Madnice Marauders: Five Years and Still Growin’
Written by James Zaremba on 16th February 2017
On the 8th November 2016, Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th President of the United States of America. Naturally, most were plagued by this notion. A mop-topped megalomaniac with the power to thrust his tiny hands around the necks of billions across the globe, the atmosphere on the ground was anything but tranquil. The antidote for our impending doom? Madnice Marauders.
Just 24 hours after the news broke, a coming together under the 24 Kitchen Street roof provided the perfect tonic for uncertain times. “We certainly don’t try to pick our gigs around historic moments in time.” Adam McAleavey jokes. The sanctuary provided by Madnice Marauders, Bam!Bam!Bam! and their esteemed guests for the evening, Yussef Kamaal, gave all in attendance a much-needed escape route from reality: “People came out blown away by Yussef Kamaal, not by some orange nobhead from across the pond. We weren’t thinking about him for a good two hours, we all shared a moment in watching Yussef Dayes and Henry Wu; two future legends do their thing on the drums and the keys.”
For five years, Adam McAleavey and co-host, Paddy Quinn’s party has been providing Liverpool with a soundtrack of hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk and pretty much any other genre that takes their fancy: “See something you like; book it.” It’s an admirable policy in a city of less than half a million people. It’s also a policy that has given them the freedom to give local debuts to the likes of; Yussef Kamaal, Loyle Carner and soon, Thundercat. In a city where the musical landscape is largely dominated by a revolving door of students, 5 years of Madnice stands as a testament to their enduring relevance in an ever-evolving musical milieu, all while staying true to their own, unique, sound.
“To us, experiences are worth way more than any amount of money. We’ve never tried to book someone with the idea of catching a wave or a trend.”
To really understand this ethos, one that sincerely defines Madnice Marauders, we have to rewind five years back to where it all began. We caught up with Adam, or as he’s more commonly known around Liverpool, Macca, to discuss how a run in with Busta Rhymes, endless car journeys up the M62 and the music of J Dilla, got it all into motion…
“It was 2010 and I was working on Bold Street, just up the road from the sneaker store, ‘Ran’, that Paddy Quinn managed.” Macca explains. “I’d just come back from New York where I had a mad incident with Busta Rhymes. I’d attempted to take a covert photo of the man after spotting him in a shop. It turned out that he really didn’t appreciate it. I think that was the point I started to connect with Paddy; telling him that story, he knew that I really dug the same hip-hop sound he was into.
A couple of years later and I ended up working for Paddy in Ran and every day was like an education in music. I was lucky really, I had one half of No Fakin’ giving me insight into sounds I’d never grasped before – usually you’d have to work in a record store to get that kinda exposure to music.
At the time, we were travelling over to Manchester at least a couple of times a month for gigs. It was a major stop on the touring schedule for a lot of big artists who wouldn’t necessarily come through to Liverpool. Eventually, Paddy turned around to me and said: ‘Do you want to keep going to Manchester or are we going to do this for ourselves?’ I had never even thought about doing a party, it had never crossed my mind. All the initial drive to make it happen came from Paddy, I was just brought along for the ride, haha.
Paddy already had the experience of putting on some legendary shows under No Fakin.’ He had previously brought the Lootpack (Madlib included) to Liverpool for one of their first ever UK shows back in 1999 and God knows who else… you could write a whole book about those No Fakin’ years I’m sure.
Me and Paddy were, and still are, into everything from funk, soul, jazz to disco, and it’s all because of hip-hop. I think that’s why we were both into J Dilla. His sound covers all of those elements perfectly. Old school, new school – Dilla’s got it all really. He brought back samples when sampling wasn’t a cool thing to be doing; the way he used them was unmatched.
For our first party, we booked in DJ Chris Read, the BBE producer and Wax Poetics x Who Sampled mixtape creator. The party was in the basement of the Shipping Forecast, in the Hold – it was fucking mad. It was a pay on the door party so we had no idea of what was going to happen to be honest. The response was crazy; people were queueing up round the block and we had to lock it out when the space filled out with over 200 people. I don’t necessarily think it was the party itself. Nobody had done a Dilla night in Liverpool before, everyone must have come to listen to J Dilla and his records. It was a baptism of fire I suppose and it felt like we had really hit on something. I feel old when I look back on the photos from that night – I didn’t have a clue!”
Macca notes that what started out as a celebration of hip-hop DJ culture, quickly developed into something that wasn’t necessarily constrained by a particular genre or even element of music.
“After the J Dilla gig we went on to book a lot of beat scene DJs; Brainfeeder and Low End Theory affiliates mostly. We even had Kutmah and Ras G down. The first time we ventured towards live gigs was when we did Shabazz Palaces (Butterfly from Digable Planets & Tendai “Baba” Maraire) with EVOL at the Kaz. After that, we really got a taste for live shows. Since then we have gone on to host: Quantic, Jonwayne, Fatima, Gangstarr Foundation and so many more. What we really wanted to do was be able to offer DJs, club nights, live elements and dancers. Nobody else was doing it at the time.”
Equally, the stages Madnice has operated upon have seen some substantial change over the course of 5 years. With parties involving legendary names like Quantic, PB Wolf and Mr Scruff, Madnice were undoubtedly an integral part of the Kazimier’s historic narrative. They’ve existed shoulder to shoulder with the rise and fall of such venues, and this is a legacy that will without doubt endure the closure of such culturally valuable spaces.
“It’s got to a stage where now I’d like to think that most gigs you can see in Manchester, you can see in Liverpool too: Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Action Bronson, KRS 1 and Homeboy Sandman are all good examples of this. We don’t tend to go to Manchester so often any more; that’s the best marker of where we’ve got to with Madnice Marauders and with Liverpool in general.
I’d like to think that when we put our stamp on a gig, people genuinely trust it. After all, 5 years is a long time. I hope that we have had some sort of impact on the way in which people go out and listen to music in Liverpool. I couldn’t really tell you what a Madnice crowd is though. All I could tell you is that the age range stretches from about 22-52 and that it’s definitely people who are truly interested in the music being played in that precise moment.”
“I’ve made some long-lasting friendships through doing these gigs. I’ve gone into clubs with people who I’ve barely known and we’ve come out in love with each other…that’s the power of music.”
On a personal level you can see that Macca is grateful and in some cases humbled by the opportunities, the relationships and the moments he’s shared through Madnice. With a penchant for telling a good story, there’s been no shortage of highlights – both backstage and during shows – be it listening to Funkadelic rarities with Maseo from De La Soul or facetiming Peanut Butter Wolf’s girlfriend in California just to say hello.
“I remember back in the early days of Madnice, and we took Mr Thing to our good mate and record dealer, Chris McBride’s house. I was just getting into digging at the time so I’d only spend half an hour digging through his crates and I’d find what I was after – fucking three hours later, Mr Thing is still going. I don’t think he would have stopped except for the fact I looked demented by that point haha. On record, Mr Thing is the best hip-hop DJ in the UK, probably Europe and possibly the world. That was one of those moments, getting to watch him in his element was something that money could never buy.
To touch on one of my favourite moments during a show: It was 2014 and we had been lucky enough to get Peanut Butter Wolf to play at the Kazimier. The Stones Throw documentary: ‘Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton’ had just been released. Halfway through his set, there was an amazing moment where Wolf paused the music and said: ‘This one is for my dad, he passed away in the last 12 months and it’s been a rough year.’ The day before…Frankie Knuckles had also died and we were all stood there wondering whether he would also give a tribute shout out to Frankie. Of course he played Frankie Knuckles’ – ‘The Whistle Song’ and invited everybody up on stage. The emotional energy in the building was high, people knew they’d been a part of a special show. To add to that, post-show, Wolf decides to facetime his girlfriend and introduce her to all of us and the next day he tweeted that Liverpool had given him the best gig of his international tour. That was one of those moments; nobody is taking that shit away from us.”
As Madnice marks 5 years of promoting soulful sounds in the city they call home, two forthcoming shows will certainly be providing a strong benchmark with which to continue from. The official birthday celebration will be taking place at 24 Kitchen Street (a venue that Macca refers to as his home from home) on Saturday 18th February featuring a 16-piece live interpretation of J Dilla tracks by the Abstract Orchestra alongside a city debut for New York-based Sound Signature DJ, Ge-ology. This is then followed by a monumental Liverpool debut in March for Brainfeeder’s Thundercat at the Invisible Wind Factory.
“We haven’t celebrated a birthday since our very 1st when we invited Maseo from De La Soul to the Shipping Forecast. I feel like half a decade is certainly a landmark worthy of recognising. Bringing everything back full circle, with the Abstract Orchestra performing the music of Dilla, I feel is appropriate too. Ge-ology is the perfect booking for us as well. He’s recorded stuff for Rawkus Records, produced ‘Brooklyn’ on Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides but also has a killer 12” out on Sound Signature… I reckon he’s the right DJ for a proper party with elements of hip-hop and sounds to get down to.
But if you look back 5 years ago, I don’t think this is a show we would have been able to put on in 2012. The scene, especially music of a soulful nature, has exploded in Liverpool. Things are so different to how they were five years ago; people are able to put far more interesting gigs and DJs on. I think we’ve got to all give props to the likes of Ioan and Saad down at Kitchen Street, Becky and Nick at Constellations and even the likes of James Morgan at Hustle, Tyler at Bam!Bam!Bam! and Andrew Hill at Abandon Silence: all these people are pushing the culture forward in a big way. We’ve just got to make sure we don’t stop and don’t quit…I think Liverpool is in a great place for music right now and I hope Madnice continues to play a part for the following 5 years – as long as Paddy can put up with me for another half decade!”