Swollen Members back from the brink

From topping the music charts to virtually scraping rock bottom, there is not much that British Columbia hip hop trio Swollen Members haven’t seen in the past decade. The group’s chemistry is undeniable and it brought the band to national prominence after having debut effort Balance win the 2001 Juno Award for Best Rap Recording.

Fast forward three studio records and the world of Swollen Members was vastly different. After having to deal with drug addiction, record label troubles and management woes in the middle of last decade, the group returned with perhaps more gusto than ever with the 2009 record Armed To The Teeth and following that up with a greatest hits package the following year.

Last year saw two releases from the group, a new studio album (Dagger Mouth) as well as a compilation of rarities, B-sides and unreleased tracks called Monsters II.

One has to wonder whether the prolific nature of Swollen Members over the past three years is a sign of what to expect from the group moving forward or a band that is simply grateful to have been given a second chance.

“Everything is rolling along rather nicely these days,” Swollen Members’ Prevail tells The Times & Transcript. “For a little while, we had definitely fallen into a black hole but luckily for us, we were able to come out on the other side after riding a great wave of success.”

Explaining that his long-time band mate Madchild had unfortunately fallen into drug addiction, Prevail says Swollen Members were essentially brought to a standstill for a number of years leading up to 2009. But rather than letting this ruin the band, Prevail says that he, Madchild and DJ Rob The Viking were ultimately brought closer together as a result.

“Through all of the troubles we lived through, we ended up becoming even more united and gaining an even greater respect for one another. It ultimately helped our relationships with one another as well as our musicianship. There is little question that we lived through a number of events that could have easily driven a wedge between us but instead, it brought us closer together.”

While Swollen Members had been riding the wave of commercial success in the earlier parts of this century, they were releasing music on their own Battleaxe Records label in association with EMI Music Canada, one of four Canadian major record companies. These days however, the band members are happily left to their own devices with Battleaxe, a label owned and operated by the Swollen Members’ Madchild.

Prevail says that despite their past association with a major label, maintaining an independent mind frame has always been the group’s top priority.

“We have always embraced the idea of being an independent band,” Prevail says. “If you’re looking to have massive hits, putting a stamp of quality on everything then becomes a bit of a challenge once you get management and record labels involved because you end up relinquishing some of that creative control. We are in much better place professionally nowadays than we had been in the past.”

As the past few years have shown, there is little that Swollen Members aren’t able to accomplish. Always looking to the future, Prevail shares that Swollen Members are in the midst of preparing a new studio effort, Beautiful Death Machine, which he anticipates will be released this summer.

“I feel that it is probably one of the more truthful works that we have ever compiled and I think it really speaks to our individual strengths within the group,” he says. “We have come to realize that what makes the group strong can only happen when the individuals within the group have an innate sense of themselves and the strengths they bring to the table. It is then that we find that inspiration truly starts to flow. Any career is bound to experience peaks and valleys. We feel that at the end of the day, it is all about the determination you show that will ultimately move you forward.”

Article published in February 10, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript

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