While his roots will always be on stage as a performing host, Manchester’s Madrush MC has never been shy of a recording studio during his 20+ year career on the mic… But during the lockdowns last year he supersized his approximate release rate from one or two dispatches a year to nearly 40.
From the massive Drum&BassArena Award nominated Backhand with Joely to a whole slew of cuts with the likes of Niterider, Euphonique, Caramel, Tactcal and many more, Madrush (real name Owen) focused on working with new generation talent and welcomed every collaboration that came his way.
The same can be said this year as he’s continued his mission. Sub Zero , Annix, DJ GAW, Agro, DJ Hybrid, Critycal Dub, Acuna and Stance are just some of the artists he’s worked with throughout 2021. Since things opened up again on the rave side of things, he’s also been back on stage with a busier schedule than he’s ever had (including seven shows in five days during freedom week!)
To put it simply, Madrush MC has never been more on it, more motivated, more relevant and more inspired than he’s ever been. Yet if the Home Office had their way, things would be very different.
For the last seven years he’s been on review with the Conservative’s Hostile Environment policy and in February 2019 he was nearly placed on a chartered flight to Jamaica (a country he’s not been to since he was four) until a public campaign successful removed him and others from the flight.
Technically he is unable to work, drive, pay taxes, vote, use the NHS or do anything else UK residents take for granted. A youth worker for over 10 years and a stand-up citizen who’s committed his life to helping others and being creative, his fight against the authorities continues. “They can’t stop me doing my music though,” he tells us with a defiant glint in his eye.
Refusing to let the situation get him down, Owen Madrush ploughs all his fire into his game on the daily and, as he says himself, if he can achieve what he’s done with the restrictions that have been put on him… People without such maddening constraints definitely can too. Read on, get to know the most prolific MC of recent D&B times, get inspired…
You had a very productive lockdown!
I’ve kind of been on lockdown for the last seven years with the home office situation that is still ongoing. Next March it will have been three years since I was actually released from detention with the help from the public. So, the lockdown has been very productive for me as it was an opportunity to get my head really focused into the music and fine tune things. While everyone was at home and the clubs weren’t open, that was the right time to use that opportunity to get myself out there.
You’ve definitely done that. I was going ask about the situation with home office and how that works with you as a musician and performer…
It has been very difficult at times with the restrictions but Mike has been helping me manage so I can keep my creativity and music at a high level as best I can. I’ve had a lot of support from some great organisations in the scene. I’ve been in this scene for a very long time and blessed to know people who are kind enough to help me. Some really good people have stepped forward and that’s been brilliant… I didn’t want people to think I’m just that artist who’s dealing with this immigration thing. I want to be normal! I just want normality in my life, you know? And the music thing has helped in a massive way.
Been some massive release, too! I swear it’s at least two a month right now…
Cheers! Last year it was even more releases. I was basically facing up to the reality of keeping up with what’s going out there. I wanted to be relevant with the listeners and the music. So, I worked with loads of up and coming artists. Out of that came many tracks but the biggest I’d say was Backhand with Joely on DnB Allstars.
Yeah, it was nominated for Best Track in the Drum&BassArena Awards, which was massive. That was a big one. We never expected it to land where it landed. So last year was sick, but it ended up being like 30+ in the year. I just went in and got myself out there and gave people an opportunity to know who I am. One of my goals this year is levelling up with my music and releases. But I’ll always work with young, up and coming artists.
The next generation are where it’s at! If you’re not supporting the new stuff then you’ve got to hang up your headphones or mic IMO. The new generation are always the future.
Yeah man music is for ever evolving and the next generation are the ones who are evolving the music. I’ve got a motto – keep up or do one!
Innit. And I have to live by that motto. I’ll be the first to admit though at fist II wasn’t into the new D&B sound. I was just classic jungle D&B, that was it. But over the last few years I started rolling with what’s happening and I love it now. I’ve not looked back. My music hits with people from 18-33 which is a good range in the music scene.
Add a few years to that cos your music hits me, too! I reckon Bou has something to do with this change in mindset with you? I know you guys have been tight for years, long before he blew up big time, and you MC’d for him a lot in those early days so he probably opened your eyes to the newer stuff?
Totally. He’s a lot younger than me and has given me some amazing insight into what the next generation are listening to. On a bit of a different level, he’s helped me massively with advice on my movements, with marketing and social media and dealing with labels and producers. I’m not one of them guys who won’t take advice no matter what age you are.
He’s super switched on. Also, Bloc 2 Bloc keeps you young. Your association there keeps you moving with the new generation and up to date. I imagine you’ve helped people as much as people have helped you!
It’s one of them innit. Music is a positive thing you help each other out you want each other to succeed because it keeps the music going and evolving. I’ve seen many come through and been there at the start of many a journeys. Bloc 2 Bloc is such an incredible platform that’s given so many people a boost, confidence spotlight to showcase their talents. Banner, Doe One Six One and the team there are doing such an amazing job. I’m buzzing to be part of it all. We’ve seen so many people come through there. Like Bou as it goes.
You DJ as well, don’t you?
Yeah, I originally started out as a DJ on technics 1210s playing house, garage and jungle music. I DJ’d for 10 years until the early 90’s when I switched to the mic after hearing Alex Reece Pulp Fiction. That whole Metalheadz movement inspired me to be an MC. Hearing guys like Ragga Twins, Mc Conrad, Cleveland Watkiss and Dynamite MC who were my favourites. I liked what they were doing and wanted to do it too. I was terrified doing it at first. Had my back to the crowd, head down, the DJ had to tell me to turn around! But I do still DJ a few sets here and there.
DJs can hide behind dubs and decks. An MC is basically naked!
Yeah, you’re thrown in and got to deliver. Nothing to hide behind at all.
Cleveland’s a persy fave of mine, too. He’s one of those MCs who see tangibly loving the mix. GQ does it too. There’s something special about MCs who buzz off the mix isn’t there?
Yeah man. I never wanted to be the MC who just drops bars and spits lyrics lyrics lyrics. I love MCs who engage with the crowd and the DJ and bring that together. If you can do that at the right time, then it makes the night a lot more special. It’s a subtle thing, isn’t it?
How has your summer been?
It’s been brilliant. I was making the music and it was getting out there, and now the shows have started again, it’s all come together. It’s crazy. I had to do seven shows in five days on that opening week. I was so giddy about it. I was like ‘Yes!’ But I hadn’t been on stage for 19 months and my voice packed in after my third show. That was a reality-check. But it was the excitement. I’ve been locked down for 19 months and dead excited. It’s calmed a bit now and it’s just nice and regular. I have been buzzing to be back though for sure.
With your hosting style in mind, how are you feeling it from the crowd? Personally, I’m loving the energy in the crowd. It’s like my first raves in the mid/late 90s…
Yeah, same! Obviously, there have been a few over-excited people who need to pace themselves and relax a bit but overall, the vibe has been amazing. The energy has been next level. On the mic I’m thanking the ravers and telling them they’re amazing. Sometimes DJs and MCs forget to say how much we appreciate the crowd for making the effort and supporting our music. Without them, we’d be nowhere! And yeah, it’s been a good vibe and I love getting them involved. I sometimes pin-point people in the crowd or wind people up. if I see someone stood there not looking happy, I’ll be like, ‘Oi you, put a smile on your face!’ I’ll do a lyric especially for them and they’ll start smiling and moving.
That’s the Manchester way. Strategy and DRS are the best for that, telling you to turn to the person next to you and say ‘I fucking love you mate!’ Love it when they do that!
We like to get involved always spread the positive vibes. The guys have been doing that for ages, since Broke N English. That’s their style. Not just doing their bars – they’re engaging and entertaining. I learnt off them guys, I learn off everyone young and old. When you’re around fellow MCs, DJs, Artists and Musicians you’re learning off each other. That’s what music is about learning, growing and evolving.
I’ve observed you’re on some artists albums and, with your body of work building up, I think you must be thinking of something like an album soon?
I wouldn’t rule it out man! I’ve had conversations about it. I’ve been on four or five albums this year and all of them have been number one projects. I’ve been buzzing about all the projects I’ve done this year, but the albums have made me think about getting my own work out there.
It’s the next logical leap!
Yeah totally and I also love a lot different styles. I love my house, garage, hip-hop, reggae and dancehall. So, if I do an album, it won’t just be D&B. It’ll be a mixture of different genres so people get more of an understanding of who I am as an artist.
This needs to happen man. I noticed the acapella pack that you did with Diligent Fingers. How’s that been? Do you worry about being on tracks but not being featured?
It’s an interesting one man. Firstly, big shout to Hedex and the By The Producer team for giving us the opportunity to get one out there and be the first MCs on his platform. Me and Dilli basically wanted to give up-and-coming artists and producers a chance to use some good vocals. Like, ‘Here’s our vocals, take them away and see what you can do.’
I remember when TC gave away all the stems from his album and explained how it’s good for people to cook with the right ingredients so they have a benchmark or better understanding of how professional tracks work…
That’s very true. It’s been good and some tracks using our vocals are out there now. A lot of people know our vocals so it’s like having a signature out there. The only tiny issue I’ve had is that some producers think I won’t be able to do original lyrics because the pack is out there a lot now. But that’s not the case cause when I do a track with somebody, I do fresh lyrics exclusive to that track. It’s a very different scenario. But I think the main benefit has been more people recognise our vocals.
Yeah, totally. So, what’s coming up?
I’ve got a few releases dropping, or out now depending on when you read this! Better Surrender with DJ Hybrid on Liondub International, I got one with an up and coming producer DRZ called Chit Chat on Catch 22 Records, which is Ben Snow’s label. Also a few remix projects coming up and my first ever tech house project dropping at the end of October with Mason.
That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg, isn’t it? So, what else does the world need to know about the Madrush MC right about now?
Yeah, what I wanted to get across was this… My case is still ongoing and it’s a daily fight. But if I can get to where I am with nothing, then anyone else can, too. What you put in is what you get out. If you’re sitting there waiting for things to happen, you’ll be waiting for a long time. Get up and go get it. Don’t wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, run down that tunnel and light it up yourself. Don’t be afraid or overthink silly things. I’ve heard about individuals who won’t link up with artists because they’re at different levels. Like it’s some hierarchy or something. Forget about that; we can all learn from each other. Knowledge is power man.
Absolutely. It’s the long game! The forever game!
You know that. You go through thick and thin; ups and downs and you have to deal with it. You’ve got to have the drive, passion and love to want do it and most of all you have to enjoy what you do to have that longevity.