NY’s Madball are back with their 9th record… “For The Cause”, released on June 15th on Nuclear Blast, their first new full length since 2014’s “Hardcore Lives”. The new album sees new Madball tracks that deliver exactly what long-time fans have come to expect but on others they take some chances and score big with tracks like “The Fog” that features guest singer (and the album’s producer) Tim Armstrong from Rancid. We’ve had the album for a few weeks now and it’s pretty damn addictive… one of those albums that you know right away is going to be a big part of your music listening for months and years to come. We had a lot of questions about “For The Cause” and we hit up Freddy “Madball” Cricien to get some answers. Freddy always makes time for In Effect and we thank him for his insightful answers. The hope here is that many of you reading this have already checked out some of the new songs and will now read this interview and hopefully have a greater appreciation of “For The Cause”. Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
IE: Hey Freddy. Hope all is well. I've been listening to “For The Cause” for a few days now and it is a great follow up to “Hardcore Lives”. Shortly before you went into the studio to record the new album your old guitarist Brian “Mitts” Daniels parted ways with the band and you went into the studio with Matt Henderson to do all the guitar work. Matt is a great guitarist and goes way back in Madball's history but there still had to be some concern considering the short time he had to learn the new songs. Add on to that the fact that he lives on the West Coast so there was not a lot of time to practice as a full unit. Can you give us a little insight as to what your mindset was at this time? Things must have been hectic.
Freddy: Firstly, thanks for listening. I’m happy you dig it! Regarding writing/recording without Mitts… I want to preface this by saying Mitts was a friend before Madball and continues to be now. A very dear friend. We have a lot of love for Mitty and there’s no bad blood. There’s way too much speculating with this topic. For transparency reasons I will clarify- We/Madball and Mitts were moving in slightly different directions and it just came to a head. The relationship just ran its course and we had to end it. Mitts would have never left Madball had he had the choice, he loved the band, the traveling, all of it! He is a loyal guy as well. He would have tried to juggle whatever he had going on and make it all work out. That said, for some of us this is at the very top of the list, priority wise. It has to be. Having too much on your plate can create issues. So, for the sake of the team, progress, morale, etc. I had to step up and make a very hard executive decision. I think I made it for both of us. The reality is, he had other things going on work related, and I felt it was conflicting. So, our travels together had to end there. This also happened to be while we were writing which is a crucial time. The decision was not a convenient one by any means but I don’t always do things based on convenience. Luckily, he wasn’t heavily involved in the writing so it’s not like we lost a bunch of songs. We were a man down but we had already started writing so we just kept it moving! The end result of what we envisioned never changed. And with all due respect, we couldn’t have written comfortably with these vibes looming. Naturally, Matt was the first and only option that came to mind and he was beyond stoked when we asked him. So, it worked out nicely recording wise. Matt came in learned everything and added his Matty playing style and “flavor” to the pot. He did great. It was hectic but we got it done and it felt natural working with Matt again. He’s one of the architects of our sound along with Hoya and myself. He’s family as well. He didn’t get everything we were doing right off the bat but he still played with conviction. If you ask today... he totally gets the record! He’s super proud and honored to have been a part of this record. We are as well.
PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
IE: Mitts' parting came as a shock since he was with the band for so long and there were no apparent reasons why he would leave. Now that a few months have passed is there anything that you would like to make public about his sudden departure?
Freddy: I think I answered this on the first question. I’ll add this… I can see how some would be shocked. He was with us 15 plus years. Always a solid player as well. He became a fixture. The playing was not the issue, let me just say that. He just had a lot on his plate and so do we. Priorities started shifting for him. That’s fair enough but it doesn’t fare well in a band/writing environment. I don’t blame him. He was trying to build upon something. Possibly another career which I encourage. Everyone needs a backup plan, especially doing this music. But, when that creates tension and weird vibes during a critical time...it isn’t healthy for either side. Again, I had to make the executive decision. It’s a real bummer when it’s your friend. We all have to just move on now. It’s not going to change the course of what’s ahead for Madball! With Mitty, I support him and I know he’ll do well with whatever he decides to do. He’s talented and smart. As for us, we’ve never had this much forward momentum and nothing is going to slow us down.
IE: Shortly after Mitts' departure you had a run of European shows followed by US dates. Who has been handling guitar duties for Madball over the last 7 or so months and is there any word yet on who will be the new full time guitarist for Madball?
Freddy: What we have currently is a similar scenario to when we transitioned drummers. Mind you, this is going back a while. Mike is an 8 year vet now of the Madball camp. A great
addition I must say. But, when we first had Mike we also had another drummer named Igor. Another dear friend and excellent drummer. He’d been in a band called Backfire from Holland among other
projects. We utilized him in Europe and Mike whenever he was available (he had other projects and commitments at that time). Eventually it became permanent and here we are. Point being, the guitarist
thing may not happen overnight. We’re super busy and super picky about who joins the Madball family. As of now, we have our friend Dom “Lord Frost” on guitar for the summer. The next step has yet to
be determined but we have our eye on some people.
IE: The new album starts off with one of the stronger tracks in “Smile Now Pay Later”. Interesting title. What is this track about?
Freddy: This track is basically about big pharma and/or entities like this. FDA is not that far behind in the negligence department along with many others. I’m not a dude who pushes his agenda on people. Not my style. Not super political either. I’m just awake. Not sleeping. I am a citizen of this planet. I’m pretty well travelled- seen and done quite a bit thus far. I’m also a father these days. All these things give me perspective from a few different angles. Coupled with the fact that I grew up in the era, when these people really started capitalizing at the expense of… us. They’ve only gotten more powerful. Yeah man there’s some fucked up shit in the meds you take. The food you eat, etc etc. I’m not vegan or even vegetarian but I try and eat as clean as possible… organic. Grass fed. Responsibly sourced food. My family and I have been doing this for years now. I don’t preach and tell people what to eat or not eat. What meds to take or not take. We personally only deal with holistic natural type stuff. I just became more aware of what the fuck is going on around us. Maybe fatherhood or losing people close to us also heightened my senses. Cancer in young people is at an all-time high and big pharma makes it almost like it’s cool to have cancer. Be a warrior, all these ribbons and campaigns blah blah. Stringing people along and shit. Not trying to sound insensitive. Quite the contrary, this stuff has hit very close to home. I’m just wondering why everyone is not asking the questions, why are 20 year olds or even 30 year olds getting breast cancer and other forms of cancer… and at alarming rates? Among other things… why is it ok that Autism is damn near a pandemic. It’s not a virus? What are your shooting into people? How about teaching people how to avoid getting illnesses or at least trying your best to? That wouldn’t be cool for those making money off you being sick. Anyway, we all know governments are screwy and so are these huge corporations who make crazy money off of us. Just felt like speaking on it. Some people will disagree with my personal beliefs as they should… it’s their right. But no one can deny the fuckery. Haha!
IE: Following that track up is “Rev Up” which is another track that I can see becoming part of the Madball live playlist. Sick Jacken also lends an awesome spoken word intro here and brings to mind KRS1's intro way back for Sick Of It All's “Clobberin Time”. This one has more of a political climate type of vibe asking the question "You want the truth? Start a revolution". What inspired you to write the lyrics for this track?
Freddy: “Rev Up” is definitely making the live line up. That’s one of my personal favorites… we all dig that one. Anyway, our boy Jacken stopped in to say hello and I happened to be recording “Rev Up”. He loved the track. I asked him if he wanted to say something and he just free-styled that, it became the intro. I like that it wasn’t pre-planned. Just happened like a lot of things surrounding this record. The theme is pretty self-explanatory…it’s a message to the youth and whoever else wants to listen. It’s also like a message to my own kids. When they get older maybe they’ll listen and say…cool.. I get it. It’s just about thinking for yourself and not conforming. Leading not following. Being aware of the bullshit around you and sniffing it out before you step in it. There’s access to a tremendous amount of knowledge these days. It’s a click away. That said, don’t be sidetracked or distracted by the same tools you use to learn. Know what I mean? Revolutions don’t necessarily have to be about taking up arms and shooting at people. It can be an idea that sparks more and then spreads like wildfire. I was born a rebel, part of a rebellious culture and I couldn’t be prouder. This may have political undertones but honestly the theme is not far removed from who we are. Actually, it’s exactly who we are. The topics overall are just a little more “focused” now.
IE: I am skipping ahead here to “Old Fashioned” which has some great lyrics pertaining to so called keyboard warriors. "Your faces are glued to that screen where your hatred reigns supreme" is just a sampling of your message here. The lyrics seem to be lashing back at people who make comments on online forums and don’t have to back up their words. Am I getting the vibe of this song correct?
Freddy: “Old Fashioned” is like a two themed song. First off, the chorus is a play on the Zapata quote: “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees”. Something I strongly back and believe in… and live by. In the first verse, I touch on steering away from complacency and that “status quo” mentality. It sounds a bit harsh but it’s more on a tough love type of tip than anything. I’m flawed as can be but when I fall I get up. Keep at it! I believe in something I’m going to do it with all my heart and soul. Don’t complain just get up and try again! That’s the old school, “old fashioned” mentality and I’m all about it. I’m from that school. It’s getting lost on some people, that instinct.
The second verse speaks about what you mentioned, the whole “troll concept”. Honestly, we don’t go around looking for comments or whatever… who has time for that? I have my family, band, production company… I can barely get these interviews done! I’m not even active on social media, personally speaking. On the band side, of course we have a presence. How could we not in this day and age? There’s a place for it as well. I’m all about communicating and letting people know what’s going on with us. The downside of that world is, when people abuse the medium… in whatever way. It happens a lot. Like with anything, there’s the haters, the rats, etc. Most times we get info on any nonsense being talked about us, second hand. Someone will be like you see what this one said or that one… typically, we just laugh it off! Some of the things we hear are so far fetched or just so ridiculous and stupid.. how could anyone take it seriously?! You’d have to be extremely gullible or extremely stupid or “one of them” to find any merit or value in these people. We do find the humor in some of it though… so yes we’re laughing at you! Let me be clear… I’m not speaking on having an honest opinion on music itself. That’s fair play. If it’s not your thing that’s fine. There’s plenty of stuff I don’t like… but, when people get personal or disrespectful, it gets slightly annoying. If you base your life on hating on others, just for the sake of hating, or because you envy them and you’re insecure about who you are or what you’ve done... or you’re a bigot or you just suck as a human… that’s sad and pathetic. It’s creepy, weird. So, we’re just basically giving them a sonic slap in the mouth for the fun of it! I don’t want to give anyone shine that doesn’t deserve it, hence why I would never name names. This is a blanket statement being made… we all know none of these clowns... man or woman, deserve the attention they so badly crave. We all know these people are not credible. But it’s fun to vent a little! I have no hired security and walk around with my “head high” everywhere I go. Thankfully, I have more friends than foes. But there are always haters. Get from behind the computer and come see me… I’ll put you on the guest list. Haha.
INSERT COLLAGE TO "FOR THE CAUSE"
IE: Next up is “Evil Ways” with guest vocalist Ice T who is a star in the rap game, television and movies and also fronts the band Body Count. When this song was being written was it done knowing you would have him on the song and did he write his own lyrics for his spot? Where did he record his vocals?
Freddy: Ice T is a cool cat. I wouldn’t go as far as saying we’re boys but there’s mutual respect for sure. When we opened for Body Count in NYC he came to say hello and showed us a lot of respect. That made an impression on me. Shit… this is a guy I’ve been seeing in rap videos, movies, etc my whole life. He’s truly a legendary figure. And he knows about our little scene? Not only does he know, he has immense respect for it and our band. He says he relates more with NYHC than metal or other genres. Pretty cool. So, to cut to the chase, there’s this one song that I could picture Ice on. I reached out via my pal Jamey Jasta and Ice was all about it! He couldn’t record with us at our spot, logistical it was too crazy… but he made it happen at a studio out east. Not only did he not charge us for the feat… he paid the studio guy out of his pocket and refused any compensation. That’s how you know the connection is real. So, I sent him the track and he wrote his own verse and added some more flavor to the end piece/breakdown. I just told him run with it… you can always take away but you can’t add more. He did his thing and the rest is history! It’s exactly what I pictured for the song and more. I wasn’t in the studio with him but we were on the same page. Honored to have him on there. He’s a legit OG. Class dude.
"FOR THE CAUSE" SESSIONS (TIM ARMSTRONG ON FAR LEFT & STEVE WHALE IN WHITE SHIRT)
IE: “The Fog” with Tim Armstrong from Rancid guest singing and Steve Whale from The Business might be Madball’s most diverse track ever with this "Madball meets Rancid" type of bouncy vibe going on. How fun was it to sort of step out of the more traditional Madball type of song and do something completely fresh and different for the band?
Freddy: “The Fog” is my favorite tune on the record. I agree, it’s one of our most diverse tracks ever… but it’s still Madball. Funny, when Hoya brought that one to me, he was unsure if we should use it for Madball. He had some other songs/riffs for another potential project.as well. I liked it immediately and I was like we can make that a Madball song. There were a couple of tracks like that on this record… really good riffs and parts but he was unsure what I’d want to do with it etc. In the end, we were both on the same channel. I was digging the more diverse stuff. I think we are starting to find our comfort zone with how much we can push Madball. It’s refreshing indeed. I wrote the hook to that song in minutes. We knew Tim would jump on a song at some point and there was no doubt that this would be the track. People will probably think he helped us write it but in actuality he didn’t. He did write his own verse though and he killed it. I’m excited for people to hear that one and see the video!
L-R: MIKE, FREDDY, TIM ARMSTRONG, HOYA, & KEVIN BIVONA (ENGINEER ON ALBUM)
IE: “For You” is track 10 and is a slower anthem like track not unlike “Doc Martin Stomp” off of your last album. Lyrically this has got to be one of your prouder moments on “For The Cause” as you salute fallen family and friends in the lyrics. Can you talk more about the music and message here?
Freddy: This was a last addition and I’m so thankful Hoya had it in his pocket. I said to him, we need a slow “ballad-ish” track. He said I think I got something. Again, something he had written not necessarily with the intention Madball would use it. I dug it immediately and so did Mike but since it was a last minute thing the structure was all over the place. We actually structured it at the studio. Matt Henderson, Tim and myself worked on that. In the end I streamlined the structure and then I wrote a verse. We were trying to work out the chorus and Tim said can I go sing an idea I have. I said sure… he used some of my lines I had written and sang… “we must carry on for you!” So, I have to give him the props for the hook on that one. I played around with it and did it my style but he laid the foundation on the chorus simple but very effective. The first verse is about Sue - Hoya’s wife who passed some years ago. Hoya is raising their son… the verse basically says we won’t let him forget her. I’m speaking to her obviously. The second verse is for two of my best friends I lost in the span of a couple months. Again, just reminding them that I always have them in my heart, my mind and so on. It really can be applied to anyone who’s lost people. That’s ultimately who it’s for… for those who can relate, those that live for the ones we lost too soon or too young.
LYRICS FROM "FOR THE CAUSE". PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
IE: At the end of the track “For The Cause” a reggae dub fades in with a female singer singing the chorus of “Rev Up”. Who is this singer and was the music she is singing over performed by Hoya, Mike and Matt?
Freddy: That was Hoya’s and my idea but it was played by guys in my good friend Stress’s camp (He and I work on hip hop stuff together). We sent him a dancehall dub song that we felt was closest to the vibe we wanted and they did an original version of it. Then we sent that to our friend Cherie Rain who Hoya was in touch with… she is married to our friend Hyde (a hip hop artist in Necro’s camp).I sent a voice memo of how I pictured it and she took that and ran with it! It’s the end part/chorus lines in “Rev Up” and we always thought that that part could be converted into a reggae type song. Even when I wrote those lines without music I pictured a reggae vibe. We were intending to do that with more songs and even dabbling in other genres with the interludes but time was against us. Glad we pulled this one off though! We grew up on music like this, so for us it’s natural to have this in the background. Shouts to Cherie Rain… Hyde and Stress!
IE: Can you talk about the recording process some? Where was the album recorded and when? How was it working with Tim Armstrong? You guys have been friends for years and he obviously knows Madball's music but there still has to be that connect between band and producer to make it all come together. How big of an impact did Tue Madsen have with the mixing and mastering of the album which he did from his base in Denmark?
Freddy: It was recorded in LA. The process itself wasn’t anything crazy different from previous records. The studio was though… there was a neve board (for you music tech nerds don’t lose your shit) it was a great comfortable set up with great equipment and mics...it was nice. That’s actually how Tim came on board as producer. I was looking for a place for us to record. I was having lunch with Tim and my bro Big C… we were in London. He asked if we had a place yet and I said no and he said I have a place in mind, you’re always welcomed. So I took him up on it. He kept the budget super affordable which helps when you’re on a hardcore recording budget. Since he had hooked that all up naturally he jumped on board as co-producer. He’s very familiar with Madball and we’ve always talked about working together in some capacity. It was cool to have his perspective on the songs, tempos, etc. We had a good team in there. He let us do our thing and chimed in when it counted… a good match up for guys like us. Tue brought it to the next level which was what we were hoping for... it exceeded our expectations even. Tue was very attentive to our notes and really did a tasteful and wonderful job. Cheers to those guys!
IE: Now that the album is set to come out on June 15th and you've had everything settle in a little what songs are you the most proud of and the ones you can’t wait to hit the stage with?
Freddy: I’m proud of the whole thing man… what band would say anything differently about a new record right? But for us this one is super important. Our previous release was well received thankfully and it’s a solid, solid record, if I can so humbly say that. This one had to be as good or better and I’d venture to say it’s the latter. We’re in a good spot and we’re having good forward momentum, especially considering it’s our 9th record. Things are looking up but we can’t be too complacent or comfortable- even when you’ve earned a lot of people’s respect, you have to keep it. Then, you have to go earn more people’s respect. That’s how this music thing works and it’s that much harder for underground sub-cultures like ours. I look forward to hitting the stage with “Old Fashioned” , “Rev Up”, and “The Fog” and they’ll be more... trust me.
PHOTO BY: PETE GREGORY
IE: From a touring aspect this summer looks jammed packed for Madball. The list of shows runs from June through August and I believe you have no NY shows until 2019. Where is Madball heading to and what message do you have for the people in those towns and cities leading up to this new albums release?
Freddy: Well it’s festival season in Europe so basically we’re there on and off all summer. We’re doing some pretty cool festivals… some we’ve done and some we’ve never done. Some pretty damn big ones as well. We’re really looking forward to it, especially considering we’re dropping this record right at the start. We’re happy that in Europe hardcore has a place in that world. We planted a flag in the early nineties, in the festival world, us and a few others. Literally a few… and I’m happy that flag is still flying and other bands are also getting the opportunity. It’s not our world per se… but it’s become an extension of our world. We’ll be doing club stuff as well. I just want to say to all… thanks for the support always… for the cause!
MADBALL ON TOUR NOW
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR "REV UP" BY CLICKING BELOW
WATCH THE VIDEO FOR "THE FOG" FEATURING RANCID'S TIM ARMSTRONG BY CLICKING BELOW