Hip-hop, Canadian style

Swollen Members set to play Marlintini's lounge tonight

Posted: Thursday, June 04, 2009

Swollen Members, one of Canada's most exciting and accomplished hip-hop groups, will perform at 9 p.m. tonight at Marlintini's. Southeast Alaska's own Phonetic will be opening the show along with DJ Judo and AstronoMar. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $25.

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Courtesy Of Swollen Members
Courtesy Of Swollen Members

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based group - consisting of Mad Child, Prevail and Rob the Viking - have been putting Canadian rap on the map since forming in the mid 1990s. They have recorded with the likes of Jurassic 5, Everlast and Nelly Furtado, and are winners of four Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys.

The Juneau Empire caught up with Prevail to talk about the Swollen Members style, their upcoming albums and the future of hip-hop.

For those that are unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it to them?

What we do is paint a picture of the light and dark aspects of life, you know? It's a full spectrum. Some days you wake up and it's a beautiful sunny Saturday out, you can't wait to hook up with your crew and go to the club that night. We appreciate and like doing that once in a while too - you got to let loose. This is life. But at the same time I think we are able to touch upon a lot of things with confidence that some other groups might shy away from, because you also wake and have those days where it's gray and cloudy outside and you're doubting yourself. You're doubting your surroundings, your choices, the way that you're living your life. You've got to combat those and keep a balance and realize you can't appreciate one without having the other. It's a cyclic routine. To be able to touch on all of those things is what we're all about.

For those that are big fans of your music but have never seen one of your shows, what can they expect?

A Swollen Members concert is more like going to a Nirvana or an AC/DC concert - mosh pits, crowd surfing, things that are more akin to traditional rock shows or punk shows or grunge shows. We've really tried to put that into the live show because of the energy. I grew up on rock and roll - AC/DC, Metallica, (Black) Sabbath. Mad Child listened to Black Flag, D.O.A., Circle Jerks, you know, a lot of punk back in the day. So when we both started rapping we really brought that ideology of the importance of a live show, especially in the hip-hop genre. Because I myself, and I'm a rapper, when I see another performer walking around with the mic in their hand and all they're doing is walking back and forth for an hour and they expect you to get hyped when they say get hyped but all they're doing is standing there in one spot, it's not believable. You can't buy into what they're selling. It's so important to stand behind what you do, not only in the studio but up on stage.

I've heard you guys are working on a new album.

The album will be out Aug. 28. All the recording, as far as the vocals, are finished. We're just in mix and master stage right now.

What can your fans expect from this album?

It's called "Armed to the Teeth." What it actually is, it's a prequel to a new album that will becoming out in 2010 called "Beautiful Death Machine." ... It's 16 or 17 new songs and then a Swollen Members greatest hits album attached as a bonus. As you know in today's market, it's amazing for artists to be able to offer the fans and the listening audience as much material as you can give them in one fell swoop and really make them feel like they're getting their money's worth. That's a very important key point in making everybody happy these days, including the artists. That's what's on the plate.

What do you think of the present state of hip-hop and where do you see the future of the art form going?

I think it's beautiful that the culture has advanced all over the world to so many people from 5 to 95 years old. Every race, religion, both sexes, it's totally just swept the world by storm. As someone who has been doing it for a long time and has been part of the culture, it's been beautiful to see. I think it's just got a lot more growing to do. ... To me, it's you either like it or you don't like it. Good music is good music. All this labeling stuff to me is just a headache. I just see more cross collaborations, more people being openly creative with the genres they're based in and reaching out a hand to help create music in a positive way. In today's society, and the way that this world is right now, we need music to stay positive and to keep uplifting us and give us a great perspective on some of the problems we face because they are mounting on a daily basis.

For those people living in places like British Columbia or Southeast Alaska that might dream about being an M.C. or a DJ, what would you tell them?

Definitely work hard and try to get as many local shows as you can because it all starts at home. You can't do anything without your support group.

So you guys have recorded with the likes of Everlast, Nelly Furtado, Jurassic 5 - what recording artist would you most like to work with in the future?

Brian Johnson, the lead singer of AC/DC.

What kind of music have you been listening to lately?

AC/DC. Yeah, I'm a bit of a classicist I suppose. I have a wide range of music, but when I'm recording, and I'm sure a lot of hip-hop heads will find this a little shocking, but when it's recording time and I'm in the studio I don't listen to rap music. I just don't want to be even subliminally influenced by what someone else is working on. I really have this belief that some artists will hear somebody use a slang word, or a new type of terminology, or this way of speaking is the new hot thing, and they cling to that and reproduce it. That's cool and I understand that's how pop culture works. But the important thing to think about in that approach, is wouldn't you rather be the person that comes up with the slang or the new style of music that everyone else wants to (grab) onto? So that's more where our thought process and mind-state is at when it comes to listening to music.

What can the Swollen Members fans expect from you guys in the coming months and years?

We've been making tunes together for a long time and there will come a point when we've got to step back from the game and retire and pass the mantle on to the up-and-comers. So in that span of time we have a concentrated effort to get on the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine. And why I say that is, to achieve that milestone in your career, you not only have to be a band with a great sound, a great look, you also have to be in control about how you market yourself from a media perspective. You have to be experienced on tour, because to get to that level it means that you're putting yourself out in front of hundreds of thousands of people every year performing. And of course the quality of the music and the person has to be noted as well. So all those things combined, and with that as the focal point, I can say before I retire that is my number one priority.

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