The beat generation
Joel Turner and The Modern Day Poets have a message not only for Australians but possibly for the rest of the World, writes Jessica Gould.

The beat generation

Google the name ‘Joel Turner’ and you get some idea as to the popularity of this Brisbane-based ‘beat boxer’/musician.

It’s a popularity that seemingly grew out of thin air, but in actuality took root after he won ‘The Unforgettables’ contest on Australian Idol and was christened the ‘Beat Box Boy’ for having a voice that somehow embodied a full orchestra.

While Joel, a committed Christian, didn’t make the final cut, he and his band, The Modern Day Poets or MDP (a family affair, featuring Joel’s brother Tim and cousin Chris, also a Turner) have gone from strength to strength. Late last year their single ‘These Kids’ (from the album also called These Kids) debuted at number one on Australia’s music ARIA charts.

From drum beat to beat box

Joel started playing the drums when he was just seven.

‘I didn’t have a drum kit at home to practise on so I would sit on the bus and hum the tune and then a mate of mine told me that it was beat boxing. So for the last three years I have been getting into it and practising every day,’ he explains.

Joel, who will be celebrating his 18th birthday next month, has now travelled around Australia, beat boxing in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Joel Turner
‘(Christian event) Youth Alive in Sydney was my biggest gig so far,’ he says. ‘It was just awesome to see 10,000 people there for Jesus, but in a hip hop way.’

Tim, 21, started writing songs at the age of nine before getting into rap when he was 11. At the age of 14 he believed that hip hop was his future and dream.

‘I just kept at it and rapped in front of the mirror all the time. I practised with my mates and everywhere I go I write a song about anything I see and anyone I meet,’ explains Tim, who is married to Kathleen.

Eighteen-year-old Chris learnt most of his rap from Tim at an early age.

Tim was already rapping and he sort of taught me,’ he says. ‘I started to do some songs with him and then I took it to my own level, writing my own solo tape. Eventually, the three of us hooked up at Idol and here we are today.’

We are family

Joel and Tim were raised by their single mother in Acacia Ridge, Brisbane. Like other households with one parent, the Turner family struggled financially.

‘I suppose there was not much money around, and not much food, but my mother always did her best,’ says Joel.

‘Our mum looked after us and brought us up in the Lord and made us go to Sunday school and church,’ adds Tim.

Chris, also raised in a single-parent family, says: ‘Mum pretty much went to work for us to feed us and raised us by herself.’

Gotta have faith

God has always been an important part of the Turner boys’ lives.

‘At a young age, mum put us into a Christian school. I’ve always gone to church and I have a belief in God, its always a part of me,’ says Joel.

Out of the gang, Tim is known as the open Christian. At the age of 17, Tim was not following the values his mother had taught him. Instead, he was addicted to alcohol, drugs and was caught up in hurtful relationships. However, after turning 18, Tim’s life turned a complete circle.

‘I was drunk, blind off my head, and was travelling home from the exhibition (Brisbane show) in August 2001 when I got this full-on heart pain and I thought I was going to die. I got down on my hands and knees and repented; I gave my life back to God and recommitted myself to him,’ he says.

‘Then I just got up and I was sober and the pain in my heart was gone and I was healed. That was the most profound moment of my life. Everything changed. I went from a poverty mentality and thinking everything in the world was bad and that I couldn’t do anything, to the reality of life and hope in God.’

The record deal

Joel, Tim and Chris met up at the Australian Idol auditions mid-2003 and rapped their way to the second round. However, it was Joel’s beat boxing in front of the judges that was noticed.

‘After showing my beat boxing on Australian Idol [judge] Mark Holden got me back to do beat boxing for him,’ recalls Joel.

While down in Sydney Joel also showed his ability to play guitar. ‘Mark liked it, so he gave me his card and I sent him a demo of the song, "These Kids".’

He loved that, too, and over the year the boys kept in contact, and eventually Mark signed them to his label, Dream Dealers, to record an album in June last year.

Chris believes that the record deal was a turning point in his life.

‘The big change is coming from a backyard MC to having a record deal. It’s pretty hard to accomplish a hip hop record deal in Australia…it’s pretty crazy and sweet.’

Kids like us

‘These Kids’ is an emotional song for Tim who wrote it back in December 2001.

‘It is a song that talks about issues that happen on the street with youth and kids going though troubles, suicide problems, drug problems and homelessness. The song is about letting people know these things do go on in our backyard,’ explains Joel.

Tim was speaking from experience. He had just beaten his addiction to alcohol and drugs, after devoting his life to God, and he was left emotionally shattered by the suicide of his good friend.

‘I had experienced so much,’ he said, ‘I’ve seen mates crying because of terrible stuff. I’ve seen homeless kids and 13-year-old kids on the streets sniffing paint.’

‘There are heaps of people who can relate to or know someone on drugs or someone depressed. I never wrote that song thinking it would be recorded or that Joel would get famous. But there is a reason I wrote that song and there’s a reason why Joel got famous. It was so I could bring out that song and someone could see the light,’ says Tim.

It is true that many kids have seen a way out of their problems. One girl in particular emailed the boys saying ‘I was just about to put the rope around my neck, when I heard your song and you saved my life’.

‘These Kids’ was recorded in Cairns, in Queensland, after a friend of the Turner family donated $6,000 to the project. Joel, whose voice suited the song, headed up to Cairns and recorded the beat, guitar riff and lyrics.

Tim was asked to record his rap verse in one day on a $20 microphone back in Brisbane and send it up. The track was laid down and the song sat until it was heard by Holden two years later. From there the song has reached number one, stayed in the top five for 13 weeks and has become double platinum (140,000 units).

What the future holds

At present MDP have joined forces with the Beat Box Alliance, who where hand picked by Joel at the Australian Idol Beat Box Battles held late last year. The Beat Box Alliance includes Kitchener Wesche, Hopey 1, Tom Thum, Thomas the Tank and Wayne the Wizard.

This talented crew is currently touring around the regional areas of NSW and Queensland with MDP. Their job is to beat box, play instruments and make other sounds that were initially performed by Joel for the album.

In the near future, MDP will be touring with the Beat Box Alliance around regional areas in Victoria, then setting off to state capitals on their national tour.

‘The first lot of tours is a practice run, because we want to build up our performance for when we get to the big capitals,’ says Tim.

MDP will also bring out one more album before exploring solo careers.

Chris would like to work on an album with Kitchener—a beat boxer and rapper from Beat Box Alliance.

‘The album will probably be a bit harder and different [than MDP], maybe a fantasy rap world. We want to do a two-disk album. One side me and one side him and sort of feature on each other’s songs.’

Joel, however, would like to produce beats for other artists.

‘I did produce on the album, so I want to get full on into it and become a producer who makes beats for other artists and help other hip hop artists get out there in the future,’ he says.

Tim’s newfound love of Jesus has sent him on many paths. He will be making a solo album that will bring a message of hope to the world like ‘These Kids’ did. He is also setting up a production company with his wife and best mate, Jahshua McAvoy.

‘We will produce gospel music, hip hop and hopefully open a studio in Milton. I won’t be singing, I will be producing, engineering and mixing music as well as owning the business,’ he says.

For tour information go to www.joelturner.com.au.

Joel Turner and The Modern Day Poets Follow your dreams

An on-the-spot rap with Joel and Chris Turner

You have to follow your dreams

Never let them go

You can became a rapper

Spill the flow

I don’t really care

‘cause you can steal the show

You can go on the stage

Do stunts that amuse

You can light the stage up in flames…

Go Chris go…You’re the man.

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