Concert Sutra on Swollen Members
by terri sapp
stock photos from Swollen Members
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
Swollen Members: Yo, Terri!
Concert Sutra: Hi! I wanted to first ask you guys how you ended up together?
Swollen Members: Swollen Members formed about nine years ago. I met Mad Child briefly while he was living in San Francisco. I had been living in San Diego, and was on my way back to Vancouver, and decided to stop in San Francisco just to check out the scene and see what was going on for half a day. I walked into a shop called Extra Large, which was owned by the Beastie Boys, and Mad Child was working there. We had known who each other were, but had never formally met back in Vancouver, so we started talking. Struck it off pretty well…didn’t really think too too much about it, but a year and a half later I walked into a house party and he was there. We sat down across from each other and started rapping in front of about a hundred and fifty drunk people at my homegirl’s birthday party. We had the entire room silent, which you know it is hard enough to keep drunk people silent, let alone one hundred and fifty of them. From that moment forward, we knew we had chemistry together. We took a walk to the corner store together to get some gum, and by the time we got back, Swollen Members was in the studio the next week.
Concert Sutra: You’re known for your live shows, from what I understand. What makes yours stand out from the rest, would you say?
Swollen Members: Well, Swollen Members, Mad Child, Rob the Viking, and myself, have a great connection together. We really try to draw the best creative energy out of each other, and when we get onstage, we feed off the energy our fans are giving us. They are always so hype, man. We can’t thank our fans and our family enough, and our friends. We just give that energy back, you know, keep it cycling, keep it reciprocated.
Swollen Members: We just kept pushing. Swollen Members really believed in the music that we were making, and we just kept pushing…kept pushing… We had good success over seas, especially we started touring Europe, Japan, the UK quite extensively. One year we came home, we were touring the West coast in the US, we had just played in Oregon. We came home and won a Juno Award the next night. We knew we were nominated, but we didn’t believe we had a chance in hell in winning, and we won. The doors really opened for us in Canada. We felt that it was on us…the opportunities were there to really prove ourselves, so having all the experience that we had already behind us touring, and collectively making music, we just got out there and pounded the pavement and really went for it. Once we did that, opportunities started coming to us ten fold.
Concert Sutra: Is Rob the Viking with you?
Swollen Members: He’s not. Everyone else is resting from a long night of celebrating with the Black Eyed Peas.
Concert Sutra: Oh, fun…
Swollen Members: Why, do you have a production question? I could try to answer it, probably.
Concert Sutra: I just wanted to ask him a question about…does he ever play instruments when you guys perform live, or is it mostly programmed?
Swollen Members: We rock off an instant replay, but I can say this…Mad Child and I are very proud of the direction Rob took on Black Magic. We had an opportunity to record at Brian Adams’ studio called the Warehouse in Vancouver for the first half of the album, and it really, for the first time allowed us to bring in an ensemble of all sorts of different players…percussion players, cellists, flutists, we had a children’s choir, we had opera singers, pianists, and it was amazing. I mean, people that played for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, for the VSO, so really high quality talented players, world class, and it really opened up Rob’s dynamics to production and in turn made Mad Child and I really be able to expand our horizons on the lyrical tip as well.
Concert Sutra: I noticed you guys tour by bus. Nice bus, by the way!
Swollen Members: Thank you.
Concert Sutra: What’s it like on the road with Swollen Members? Is it just debauchery all the time?
Swollen Members: (laughs) Those are the days of yore, my friend. We are a much more focused and concentrated group. On Black Magic, you can definitely hear the passion and the hunger is back. We’ve definitely gone through our major, major party phase, and we realize that to be, to have longevity and success in this business, you have to handle yourself in a professional manner. We’ve gotten all that good stuff out of our system. We had a blast doing it. Now it’s time to conquer and take over and be professional and business minded about things.
Concert Sutra: Sounds good. Do you guys ever travel with dogs?
Swollen Members: Mad Child has two great dogs. Thor and Bam Bam, and they’ve become as much a part of our family as anybody that we travel with, so when we have short West coast runs, or something like that, maybe seven or eight shows that are week and a half kind of stretches, we love to bring Thor and Bam Bam on the road. It’s great energy having those guys around. They’re bad ass dogs, too, so it’s nice to have them on the bus.
Concert Sutra: I wanted to ask you about your new album that is doing quite well. What makes it your greatest accomplishment yet?
Swollen Members: Well, the numbers already for Black Magic are…we’re so happy for…debuted as the number one release in stores across Canada, at Wal-Mart, the number two universal release at HMV. We also debuted in the US as the number ten independent release, not only in hip-hop, but in all genres of music, so take the hats off to TVT and Universal for helping us push an album that we stand behind 100%. Black Magic’s just an album that we are so thankful to finally have out and completed and have people hearing. The feedback and have people hearing, so the feedback has been amazing. We’re just gonna keep pushing, pushing til we get in front of as many people as possible.
Swollen Members: We record digital, and we mix analog, and then master digital…analog…not 100% sure about that one. Whatever the combination is, it’s working. It sounds awesome. I know we record digital. For some of the instrumentation, we recorded analog just to get that hum. And then, I’m almost 100% sure that we mixed analog. Unfortunately Rob’s not awake to answer that question. Then we’d have the 100% definitive answer, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it worked, though.
Concert Sutra: How did you go about securing the likes of Ghostface Killah, and Everlast, Alchemist, and all of these artists who worked on this album?
Swollen Members: From the very beginning we’ve been fortunate enough to work with artists like Everlast, who was on out first album, Balance. We’ve been working with Evidence, Alchemist, from the very, very beginning. We forged great not only working relationships, but great personal relationships with these people. They’re good friends of ours, and once you start making music with your friends, whose music you appreciate and grew up listening to, and they appreciate your music and vice versa. The good word spreads, and that’s how opportunities, like working with Ghostface, and Mr. Vegas come up. That’s how opportunities like this arise. We just love making music with our friends, and always look forward to making new friends.
Concert Sutra: OK, don’t get me wrong, I love the Pacific Northwest the best, and understand the draw of the Midwest, and love Canada and all those European places you play, but NO DATES IN THE SOUTH!! Why not Atlanta?
Swollen Members: We are working on it. Funny you say that. We are looking forward to definitely to coming to Atlanta. We were speaking to a gentleman yesterday who is going to do everything in his power to get us down there. It’s just the tour schedule right now, and you can see how crazy it is on http://www.swollenmembers.com/ or on www.myspace.com/swollenmembers, the tour schedule is very extensive and right now we got the bus, so we can only hit so many places at once. We gotta get home for Christmas, so this tour, the Black Magic tour takes us all the way up until the 17th of December. I promise you, cross my heart, hope to die, come the new year, you’ll be seeing us in the ATL.
Concert Sutra: I look forward to it! So, I can imagine where your name came from, but I’d like to ask anyway. Is there any special story that goes along with the naming of the Swollen Members?
Swollen Members: The Swollen Members started out in a joking fashion, but we very quickly adopted it, as you know, “swollen” in hip hop is a terminology for phat, you know, like “that dude has swollen pockets…” So, it quickly became to us a “phat crew.” Members of something that has momentum, something that’s building. That’s what we adopt it to mean. Let’s face it, in today’s day and age, it’s important to have a name that people remember, that sticks in their head, so Swollen Members definitely accomplishes that.
Concert Sutra: Definitely. One last question. What would your tombstone say?
Swollen Members: In all honesty, I think my namesake encapsulates a lot. I’d just like my tombstone to say “Prevail.”