Developed in 2000, this industrial hard rock band based out of Los Angeles was contrived between Guitarist Isaiah Stuart and Lead Singer Angry Phill. With Phill’s angry lyrics and Isaiah’s unique guitar sound Madife was born. The band didn’t truly came into it’s own until they enlisted the talents of drummer Kyle Cunningham and bassist Carlos Pagan. The combined chemistry between these four talented artists makes for the perfect storm of hard rock excellence and the band doesn’t hold back when it comes to giving their legions of dedicated fans what they want to see and hear. Without question, the members of MADLIFE have spent the past few years establishing the band as one of most dynamic bands on the scene in Los Angeles. Along the way, the band has shared the stage with of hard rock’s elite such as Korn, Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Fiver Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, Prong, Trivium, Killswich Engage, Bullet for My Valentine, Adema, All the Remains and many more. The band has their sights set on the future and recently released their most ambitious and powerful album to date — “21st Century Megalomaniac.” Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with MADLIFE’s drummer, Kyle Cunningham, to discuss his musical roots, the history of the band, the making of “21st Century Megalomaniac” and much more!
I wanted to go back to the beginning and have you tell us a little about your first memories of music and how it came into your life?
For me, it was my parents that got me into all different types and styles of music. So I when I started playing drums I was playing to Beatles, KISS, and pop stuff. I knew that I wanted to play music since I was eight.
Who do you cite as your biggest influences — musicians you look to for inspiration or even a mentor of some sort?
I blame KISS for giving me the music bug first and foremost. The musicians that inspire and influence me personally are Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, U2, Prince, Aerosmith, Sevendust, and Rob Zombie. And I mention these artists because all of them started from nothing, and worked their asses off to get where they are today. They also write their own music and play exactly what pleases them. Not what pleases everybody else. Nor did they go on a stupid TV talent show to get fame. Ok, starting to rant! Next question!
What made you pursue music as a career instead of going a different route?
I think for career musicians we all have the same answer: When you know, you just know. Nothing else makes you happier. There isnít another job in the world that you want, or fulfills you like music does.
For those who may not be familiar with the band. How did MADLIFE form originally?
Phil and Isaiah started this madness in LA. They both had the same vision of the kind of music they wanted to play, and it went from there. Other members came and went. I came later in the game just to fill in for a tour, and wound up being asked to join after filming the “Be Tomorrow” video.
Give us the lowdown on your current lineup and what these talented musicians bring to the table!
Everyone does so much other than just their own instrument which is great! Phil is the primary lyric writer, but also plays bass. Isaiah plays guitar, but is also a master at engineering and Pro Tools, Carlos plays bass, but can play every other instrument as well. I play drums and am a loop freak. I also have the best hair!
For the fans who haven’t had a chance to hear the band, what can they expect from the band sonically?
MADLIFE has little bit of a twist when it comes to our sound, which can be a blessing and a curse. We come from the industrial side of the tracks, but still very much a rock band with vocals you can understand. Live, we are a different monster. The show is so in your face, you barely have a chance to breathe! Then youíre hooked on us. Weíre a pretty good drug!
Your latest album is “21st Century Megalomaniac”. When heading into the studio for this album, what were your goals of expectations?
Musically, we knew exactly what direction we wanted to go in. That was the easy part. For Phil, Isaiah, and I, we had a lot of pent up emotions and aggression that stemmed from bad people in our camp. We got rid of all the negative things that were holding us back in the bandís life. Once that was done, the ideas just sprouted. This cd is basically our therapy session.
Can you tell us a little about your songwriting process for this record and how you typically bring a song to life?
MADLIFE has a great system actually! It usually starts with Isaiah and I. We are a very groove oriented band, so I will come up with a few different beats that I like which Isaiah will record. Then Isaiah and I will start creating loops. Once it makes our heads bounce, Isaiah will start dropping guitar chords over it, as well as keys. Heíll get a basic verse, chorus, pre-chorus for our foundation. Keep in mind that each band member is there too, and weíre all there to give suggestions or to say, ìhey try it this wayî, which is great because it couldíve been something I or another member would not have thought of playing. Isaiah speaks ìdrummerî very well even though he canít play drums. Once the song is starting to take shape, Phil is usually in a corner by himself scribbling lyrics in his notebook. The hard part is coming in the next day or the next week with an entirely different loop or hook that changes the original idea entirely. Which we are notorious for! We have a great producer by the name of Evan (Cage 9, Powerman 5000) who knows us inside and out, and really helps bring the song into focus. We then add some bells and whistles, perform a sÈance, and then Presto! A MADLIFE song is born.
Did you do anything differently when approaching the album, as opposed to the way you did on previous records?
The way we recorded, not really. But the head space that we were in was completely different! Weíre firing on all cylinders.
Who did you work with in terms of production for the album?
That goes to our ì5th memberî Evan (Cage 9, Powerman 5000). Gene Grimaldi (Lady Gaga, Rancid, NOFX) did our mastering at Oasis.
As an artist, what was the biggest challenge in putting the album together?
For us, I think it was how many songs we wanted to release and how. There was that big debate all last year with the state of the industry. Why should a band release a cd anymore? Everyone just buys a single or two these days off iTunes. So we released “To Live and Die in Hollywood” by itself. What happens? It charts! Didnít even see it coming. Then you start getting requests from the freaking industry ìsend us more, we want moreî! So needless to say, we weren’t prepared. Lesson learned. Release an EP or a CD kids.
You guys have opened for some terrific bands. What has the experience of opening for some of these awesome acts done for the band as a unit?
For us, it’s just a good hang! You make friends, and hope to see them again sooner than later. Best story for me is we were playing a festival with Five Finger Death Punch and Korn. Iím at catering, and I get to talking with Jason Hook. Come to find out it was HIM that gave Phil the moniker Angry Phil!! How cool is that!
What do you hope that people come away with after seeing your live show?
Utter shock, amazement, our merch, and a new fan of the band!
It seems like almost everybody has one. Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap Moment” on stage where something totally unexpected has happened?
Fortunately I have not spontaneously combusted as of yet. However, Phil really gets into it during the set. So if he’s not taking another band member out onstage, he’s usually falling over something or ramming into my drum kit!
What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
Other artists! It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what kind of music you play. Everyone has a story. Not all the time, but every once in a while, I learn about an artist and their struggle. When I see them succeed, and see them truly happy, that lets me know that my goals are attainable.
How do you feel you have evolved as a musician along the way?
Since the industry is constantly changing, I find that Iím always learning something new business wise. Musically speaking, I think Iíve evolved in the song writing process, and the way I want to hear things.
What is the best piece of advice that you can pass along to someone who wants to pursue a career in music in the industry’s current climate?
If you want to make music a career, do it because you truly love music and it makes you happy. Learn the business. Trust your gut. Watch your back. Surround yourself with good people. This is a dysfunctional business, but there is great reward for striving for what you believe in and seeing it come to fruition!
In your opinion, what does the future hold for Madlife? Both long term and short?
Touring, touring, and more touring. We have many people all over the world that buy our cdís, and we havenít been to these places yet. So right now, that is priority for us.
Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?
Yes! To the people that buy our cdís, come to shows, support the band in any capacity, I want to say Thank You! It means more to us than you know. Spread the word! Kyle out!
Get the latest news and information on MADLIFE at the band’s official website, www.madlifeofficial.com!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.