Madball’s Freddy Cricien Talks ‘Hardcore Lives,’ Representing the Scene + More
Freddy Cricien began fronting Madball as a young teenager, but years later he’s still bringing the energy as one of hardcore’s most enduring bands. Loudwire had a chance to chat with Cricien about the band’s latest album, ‘Hardcore Lives,’ and he also spoke about representing the New York hardcore scene at their live shows. Check out our interview with Madball’s Freddy Cricien below:
What are some of the overall themes you’re expressing on the ‘Hardcore Lives’ album?
I talk about many themes on this record — for example, ‘Hardcore Lives’ — the title track — is about the youthful and rebellious spirit that got a lot of us into this culture and how it’s still there to this day. It’s a coming-of-age type of song. I do a play on words lyrically, incorporating terms, lyrics and band names from the scene that any longtime hardcore supporter will or should recognize. Also, there are tracks talking about balancing family life with tour life and family in general. We talk about struggles such as fighting inner demons- anger, anxiety, etc. There are empowerment themes. All kinds of themes that I think many will relate to … from all walks of life.
What did Ken Susi and Zeuss bring to the table as far as the production of ‘Hardcore Lives’?
Ken did a great Job of capturing the right tones/sounds on this record. Everything overall but especially with the guitar tones! Zeuss did what he does best — he tastefully “refined” everything that was tracked. In my opinion, it’s his best mixing job for us to date. As far as production, we went in with the tracks arranged and ready to record, so they helped us ultimately by providing the right atmosphere and sounds. Vocally/lyrically, I produced all the vocal stuff. I actually did those at Pinecrust in Miami with Jon Nunez, who is a great engineer.
Can you talk about the track ‘Born Strong’ lyrically and musically and also about getting Candace Puopolo from Walls of Jericho to guest on the song?
‘Born Strong’ is a song about inner strength, more so mental and spiritual strength than physical. It’s not a song for the hardcore scene, it’s a song for humanity. I have to specify that because people always take our songs and immediately relate them to the hardcore scene even if it’s not written about that at all. There’s nothing wrong with empowerment themes aimed at people from “our world.” We’ve had those themes. This particular track though is broader.
We’re all born with the ability to summon our “strength” whether it’s physical or mental, etc. This song is saying, if we all did that as a unit and more often (meaning humanity) imagine what we can accomplish for ourselves and each other. Obviously there’s metaphorical stuff in the video and we show Candace [weight]lifting which is very impressive considering her size — that shows both physical and mental determination. But it’s a very “human” song, not a “tough guy” song. Candace was made for this song, she represents the mothers and strong female contingency out there!!
The band also unleashed a lyric video for ‘DNA’ off the new album. Great track. Can you talk about how that came together?
Nuclear Blast actually approached me with the idea. I thought it was a cool way to introduce a song that I feel represents us and the record really well. The first video was always going to be ‘Born Strong.’ I had that in mind. It’s a different approach, for us at least, to premiere a track. It’s cool. ‘DNA’ is another song that has many layers and if I broke it down it might throw some for a loop. A lot of people think it’s about my son. I definitely reference him towards the end, but it’s deeper than that.
We should also mention Terror’s Scott Vogel, who turns up on ‘True School.’ Kind of awesome to get East Coast hardcore and West Coast hardcore connecting on one track. What was that experience like?
Scott’s a good friend and a longtime supporter of our band. He’s a great front person and Terror is a great band! He and I always talked about getting him on a track. He’s like, “What’s up with that verse?” I keep my word and that’s what you get, true school! He’s perfect for that track and I love the East Coast-West Coast connect, that’s something we’ve always had.
And of course there’s ‘My Armor’ with Toby Morse, Chad Gilbert and CM Punk. We’d love to get your thoughts on track, as well?
Toby is one of my oldest and dearest friends in the world. He’s another guy that needed to be on an Madball song at some point. If we did guest spots more often he would have been on a track 10 years ago. That was just not our thing really up until this record. The first guest spot ever was on the previous album, ‘Empire.’ The guest was my brother Roger of Agnostic Front, of course. The minute I came up with the chorus I knew this was the one for Toby. He happened to be hangin’ with my homies Chad and CM, and the rest as they say is history! They’re all Madball supporters but most importantly friends. Did I mention, H20 is a great band as well?!
Obviously, Madball put on a high-energy live show. How much do you consider the live experience when putting together a new album?
To be honest, I never used to think about how it would translate until I had to do it and sometimes I’m like, “Damn! Why did I write so many lyrics?” [laughs]. As the years go on though, you do sometimes think of how certain songs would come off live. This definitely has been more prevalent with the last few records. I did consider the live experience while we were sequencing ‘Hardcore Lives.’
After 25 years in the band, what’s the biggest difference between the Freddy of 1989 and the Freddy of 2014?
Oh man! Well, I’m in my late thirties and not in my early teens. Ha. What hasn’t changed??! I’m more mature … even if just by a little bit [laughs].
When we saw you at the Gramercy Theater opening for Body Count, you were constantly shouting out for New York City Hardcore. How important is it to you to help carry the New York hardcore torch?
We have to shout that out. It’s our foundation. We were in front of a crowd that maybe didn’t know what that was really, so I probably said it more than usual. It’s very important to us to represent our genre/culture/scene as best we can! That said, we invite all newcomers to be a part of the show. Everyone with an open mind is welcome. We play huge festivals in Europe in front of all types of folks and are usually embraced. Meanwhile we’re still Madball reppin’ NYHC.
What’s on tap for Madball for the rest of 2014 and beyond?
To keep pushing ourselves. It doesn’t matter that we’ve been a band for 20-plus years. To some we’re brand new … Even we feel like a brand new band because we know we haven’t maximized or reached our full potential.
Watch Madball’s ‘Born Strong’ Video