It’s been a crazy, scary three years for Vancouver’s Swollen Members, which play in Sylvan Lake on Thursday, Nov. 19.
The musical partnership between hip-hop artists Mad Child, DJ Rob the Viking, Tre Nyce, and Prevail was seriously tested when the former lived up to his nickname and let his abusive lifestyle get the better of him.
Mad Child, aka Shane Bunting, has spoken publicly about his addiction to Oxycontin, a painkiller also known as hillbilly heroin.
He claims he blew more than half a million dollars on pills and lost $2 million more through inattention to business deals. The Swollen Members record label collapsed, and Mad Child said, “I became public enemy No. 1 with the cops,” due to his association with Hell’s Angels and other bike clubs.
“There was a time when I couldn’t leave my house without being confronted by the cops. At least three or four police vehicles would show up every time,” Mad Child stated on his blog.
Throughout the whole mess Prevail, also lived up to his name by remaining the calm, supportive one.
Mad Child’s addiction took a huge toll, physically, spiritually and mentally, said Prevail (aka Kiley Hendricks). “It definitely was a shock and took us by surprise,” only coming to light during the recording process — about a year after Mad Child first began privately struggling with the drug.
“There were a lot of scary, close moments,” said Prevail. “But you have to stand by your friends.”
When Mad Child finally bottomed out, he summoned all his willpower and made a clean break from opiates. It helped that the music was still there, stated Mad Child, who remains thankful for his friends’ support and for the opportunity to get back to work.
Regina-born, Victoria-raised Prevail seems like a zen kind of guy. The reserved artist said he doesn’t touch drugs, having seen how they complicate the lives of those around him.
“It’s surprising all the social circles (drugs) move in. You see a lot of it in the club scene and to me it just looks tiresome,” he added, chuckling. “I just stay away from it. It’s never interested me like that.”
Prevail admitted that going to the gym is what keeps him fresh.
The partners in the four-time Juno-Award-winning band Swollen Members, which performs at Chef Francisco Pub and Grill in Sylvan Lake, believe the only good thing out of the last three years is the group’s latest album, Armed to the Teeth, which features various West Coast hip-hop artists.
So far, the public’s reaction to the CD “has been absolutely amazing,” said Prevail, who noted the album released last month debuted at No. 1 on iTunes and is still in the No. 2 spot. “We’re right behind Jay-Z, which is pretty good company.”
Released through Suburban Noize Records, the new CD contains an autobiographical song called My Life, which is Mad Child’s comic spin on his own history. Prevail calls the story song “pretty devastating.”
Funeral March, featuring hip-hop artists Saafir and Barbie Hatch, is about “the passing of energy from this life, to the next,” said Prevail.
But there’s also lighter stuff, including the tunes Bollywood Chick, and Dumb, featuring Tre Nyce, as well as appearances by hip hop artists Tech N9ne, Everlast and Slaine. (Prevail said the latter’s title needs to be considered from a hip-hop perspective. “When you say something’s dumb, it’s oxymoronic. It really means good.”)
Among Wild Child’s musical statements is: “Hip hop isn’t dead, it’s just hardly breathing” — Prevail believes this means the pure musical form shouldn’t be watered down. “It’s in a state of transformation right now. We want to contribute our part to resuscitating it.”
Tickets to the Swollen Members show at Chef Francisco’s Pub and Grill are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Doors open at 8 p.m. The opening act is NU-Contrast, a hip-hop group from Red Deer.