Swollen Members rise from the ashes 

Canadian hip hop group releases Armed to the Teeth, first studio album in almost three years


Who: Swollen Members with Bliss & Eso

When: Wednesday, Nov. 11, 9 p.m.

Where: Moe Joe's

Cost: $15 in advance at Moe Joe's Billabong & Katmandu

Swollen Members has been a fixture on Canada's underground hip hop scene since the mid-90s. Founded by MCs Mad Child and Prevail, the group quickly rose through the ranks of the West Coast underground hip hop scene. After the group's first Juno win in 2001, they began seeing their music as a viable business opportunity and career path.

"The vision for Swollen Members when we first started making records was just to have a good time and make tunes," Prevail recalled during a recent telephone interview.

The Vancouver-based band is currently on tour promoting their new album, Armed to the Teeth , which was released at the end of October.

It's the first album in almost three years for the group, and one which comes after a rocky patch that involved drug abuse, cops and the collapse of their former label.

"I f--ked my life up and now I have to make every day count for three. If we can just go out and live on the road, grind it out and make a living, that's the goal. To survive doing what we love," Mad Child wrote in a recent editorial for the National Post.

But these guys don't shy away from talking about their troubles in their music, and with the fans.

"Looking back now, even though it's even so recent, I think (Mad Child) needed to go through this. This is part of his healing process, was being able to let our listeners and our fan base know exactly where we've been, what we've been up to, and to explain the length of time in between releases," Prevail said.

They were able to turn things around with the help of supportive family and friends, and by delving back into music.

"It was a learning experience for everybody, but we definitely grew closer as brothers and as musicians, and I think Mad Child especially was able to bring a lot of creativity back from that place that he was in."

Now, with their creative juices flowing and armed with an arsenal of brand-new material, they're working with Suburban Noise and have just released this sixth studio album.

Though the group has done a few one-off shows in the past few years, they've just embarked on a two-month tour throughout North America, which includes a stop here in Whistler.

"It's been very, very amazing to be back on the road," Prevail said.

"...The majority of the shows have been sold out and ones that haven't been sold out have been really close, and energy, regardless, in every room, every night has been awesome. We feel very lucky and very privileged to have an album out after three years and still have the kind of reception we've been getting."

Armed to the Teeth features a few hip hop heavy hitters like Talib Kweli, Tech N9ne and Everlast and Slaine of La Coka Nostra, to name a few. And they brought an original part of the Swollen Members crew, Moka Only, in on a reinvented version of Red Dragon.

And we can expect more new material from this long-time Canadian crew - there's a new Battle Axe Warriors album, Monsters in the Closet II, and a few solo projects coming down the pipe for 2009 and 2010.

"We really feel now that the Swollen army and all of our listeners and friends have built up to a point where now is one of those 'strike when the iron is hot' sort of moments, so the album couldn't have come out at a better time."



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