Madd Again! Genre-blending the Manchester way
Manchester crew Madd Again! are back with their second EP MaddTing Vol. 2.1
Recent years have seen Manchester celebrated for its genre-blending scene and Madd Again! – a supergroup consisting of producer Zed Bias and MCs Killa Benz, Specialist Moss and Trigga – has been at the forefront, lauded as an outfit which excels at combining dance music genres originating in Jamaican soundsystem culture. MaddTing Vol. 2.1 – their second EP released last week on one of the city’s most-loved labels, Swing Ting – follows the same winning banger-after-banger formula of their 2015 MaddTing Vol. 1 and in celebration of their return, we caught up with the crew.
It’s been over 18 months since MaddTing Vol.1 came out – what have you been up to since that release?
Trigga: We have been chilling working on solo stuff. I had a few d'n'b releases etc, then we got to work on Vol. 2.
Specialist Moss: Since Volume 1 Madd Again! have been back in the studio recording for Volume 2.1 and 2.2 and I've also been working on my solo project, producing and mixing tracks for Mr. Williamz and also working with up-and-coming grime artist Young Yizzy.
Killa Benz: Recording, working, building and giggin since the last release. Also fine-tuning my production skills in the studio working on new material.
Zed Bias: Well, I've been working hard on other projects, but together as Madd Again! we've been working on a load more material, which makes up these next releases on Swing Ting.
Which was the first track you made for this EP and how did it steer the rest of the record?
Zed Bias: I suppose the oldest track on the EP is Bawlout which me and Trigga made in 2012 originally. This really was the inspiration for us to start a project together, which developed into Madd Again!.
Trigga: Bawlout was the first track that was ever made by myself and Zed – this set the pattern for what was to follow.
Specialist Moss: It’s difficult to pin-point the first track we recorded, because when the four of us are in the studio the vibe and energy is electric and we often record 3-4 tracks in a session. We're like a four-man canoe so we all do the steering which involves our individual styles - and that's what makes Madd Again!
Killa Benz: To be honest I don't really remember as we've just been recording material continually, so when we all got together and looked at the body of work it’s just natural.
How did the use of the Benji B sample in Brand New Dubplate come about?
Zed Bias: I was listening to a load of old tunes from an old HD and I found an mp3 of an old Deviation show from 2004… soon as I heard him introduce a Bugz in the Attic dubplate, I knew it needed to be sampled!
Trigga: Zed Bias found the radio show and sampled the vocal. We thought it sounded really good, also it gave us the concept for the song.
Killa Benz: Farda Zed the Doctor will be best to break that one down for ya!! I just hear riddim with a energy an’ work with it. Kaboom!!
Critics have noted that your records are like history lessons in the genres you’re known for blending. Is educating with your music something you think about when making music together?
Trigga: No, we never really think in that way; we just feel the vibe and do what comes naturally. Our experience in different genres comes across as a lesson because combined our musical knowledge covers d'n'b, rap, bashment, grime, garage, jungle and house.
Zed Bias: I suppose it might come across like that but all we do is what we know well. We've had individual careers that span a good few years, and between us, quite a few musical genres. Trigga started out in a hip-hop group called Moss Siders many years ago, and has championed drum and bass since, Killa Benz has come up through hip-hop and dancehall, myself and Specialist Moss have come out of the UKG scene in the late 90's and now Moss is producing all forms of reggae for himself and other artists like Mr Williamz. I've had my fingers in all kinds of musical pies for over 15 years since the UKG scene imploded. So you could say we're just doing what we've always done, but with a new twist.
Specialist Moss: It's more of a subconscious thing, because soundsystem culture has always been a big part of my life. My parents’ revival records, to reggae, to dancehall, and then the emergence of the UK scene have all contributed to the Madd Again! sound. So I just express what is familiar to me and what I know.
Killa Benz: Once again it's just a vibe when we all link. [If] one of us has an idea or just vibing we will roll with whatever – we never force it. Usually for me though, the music sets the vibe on the outcome of whether it's a schooling, gyal ting, sound ting etc.
What was the best and worst thing about working together on this EP?
Trigga: The best thing about working on this EP together is that we are able to understand each other a lot more so it made the creative process much easier. The worst thing was coming to the end of it! The experience and creative process is always different, which makes music the most enjoyable thing ever for me.
Killa Benz: The best thing's all the elements rolled into one. Each piece of Madd Again! is different but the outcome is the same. Worst ting: I can't really think of any – mi sorry.
Zed Bias: The best thing for me is when we get together in the studio and vibe out. Once we start rolling, we crack out tune after tune. I can’t say there is a 'worst' thing as such. We're all friends and we all enjoy what we do as a collective. 100% good vibes.
Specialist Moss: The worst thing for me is the commute from London to Manchester. As the only Londoner I usually have to take the lonely drive up north! However, once I'm there it's work, fun, jokes and creativity which I always love.
Swing Ting was voted FACT magazine’s no. 1 label of 2016, no doubt partly due to the success of MaddTing Vol. 1 – did the accolade create any extra pressure making MaddTing Vol. 2.1?
Killa Benz: Not really. We try not to look too much into anything [apart] from the music; [if it's] sweet the people will eat. We love music so will continue to just vibe naturally; the outcome is Madd Again! Swing Ting are a wicked collective so naturally the blend works. Recognition for something you love should never bring pressure; Benz seh so!! Kaboom.
Trigga: We never feel pressured when working in music. We always try to be natural and not force anything. The accolade was nice to achieve but we never let that have any influence over what we do.
Specialist Moss: When we work, we don't work under pressure. Zed's a vibes man and builds the riddims and myself, Benz and Triggs feed off of that.
Zed Bias: The FACT accolade didn’t really put pressure on us. We'd already written both Madd Ting 2.1 and 2.2 by then. We'd been named Best Reggae album and Best Reggae Song 2015 on iTunes US and Apple Music, so I suppose if there was any pressure to repeat the success it was from that. I love that Swing Ting is now in full flow, and getting accolades. The ST guys fully deserve it for all the heavy releases and hard work they put in in the background. Bal & Ruben also make killer riddims & Joey’s a wicked selector. We're all doing our thing up here. There's something in the water up here in Manchester. Serious vibes!
Buy MaddTing Vol. 2.1 here.