Interview with Freddy Cricien (@freddymb) from MADBALL; Playing @ECTsunami Fest this weekend!
In my humble opinion, NY Hardcore is where it all started. There may be a few of you out there who think D.C. did it first, or Boston is better, or ask what about California, but whatever. New York Hardcore not only helped to form the foundation of most scenes around the world, but is also one of the only scenes on the planet that still remains true to where it all started… The streets. And one cannot bring up a conversation about NYHC without mentioning the band that made it cool for little kids to scream into a microphone… Madball.
Formed in 1988 and with minimal interruption in between, Madball has been demonstrating their style all over the world for years, leaving real tough guys battered and bruised, and fake tough guys in caskets. “Set It Off,” their 1994 Roadrunner Records debut, didn’t leave my tape player for months, and I’m still in pain from the first time I saw the group perform.
A staple of the NYHC scene, and though the group may polarize some hardcore enthusiasts, there is no denying the importance and influence Madball has contributed to hardcore music. Currently supporting their latest release, “Rebellion,” and one of the headliners of this year’s installment of East Coast Tsunami Fest in Reading, Pa., I got a chance to speak with front man Freddy Cricien about the new recording, the group’s long legacy, and what’s new in the NYHC scene.
G- What’s up man and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! How’s everything been going with Madball lately, and are you guys ready to destroy Reading, PA in a few weeks?
F- No problem at all, my pleasure. Things have been going really well on the Madball front, thanks.
G- Good man. Glad to hear it! So, you have a long and storied history in hardcore, and you have seen many fads and trends come and go. What about hardcore in 2012 continues to push the genre forward, and what are some of the things that you think are holding it back?
F- Yeah, we’ve been kicking this hardcore thing around for a bit. What continues to push the genre forward year after year is the global awareness, in my opinion. That international growth and appreciation is vital to the survival of this relatively small genre. It’s that and, of course, those key bands who stay on the front lines of the movement… Flying the flag and pushing the envelope!
Things that are holding it back are closed minded individuals, both within and outside the genre. The lack of knowledge about the culture of the “scene” is also a factor, like with anything I guess.
G- Too true. So, how would you say the scene in NYC now compares to how it was when you were first coming up as a kid? Do you still feel the same intensity and rage now as you did back then? Why or why not?
F- The scene is different, and so am I, and so is the world, ha. I was introduced to this as a kid literally, so you can imagine my perspective came from a very “innocent” and curious place. You can say the same about the scene. It was younger and less tampered with, for better or worse.
As far as the intensity and rage- That’s always there for me personally. That could be a good “motivational tool” creatively, but not for everything in life. I guess the important thing is to harness it, but not lose it all together. I’m learning that.
Hey, nothing is what it was in the early eighties, or even the early nineties. You adapt to the times. That’s what we do, as a band and as people. I respect the past, but I don’t live in it.
G- Excellent answer. So let’s talk about the new EP, Rebellion, for a minute. It is definitely still Madball, and it’s as hard as ever. You even re-recorded a few classic tracks from your “Ball Of Destruction” 7”. Where did you record, who was behind the boards, and how do you feel about the songs?
F- We were happy to be able to do an EP and drop it on limited edition vinyl, but also make it downloadable. As for the music, it’s a taste of what’s to come and it’s us doing what we do! A little new and a little old re-done and spiced up.
I feel good about it. The feedback is great! So, go pick it up and judge for yourselves. We did this one with Eric Rutan who also did Empire. He did great and its always a pleasure working with him.
G- Right on. Now, it may be old news, but at one point you had the Weinberg kid playing drums for you, but it ended due to “personality conflicts.” Was there a particular occurrence or issue that happened between you guys, and how is it getting used to having a new member join the band when it has happened in the past?
F- Jay who? More importantly, let’s give some shine to Mike Justian our new drummer. He definitely fits the Madball mold in every way. He’s got great chops and he’s been doing wonderfully and we feel really stable these days.
G- Yea no doubt… Mike has been in all types of bands and definitely has the hardcore thing down to a science. Great hitter, for sure!
Let’s hype B&B a bit, too… Can you tell us a bit about Black N’ Blue Productions and your Hip Hop project? What similarities do you see between hardcore and hip-hop music, and how has being involved making music in one genre influenced your work in the other?
F- As far as BNB goes, besides putting on shows and providing production and security for our shows and others, it’s also a movement. The whole BNB concept/brand has branched out to become a label and management company, etc. We are involved in many facets of the music scene. Not just limited to hardcore either.
As you mentioned my hip hop project, that’s one of many BNB supported endeavors. I love hip hop music and culture. A lot of the newer mainstream stuff not so much. The underground is where it’s at. I grew up with hip hop from the 80’s through the 90’s till now.
The similarity with hardcore is that its street music. They also both were “born” around a similar time period. Musically, obviously, it’s a different animal, but there are a lot of kids who, like me, grew up with both, especially in cities like New York. So, I have the utmost respect for both genres and cultures. I’m currently working on a new FMB hip hop release, as well as a new Madball record. Plus, my mix tape, The Black N Blue Print, is available for free download. Catholic Guilt is still selling well, can’t complain! Thanks to the open-minded supporters, man.
G- Right on! Make sure to go check out all those releases when they drop, folks. So, onto boring yet necessary questions, we are in the middle of political season in the U.S., and I’d like to get your feelings on the current state of political affairs. What do you think is the most pressing issue facing society today?
F- Politics is not my realm, but I do live on this planet, for the most part, ha. I do see and feel what’s going on. The most pressing issue, in my opinion, is an issue that may never be addressed in my lifetime. That is, greed.
G- True that… Plenty of greed and selfishness in the world, that’s for certain. Back to music stuff, as a band that has played all over the world, how does your reception in the states compare with your performances abroad, both in terms of how and where you play, and the audience reaction?
F- Well, it just depends. It’s fair to say that Europe is the biggest “market” at the moment. So obviously shows there are usually really consistently good, but I have had some great experiences in New York and in certain cities in the states. It just depends on the vibe of the crowd, and how much they really embrace what we do. I will say, outside of the U.S. there’s less of a “too cool for school vibe”. That shit is lame and has no place in our culture.
G- Respect! Now, speaking of hardcore and the violence that sometimes occurs at shows, Madball has certainly seen its share of fighting at shows, and hardcore shows can sometimes lead to very unfortunate circumstances and injuries. When fights or altercations break out, or there is an issue with the crowd/security, how does Madball typically handle it?
F- We’ve seen some things in our time, for sure. The reality is, it doesn’t happen often these days. When it does, we only get involved if it gets serious and starts to effect the vibe of the show. Otherwise, we just let the kids police themselves or let security do their job.
I’m not impressed by fights at our shows. It actually annoys me. Save that shit for the streets if you’re really hard.
G- Right on. This is one I’ve wanted to ask for a while, because I know it’s going to be insane, so can you recall and would you describe for us what the craziest or most memorable show Madball has played is? Where was it and what was it like?
F- There’s good crazy and bad crazy, and we’ve had both and everything in between. I honestly can’t say what ranks # 1… Definitely Dynamo 95 was memorable because we played in front of 120,000 people. Not our best show by far though… maybe that’s also part of what makes it… “Classic” to some.
G- 120k… Damn! I can only imagine the vibe happening on those grounds when you guys hit the stage. Hope people were wearing helmets haha!
And to close out, as a man who has literally grown up in a music scene and been in a band since you were a young boy, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
F- This is a hard business. Even when you have a head start like I got through my brother and company. Hardcore especially is a hard way to make a living. We are one of the lucky few and it’s still tough. That said, whatever it is you’re passionate about, go for it! If you try and it doesn’t pan out, at least you gave it a shot. If you go for it and works then you’re working doing something you love. Most importantly, be original. There a million bands/musicians. You have to really bring your own flavor.