Swollen Members' second-time success

Swollen Members are back
Swollen Members are back

By Luis Valdizon

Nov 12, 2009. Swollen Members are performing in their hometown for the first time in months. You can almost taste the crowd’s anticipation in every breath taken inside the packed venue. The chants grow violently from young throats awaiting their idols. It’s time. Swollen Members are back, ready for war, and armed to the teeth. With features on the new album ranging from Talib Kweli to underground sensation Tech N9ne it’s hard to disagree.

I sat down with one half of Swollen Members in their tour bus. Mad Child’s hospitality caught me off guard. It’s not that I was expecting to meet an egotistical maniac or anything, but his good nature was beyond what I expected. He was calm, relaxed, and wore his black shades the entire time. Despite a few minor interruptions, the interview ran smoothly. I tip my hat to Mad Child’s girlfriend, who waited patiently in a brand new, white BMW parked behind the bus, while I asked questions. But don’t worry, he didn’t cut corners in any of his responses – I promise.

The Runner: For the people who are unfamiliar with you, who are you?

Mad Child: I’m Mad Child; one half of Vancouver-based hip hop group Swollen Members. I’m also the founder of the brotherhood the crew the world wide movement Battle Axe Warriors. Swollen Members have been together for about nine or 10 years now with national and international success and four JUNO Awards under our belts.

R:There’s been a new addition to the team, correct?

MC:Yes. Tre Nyce is the newest artist signed to our label. Prevail (the other half of Swollen Members) brought him to my attention while we were in Kelowna at my house where our recording studio was located at the time. I heard his stuff, and I was blown away.  He is an extremely talented artist. Tre can make five songs a day and have every one turn out incredible. I’ve never been more impressed by an up-and-coming artist that I’ve met in person in my entire life; he’s an absolute pleasure to work with. I want to invest my heart and soul into him, and I want him to be successful in the same way I want Swollen Members to be successful.

R: Why did it take the new album so long to get here?

MC: After our album “Black Magic” released in 2006, we took a break. During that time (2006-2009), I got hooked on percocets, which became an addiction to oxycodone. It got to the point where I was doing twenty, 80mg pills of oxycodone a day, enough to kill a horse. I’m lucky to be alive. The only good thing that I can say happened in that dark period of my life is that my family and friends stuck by my side, which eventually allowed me to record (Armed to the Teeth) in my opinion the best album of our entire catalogue.

R: How do you feel the support for the new album has been so far?

MC: To be honest, I’m feeling hesitance from people on the East Coast in high places. I feel they’re doing their best not to give Swollen Members the opportunities to get back on the top of the game. People in Vancouver and Edmonton are being wonderful, supportive, and showing us love. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate that. And don’t get me wrong musical institutions like Much Music and few others in Toronto are giving us interviews and TV spots, but without saying names, I just want to say I’m disappointed with the overall lack of support for us on the East Coast. I’m not complaining. I just want the West Coast to understand what’s going on. It’s like Toronto only wants their artist to be successful and they’re doing whatever they can to make that happen.

R: Do you think Swollen Members can reach the same heights it has in the past?

MC: Look, this is the way I see it. The chance of Swollen Members achieving the same amount of success we achieved a second time is obviously a greater challenge than it happening the first time. And I’m fine with that. I’m willing to work hard and put in the effort to try to recreate what we’ve already done, but with the industry being in the state that it’s in with sales plummeting due to downloading and the economy, it’s going to be hard. And to be honest, I don’t really care if I become rich from making music. I’d be satisfied with making a living doing what I love to do.

R: Do you feel the industry has changed since your hiatus?

MC: It’s a whole different world that I came back to. When I was in the game in ‘06, all we had to worry about is Myspace. Now it’s all about the internet, social networks, and blogs. I love the challenge. Sites like worldstarhiphop.com, nahright.com, and 2dopeboyz.com have been very supportive of our music. I feel that our Facebook game is strong, and I’ve recently even started my twitter account. Twitter is something I can definitely see myself adjusting into my daily schedule. I’m started to get addicted to this internet thing instead of being addicted to drugs. At first, the comments and opinions about our music bothered me, until I realized that most these people’s opinions didn’t matter.

R: Any final thoughts?

MC: There’s a lot of gang activity in Vancouver right now. I think it’s the highest it’s ever been to the point they’re calling it Gangcouver. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being gangster a lot of my friends are gangsters. Hopefully people can figure it out, and maybe there can be a little less darkness. Maybe we can bring a little light to this world. So respect to all the crews in Vancouver, respect to all the people doing their thing, but let’s try to do some positive as well.