The LA-based musician tells tales of catharsis, shedding old skin and their new camped-out project.
We meet Madge in VF Dalston’s smoking area during a rehearsal for Drip Drop, an event that they organised and have been putting passion into for the past few months. Meanwhile, we were consistently obsessing over their shapeshifting electro-pop, stealing our hearts and feeds with 2020 EP Ethanol (Multiverse, Vol.2). Luckily, Madge has stopped in the UK to foreshadow the great things to come and celebrate the community.
“Everyone was really excited to be involved. They all just made it happen,” they say, “I use the words ‘drip drop’ unintentionally in songs. Every other song has that combination of words. It comes from a Disney song ‘Drip drip drop little April shower’, which I also use lyrically and melodically unintentionally all across my music. That’s an Easter egg for someone,” Madge laughs. Within the first five seconds, they make the impression of a lovely person with fabulously quirky outfits and a sparkling personality. “I love tapping into the London music scene. My music does well out here. In many ways people understand my music a little bit better here than in LA,” they tell us.
Madge especially values their creative community here, one they can freely explore, as their upbringing was quite the opposite. Raised in a Mormon family in Utah, they tell us: “I don’t really connect with the community I grew up with. I grew up in a very conservative religious, small-town community, in the middle of nowhere. As an adult, and as an artist, it’s important for me to surround myself with like-minded people. For the project, the only way really you can succeed is to approach it collaboratively and appreciate other people’s voices and give them platforms as well,” they explain.
The clash of the past and the present is pressed into Madge’s ethereally digitized releases of the last three years. “I see a progression and how I’ve processed that part of myself. That said, I’m always going to be Mormon on some level. My brain just thinks and works that way which I am deeply depressed about sometimes and also really inspired by other times because I have a lens and perspective that is pretty unusual”. Paradoxically, Madge finds it both her Achilles heel and a superpower, though, in reality, the matter is more complex than that. “It’s less of a duality maybe and more of a spectrum. There are many sides and angles to what having this experience means. Some of that is undoubtedly negative, others beautiful and the most things in between. A bit strange, a bit of ethereal, a bit dark,” says Madge.
Delving into Celtic mythology, they renamed themselves Madge, a pop-bending artisan specialising in dark matters. “In many ways, me shedding some of my older identities through choosing a new name has been really affirming. It’s less about the stories and the character of Madge and the history. It’s way more about that being a moniker and a name through which I can assume an artist’s identity that makes me feel whole and like I’m able to understand my past selves,” they explain.
The process of piercing through the empty shell promises a cathartic release at the end of it but until then we often need to sprint with a knife in the back, figuring out how to get rid of the pain. “My next version of Madge is broken, very violent. All my songs are quite explosively violent. There’s a lot of absurdity to it. A lot of dada. A lot of words are put together that felt right but don’t necessarily have a literal meaning. […] I’m presenting an angry Harlequin sex working cartoon”. They exorcised a possessed clowned into their new project. A queer character hanging out in cabarets and 90s raves of a surrealistically reimagined Weimar era in Berlin. “The irony is that, as I’m presenting something that feels quite raw and expressionist, there’s the flip side to that, which is the way I’m expressing it is so much more camped out,” Madge shares on a leap of faith into fantasy lands where the melodies and lyrics are from another realm. “They’re very raw, very angry,” Madge says.
When accumulating an ever-growing mass of blade-sharp emotion, you need to find a battlefield to let them loose. Here, it was a new album. “Last year went through a lot of things in my personal life. My father died in May. My grandfather died. I ended a long-term relationship. There was a lot of heaviness. When I started writing music again after taking a break, it all came out of me so clearly and so focused. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Madge shares. Working with a friend-producer Lecx Stacy in a few months, they took the broken pieces out of their heart and made a Madge-shaped sculpture out of it. “I’ve always felt quite scattered. There’s something really coming together with this next cycle which is exciting. I also do feel like it makes me a little bit more relatable to folks, to have something a little bit more solid to grab on to”. It’s a season of sound-centring and grounding.
The first taste of the new medicine is Madge’s ‘THUMBTAX’ with our fav pink pop princess, GIRLI. A song written as a stream of consciousness represents the forces that are to come. “I’ve never written a song like this. We started a basic beat in the studio, I went into the vocal booth and screamed. I was in my feelings. I was trying to process a really intense thing,” Madge explains. After chopping up the chaos they “created a song out of the vomit that I put into the mic” and, after getting GIRLI in, the track was ready to slap. “Anytime you’re flowing, you tapped into something. Anytime it’s like too hard and you have to keep revising, keep revising, and you lose something,” Madge adds.
Madge believes in art in the purest of forms, the fluid current of an almost beyond-human experience, birthed in our core. That’s why it’s strange when the outside power tries to tame it using social identity handicaps. Yes, Madge is non-binary but also so much more beyond it. “I don’t ever lead with the narrative of non-binary because I don’t believe in identity politics. It takes away energy from the collective narrative. I love this because I am this. It’s who I am but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the title of why I am. It just is. I never want to think that my project is about that because it’s not. I am this person so here’s the music I make. I love other people in that community but I’m not a flag bearer of that and I’m not a token of that,” the music speaks louder than labels of who they are. Cultural representation is most successfully performed with actions, not words. Sometimes just operating as a queer person is a statement strong enough: “I would say if you’re leading your project with identity, in many ways, you’re making yourself separate from a community that identifies in that area as well. It’s nuanced, but I would prefer to be Madge the musician rather than Madge the non-binary musician. That feels deeply marginalizing to me,” they summarise.
Entering Madge The Musician’s Hall of Secrets, there’s more than one door to open. Each leads to a different story filled with glitchy jesters, angry creatures and tattooed princesses singing future-pop. Always unpredictable. We cannot wait to storm into each one of them.
Press play on Madge and GIRLI’s ‘THUMBTAX’ below now…