Some Battle Axe Warriors hangin' out.
The first time I ever heard of Swollen Members was in a skate video called RDS/FSU/2002 which was a 46 minute long VHS tape consisting of skateboarding, bullshit, and people making a claw-like hand gesture while shouting "Red Dragons!” I don't really know much about hip-hop nor do I pretend to, so I wasn't sure what happened to Swollen Members after hearing them in a montage from that film over a decade ago.
But apparently Madchild, one of the two members of the group, got addicted to painkillers around the peak of their success and lost all his possessions in the process. After kicking the habit, he's on a comeback. The guy started a movement for Swollen Members fans that requires every member to go through a screening process. The fan club is called the “Battle Axe Warriors” and it promotes positivity—plus you get special access to the merch store on their site! All you need to do to join is stay positive, help out your fellow members, and pay $100 in membership fees. It’s kinda like being a juggalo, except more positive, Canadian, faint paint is optional, and it costs money to register. I gave my man Madchild a call so we could talk about his fall from grace and the Battle Axe Warriors, because I just really just had to learn more.
Battle Axe Warriors scalp tatt.
VICE: Tell me about the Battle Axe Warrior movement
For me to get into what Battle Axe Warriors is, I have to get a little bit into my past. How long do we have here to talk? Five minutes? 20 minutes?
Usually the interview subject decides. As long as you need, I guess?
As you may know, Swollen Members had a wave of success from 2001 to 2006. Unfortunately in 2006 we lost our major record deal before the record could come out with Virgin and got dropped by Nettwerk records—and let me make it clear first that Nettwerk records and their management is a great group of people. I was in a real weird place at that time. I was caught up with hanging out with the wrong groups of people and I was glorifying negativity in videos. I just really went down the wrong path.
What kind of negativity were you glorifying?
I was hanging around with—and I don't want people to think it's the same thing—bikers and gangsters. So I want to make sure I'm not saying that bikers are gangsters. But those are the two groups of people I was hanging out with. I needed some growing up to do and unfortunately during 2001-2006 I was a real workaholic. I had Battle Axe Records and Swollen Members going and we decided to take time off after doing 200 shows a year for five, six years in a row. It wasn't a good thing for a guy like me to do. I immersed myself in the party scene—going to strip clubs and mansion parties. I eventually got hooked on Percocets and that turned into a very bad Oxycontin addiction. So from 2006-2010 I lost over three million dollars to my addiction and lost all my property and my worth… everything. It was a rough patch in my life, but I'm over two and half years sober now and life is awesome.
So in 2010 I got sober and I've been sober since. We're back on tour, my first solo album came out which debuted as the number three album in the country, I was nominated for a Juno again… Plus our new album just came out three weeks ago. It also got number 12 rap album in America and I'm not even allowed in there.
Is that because of your prior affiliation with the Hells Angels?
That was the gist of it. After I got out of the holding cell for ten hours at customs, they showed me pictures from the internet [of me hanging out with bikers] and asked me if I was a member of the motorcycle club. They didn't put that down as the actual reason but it was quite obvious to me that it was the reason. It's cool though. The whole thing is I made my bed and I have to sleep in it, but at the same time I gotta be the one to change the sheets.
Yeah man, spring cleaning.
So getting back to the Battle Axe Warriors. We've been shouting out “Battle Axe Warriors!” throughout our career. We had all this talent on the label and we called ourselves the Battle Axe Warriors and then I came up with the idea to make it a worldwide movement for kids who have always enjoyed our music.
I would say most Battle Axe Warriors are big underground hip-hop fans. The main reason I wanted to start it was because, when I got sober, I noticed things have gotten really bad with gang violence across Canada. Same with drug addiction. There's also the whole epidemic with painkillers and I kinda felt like kids or young men or middle aged men want to be a part of something or feel apart of a family.
Are there certain requirements a member has to meet?
Well, it gets a little complicated. When I started it was just a simple application process to become a Battle Axe Warrior. You just fill out an application—and as long as someone didn't seem crazy like talking about aliens or the devil or something—a guy has a pretty good chance of getting in. It's $100 to join and for that $100 you receive a big six foot Battle Axe Warriors flag, two Battle Axe Warriors official t-shirts, a bandana which has a skull icon on it, a patch, dog tags and a membership card—then you're documented as an official family member.
So what's different between a Battle Axe Warrior and say Juggalos or Technicians or some other movement is that we actually have every single member documented. We know exactly how many members there are.
How many members are there right now?
We're just shy of 2,000 and we started about 16 months ago. I have over 5,000 more applications pending and we're averaging 60-80 applications a day right now. It's a great starting point. I feel like every night we do a show I got like four or five guys coming up to me saying that they applied and haven't heard back. So now it's at the point where I get home I'm moving into a bigger place to set up an office so I can start spending half my day on business and do my music at night
I had meetings in some major cities like in Edmonton and met with 20 Battle Axe Warriors, in Calgary close to 30, and Winnipeg 14 of us went out for lunch. I'm seeing maybe 20 Battle Axe Warriors, 30 Battle Axe Warriors at every show. There was like 40 at the Toronto show and what a great group of guys they were! Just nice, good people. I've been absolutely thrilled. There have been a couple of bumps in the road but I guess that's just going to happen. There's 2000 of us already, so there's bound to be a couple bad apples. I'll refund those people their $100 and say: “Sorry, you can't be a part of our family with that attitude.”
What did they do that you had to revoke their membership?
There were a couple of racial slurs against another member and they took a [screenshot] of it. I just won't tolerate that. There's no second chances. I'm all about second chances for normal stuff—if somebody says the f word or whatever in an e-mail no problem they get a second chance—but I won't tolerate racial slurs and things of that nature. It's not going to happen.
Have you received any criticism from starting this movement?
No. You're actually the first person that wanted to interview me about it. I didn't even know that many people knew about it yet because it's pretty underground and at a starting point. VICE magazine is cool and I was a little worried you guys were going to poke fun at us—which would suck for the guys.
We’re all friends here. You mentioned there's an application and a screening process earlier, can you take me through a couple sample questions?
I haven't looked at it in a long time but I know one of the questions is "Why do you feel that this is the right movement for you?" and "Why do you feel that you should be able to be a warrior and part of the family?" and "What will you be bringing to the table?"
Does sexual orientation matter?
Absolutely not. It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight. Also it’s not like one thing has to do with the other, but I'm hoping we can get some positive role models in the community to join—whether it be police officers, younger police officers—I met lots of cops that enjoy Swollen Members. I don't know if they'd be allowed to join. But it'd be cool just to have all types of people in Battle Axe Warriors. And as far as being a female or a male, we are now starting the Battle Axe Dimes.
I think we have like 500 applications from girls who want to join. They're going to be called the “Battle Axe Dimes.” My girlfriend Pink Dragon is the one running the whole show. I've already met some couples that met through Battle Axe Warriors. It's kind of a fun thing to watch all this stuff come together.
Pat Maloney is a Battle Axe Warrior in training. He also writes, directs, and co-produces content for a web series called Random at Best.
Previously from Pat Maloney: