Freddy & Mitts from Madball: "Can you bring it live?... That's what it's about'...

Messin' with the New York boys...

I’ve got Freddy Cricien (vocals) and Mitts (guitars) from Madball sitting across the table from me; they’re swigging beer and larking about after their banging Brisbane Soundwave set. So far, they’re not feeling too bad from the jet-lag, having landed this morning, although as Mitts points out “We came from playin’ an Indonesian show on the way here so that kinda broke us in a little bit.”
We’ve had the Rebellion EP (2012) and we need the album, when’s it coming out, Freddy? “We’re workin’ on stuff as we speak. It’s hard to say when, I can’t exactly predict the date when it’ll come out but we’re definitely workin’ on new material, and we’re still playin’ stuff off the Rebellion EP so we’re still kinda pushin’ that too.”

So what were the crowds like in Indonesia? “That was our first time there and we only played one show but it was crazy. We played Bandung, outside of Jakarta; it was very good,” says Freddy

I ask about Freddy’s hip-hop Catholic Guilt album (2009) and whether he has any plans to go further in that direction, and he replies “Yes, I’m actually workin’ on another hip-hop record as well; I’m satisfying that part of myself as well. Workin’ on Madball, workin’ on that. It’s just two different sides, two different things altogether…”

Turning to Mitts, are you doing anything ‘on the side’ – he says “No.” but then Freddy reminds him about the producing he’s been doing, and he explains “I produced an EP for an Italian hardcore band called Strength Approach; they’re gonna play the Black n Blue Bowl, the Sunday show; we do the Black n Blue Bowl every year…”

Excellent link! That was my next question; what exactly is this Black n Blue Bowl that you speak of? Freddy explains it’s an annual event put on by Black n Blue Productions (“That’s a company that’s myself and my partner Jo and we’ve been goin’ like eight years strong…”) and “It’s old school bands and it’s just about the culture of hard core; the different elements of it, y’know? We do it diverse – there’re many branches…” Mitts adds “It’s the full spectrum. Every year it’s got some bands that people haven’t seen in a long time and then it’s got some current bands and then it’s got some young and upcoming bands. What I love about that show is that it’s also the full spectrum of the crowd…”

Freddy pitches in “You got melodic, you got heavy, you got this, you got young, you got old…”

They’re getting excited now, and it’s Mitts’ turn to add “You’ve got the younger kids and then you’ve got the older generation – and if there’s an older generation who doesn’t go to shows anymore because they’ve moved on and they’ve got families – they’re at that show. If they go to one show a year, they go to that show.”

Regarding the older fans, Freddy says “And I honestly think it reinvigorates the older crowd; I have friends in many generations – they represent all generations – and what I hear from the old crowd is like ‘Oh, that made me wanna go out there and dance’ or ‘That made me go do stuff that I haven’t done since 1989’ and that’s the point. They learn from the young kids and the young kids learn from the old school; ‘Look at this guy, he’s a veteran’ or ‘Look at this band'" Mitts throws in a joke about the state of Freddy’s dancing and before long we’ve got into some kind of play-off with the pair of them trading light-hearted insults; particularly about Freddy’s home-state New Jersey, before they end up both sing the praises of Noo Joizey. Mitts points out that “New Jersey gets a bad rap. It’s a beautiful state. New Jersey’s got gorgeous things but it’s also got the gritty…” before Freddy interjects “It is the poor cousin…” to which Mitts replies “I’m tryin’ to stick up for your home state! I’m tryin’ to be nice! I can diss New Jersey!” Freddy finishes the debate with “It’s my home state and it’s the poor cousin! But with the poor cousin, there’s also a lot of angst and a lot comes from that…”

So where would you be if it weren’t for the music:? Freddy ponders this before answering “Hard to say really, hard to say, you can go many different ways in life; could be in jail, could be workin’ somewhere, y’know? It all depends on what path some of us would’ve taken in life. But I really can’t picture music not being a part of our story because music was the saviour for a lot of us…”

So Madball’s been going since 1988; did you think it would run for this long, Freddy? “I don’t know what I was thinkin’! I was still playin’ with GI Joes when we started doin’ this! It really was hard to predict what was gonna happen and it really was just a fun thing that we did as an experiment and it caught on! It just took a life unto itself and people just started askin’ about it. There was enough curiosity there…and then there was more curiosity beyond that as to what this thing was and then we played live and we showed people what it was…”
And for you, Mitts, is it all about the live show? “Hard core is live music; when I was growin’ up in the hardcore scene you heard so many bands that you’d see ‘em live and then you hear them on the record, nowadays technology is available even to the smaller bands but back then it was only the biggest bands that could afford a good production, and you would see so many bands that would sound incredible live with so much energy and then you’d get the record and you didn’t really feel it. So originally hardcore’s roots were in the live show.” Freddy sagely adds “And they still are…luckily as far as hardcore goes, we’re one of the more established bands like Sick of it All and Agnostic Front so we have the good fortune to have a little bit more of a budget – not a massive budget by any means – but a little bit more of a budget to work with as opposed to a young band comin’ up. But like he said, nowadays anyone can sound good. Really, ultimately, the ultimate test is live; what can you bring live? Can you bring it live? That’s what it’s about.”

We move on to thopic of social media; is it easier now to get your stuff out there, what with all the MySpaz and FaceNazi sites? They both agree that it is. Mitts recalls “When I was a kid, I lived about an hour from New York city and the only way I could get records,I’d have to get on the train, go all the way into the record shops there, and hope they had what I was lookin’ for. Nowadays a kid can go on the internet, no matter where you are on the planet, you could be in Siberia, you could be in Africa, you could be in Bandung, Indonesia, and you can go online and you can find Madball, you find Sick of it All, you can find Agnostic Front, you can find every band that’s out there nowadays, you can get their music. It’s so readily accessible because of social media and because of the internet.”

And Freddy notes “I think the only downside to it is that sometimes people don’t invest in the live aspect of it; they download it, they watch it on Youtube and then they get their fill like that; they don’t ever really get the full dose of it because they’re like ‘Oh, I heard that’ and they like it but there is a little bit of a lazy factor with the younger generation.”

You had a bunch of equipment stolen last month, have you managed to get any back? “We got some stuff back and we’re in the process of getting’ it back…it’s never really happened to us before so it was surprise to us…shit happens…people get brave, people who don’t know no better…” says Freddy. There’s a whiff of menace about the way he says it. I wouldn’t be nicking off these guys…

How do you reckon the Sidewaves with Sick of it All and Vision of Disorder will go? What kind of set will you play? Freddy reckons a mix of old and new. As Mitts points out “Madball’s been around so long, and I say this from both sides of the coin, I’ve been in the band for 12 years and before I was in the band I was a fan, I knew these guys and I admired what they did, and it’s very hard to write a set-list for Madball because there are so many records and so much stuff to cover, and we wanna try to get something in there for everybody so we try to pick a little something off every record,. So we have the old, the middle and the new. So whenever you see us play, we try to cover every base.”

And finally what’s next the next album going to be about? Freddy says “It’s always a progression. It’s always gonna be Madball; we have a sound that we’re known for and you can always identify that it’s Madball but it’s gonna be a progression and I can tell you it’s gonna be a lot more upbeat, a lot more fast-paced than previous releases.”

Madball. Getting madder. Getting more balls.