Vancouver rap group Swollen Members is coming to Castlegar on April 1.
Emcees Prevail and Madchild and DJ Rob the Viking will play the Woods Nightclub with special guest Joseph Rose.
The stop is part of a B.C. tour — including Chilliwack, Kelowna and Kamloops — before the group heads over to Europe where they’ll hit 10 different countries.
They’re also releasing a new single, “Bank Job,” at the end of the month and are preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their original, Juno-award-winning album Balance in 2019.
“[‘Bank Job’] is literally the first brand new Swollen song in a while. In fact, we had recorded it previously, but as we’re getting the momentum rebuilt up for the 20th anniversary of Balance next year, we wanted to be able to have some material to put out and some songs that people hadn’t heard yet,” says Prevail.
Plans for the 20th-anniversary celebration are still in the works but Prevail and Madchild plan to put out a brand new album.
“We haven’t had that conversation yet, whether or not it’s going to be a re-release of Balance with an additional disc and maybe make it a two-disc set or if we do another standalone record for 2019 and then re-release Balance later in the year,” says Prevail. “But we haven’t quite cemented that part of the gameplan down yet. I almost think it would be cool to do a double-disc … the re-release of Balance attached to a new album could be a fun way to revisit it all.”
“The energy’s right, the timing’s right. I’m really excited to get back in the studio with the guys and see what we come up with for a new album,” says Madchild.
“Where I think our hearts are is we want to do one more pay it forward to the fans and one more just underground, dark, heavy, classic Swollen cryptic-sounding album,” says Prevail. “Not only for the listening base but also for, I think, our own reflections. I think we’d like to be able to look back and say, ‘Yeah, the last album was exactly how we started this whole career.”
That being said Prevail couldn’t say for sure it would be the last album.
“I don’t want to put a certification on anything speculative — having said that, it’s been 20 years. We’ve been having a blast,” he says. “This career has offered more than I think any of us anticipated it would, so all I can say is we’re still having fun and we’re still able to travel together. I think the bond has actually grown, especially in the last year and a bit that we’ve been getting back to gigging together.”
For his part, Madchild doesn’t see why Swollen Members wouldn’t keep making music.
“It’s been a minute since we did a record together, so I’ve definitely sort of spent a good amount of years having my solo career, which is something I always wanted to do, which was fun and I sort of have gotten to fulfil my goals with that,” he says. “So Swollen Members is something that we’ve been doing for so long, I can’t see any reason why we wouldn’t do another album after that.”
Madchild says he plans to keep making solo albums as well.
Swollen Members has started gigging together again intermittently and Madchild will soon be moving back to Vancouver from L.A.
“I miss Canada, I miss B.C., I miss home. I miss my family and friends,” he says. “I’m not coming back because I need to, I’m coming back because I want to. That doesn’t mean that I won’t relocate back to Los Angeles again because it really is a second home. But it just feels like a good time to come back, especially with Swollen Members sort of getting back together. It’s going to be a lot better of an experience recording together in the studio, versus sending music back and forth. I think we’re going to have a much better outcome all being in the same room, writing and recording together.”
Madchild says he also regrets never passing the torch and wants to give back while he’s in B.C.
“I’m really proud of the people that have done it on their own, especially people from Western Canada, B.C. and Alberta, but I’d like to come back and … help nurture some new careers and new artists and give back to the culture and give back to a city that’s been so amazingly supportive towards myself and the group,” he says.
Madchild moved to L.A. four years ago to get some sun.
Swollen Members is also planning a world tour for 2019.
“When I think about how many tours and countries we’ve been able to be effective in over the almost 20-year career — well, Balance came out ’99, in truth we’ve been a group since ’96 … — we’re very fortunate in that Europe has really embraced us, we get to go to Australia once literally every year and a half or no longer than two years in between …,” says Prevail. “I think if this was a big, focused push on a world tour we could hop over to New Zealand and also gig over there. We haven’t been to Japan since 1998. I know we have a listening base there. And I think we could really be effective in doing a really big two or three hundred show world tour in 2019, knowing that it’s the 20th anniversary of our debut album.”
Looking back to 2001, when Balance won the group its first Juno Award for Best Rap Recording, Prevail laughs and says they didn’t even attend. And with the time difference between when the Juno’s aired in Ontario and when they aired in B.C., others found out before they did.
“The phone rings and it’s my grandma, and we laugh about it now, but I thought something was wrong because she … was hysterical,” explains Prevail.
His aunt and uncle had seen the Ontario broadcast and phoned his grandma, who phoned him.
“She said, ‘You won, you won, you won.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You won the Juno,’” Prevail recounts.
He then called Madchild, who told his parents, and they both watched the B.C. broadcast of the ceremony.
“I don’t think it was anticipated by anyone in the group that it was going to be our year,” says Prevail. “The fact that we weren’t there to accept the award created this mystery of who are these guys from Vancouver, who won a Juno, who aren’t even here to accept the award? No one had heard of us really because we’d been touring Europe and the UK, and we’d already been to Australia once or twice, and they just didn’t know in Canada. And then obviously the phone starts ringing and it sort of opened the floodgates in our own country.”
But the win didn’t immediately translate into financial success.
“Balance was already out, we had already won the Juno and I’m serving tables,” recalls Prevail. “And I remember one afternoon I had the patio and I was serving a table on the patio and the guy said, ‘Hey man, didn’t you guys win a Juno?’ I said, ‘Yeah bro, but it didn’t come with a million dollar cheque. I still gotta keep myself in food, clothing and shelter.’ And it was shortly after that, that we started getting more offers to tour and I’ve never looked back.”
Swollen Members has since won the Juno for Best Rap Recording or Rap Recording of the Year three more times — for Bad Dreams in 2002, Monsters in the Closet in 2003 and Black Magic in 2007.
Over the years, Prevail says he’s seen the music industry change a lot.
“The name of the game now is just getting people through the door listening to your music, digging it and hopefully leaving with a T-shirt or a hat, and that’s the switch that we had to make,” he says.
Prevail has also become the ambassador for a national charity called Music Heals.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be an ambassador for the charity for five years,” he says.
Music Heals funds music therapy programs across the country. One of their major annual fundraisers is an annual gala held in October.
“In year’s past I have been the host of the annual gala, which is called Strike a Chord and this past year we were actually able to line up George Stroumboulopoulos to host and I said, ‘OK, well if I’m going to pass the mic onto anybody in an official capacity to host the charity event, thankfully it’s Strombo,’ because he’s actually the person that got me excited about doing charitable work,” says Prevail. “Many, many years ago when he was still with Much Music, he and I went to Zambia, Africa and did an HIV/Aids documentary and he really helped open my eyes.”
He says he felt a natural draw toward Music Heals.
“It was a message I could not only believe in but as a musician, I’ve seen the power of music. I’ve seen it change people’s lives,” says Prevail. “We’ve gone to children’s hospitals where the kids’ last request was sent through a letter from their parents saying, ‘Our child is ill, the outcome is probably inevitable. One thing that they would love before everything transpires it to meet you guys.’ Like we’ve done those things, I’ve seen the power of what music can do.”
Tickets to see Swollen Members at the Woods Nightclub on April 1 are available at the Mallard’s Source for Sports in Castlegar, Ripping Giraffe Boardshop in Nelson or at showpass.com/smcastlegar.
“We always have a good time; we always like to have fun,” says Prevail. “I think we’ve learned how to be very interactive with the crowd and there’s a certain energy between the three of us when we’re on stage, and in the studio, but when we’re on stage, just that adrenaline, and it’s always been this really, nice open honest flow with the crowd.”
“Thank you for your support,” Madchild says to his Castlegar fans. “It means the world to us and we’re excited to come out there and rock with you guys.”