Interview: Madhouse Deejays
Every fortnight the Hamilton Station Hotel is overtaken by Madhouse deejays, opting out of the classic rock and folk tunes for something with rhyme and rhythm. The nights are run by Micks King and Wizla Blades. The Madhouse brand is evolving and taking shape, it’s a force to be reckoned with. Mick has given some of his time to chat with me about where Madhouse has come from and where it’s going, and it all started with a deejay residency at the Hamilton Station Hotel;
“It started sort of as a live thing. Basically I was doing a deejay residency at the Hamilton Station on Thursday nights and I thought instead of a boring four or five hours of a deejay playing while people eat or drink in the background that we could be a bit more creative with it. Especially because hip hop was having a hard time getting itself into venues, there’s a lot more now. Being someone who traditionally had promoted hip hop, I thought put two and two together.”
Now the Hamilton Station will see up to 10-15 artists a night testing out new material. Madhouse has only been in operation for 2 years, now going into its third, and they’ve already achieved a lot. So how did this Madhouse partnership come about? It was ignited after Wizla’s group Blades of Glory went on hiatus after an extensive time touring during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Needing a creative outlet, he teamed up with Mick,
“So needing something to do creative he teamed up with me, and that was around the same time I started doing the Madhouse thing. It’s always been me and him as the driving forces, and we’ve left it open for artists to come and go as they please. We don’t want to limit anybody, we just want to provide the opportunity. Myself and my partner Wizla have been in the industry for a long time and have developed connections, we know how to record and can provide those opportunities. So that’s what it has become to what it is.”
Mick has also had an extensive history with hip hop starting on decks at the age of 16 and continuing 15 years later. With an extensive knowledge under his belt he has stepped up into his role with Madhouse, however it hasn’t always been easy. He’s seen hip hop come in and out of flavour,
“It’s funny, it’s one of those like style, fashion, music; it is all a style. I’ve been a hip hop deejay for 15 years and when I first started in the late 90’s it was really popular, like Nelly and Ja Rule were touring and it was really easy to get work as a hip hop deejay. Then 2010-2011 it was electro and that was a time when hip hop went off the radar and nobody wanted anything to do with it. Now I guess it’s gone far enough that it’s become retro again, Ja Rule and Nelly are both touring again. I guess it is part of that retro thing, like the teenagers growing up now are really into it, whereas five years ago it was boring old man stuff. “
Madhouse Thursdays at the Hamilton began with a tough crowd of locals sitting back and enjoying their drinks while Mick and Wizla played hip hop tunes, with the occasional request for a rock song. It took six months to get the night up and running, something Mick thanks the Hamilton Station for being generous about. There’s no cover charge for these nights and Madhouse intends on keeping it that way. The aim wasn’t to get thousands upon thousands of people in but rather create a niche night which now sees over 200 people come to from all over.
“The fight is to find a place that will locally support something continually that will keep the locals happy. These days if something doesn’t make money really fast they’ll can it. Word of mouth takes a lot of time, the first six months of Madhouse was pretty much me and Wizla playing to the locals sorta trying to drag people in. We had to cater to that audience, we were trying to make a hip hop night but we had to play some rock n roll now we get 200 people from all over the country who are hard hip hop heads.“
It was with the help of the MATCH program that Madhouse was able to progress. Octapod was selected as one of 17 organisations to take part in the program offered by Creative Partnerships Australia. The MATCH program allowed Octapod to allocate a certain amount of money and have that money matched dollar for dollar. A call for artists was put out by Octapod, Madhouse applied and were approved to co-ordinate the music for the Thursday and closing night of TiNA. For their efforts they were given a fund which they then used to record 8 podcasts. The podcasts showcased a couple of artists and their music, which were then sent out to radio stations, one of which was 99.3FM Northside Radio with the Sound Cartel. It’s a different experience for Mick,
“Radio is a funny thing, it’s not like when you’re doing you live shows and you can see the people in front of you. When you’re in radio, you’re talking to someone and playing music you don’t know if anyone is listening or if they like you. They could be listening but you don’t know what their reaction is really like. It’s interesting, it’s different to doing the live thing.”
The radio show is going well, the Sound Cartel was a finalist in the 2015 Community Radio awards for Best New Radio Program. New and established artists are coming through the doors and creating a party in the radio and the Hamilton Station. Wizla and Mick have been with the Sound Cartel for six months, now they’re starting another venture – their first recording. The recording will feature 30-35 different artists and they have big hopes for it,
“If the CD goes well, we’re basically going to use that to push off a record label, I think we’ve got maybe 30-35 artists on this cd. There’s not a lot of options for independent hip hop artist distribution in Australia, surprisingly, although there’s a fairly big market for it. There’s a couple of companies that do it but they cater to a very specific audience, like Bliss n Eso – who are great. There’s a lot of people who are into a different kind of hip hop and there’s no real avenue for them. If this cd goes to plan, we’ll turn to these artists and say we can provide the same kind of distribution and marketing so that’s the plan for the next few months – see how that goes.“
The recording won’t be released on CD though, Wizla and Mick have opted for a USB format. Graffiti and art is a big part of the Newcastle hip hop culture, which will be part of the design on the USB. The actual USB will be decorated with artwork and the format will be far more accessible in these modern times when CD players aren’t as common. It’s roughly three times the price of recording on CD but they feel the benefits will show. Rather than pushing against modern times they’re going with the flow,
“There’s a certain age where touring and sleeping on couches and playing 3 gigs a week is no longer comfortable. We don’t want to give it up; we love music. That’s why we think the Internet and podcasts are great. The approach we take with the radio shows and podcasts is it’s basically a live event. We see podcasts, radio, all of that digital stuff, you don’t have to go to LA or NY to make it. You can do it online then people can listen to it on their phones in their own time because these people are busy and they don’t have time to schedule. In the olds days everyone would watch the Simpsons at 7 o’clock but now they watch it in their own time, at 2am or on the train. That’s how you want to get music to people, that’s how the world is evolving.”
The album launch will be on December 4th with a hip hop Christmas party the following fortnight. With their podcasts, their work on the Sound Cartel, the fortnightly live shows and upcoming album Wizla and Mick have a lot on their plate. As Mick tells me hip hop is a warm and open community; it’s one of the reasons why he loves the music so much,
“Every music has something it’s good for; house music is great for dancing, rock n roll is great for energy, hip hop is great for telling a story. Specifically when you listen to a great hip hop artist you feel like you know about their life, their everything, and I think communication is important in society. Most fighting and bullshit comes from a lack of communication, people not understanding where they’re not coming from. Understanding each other. Hip hop can break down barriers and culture groups.”
The boys at Madhouse are one to follow; their passion and excitement for hip hop shows is bringing a new energy to Newcastle. With the help of the Hamilton Station hotel, 99.3 the Sound Cartel and their album launch they should go far. You can follow their events on their Facebook page, listen to their podcasts on their Soundcloud or tune in to 99.3FM every Friday from 9pm -12pm.
The album launch will be hosted at the Hamilton Station Hotel on December 4th and a Star Wars Christmas Party on the 17th. These events are free.
Interview by Jodie Millard on behalf of Culture Hunter.
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