We met Freddy Cricien, singer of Madball during the Rebellion Tour in Hasselt. He told us about the band, their latest album “For The Cause” but also his vision of hardcore culture and music.

Madball is a famous band, but still there are some people who don’t know you and how would you present yourselves to them ?

Freddy: Well, I don’t present myself and we don’t present ourselves any differently. To be honest we’ve had the good fortune of being on some bigger tours and bigger festivals which kind of put us out of our element. I mean honestly, I don’t consider us as a big band. I mean maybe we’re a known name in our world.

I think in our world maybe we’re a big band. But in the grand scheme of things I think we’re still very much an underground band, but we’ve had the good fortune of being on big shows and we really just welcomed the challenge.

We know when we play some of these shows that there’s a good chance that a lot of the people watching don’t know who we are. They might not even know what New York Hardcore is exactly. And so, it’s an introduction to both things I guess for some and so, we just do our show and hope for the best.

You’ve talked about hardcore. What makes a good hardcore band and what is hardcore ? How would you define it ?

Freddy: The definition started to get a little harder as the years pass because hardcore as a state of mind, to me, is still what it came from. It’s just an underground culture of people coming together, outcast and rebels and so on, coming together and connecting through music. Even if they have different backgrounds still there’s something that they have in common. Even if they come from different classes, they’re still having similar issues at home or in school or whatever.

So, I think that initially that’s how the culture began with all these outcasts coming together. Some came from punk, some came from maybe a metal background and then they created this music which infused many different elements.

Musically, it is hard to say what you can label as hardcore these days because it started diverse from the beginning. They were always bands that were more melodic and bands more heavier.

We came later, we are like the third generation and we kind of infused our own brand of hardcore into it, but we still kept some of the old flavour. So, as the generations grow, the different bands bring their own element into the music style of hardcore. So, hardcore has become broader and more diverse but there are some areas where you can kind of find things like New York Hardcore which are more specific kind of hardcore, with their own flavour.

I don’t know where the beginning point or the end point is right now. It’s hard to say because some bands I hear nowadays that call themselves hardcore are on the edge of not being really hardcore sounding. They are more metal than they are hardcore but maybe they grew up in the hardcore world and the hardcore scene and so they have that same foundation: all the DIY ethics and all the camaraderie that comes with the hardcore culture and that rebellious spirit and all those things.

Hardcore has evolved and now we have many different types of subgenres and crossover bands. What do you think about them ?

Freddy: It’s hard to judge because I don’t think like a purist, even though I’ve been around this scene since I was a little kid from the 80s, from almost the beginning of the scene but I don’t claim any type of authority about like what hardcore should sound like because even Madball when it came out sounded different than the 80s hardcore stuff. We took 80s hardcore stuff with us, but we incorporated something new into it. We brought something different and there were people that were looking at us when we were doing that like “What are you doing ? That’s not really hardcore”. They had a certain idea of what hardcore was for.

If we take for example a band like Bad Brains. They’ve always experimented and that’s a band that everyone points at as being one of the founding fathers of hardcore. So, when people start to get into this purist way of thinking they have to think about it and look back because there have always been bands which were experimenting.

So, thinking in that way does not really do anybody any favours. So for me I came and like the 90s scene was big for you know. We developed our sound in the 90s and then other bands came and had different varieties of sounds, but it was all still hardcore. In the 2000s somebody might bring another element and bands have already done that both on the melodic side and on the heavy side.

We were a band that brought a different thing and now our style is looked upon as more traditional which is like crazy because the traditionalists were looking at us like we were like “What the hell are you young guys doing ?”

People want to just go with the flow and evolve with it. I think it’s more about what’s the attitude and what are the intentions of the people doing it and their background, their connection to hardcore. Because to me if you’re not really connected to hardcore at all and you just put the label on it because it’s popular somewhere, it’s not how it should be. The fabric of the music should always somehow connect to hardcore some way. Otherwise just call yourself something else. But it’s getting broader and more diverse and it’s really hard. It is a band by band case.

There are definitely a lot of posers out there people that are saying they’re hardcore but they don’t know the history but there’s a lot of young bands that did grow up listening to maybe Madball or AF or whoever and they have the right attitude and the right approach and they’re infusing the music in the right way that makes it still work.

What’s the best thing that happened to the underground scene during all those years ?

Freddy: I wouldn’t say social media I mean. I think social media has helped in a way of accessibility and communication between the people that support the bands and the bands. I think that’s helped everyone from the biggest band in the world to the smallest band in the world.

I think coming to places like Europe and travel and scenes opening up globally was essential for hardcore to live, to survive because hardcore and other underground scenes don’t have the luxury of being on Top 40 Radio or MTV. When I grew up MTV was like one of the only outlets where you would be getting huge exposure. So, there was a big gap in between super huge bands and small bands. And I think now there’s just more opportunity for underground music and that’s necessary.

I think that hardcore should grow. I’m not saying that it should get cheesy. I’m just saying that it should like turn into like glam rock or something but it’s OK if it grows and that’s the point. The point is I think that when hardcore started to spread out to Europe places in South America and Japan and Asia stuff like that I think that that really helped underground music because it didn’t make it huge and massive but it did help it grow and the fan base grew and other people started saying oh this is not just for some kids in New York or some kids in California or D.C. or a group of kids in Germany. This is for all of us, this is a global community.

I think about the expansion of hardcore in that way and Europe being one of the most important places because we started coming here in the early 90s and that became a lifeline for a lot of us because things if things got stale at home we came here, and it was fresh year. It also helped people back home saying “Hey we got to step up Europe’s”.

That expansion and then social media just takes it to another level because now you can just post something and somebody in Idaho can see you in Belgium. So, that’s just another level. In the beginning, it was through the mail not with computers and that happened through word of mouth.

One of the better things that happened is that hardcore didn’t just stay in the little cities. If so, it would have just ended up becoming like playing in a little shitty club forever and then it would just fade away. It has it has to grow even though it’s not mainstream, it still has to grow. And now we play festivals and that helps because that brings attention to our scene and brings other people in.

Do you enjoy playing in Europe and what are the differences between Europe and the United States ?

Freddy: A good show is a good show but if the vibe is good then the show is good. I’ve had some of the best shows I have ever played in New York or even other places in the States and I’ve had some of the best shows I’ve ever played in Europe.

It really just all depends on where you’re at and the vibe of the people and how they respond to you and then how you respond back to them. I can’t say that one place is better to play than the other. I will say that where Europe has the advantage is there’s more platforms, it’s a bit bigger here and so, there are other things that go along with that. For example, you get to play to more people let’s say.

I remember shows in my mind that I had a better time with one hundred and fifty people than shows that played to a thousand people and vice versa. It all really just depends on the show, but we love Europe obviously and the culture is very respected and very rich here. So, it’s definitely an important place for us.

Is there’s still something you wish to accomplish with the band ?

Freddy: We are always looking to accomplish something. What that something is, I don’t know but I just want to see it grow in a tasteful way and I think that’s what’s been happening. It’s been gradual for us. We’ve been paying our dues and coming here and traveling around and touring in America, touring everywhere for a lot a lot of years.

A lot of people think that because we were putting out some our first records in the 90s that those were our biggest years. But that’s actually not the truth. I think we’re heading into our biggest years now and that’s because of the work that we put in and the passion that we put into the songs and the shows and I just would like to see that continue and that’s pretty all I can think about.

Hopefully it keeps going in that same way. We never got big and then dropped down. We’ve just been doing what we do and little by little we get more people and that’s fine even if it’s taken 20 something years. We’re definitely not a band from the 90s that’s coming back to try to play shows. In the 90s when we were starting out, we were kids who were just learning how to do this. If anything, now we’re at least have an idea of what we’re doing.

I just would like to see hardcore continue by other music communities because they take from hardcore, but they don’t always give the respect. A lot of people take from our scene like the fashion or little bits and pieces from hardcore and they pretend like “Oh well we don’t know where this came from”. Even just moshing and all that stuff, that really became a thing from hardcore and now you see it at a pop show

At Britney Spears’ somebody staged dived and that come from our world, that doesn’t come from no other heavy music world. So, a little bit of respect shown would be good. Hopefully there have been people that have been showing some respect to our culture. So, that’s cool.

If you could recommend one band to our readers what would it be ?

Freddy : I would say let’s start with Agnostic Front “Victim in pain” and then listen to Killing Time “Brightside” because that’s kind of like the next generation and then, put on a Madball record and then put on a Wisdom in Chains record.

Honestly, I think the best advice I can give anyone or whatever is to just dig into it and see what you like because there’s a lot of old bands. Everyone has a favourite and if you talk to everybody in that room next door, they’re all going to tell you a different band.

Agnostic Front is very close to me because that’s my family, that’s how I got started and that was the first hardcore I ever heard, and I was hooked but there are a lot of others. So many, for example Bad Brains, AF, Murphy’s Law, Sheer, all the New York bands, DC… Then you get into different times. In the 90s you know you have a whole group of bands like Sick Of It, us… God.

In the 2000s I like Terror, they really know how to do hardcore properly. They’re not a new band right now but in my mind, they were the generation after us. Terror is very very very good and strong. I mean both live and record wise. Wisdom in Chains, like I said. Also, a lot of the bands on this tour.

I mean there are a lot of stuff, you just got to go and dig around and see where you’re into. Boston has its scene, California has its scene. You can go so many different ways. Europe has its scene with for example Born From Pain who have been playing for a long time.

How are the feedbacks you’ve received for your latest album “For The Cause” ?

Freddy: From where I’m sitting it was more positive than anything. And that’s all I could ever really asked for. I don’t really go around and read every review. I get sent reviews sometimes if I’ve done an interview or if we’ve played a show. Sometimes I’ll get that sent to me and sure I’ll check it out.

From what I gather it’s been good, it’s been positive, and I know that there’s people that are, again the purists who are saying “Oh they did some different things I don’t know” but a lot of people just don’t give a crap about that stuff. They just know who we are, and they know that we are evolving a little bit. We’re still Madball, we’re still hardcore but we have been evolving for the last couple of records.

The people that have grown with us, they get it, they appreciate it. The new people that don’t, they have no judgment. They get it because they have no judgment. The only people that would say anything negative ideas is the people that are stuck in the period that they didn’t even live in. It’s weird when you get some young kid who’s like “I really like Ball Of Destruction», but he wasn’t even alive. “Ball Of Destruction” is something that I’ll forever be proud of but it’s like me singing Agnostic Front covers.

For me, Madball really started to become its own band from like the second 7 ” “Droppin’ Many Suckers” and “Set It Off”. That’s when we really had our own identity. So, if you say that you like something prior to that then you don’t really like Madball anyway *laugh* but if you just like the “Ball Of Destruction” you don’t really like Madball.

That’s just a matter of opinion. Hopefully now some kids will say “For The Cause” is their favourite because this is how they got into Madball and that’s all we can hope for is that today. So, I’m proud of the record, we’re all very proud of it. We’re proud of both the songs and sound and the reception has been good.

I end this interview by giving you the opportunity to tell our readers whatever is important to you.

Freddy: Thank you for the support of not only our band but of the culture of hardcore because it’s not just a music or the sound that you hear or a certain look. Hardcore is a very unique thing and it’s a culture and it’s not just a musical style.

So, thank you to anyone who can appreciate not only our band and what we’ve been doing but the culture and all the bands that are a part of it. Thank you for the support and then keep supporting it.

Thank you for being a part of it. More importantly thank you for being a part of our culture because it doesn’t grow without people. It’s all the people from all over the world that make this community what it is today. What is important is the state of mind, the culture and everyone that understands it and is a part of it. I am really grateful.

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