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Freddy’s got the balls


We have bored you enough with our insufferable open-mindedness. Enough already with these so-called journalists who are beyond fascinated when metal interacts with any artist from another musical universe even in cases where there is no quality. It makes you wonder whether they really like metal at all. Rest assured we will not be using Freddy Cricien, the singer of Madball’s Hip Hop project to keep harping on about.

Who doesn’t enjoy mediatised squabbles between musicians? Well certainly not the avid readers of Radio Metal, rock’s closest version of Hello magazine. Therefore, we spoke with Freddy about drummer Jay Weinberg’s reasons for departure and his belief that he was unfit for the band’s lifestyle. A press release from the son of Max Weinberg, Springsteen’s drummer, was published a few days after this interview, and we have chosen to include it so that you may see both versions. So which version is most plausible? May the voting begin.

We also evaluated Madball’s career so far as well as their latest album Empire. The album was produced by Erik Rutan, who is originally specialised in death metal. This provided the producer who, according to Freddy, will be working on the next Agnostic Front EP, with a breath of fresh air.

(Note : about Jay Weinberg) « when it comes to this band or even this type of lifestyle, this type of touring and even when it comes down to basic, fundamental respect, there’s a lot that he has to learn.« 

Radio Metal: First of all, any luck finding a new drummer?

Freddy Cricien  : : Yes! No problem at all! We don’t have a permanent replacement as of right now, but we are actually not really looking for one in fact. A Friend of ours is going to fit in. He is a great drummer that we have known for years. He’s going to fill in for this next Europe tour. And then we have a list of people that we want to try out. So, we’re going to play it by year, man. But we are doing fine.

You said that you’re not looking for a permanent drummer. Why is that?

What I mean is that the next guy who is going to play with us might not necessarily be the permanent guy either if you know what I’m saying. It’s not that I’m not looking for a drummer, because we are. But the core of this band has been solid for a while now with Hoya, Mitts and me. We’ve been together for a long, long time. Unfortunately, the drummer situation hasn’t been as solid. Of course, all the drummers who ever played with us were good and we’ve always found someone back there to do the job right. It’s just been hard to find a permanent person that’s in it for the long run. So I’m not going to make any promise.

You declared about Jay Weinberg: « I’m not sure that he’ll ever be built for this particular lifestyle. » It’s quite a radical opinion! What did you mean and what makes you think he’ll never get used to that lifestyle?

It’s not a radical opinion if you’ve experienced what we’ve experienced with Jay. You would know exactly what I meant. I’m not going to seat here and trash the guy though: he is not on the phone to defend himself. Furthermore, I didn’t say it could never happen. I just said that in my opinion I wasn’t sure that he was ready in the sense that I’m not sure if he can adjust to certain situations. He comes from a different background and he handles things differently than we do. So I don’t know. But again, it’s just my opinion and really, I don’t wish anything bad on the guy. I hope he does well and I wish him success. But, when it comes to this band or even this type of lifestyle, this type of touring and even when it comes down to basic, fundamental respect, there’s a lot that he has to learn.

But do you think that he is not meant to play that kind of music or that he is just not meant to tour like you do? Really, what was the problem?

I’m not saying that he can’t play this type of music, that’s not the issue. His playing was not an issue obviously as he was playing with us and we allowed him to play on the record also. His skills were never in question and he can play the drums well. For us, it was more of a character issue. But again, I don’t want to get into details you know.

About Jay Weinberg :

This interview took place before the release of a publication by Jay Weinberg concerning his point of view on the split. For this reason, we have chosen to include it within this article in Radio Metal’s pure tradition of Right to Response.

« There has been so much noise on the internet regarding my parting ways with MADBALL — largely distorted — that I wanted to take the opportunity to set the record straight as I see it, » Jay says in a statement that was released to BLABBERMOUTH.NET. « Then anyone who is interested can make up their own mind. Freddy Cricien has most recently inaccurately described my participation in the writing and recording process of MADBALL’s latest project, ‘Empire’. Throughout the several months-long writing and rehearsing process held at MADBALL’s Queens, New York workspace, I was fully engaged in the writing of the music for this album. As important as Freddy’s lyrics would become when the music was finished, he was only present at those pre-recording sessions on two or three occasions. The recording went well, evidenced by the final release, and I am proud of my contributions to the music — live and in the studio. However, Freddy has grossly mischaracterized my time with the band in the press; yet I have not responded publicly to any MADBALL statements.

Until now.

I agree that MADBALL will be better served by an individual more attuned to their particular lifestyle and, occasionally, a new band member will grind gears with longtime members over non-musical issues. To each his own. But, let me be clear — while I really enjoyed playing the music, I do not subscribe to their choice of habits and lifestyle. This past August while on tour in Europe, disturbing events within the band indicated to me that it was time for me to move on. While on tour in Canada in September, I informed Freddy, Mitts, and Hoya of my decision to leave — but not before they had found a replacement.

The very next morning came Freddy’s press release and claim that he had ‘released me.’ Well, that’s just not the case. It is true that everyone is entitled to their own opinions — but not their own facts! Timing is everything, and who would disagree that one cannot be fired after having quit — decisively, amicably and well in advance of Freddy’s harsh and public ‘spin’ of the facts.

Bottom line — check out MADBALL’s new release, ‘Empire’ — I’m proud of it, MADBALL should be proud of it, and, I believe that MADBALL’s fans will love it! »

(Note : about the producer Eric Rutan) « When we spoke, he was very excited to do a hardcore record because he’s been pigeonholed as a pure death metal guy while he is much more diverse than that. »

Then let’s talk now about your new album. Its title Empire is referring to your status in the media. You declared “we have the feeling that we’ve built a little empire for ourselves with our band, brand and different endeavors”. But you know empires can fall. So, do you think that MADBALL is untouchable in the hardcore scene?

That’s not what i meant. Empires can rise and empires can fall like anything else. We live and we die you know. It wasn’t a cocky reference and to be honest it was not meant to be taken that way. Sure, it’s an empowering term, and we do feel empowered because we came a long way from being a bunch of street kids doing hardcore in New York to representing hardcore on a global level. So it’s more about a feeling of accomplishment. But we don’t feel like we’re better than anyone. It’s just about feeling good about what we’ve done so far and what we’re continuing to build. It includes also other things like Black N Blue Productions, my production company. These are all things that are offspring of MADBALL. MADBALL was always the catalyst for everything. This is one of the things I refer to when I say empire. The other aspect is just family stuff and being inspired by the Empire State, by New York City and all that. There’s actually more to it than just the obvious you know.

Do you think that a band has a growth phase, a climax and then a decline phase or is it possible to go crescendo for a whole carrier?

I hope it’s possible to go crescendo for a whole carrier (laughs)! I hope so, but every band is different. Some bands have had success early on and have declined very, very extremely. Some bands have had a rough road and in the end they ended up getting their due and others have driven the wave. So maybe our high moment is yet to come or maybe it is a crescendo thing like you said. All you can do is to try to put up good music and to represent yourself as best as possible.

The album was recorded in Saint-Petersburg (Florida, USA). Why did you decide to go there to record it?

Basically, the guy that we went to work with has his studio there. So that was pretty much what it came down to. We were referred to Erik Rutan and as he works out of Saint-Petersburg, we simply flied. That was fine for us. It was good to get away.

The producer, Erik Rutan, is normally used to produce death metal artists. Do you think it did him any good to produce you, to maybe work with a new musical universe?

Yes! On the production side, the hardcore stuff was new to Erik, but as an individual he knew about MADBALL and he knew about our background. He was actually a big fan of ours. When we spoke, he was very excited to do a hardcore record because he’s been pigeonholed as a pure death metal guy while he is much more diverse than that. So he really wanted an opportunity to do something different you know, to do something outside of the box. He is from Jersey you know and he grew up going to hardcore and MADBALL shows. So it wasn’t like that crazy far stretched. In fact, I had met the guy before on a tour and I knew that he is a really good guy and that he is a good producer in general. We produced it together with him and we worked really well together.

But do you think he was kind of bored of producing all those death metal artists and he welcomed you as the light at the end of the tunnel?

(Laughs). I wouldn’t say he was bored because he really likes doing his stuff. But we were definitely a fresh thing for him, something a little bit different and even a lot different in some ways from what he was doing. So yes, he definitely welcomed it. He wants to try and go in different directions as of his carrier as well. So, he was happy to do something different and take a breath from doing all these other stuffs for sure.

And do you think it is for him some kind of new beginning about his carrier?

Yes! I told him that I was going to bring hardcore bands to him and I’ve already came through with my promise. The next Agnostic Front’s record is going to be done at his studio and I’m going to be producing it with Erik.

Cool ! What can you tell me about that?

Basically, I was very happy with what Erik did with MADBALL and we were getting a lot of positive feedback from Empire. In particular, the guys of Agnostic Front loved the way it came out. They were looking to change things up on their end and go somewhere different. And it just happened that we worked with Erik first and he did a hell of a job. So when they were looking someone new, there were only a few people that I could really suggest that would do Agnostic Front justice and Erik was one of them. They decided to give him a chance as well and I think it is going to open up a door for Erik, as you said before, for being known as something more than just a metal guy.

Have you started to work on that new album?

Yes I have. They have about thirteen or fourteen songs all ready. I’ve already started with the pre-production stuff and making notes. So yes, it’s already set to go into the studio in November.

And are those good songs (laughs)?

Oh my God, yeah they are! I think they are really good. I think they have a lot of potential with this new record, I really do.

« We have other avenues to do other musical stuff that we want to do. So it doesn’t make me feel like ‘I can’t do everything I want into MADBALL!’« 

You declared: « There’s a certain sound that we’re known for, and as much as we want to evolve with the times, we also have to keep in mind that there’s a certain standard and integrity with MADBALL, and we have to preserve that ». Do you think that a band that changes its style radically has no integrity?

It’s all up to the individuals of the band at the end of the day. But really, I can only speak for MADBALL and how we feel about it. When it comes to MADBALL and what it represents, I feel strongly about that because imagine if the next album we did sounded like… a country record for example! I think it wouldn’t be MADBALL. It would be a sort of a disservice to who we are. I don’t want to judge anybody else, but as far as MADBALL goes, if we’d radically change our style, I think it would put our integrity in question. If we became a country band, or if we turned MADBALL into a pop band, it would be weird. Now, if we went off on our own and start another band under a different name or do solo albums or side-projects, then that would be fine of course. We have a lot of creativity in us after all and for example, I have a hip-hop project, I do other stuff. In fact, I love music in general. But as MADBALL, if we changed it radically, I think it would be disrespectful to what this band stands for, you know.

Yes, but some bands did that and actually there was no problem with the fans. I think about bands like Metallica, Helloween… . So why would these bands have the right to change their style while you wouldn’t?

We have the right, you know! When it comes down to that, we do whatever we want. But we just don’t want to. We do evolve nevertheless, don’t get me wrong. Every record is another chapter in the book of MADBALL. If you pay close attention, there is always an evolution and there is always progress. But we are known for a certain style and we like to represent that, man. But I mean, Metallica didn’t radically change their style either. They commercialized their sound a little bit but it’s not an extreme move either. It’s not like they’ve turned from Metallica into Johnny Cash. So yes, it’s the same genre, some of the songs being a little tamer, and a little bit more commercialized. That would be the best way to put it. But really, all those bands you mentioned, I don’t believe they did radical changes. For me, a radical change is like switching genres and I don’t think that any of those bands did that. There is always room for evolution. It’s just that it’s got to be done in good taste.

But did you feel some kind of frustration in curving your musical evolution to preserve the MADBALL’s traditional sound?

No I don’t because we have other avenues to do other musical stuff that we want to do. So it doesn’t make me feel like “I can’t do everything I want into MADBALL!” And like I said, we keep evolving and we are doing things that sound a little bit different. It’s just that when you put it on, it is recognizably MADBALL and that’s a good thing in my opinion.

You said to me earlier that you have a hip-hop project. Can you tell me more about that?

Basically, I go by the name of Freddy Madball. That’s the nickname that a lot of people know me as, not only in hardcore but in music in general. My DJ, his name is Stress. He is also one of the main producers on the record for the beating stuff. I have an album that is called Catholic Guilt and it’s available everywhere on the Internet and in some stores. I’m really happy with it. I’ve always been a big fan of the hip-hop, and I’ve always been involved with this scene in some ways. So, that’s another avenue I plan on going into.

What do you think about the evolution of hardcore with these waves of technical, almost progressive, hardcore initiated by bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan?

I don’t know. There are certain bands that some people consider hardcore that I don’t consider hardcore. So it’s hard to say. Bands like that they’re maybe in a different league, if you know what I mean. I personally don’t mind any band doing whatever they want to do but I don’t know if I would consider them a hardcore band, traditionally speaking. And that’s not saying that every hardcore band has to sound the same because that’s not the case. There are obviously melodic hardcore bands.  There are hardcore bands with more metallic influences. There are hardcore bands that are more traditional. There is variety within hardcore and there always has been. But you get to a point where everything heavy can’t be considered hardcore. You’ve got to draw a line somewhere.

Last question, the stupid question of the interview: since your album is called Empire, I have to ask you a question about Star Wars. Are you for or against Hayden Christensen?

(Laughs). Am I for or against Hayden Christensen? … That’s a good one! … … I guess for!

Perfect! Have a nice day!

Thank you my man!


Interview conducted in October, 2010 by phone.

Transcription : Thomas

Myspace MADBALL : www.myspace.com/madball
Myspace FREDDY MADBALL & DJ STRESS : www.myspace.com/freddymadball



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