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Prevail (Swollen Members) - conducted by David Streier  

Swollen Members

September 2006

Canada's #1 Hip-Hop group of all time, Swollen Members, just released a new album and are ready to hit the highway for 56 shows in US cities this year. I sat down and talked with Prevail, one of the group's two emcees, and got his opinions on the music-making process, the new album, and several aspects of being an artist. Check out the new album, Black Magic, now and experience the cryptic lyrics and incredibly unique beats that Swollen has to offer. Whether you like to party, chill and space-out, or sit around and contemplate intelligent poetry, the Swollen Army, the group's ultra-loyal fan club is the community for you.

MVRemix: I've heard a little bit of the album, I know it just came out. How are you guys feeling about it? How's everything going with the release?

Prevail: Oh, dude, so stoked. Black Magic hit the #10 independent release; the #10 independent selling release in the States, from all genres of music. The #1 release on Universal and Wal-Marts all across Canada. It was #2 on Universal in Canada at HMV the first day. So Me and Mad Child and the whole group are excited. Awesome times right now.

MVRemix: How do you feel about such a huge success already? Here in the US, everyone is catching on. I know you started off in Canada and that you've been down here for awhile. But do you feel you guys just keep expanding your fan base?

Prevail: Absolutely man. The Swollen Army in the States is building at a rapid rate. A lot of that, the Swollen Army, man, on we have a link and you go there and join the Swollen Army. Every time we go to new shows, we recruit kids and like I said, the fans are expanding; when they go to a show, they leave as friends. That's our ultimate goal. Everyone out there that's already caught the album has hit us back online, calling it a classic, saying "Thank you, it's been 2 years. It was well worth the wait." The feedback has been amazing, man. We're gonna keep pushing forward, pushing forward.

MVRemix: How do you think you guys get that mentality in the reaction of the fans, where they get turned on and are just sucked into your music and your artistic community?

Prevail: I can say that the Swollen signature sound is very unique. Mad and I on the lyrical side keep it real dark and abstract, very impressionistic, yet at the same time, we do it over experimental, high-energy beats. Eighty percent of our beats are produced by Rob (the Viking), and with the rest of the album too, we had the opportunity to work with The Alchemist and Evidence and Dilated Peoples. Alchemist came and stepped out and gave us a verse on a song he produced called "Weight," also featuring Ghostface (Killah). We also got Everlast on a song produced by Evidence. We're family and friends making good music and everyone in the community is real tight-knit. We push for each other to draw the best out of each other.

MVRemix: I was looking and I see you guys have some pretty wide ranges of influences, like your interests in TV and movies and music and books.

Prevail: Were you on the MySpace site or the Swollen page?

MVRemix: I was on the Swollen page.

Prevail: Ok, ok. I get my inspiration from books, and Mad gets his inspiration from cinema. And the way I always describe it, and I think it's very fitting, is you know when you read a book, you put it down and pick it up and read the same chapter even the next day or a week later is has a whole different meaning and a completely different flow to it? When it comes time for me to deliver my lyrics in the studio, that's more or less how I operate. Every time I spit a verse, there's a little bit of something different about each way, and we take the tape that has the most magic to it. Mad, because he watches so much cinema, I really feel like he delivers his verses like a director sees a scene. He knows exactly where he wants everything to be, he knows exactly how he wants it to move, when and how and why. Those 2 styles of ours really complement each other in the best way. We just push each other in the most creative directions possible and that's Black Magic, man. It's our last 2 years, full of ups and downs and we kept up the creative intensity.

MVRemix: I was just going to ask about that and how that magical process is related to the new album. The title seems like it fits right in with the concept of you guys experimenting and trying new things in your lab, the studio. You said you've been working for 2 years on it. How do you feel this album differs from previous albums, like Bad Dreams. I know there was a little bit of a change in the feeling of Monsters in the Closet after that, yet you guys seem to always keep the same dark, abstract sound. What kind of differences in your style do you see this album that arose out of those 2 years of work?

Prevail: Well, those albums that you mentioned were all recorded at a time when everything rolled, when everything was at a good point- it was just up and up and up and up and we just kept feeding off that energy on those projects. Black Magic, we had come to the culmination of one and a half, three years riding an amazing wave in Canada and at the same time building momentum in the States. The last two years we took to create Black Magic was a time of ups and downs, you know we had come off that wave of success and Moka Only went to pursue his solo career. We took two months personally to reconnect with our family and friends and more importantly, ourselves. We did that and redeveloped our individuality, came back and it was Swollen. We progressed very rapidly from there. We recorded the first song for the album and once that song was done, we kind of looked at each other and started smiling because we knew that Swollen Members was back.

MVRemix: That's great to hear. I love the fact that you guys are confident in yourselves and that the chemistry is there. How were things in the studio? Were you guys having a great time or was it just hard work with the ups and downs you mentioned?

Prevail: Black Magic was a great album to record. It was actually the easiest. I say easiest because the fire and the passion had really come back to us. We're at a point now where we don't get married to any ideas. If something's not working, we can walk away from it. There's no trying to force a song to make it happen. If it feels good and it feels right, we put a hundred percent effort into it. We felt really good about envisioning songs from beginning to end, as opposed to just putting lyrics on top of beats. We had the opportunity to work with a lot of live musicians on this album in Bryan Adams' studio, called The Warehouse out in Vancouver. That really opened up Rob's musical repertoire. He expanded his horizons, and in turn that made Mad Child and I step it up on the lyrical side. I'm telling you, listen to this album on headphones and a lot of things are going to pop out.

MVRemix: I was wondering, how did you hook up with all these new guests of yours like Ghostface Killah, Everlast and Dilated Peoples, even Mix Master Mike from Beastie Boys fame is on this album, right?

Prevail: Yes. The great thing about Swollen is that we've been building relationships with people from the very beginning from the first album. Del, Aceyalone, Son Doobie, just keeping up friendships. Not just musically, but also on a personal level. Once you start doing that, you know how hip-hop is, word of mouth spreads very quickly, "Hey, these guys are great to work with. They're very professional, they're unique, they're abstract, they're something right up your alley." When it comes time to do a song with us, with someone like Ghostface it fits into plans and feels natural. We went on tour with him and created and continued building a friendship. From that point, he's rockin' Swollen shirts on stage, giving us shout outs. I mean, what else can you ask for? He gave us a killer verse. Ghostface really went to bat for us. Then we went on tour with GZA, and it just keeps continuing and building. As you know, man, the more people you introduce each other to that circulate hip-hop, it becomes a lot stronger. And that's what we ultimately hope for.

MVRemix: How do you feel about this upcoming tour? You'll be mostly in the States, sharing the bill with Rihanna and Black Eyed Peas, is that true?

Prevail: Yeah, we've got eleven shows in total with the Black Eyed Peas and Rihanna for the "Black Magic Tour"- 9 shows in Canada, 2 shows in the States, and we actually just put in 2 in Connecticut. Then 56 shows, Swollen headlining on our own. The Black Magic tour, all throughout the US. We're going to be, probably, in everybody's neighborhood. You've gotta check it out on or The whole tour is up there. Blog updates everyday. New songs, video clips, everything. Everything you want to know about Swollen is on those two sites.

MVRemix: Best of luck to you guys, I'll be bringing my old roommate and his 20 Battle Axe CDs to Chicago and Minneapolis to the show, so I'll see you there?

Prevail: Yeah, maybe not all 20 CDsbut bring the Swollen ones and we'll gladly sign them.

MVRemix: Are there any other comments you want to make about this new chapter in the group's artistic career?

Prevail: We just want to thank our fans. Ultimately, at the end of the day, when we step off stage or out of the studio, our wish and desire, and what we look forward to is turning friends into family, turning fans into friends. We give a lot on stage, and we give a lot in the studio. And that's only because of our family and our friends and our fans and our listeners give us all that energy back. It's a reciprocal respect, thank you very much.

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"We recorded the first song for the album and once that song was done, we kind of looked at each other and started smiling because we knew that Swollen Members was back."