Rivka and Mike iLL are primarily writers and composers. We perform as a (very cathartic) means to realize our visions. Mad haPPy was originally formed in 2002 as a guy/girl electronic duo blending electro, hip-hop, world-folk and pop. Drawing on a rainbow of musical influences from Hasidic folk melodies to Public Enemy to Hank Williams, Nina Simone, Madonna and Sly Stone, we describe our sound as electro-world/hip-hop, the lyrics promoting tolerance and individuality. Equally eclectic as playwrights, the story telling is influenced by our voracious childhood appetites for Nancy Drew, CS Lewis, Mark Twain and Dungeons and Dragons, along with later interest in Occult and psychoanalytic material, Beat Writers, Black Liberation, Civil Rights and Activist Literature, Nuyorican Spoken Word, Horror and Science Fiction. Under the guidance of James Rado, our theatrical studies have included the writings of Stanislavski, Chubbuck and Strasberg.
Bringing our community into the fold, Mad haPPy has developed to incorporate musical theater and music instruction, operating with the philosophy that “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (The Gnostic Gospels)
Both Rivka and Mike iLL come from devout religious families. Rivka’s parents, both born Jewish, joined the Hasidic movement during their college years in Boston and followed their Rabbi to New York where Rivka was raised the seventh of nine children sheltered from American culture in an enclosed Hasidic community in Brooklyn’s Borough Park. Mike’s parents, an ex-nun and seminarian were involved in the civil rights movement. They gave birth to Mike in Montgomery, Alabama where they were organizing a racially integrated county government. Looking to move to New York City, the young family settled across the Hudson River where Mike, the oldest of five children was raised amongst the working class artists of Hoboken, New Jersey.
We met in 1997 in a sweat lodge at Nature’s Friends Farm in New Jersey, got together for a musical project and ended up romantically entangled in 1998. Since forming Mad haPPy in 2002, we have been doing over 200 live shows a year; Releasing three full length CDs; “Feel Good Music” (Bar/None Records), “Renegade Geeks” (Mutiny Zoo Records), Produced with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, “Frankenprophecy” (Mutiny Zoo Records), a live DVD, “Desperate Living” (Mutiny Zoo Records) and “The Electro-Funk No Wave Hip-Hop Compilation” (Mutiny Zoo Records). On top of touring with our dog Rags and daughter, Rinah, we have been workshopping an original musical called Joys of Armageddon around the country with the help of James Rado (Hair).
Our mission: To work within our community, creating music and theater which represent our influences as members of multiple concurrent cultures, outputting work which is forward-looking, while honoring its varied roots in a way that is accessible to people of all types without pandering to popular trends.
“Two of America’s most consistently productive and hard-touring underground performers, Mike iLL and Rivka, are a futuristic electronic musical combo that throw everything (including baby) into their potent musical mix.” – Sean Carnage