The little tiny voices in your head can be a handful. Madlife frontman Angry Phill can
attest to that—they bombard him with insecurity, frustration and unbridled animal rage.
But the voices also told him how to position his band on the cusp of future stardom:
release all that blistering, bone-raw emotion to the tune of unforgettable hooks. The
catharsis manifests on Madlife’s long-awaited first full-length, Angry Sonnets for the
Soul, will be released this spring on Universal/Fontana.
The jigsaw wouldn’t have snapped into place if two diametrically opposed schools of
thought hadn’t learned to compromise. In 2004, Toronto expat Phill answered a Music
Connection ad posted by Isaiah, guitarist of L.A. rock outfit Merge. Despite very
different sonic preferences, the two bonded over Linkin Park, who were rehearsing in the
same building as Isaiah’s studio.
“That was our jump-off point,” Phill recalls. “My background is Ministry, Front 242,
KMFDM—I lean toward heavy stuff. Isaiah leans toward stuff that’s a little more poppy,
so Linkin Park was our common ground.”
Phill stepped outside of his insular industrial comfort zone and began doing his
homework on conventional song structures. He studied the Police, the Beatles and
Michael Jackson, finding common threads among pop arrangements he had never noticed
before. The goal was clear for the launch of Madlife: integrate the volatile, aggressive
elements of what he listened to into the mainstream.
Despite multiple personnel changes, Madlife delivered cult favorite EPs in the form of
2004’s Madlife and—understatement of the century—2005’s Music as Harsh as the
World We Live In (both produced by Dexys Midnight Runners drummer Stoker). The
lineup finally solidified with the addition of bassist Jimmy Minj, a walking ’80s pop
encyclopedia, and drummer Kyle, a laid-back Texan who could administer the necessary
hip-hop bounce to Madlife’s ever-evolving hybrids.
Phill elaborates: “If you start to deconstruct all the little bits, you’ll hear Formula 1
engines, horses neighing, hammers, chains, pianos crashing—whatever sounds I can
imagine are what I throw in there. And Isaiah, Jimmy and Kyle bring in the hard rock
The results are potent on Angry Sonnets for the Soul, produced by Powerman 5000
guitarist Evan 9. From the staccato synth-hop assault of “Little Ray of Sunshine” to the
fist-pumping overload of cautionary tale “Be Tomorrow,” Madlife integrate a dizzying
array of influences and inspirations across the rock spectrum. And ranting above it all is
Phill, uncompromising in his brutal honesty.
“On Angry Sonnets for the Soul, all the songs reflect the angry soul I am,” he says. “We
always write the music first. Once we finish, the songs talk to me. The guys have to leave
the room. They know when I’m in the zone. Thank god that I have this outlet, because I’d
probably go crazy if I didn’t.”
Intensity notwithstanding, Madlife are always up for a good time. They’ve played
everywhere from backyard birthday parties to 2009’s Rockstar Mayhem tour, and war
stories are in boundless supply, from the constant renovation of their “silver bullet” tour
coach (which they once flooded with 22 gallons of water in 10 degree Oklahoma chill) to
the time in Shreveport when Jimmy drunkenly staggered up to a Burger King drivethru—
in cowboy hat and fishnets—trying to procure late-night chicken nuggets.
“That’s the kind of shit that happens with us,” Phill laughs. “It’s good times, and
nobody’s getting fucked up on meth or crack or anything. You get drunk and… you want
Angry Phill: vocals
Jimmy Minj: bass