What started at the age of 7 when Freddy Cricien was thrown onto stage by his half brother and legendary hardcore singer Roger Miret of the mighty AGNOSTIC FRONT should turn into one of the most important hardcore bands of all time. The members of MADBALL are icons in the underground and that underground now spills forth into the streets. Since forming in 1988, MADBALL has been responsible for some of the most important releases in the genre, from the seminal “Ball of Destruction” EP (1989) to the landmark albums “Set It Off” (1994), “Demonstrating My Style” (1996), “Look My Way” (1998), “Hold it Down” (2000), and their latest efforts “Legacy” (2005) and “Infiltrate The System” (2007). However, after numerous label shifts MADBALL finally joined forces with Nuclear Blast looking into a bright future with another kick ass record on the way – “Empire”.
Today, October 16, 2010, I find myself in Roncade (Treviso-Italy), in the backstage room of New Age Club, where tonight Madball will share the stage with another great NY HC icon, Sick Of It All. The door opens and I see Freddy (Cricien, the lead singer of Madball) smiling and relaxed, dressed in a t-shirt of DMS-Family, with trousers, and beach-slippers. His quiet and natural look, even shy a little bit, makes me think he’s like “the boy next door” … We say “hello” and we sit on the couch to chat …
Hi Freddy, Welcome to Italy! How do you feel about being here with us?
Hi Tarja, thank-you! We feel good to be here. We always come to Italy very gladly, you know, we like a lot the Italian culture, food and wine. We’ve been here many times, over the years, in many different cities.
Freddy, tell me something … being a HC symbol band in the world, does it fill you with pride?
Well yes it does! To be like a HC symbol makes us feel good and honored, it’s actually very flattering, you know. If “Sick of It All” are the godfathers, we feel to be like ambassadors. It’s cool you know, when the things happen naturally. I feel really proud to represent my band and what we are doing.
You have been, and you still are a school for many kids. … How would you advise the newcomers??
Yeah, you know, nowadays it’s the old school, but there was a time when we were young guys, and HC was the new school. What we thought before, we still think so, that the only right way, and this is my advice to all new bands, no matter if it is the old or new school, to be honest and sincere with yourself and to what you are doing. Be real, to make your way and to learn about it …keep your originality, without making compromises. You can always have HC-sound, but try always to find an original way to do it. When you hear for example Madball, Agnostic Front and Sick of it All playing, you will recognize them for sure, it’s always HC, you know, but each band has an original print in the way they play and express themselves. Just be unique, Guys, find your way and be original!
What is the New York’s DMS Crew and why it was born?
Well, DMS originally it was called the “Doc Marten Skinheads” …it means… guys who get together, who just try to help each other, it’s kinda Family! Of course, there’s always some negative stories and rumors, you know, when you put together a lot of experiences, many things happen, but we try to cross the difficulties, learn about them and turn them to more positive things … continuing to support one another on a friendship level, but also on a business level, you know, for bands and production, as well as for security. This is a family, yes, but not an open-door-house for everyone to get in. You know, even if you support our band, our music and what we do, that doesn’t mean that it gives you the membership of the DMS crew, it’s more an exclusive thing, I mean.
Ok Freddy, let’s talk about the new album “Empire” which has been released on 15 October 2010 … If you had to review it, what would you say about it?
ahah good this one! … You know “Empire” is for me like another chapter in a book of Madball, but I’m really proud of it, you know, it has a clear print of Madball, you can hear it from every song that we haven’t done any compromises. Empire is what we are today, musically speaking. It’s us, but somehow this album has more “pissed off edges” and maybe a bit more rage than before. But above all, it’s HC that we play. And in my opinion, it should always be so, you know, who you are and what you sing, should be seen on your face. Yeah, it has a good vibe, and I honestly think it’s the best album we’ve done so far. I’m happy with it.
We had a lot of songs to choose from, but you know, these 16 simply made the right cut. Every song is a different story, so this is not a concept album. The songs have been written in different places. I’ve written the lyrics, they just came out from my crazy mind LOL. The songs tell of my life, my feelings and my experiences and certain topics. I always try to write in a way that anyone, even from different musical tastes, could find something interesting in our music.
What ‘s your message to the audience that listens to you?
I just wish that people who listen to our songs and this album, could get the message that comes out, each in it’s own way, and to think and use it in their lives and in situations where they are. I hope they can enjoy the Empire. You know, that’s what music is all about.
Freddy, when you want to relax, what music do you listen?
Aaah, I listen all kinds of music. But when I really want to relax, I listen to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the music that fits well on the background and allows you to relax your mind and do other things while listening. But my musical taste has really many directions, it depends on what mood I am …
In these latest years you have made heavier your sound, many times it dips in metal. Is this a direction that we can await from Madball?
Well yes, I think our sound is constantly progressing, and I think that, somehow, it’s also a good thing. Of course we are careful about how far want to progress and not become too much like a metal band. You know, I have nothing against metal, I like the metal school, but we represent a certain genre and people know us about our sound. If we started to move away too far from it, we risk to lose ourselves. I think we just try to take a fair amount of these things and put them together, and still keep our Madball- identity. We are for progress, but with a careful eye. We wanna be there, among the Big Boys, but without being too over-produced, and keep up the real “Madball-mood” LOL
Well, Jay did a good job for us in this album, but he is no longer with us. He left the band recently. He came to Madball and helped us when we needed him. But soon after we noticed that it didn’t work well, on a personal level. So we let him go. Instead, our new drummer, Igor (Wouters), comes from a Dutch HC band “Born From Pain.” You know, we’ve known Igor for over 10 years, he is a great drummer and a good friend. Just when we thought who to call to join us in Europe, Igor was the first person that came in our minds. And fortunately he had no ongoing things to do, so he jumped right away into the band 🙂
Talking about your long career, you and your brother Roger (singer of Agnostic Front) …you’ve never given up. … You two have a pretty hard heads, LOL Can you tell me from where you take your inspirations?
😀 maybe it’s because I’m not a quitter by nature. You know, there was a time that Madball could have fade away… me and Hoya were just fed up about everything that was going on, both at the lineup and business. And I had some personal problems. There was so much going on, and we were close to dissolve the band. We believed that we couldn’t work it out, but without rolling on the mud, we thought that each of us would start his own way, wherever it takes. But somehow we got back around to the idea that there is still a lot of unfinished business.
You know, we were still young, and we had friends and relatives who encouraged us, saying, “hey don’t give up now, you still have a lot to say to this world.” So, we started to talk to us and we decided to go ahead. And we did… you know, we didn’t want to leave things unfinished, and we will not give up, never! We have a lot of blessings in life, but we’ve had also many negative things in the past. Well, that’s life. I know there are people waiting to see us fail, but for me personally, it just gives me the inspiration to go forward. Oh yes, we can say, I have a pretty hard head LOL
I know you always support the Latin-American countries…. as me as well, I’m from Finland but I was adopted by Italians, 10 years ago by now, and I think the mentality of the Latin countries is truly unique … can you tell me what it means for you and for your music?
Yeah, you know, it’s my background, I am Spanish-Latin-American, and that makes a big part of my personality, even musically. Of course, these different sides of me, have a great influence on what I do and how I do it, in good and in bad. And I’m proud of it. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, or anything like that, but it’s ok to be proud of your origins, and where you come from. I get a lot of love from Latin American countries, you know, we feel in some way to be connected with one another. And, of course, in Italy, as a Latin country, I feel at home. It’s really cool! However I don’t wanna build walls, but I wanna live like the whole world were one country. In Madball, Hoya and I have this Latin-American background, so we bring this Latin flavor in the band.
Yeah, we know the guys from Sick Of It All since from the New Yorkers scenes, especially Craig (Setari) that I know for a long long time … and of course, we have a mutual respect.
Craig was then with Agnostic Front, you know, he lived in my mother’s house, he brought bread for my family, yes, Craig is like family to me, and he knows everything about me. But also with the other guys we are good friends. I tell you this only as background on our relationship … Craig and all the guys of S.O.I.A. are very good guys.
You know, Armand (Majidi), Craig, Hoya and I, when we do a tour together, we stay up very late, especially now that we’re in Europe …like last night, you know, still our head is in American time and our internal clocks are messed up hahaha. So all night long, in fact, until 8 o’clock this morning we were awake, having fun and talking about everything. Although we’re coming from a bit different “walk of life”, but these are the moments that we can really share things and ideas, and we get along very well. It’s great to be on tour with people who really understand you and who have the respect!
Freddy, have you ever heard of Italian HC bands? And if so, what you think about them?
Of course! every time we return to Italy, we want to play with local HC-bands. For example, tonight, the concert will be opened by Stranght Approach of Rome. Then we’ve also played with Raw Power. But unfortunately, I don’t know well enough these bands to be able to say more. But there’re a lot of talented HC bands in the world, and it’s cool to see that they are playing with passion.
hahaha, he’s a jerk .. LOL just kidding. He is my older brother and there is a lot of love and respect between us. But, as always, there are disagreements and discussions, he has his way of thinking and I have mine, but by the end of the day, we have a lot of love between us and we support each other. He obviously introduced me to this whole HC-thing and he has always supported me, whatever… ahaha but sometimes he can be a pain in the ass, like the older brothers can be, as me too, I can be a pain in the ass for him as the younger brothers can be … LOL
Freddy, now the last question, what would you say to your fans in Italy and everywhere?
I sincerely thank all the people who support our band, and the whole HC movement. Come to our concerts and enjoy! Do not build walls, but break them. Keep an open mind and go crazy! You know, this music is full of energy, whatever your problems are, or whatever … pull out the good of this energy, and enjoy it and use it! And be sure that when you leave our show, you feel better. 🙂
Freddy, thank you very much for this interview. I look forward to seeing you on stage tonight, and as we say here in Italy “spaccate il palco” (break the stage)!
LOL, thanks to you Tarja! Yes, we’ll do it for sure, I promise!
Photos e l’audio service by Alessio D’Anca, Matteo Lavagna and Lorenzo Armanetti – White-and-black -photos by Dinetta