Shane Bunting was driving from Vernon to Kelowna to purchase $7,000 worth of OxyContin when he had an epiphany.
“I was 55 pounds overweight, my lips were purple, and my left arm was numb. I had a panic attack driving by myself and I looked in the mirror and I was crying,” Bunting says. “I knew that if I didn’t change I was going to die.”
Bunting, also known as Madchild from the four-time Juno Award winning hip-hop group Swollen Members, was in the middle of a brutal drug addiction that nearly cost him everything.
“I talked to my family and I cried. They stepped in and saved my life,” he says. “I wanted life and success and happiness. My family was more important than the demon that had gotten ahold of me.”
Bunting’s addiction began sometime in 2006 with Percocets, and then eventually grew to OxyContin. At one point he says he began to experiment with cocaine.
The former Carson Graham and Sutherland high school student has been drug free since 2010 and says he has no one to blame but himself for his addiction.
“I’ve been drug free now for three years. I can’t blame who I was hanging around with on my drug addiction. I made my own choices,” Bunting says.
On Aug. 15, Bunting will be performing in Vancouver at the Fortune Sound Club. It is the first stop on a lengthy North American tour promoting his new album, Lawn Mower Man.
“I am excited to play at Fortune. I have never played there before. I am actually long-time friends with the owners of the establishment,” he says.
“I am glad that my first show for the Lawn Mower Man tour for Canada is in Vancouver,” he adds.
Earlier this month, Bunting released his latest solo album. He says the new album has more of a home studio recording feel to it.
“You’ll hear a real vibrant energy, and I’m very excited. It has a lot of raw energy to it. I actually only mastered the album. I was mixing the songs and I didn’t like the way the mixes were coming out so I put it out mostly in demo form because I’d gotten used to the way the songs sounded and enjoyed that sound,” he says.
“You know when artists put out their first records and they do them in the basement. It has that kind of rawness to it. I felt like it was the right move and I am real happy I put it out that way.”
Bunting explains that in his newest album he does not cram as many words into each line. Something he has done in previous albums.
“For me it’s progression. Learning how to let the song breathe a little more and I came with a bit more of an aggressive approach,” he sayss. “To be honest with you I was a little nervous because it is definitely me and it is definitely who I am like Dope Sick, but there is a bit of step forward.”
Before Bunting became a member of Swollen Members he started off as a solo artist competing in underground hip-hop contests. At the age of 20, he relocated to San Francisco to further explore the hip-hop scene where he worked various jobs to make ends meet, but was often homeless.
After returning to British Columbia in the mid-90s, Bunting along with Moka Only and Prevail formed Swollen Members. Between 2001 and 2004, the group received four Juno Awards, three Western Canadian Music Awards, multiple MuchMusic Video Awards, and various other honours.
“It was exciting and it was a lot of fun, but it was overwhelming. I was quite young and I don’t think I handled the situation properly,” Bunting says about the early success. “It all happened pretty quickly. I didn’t have a role model that is sort of at the place that I am at now in life.”
During the height of Swollen Members’ success Bunting made some poor decisions.
“I was misguided when I was younger in terms of things that I thought were cool, movies that I watched and music that I listened to and people that I surrounded myself with. I made bad lifestyle choices,” he says. “I may have left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. Maybe I was a little cocky and maybe I was a little bit of an asshole to be honest.”
When Bunting began taking painkillers in 2006, Swollen Members had already claimed three of their four Juno Awards and had become a household name in the Canadian music scene. At the time, there was limited public awareness about how addictive drugs such as Percocets and OxyContin were. He says if he had known just how dangerous the drugs were he would not have even considered taking them.
“The thing that I got addicted to is the thing that anybody could have gotten addicted to if they did it for too long. I just thought it was something that doctors prescribed and it just happened to be fun to take. It seemed harmless,” Bunting says. “It wasn’t until a year later when someone told me that it was synthetic heroin and that’s when I tried to quit and experienced the first five days of being dope sick — which is the most horrible excruciating terrible feeling. You can’t fathom how horrible it is.”
After three years of inactivity, Swollen Members managed to put out an album in 2009 called Armed to the Teeth. That same year Bunting also releaed The Mad Child EP.
“I absolutely feel guilty for putting Swollen Members on hold, but I am not going to take responsibility for putting everybody’s life on hold,” Bunting says.
Shortly after Bunting’s epiphany, he began getting the help he needed. His addiction nearly cost him his life and took a massive toll on him financially.
“I spent half a million dollars on just drugs alone, but I lost over three million dollars because of not paying attention to my investments and my money,” he says.
Last year Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the makers of OxyContin, announced that they would replace the drug with a similar product called OxyNEO, which is designed to be harder to crush. Shortly after the announcement British Columbia, along with a handful of other provinces, decided to stop public funding for either drug, except in special cases.
In recent years, Bunting has become very outspoken about his addiction, recovery and rising awareness about the dangers of drugs. He says it is important for people of all ages to be aware of what they’re doing.
“Think of the environment that you’re putting yourself in because the options that come across your table are going to vary depending on the people you choose to hang around. If you choose to hang around somebody who carries a gun all the time then there is a good chance you might start carrying a gun, or something bad might happen when you’re with that friend and end up in jail,” he says.
“Why focus on hanging out with a bunch of people who are just trapped in negativity when you can do so many positive things,” he adds.
Bunting’s positive lifestyle changes have not only had an impact on fans and total strangers but also his family. His younger brother began rapping about eight months ago.
“He’s getting so good so fast. The fact that he wants to do the same thing that I am doing is because I am living a more positive lifestyle,” Bunting says. “I am so proud of him. That’s probably the biggest reward.”
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