Allie Samborn of HipHopCanada recently spoke with Vancouver native Madchild.
He recently took some time from his intensely packed schedule to get real with us about his life, keeping music his number one focus, the stellar opening week his album had and living a life free of addiction. Full of gratitude, plans and ambitions, Madchild dishes on some heavy topics. Check it in full after the jump.
HipHopCanada: Thanks so much for taking time to talk with me today!
Madchild: Oh, it’s what I’m here for!
HipHopCanada: So, things have been picking up for you lately! You’ve got a ton happening. Can you tell me a few of the things you’ve been up to lately?
Madchild: Yeah, I just came back from 8 days of madness and I’m happy to be home now for 3 days before I go on the road for a bit. I get a couple weeks off at the end of August and then I go on tour until Christmas so it’s pretty non-stop. I thought I was supposed to go to Seattle today but I was so happy to find out I had three days at home to do interviews and focus on social networking and get back to the kids and thank them for their support. So it’s a nice break and then I’ll be ready to get back on the road.
HipHopCanada: And you just performed at the “Gathering of the Juggalos,” how was that?
Madchild: It was amazing, totally incredible. They had me going on as the last event of the second to last night so it was like 3:30 am and I was like “My God, that’s pretty late,” but it was packed! There were so many people I couldn’t believe it. I was super grateful that the kids stayed up . . . who knows how they were up, but they were up! It was a night to remember. It was really, really cool. I did a merch signing last minute the next day at my friend, Buckshot’s, trailer. I had like 101 CDs and I sold them all in an hour. I couldn’t believe it, so it was a really great trip. Prior to that, I went to NYC where I was supposed to fly out and do a bunch of stuff with SiriusXM but I waited at LAX for like 6 hours and my flight got cancelled. So unfortunately, I missed that day but I was able to get out the next day and do some interviews, a good amount of interviews. Then we had an in-store at Mishka which went really well and then I played at the Knitting Factory. Even before that, I just finished a 3 day run playing around California and then I drove out to Vegas and played in there. All the shows there went really well and there was an amazing amount of Battleaxe Warriors that turned out and I got to meet a ton of incredible family members which was really inspiring and exciting.
HipHopCanada: Now, Battleaxe Warriors is a movement for those who don’t know. They’re basically a family of underground hip-hop fans. What was it like to hang out with them in Vegas?
Madchild: I mean we have so many warriors out there and I haven’t, of course, met them all so to meet so many solid people that you have so much in common with right off the bat, it’s a pretty special thing to be a part of. We shut the books like 10 months ago but we’re getting ready to open the books again but on a much more quality vs. quantity type deal where it’s one on one and really getting to know the people before we just sort of let them in the crew. I’m really excited about getting to that next phase.
HipHopCanada: So now you’ve also got your label, Battleaxe Records. I know you were putting a lot of energy into that, the aesthetic and making your vision for it come to life. Can you tell me a bit about your plans for it?
Madchild: I’m mostly focusing on my stuff right now, but we just signed one other artist, Demrick, who is a super, super talented MC and a great first sign. He’s coming to Canada with me. He was in a group but I knew he wanted a solo career so we gave him a shot, a well-deserved shot. The music was incredible, it spoke for itself and he’s a great guy with a great attitude and super loyal. I’m very proud of Kevin Zinger who is actually running the label while I’m out doing all these shows and all the people on our team. Our second sign will most likely be Slaine from La Coka Nostra, he’s a sick rapper and we’re also going to start a group together called Supreme Villains. So really focusing on picking the right artists that fit with the direction I want the label to go and people that care, that push the envelope, that keep getting better, keep evolving, and we’ll see in time where things go. There are a lot of artists I have my eye on but it’s not going to happen all over night but so far so good. And of course, it’ll be a home for Swollen Members when we decide to put out another album down the road.
HipHopCanada: You’ve even started crafting the image of the label with the merch you offer. Nick Gazin’s shirt design is just about to be released, right?
Madchild: Yeah, and that’s the perfect example of the direction we want to go with Battleaxe Records. I want to do something different. I want to create something where we bring the art, toy and music world together. I don’t want to talk about it too deeply yet but I’m super lucky to be meeting these incredible people who are on board. It’s so important not to get stuck in a time period and so important to pay attention to what’s going on and also to what you like. I don’t want to do something because it’s hip or cool with the 18-year-old kids. I want to pick things that they think is cool, too, but also things that I think are cool or what I would wear or put on my wall. Maybe we’ll do something like having a limited run of toys when you pre-order an album. I’m into collecting toys and art. I’m not into changing my whole fan base or anything but I think that people would appreciate a label that would do things a little differently. We’ve already got a few legendary artists lined up for the next couple covers that I’m working on and it’ll be fun and exciting and new.
HipHopCanada: Sounds rad! So your new album is #3 on iTunes. For being only 3 years into the solo game, you’ve had some pretty amazing response!
Madchild: Yeah it’s been crazy! But the thing about that is, they had always added your pre-sale numbers into your iTunes sales and now they don’t do that. I actually did a crazy amount of presales (I actually wasn’t aware of until just recently) and so for me to still be #3 in the country without the added presale numbers into my total is crazy. Last week, the #1 record was 3000 units so if they had added my presales into my total, people would be eating my dust! But that’s cool, I feel like I made the type of music that’s going to get around by word of mouth. But I’m happy with how the album is going. I want to make it clear that I appreciate the people buying my album when it’s so easy to get for free. Without them buying my album, I’m just a dude making music in his apartment. Which, at my age, that would really suck! But I have this incredible loyal fan base and I’m so blessed and so thankful that they continue to realize that buying not only my album, but other albums like it, they are supporting a very important part of hip-hop. They’re supporting underground music and it shows the machine, the industry, that we matter. That we’re not going anywhere because we’ve seen lots of cultures and subcultures be around for years and then just die. What my fans need to realize is that what they are doing is so important by spending their hard earned money and buying my album, they’re keeping our culture alive; not only alive, but alive and thriving and progressing and moving forward. It’s such an important thing, and it’s not “Please, buy my album because I want your money,” but it’s about showing the industry that underground hip-hop matters and that’s a very, very important thing.
HipHopCanada: This is your third solo album but you’ve been on the scene for years. Has it changed a lot since you started?
Madchild: Being an artist for this long and staying relevant and having 15 year old fans and 35 year old fans, it’s a trip! It’s a different situation to be in as an artist. I feel blessed but it’s also a challenge. It’s a different world. I started with Swollen Members before the internet – that’s fuckin’ crazy. I’m not 22 years old and I don’t sit on my phone all day long and look at what’s going on, I’m not built that way. I like movies and walking my dog, and getting in shape but this world is changing so fast that just when you have things figured, things change again. But I’m super happy with how the album is going so far. What did you think of the album?
HipHopCanada: I think it’s dope. I love it!
Madchild: Remember to write that!
HipHopCanada: Well I’m not the only one. I’ve seen some pretty good reviews on the album but you’re getting some backlash for the track “SLUT”…
Madchild: Well, people didn’t like the song “Dickhead” either! The funny thing is at my shows, I’m usually fortunate enough that the first 3-4 rows are girls, especially at my Canadian shows, and that is their favourite song. The simple reason behind that is people have a sense of humor and the whole point of “SLUT” was a joke. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. It has to do with the reality of going on tour and what it’s like speaking from the experience of doing 200 shows a year. It was all in good fun; it was a funny idea that came into my head when I heard a good beat and when I make art, my art comes from within. In the end, I thought it was funny so I put it on the album but I wasn’t doing it for business or with disrespect. I just figured that if girls like the “Dickhead” song, in time they probably won’t have a problem with the “SLUT” song either. But everyone’s always going to have an opinion at first about anything. I’ve watched so many artists and some of my favorite artists go through these trends where everybody loves them and then as they start getting more popular, everybody starts hating them and then that goes away and people just love them more. So if I’m getting a bunch of people starting to hate, I’m sorry but I’ve seen the pattern and I’m not afraid to have that happen. I’m kind of hopin’ it does, to be honest, because I know what it means! Bring on the hate, I’m ready for it!
HipHopCanada: Well the album covers a lot of ground. You’ve spoken about addiction, breakups, etc. all on the album. Was this new album a way to show people a different side of you?
Madchild: I think being a true artist, there’s a fine line between staying true to who you are and the art that you make and reflecting on why people embrace it and why they like it. It would be nice to sit and say I only make music for myself and to some degree, I do. But to some degree, I have to keep in mind that I have an incredibly loyal fan base and there are reasons as to why they like my music. I believe one of those reasons is that I live my life a certain way where I’m able to constantly focus on staying razor sharp and being the best that I can be. I’m not a kid anymore so a lot of people at my age who do this either just go out and tour old songs they did or if they put out an album, people are like “this doesn’t sound like the old artist that I used to love.” I think the reason that that happens in a lot of cases is because people get married, they get mortgages, they got a mistress, they got a mistress for the mistress, they got a whole crew of people that follow them around and roll with them, they’ve got all these expenses, and people are constantly hanging out to go to shows, or need money or whatever happens in their life. I keep my life very, very simple and I keep my circle very small, very tight. I live in a way that I don’t allow a lot of distractions. And here I need to make something clear: I’m drug free and my life is a million times better now. I get offered drugs every night at shows and I turn them down every time and that’s important for my fans to know because I have this responsibility to them.
HipHopCanada: That’s awesome that you’ve broken free from your addiction and managed to come back with a fresh focus on your music.
Madchild: Well, if you start as an artist and make music your #1 thing, you’re going to come out with your best art but then 10 years down the road, music is #15 and you’ve got 14 things in front of it, then your music is going to suffer. To be honest, the choice that I’ve made is sometime a bit of a lonely choice but if you keep making music your number one choice, you’re going to keep staying sharp, keep evolving, and you’re going to keep getting better. Everyone’s going to have their opinion about my music, but I feel very, very proud about my new album that I’ve just put out. I put a lot of work into it, and I listen to it and I feel it’s EXACTLY where I wanted to be at this time with the music that I’m doing. I don’t think there’s anything repetitive about it; I don’t think there’s anything watered down about it. I think it’s still pushing the envelope, it makes me feel like a younger me and I think that’s one of the reasons I focus on being a solo artist most of the time now is because I don’t feel like age comes into play or into factor when I’m doing my solo music. I feel ageless, I feel timeless. I just feel fierce, young and strong- that’s a pretty great feeling to have.
HipHopCanada: I’ve heard you say that you have a young mind and a young heart. How does that state of mind translate into your life?
Madchild: I’m not trying to go on stage and dance around, turning up my elbows and pretending I’m a 17-year-old skinny kid. I’m still realizing who I am and where I’m at in life but I’m also living a young version of my life. Most people my age are married and have 9-5 jobs they hate and that’s not the way I want to live. I’ve said that since Swollen was at its peak, you have to love what you do. I mean there’re ups and downs in life, it’s a rollercoaster. There are times when you’re happy and times when you get the blues, but you have to love what you do. It’s not all about money, it’s not all about what you can buy and own, it’s not about letting your possessions own you, but you do have to be excited about what you’re doing every day.
HipHopCanada: And this album reflects that you loved it and loved creating it. How did that affect the outcome and creation of this album?
Madchild: Dope Sick got a really great response and Lawn Mower Man was just pretty cool. I knew I wanted my next album to be dope with a lot of time and effort put into it from the artists, to the writing, to the photography to the production. Every song I did I put in the time. “Lose My Mind” or “Nighttime Kill” or the bonus 2 tracks, all the way through, I put in my full effort on focusing on the lyrical content and that separates me I think, from other rappers. I don’t make music for sheep. I’m not making music to be on the radio or for business reasons. I’m making true art and for me, word play is one of the most important parts of music. But to make songs that have energy and a catchy chorus the lyrical word play still has to be precise, sharp fierce and something you haven’t heard before. I really try to come up with word play that isn’t something you’ve heard before. We’ll see how it goes but it looks like we’re going to have a great first week. Thank you to my fans who have bought my album and supporters and family and Battleaxe Warriors. I can’t thank you enough; it means the world to me. And that’s what it all comes down to- people buying the album. How do you thank somebody enough for doing that?