Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mad Rad Far From Home

Those beautiful humans over at Into The Woods did a Far From Home edition with us while in Portland. Here is the video they made of us perfroming Love In A Strange World.

We’re loading our gear into the Clinton St. Theater. Stragglers from last night’s screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show are still milling about, and the air reeks of dirty sex. We ask them to leave.

There’s 10 or 15 people here for our shoot, and it doesn’t look like anyone’s gotten more than four hours of sleep. As the hangovers wear off and the coffee kicks in, the guys in Mad Rad start getting antsy. Buffalo Madonna is on his feet, rocking back and forth, as if he wasn’t at Sassy’s only eight hours before. It’s early on a Sunday, and Mad Rad is here in Portland, 200 miles away from home. 200 miles away from the drama and misunderstandings that have followed them for the past three years. 200 miles away from their massive fan base.

While Seattle’s music community is clearly divided on the subject of Mad Rad (one side filled with vicious haters, the other, rabid devotees), word about the party-hop crew has been slow to make its way down the West Coast, and much of Portland still isn’t fully aware of the reasons why they should love (or hate) the group. But Mad Rad’s near-legendary backstory doesn’t seem to matter here. The previous night’s show at Mississippi Studios was almost sold-out, and as the group performed, they seemed perfectly capable of satisfying Portland’s craving for some edgy, grimy, rap music. Rap music that thrives on vocoder grooves, dance breaks, and crazy parties. Rap music that triumphs having fun over being cerebral or acting tough.

The theater is dark and filthy, filled with all the archaic film canisters and fucked-up backstage props you’d expect to find at a volunteer-run, communal auditorium in SE Portland. In other words, it’s a perfect setting for capturing one of Mad Rad’s raw, abrasive performances.

Buffalo Madonna is taking stock of the space. Eyeing the stage, noting the angles of the lighting. He’s a professionally-trained actor, a fact that’s reflected in the way he uses the environment to his advantage. His time at Seattle’s Cornish College was a challenging experience, but the pressures of theater eventually led him into music. “They broke your psyche down and watched you piece yourself together through your art,” he recalls. “My whole world became a performance. When people spoke, I watched scripts being written. I became so obsessed in my observations that, at times, reality took second to my art. It started to break me, so I began doing music as a release. The lightheartedness of that first record really pulled me out of a dark place.”

By now it’s only noon, but the energy is building. Buffalo and fellow MC Terry Radjaw are pacing back and forth as they practice their verses, articulating each syllable like they’re about to give an important speech. P Smoov’s microphoned keyboard spits out digitized vocals. DJ Darwin’s beats begin to filter through the monitors, accented by Trent Moorman’s hybrid electro/acoustic drum kit. We’re finally ready to shoot.

Buffalo is in his element during the opening verse as he strolls down the aisle, spitting emotive rhymes about drug binges and one-night stands and cheating on his lady. It’s a reflection on the lifestyle he knows all too well, and a cautionary tale on the consequences. “Basically, it’s about 4 or 5 different girls, and the horrible things I was doing to myself and the people I loved. I’ve hit some low lows, and this was during one of them.”

Radjaw replies to Buffalo’s regrets in the next verse with a more romantic proposal, describing the process of fighting for a woman that was traveling the world. “She’s been the love of my life for 4 years,” he says. “We were off again/on again at the time. She eventually came back, and after some tumultuous times, we are still together and stronger than ever.” While the subject matter isn’t quite as dark as Buffalo’s lines, Radjaw compensates with a powerful delivery, his forceful stage presence bringing the song to crescendo.

Coming from different perspectives, their verses somehow meet in the middle, meshing on the topic of the search for love. “Love in a Strange World is kinda our love song,” explains MC/producer P Smoov. “It’s fucked-up love. But what love story doesn’t have some fucked-up parts?”

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