off our hats. We have come up against a lot of opposition
Carl B: Your style and your sound are expanding, how do you internally deal with the opposition?
Dyrel: Because we’re so young many people don’t expect much out of us. So when we go in, we do our thing and after we finish we’re respected.
Carl B: I caught HotSauce performance at Fifth Avenue, a nightspot in Detroit. The thing that amazed me, even during a secular performance you still had ministry. As HotSauce continues to expand, how important is it to keep ministry in your performance?
Dyrel: Ministry should be a part of what you do 24-7. We believe that and that’s how we carry ourselves. After one of our recent engagements at Fifth Avenue, we had a young man who was on his way to Iraq and he was so touched by our performance that we had an opportunity to pray with him and encourage him. Our biggest ministry is our lifestyle.
Carl B: When can we expect a release from HotSauce, what is the title, and what can we expect from the release?
Jeff: Our target for release is late 2005. The title is “The Recipe” and you can expect some real good feel good music.
Carl B: Who are your influences and why did you choose to recreate what your influences did?
Dyrel: We all have many influences but I don’t think we recreate anything. The unique thing about HotSauce is we have our own sound, and our own level of standard. We all have melodies in our head, so when we collaborate what you hear is us.
Otis: When you hear Earth, Wind, and Fire you know that’s EWF, when you hear HotSauce you’ll know that it is HotSauce
Carl B: With so many different ideas coming to the table, who decides what works?
Carl B: Your bio and website talk about the “Elements of Life.” Define that.
Lawrence: “The Elements of Life” include the acronyms “L” - love, “I” - inspiration, “F” is freedom, and “E” is entertainment. That’s what it’s all about - LIFE.
Carl B: If ten years from now you were to reflect back, what type of impact do you think HotSauce would have had on the music industry?
Jeff: A total change. Even with the way we are now, we’re an eight-piece band; you don’t find that in the music industry. Our success is preordained. This is our destiny. Even though we’ve crossed over to the R&B arena we’ve been charged with a mission of reaching the masses.
Dyrel: You’ll see season music, quality music, and music that has a meaning behind it.
Carl B: The members of HotSauce are trained musicians. Where did your training come from?
Gary: I can speak for those of us who went to DSA [Detroit School of Fine and Performing Arts]. My three brothers and I grew up around a house full of music. Our father was the band director, so that’s where the seed was planted. At DSA our music teacher, Mr. Edward Quick, taught us excellence.
Jeff: I learned the same thing at Renaissance. My music teacher Mr. McAlister used to say, “this won’t be a rag-tag organization.” Most of us had people who mentored us, [like] keyboardist Bam (Arman) Davis. Various people in all genres of music have seen something in us, even before we could see it ourselves.
Carl B: What will HotSauce do to continue to challenge yourselves?
Dyrel: Stay focused and stay original. As an artist that is a hard thing to do. That’s the challenge.
As the interview began to wind down I had a few moments to spend with the members of HotSauce while they continued to reflect. One thing that impressed me, not only do these gentlemen have a love for their music, they also have a genuine love and respect for each other. Jeff said it best “OUR DESTINY IS OUR LINKED TOGETHER.”
For more information visit www.hotsaucemusic.com or contact Foundation Management at 248-797-9311.
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