The new Madball album entitled “Empire” is supposed to come out on the day of this interview and yet your current European tour has already started.
Mitts (guitar): The last record came out in 2007 and we’ve toured steady since 2007. Now that we have the new album coming out, we started to cycle some more newer tracks into the set. We’ve been doing one song from the new record since early this Summer, before the record was even out. So now that the record’s out, we add another song into the set. We just keep touring like that.
R.A.H.C. was the first new song that you’ve put out on Myspace. Why did you chose this one?
People that work with us from our label and us, the band thought what would be a good way to give people a taste of the new album, what’s a good song that represents the record. That’s kind of a more old style feel hardcore song…
…Both lyrically and musically.
It’s got that really fast beat to it. It’s a little bit inspired by older Madball, older Agnostic Front, older 80s hardcore.
The album came out on Nuclear Blast. What this mainly metal oriented label (one of the biggest ones in the world) can offer you? Why did you chose them?
Anytime we pick a record label or do anything with this band, the goal is to get our music and our message to as many people as possible. A label like Nuclear Blast has a big metal following but our hardcore fan base is going to know where to find us and if we open up some new metal fans to Madball, that’s all the better.
During this tour, you parted ways with drummer Jay Weinberg. What happened exactly and who’s the replacement drummer?
I don’t want to say too much about Jay. He was a good drummer but wasn’t really the kind of person we have in this band.
Could it be he’s too young for this band?
Yeah, I think he’s too young but there are some who are young and want to learn and there are some who are young and think they know everything. So, I’ll leave it at that. For this tour right now, we have Igor Wouters from Born From Pain who also used to play in Backfire! He’s filling in for us. He’s a good friend of ours and was an easy choice ’cause he’s already over here in Europe. We asked him if he would help us and he was happy to. When we get home from this tour, we’re going to start figuring out who we might have as a permanent replacement.
Is there any particular reason why you haven’t been able to find a permanent drummer for so many years?
No. We have never actually planned it out like that. For many, many years we had the same line-up and we take a lot of pride in that. This band is not just a band, it’s our family. We have a real connection with each other, we see each other on holidays when we’re home, we invite each other over to each others families and things like that. So, it’s not just a business. When we first changed drummers, we we had Mackie playing for us and we thought he would stay with us for longer but then Cro-Mags started to take off again and we had to let him go. That’s his signature thing so we couldn’t tell him he couldn’t do Cro-Mags. Since then, we moved through a couple of people and I really hope that we find the right person that sticks with us for a long time but if we don’t it still doesn’t make a difference. Whoever is back there, he’s always going to play stuff the way it’s supposed to be played. We’re never going to start cycling through people that are less than the top. We’re always going to have somebody back there that does justice for the stuff. And about why we’re making this change, whoever is going to be with us is going to be a good person, somebody that we stand behind as a person. We know our friend Igor for ten years now. He’s a stand up guy and that’s why he’s a perfect fit to come out and do this tour with us.
This Summer, you have already been to Hungary and you played at a festival in the country side and there was a thermal bath at the venue. Did you enjoy that?
Ha ha! We saw the pool was there but we didn’t get to it. I think someone went to try to go to it but they stopped him, saying “No, you have to pay for it.” We should have, it would have been a nice relaxing thing on tour. But the show was great, we had a good time at the show. We were out there with our friends from Punishable Act on that tour.
Would you say that it was one of the most unusual venues you have ever played at?
No, not at all. It’s interesting being next to a spa where people are swimming and bathing and whatever but of course we’ve played at some crazy places over the years. I remember we played Exit Fest in Novi Sad, Serbia, which is in a castle and we were playing in the moat that goes around the castle, that’s where our stage was. Obviously, it wasn’t filled with water and alligators anymore but that’s where they’ve put the hardcore stage. They thought it was kind of appropriate.
What would you say about the music and the lyrics of the “Empire” album? What was your main inspiration this time?
Lyrically, it’s more of a question for Freddy. I only know the general theme of the record. The last record, “Infiltrate The System”, the concept behind which is that here we all are as a scene and as a family amongst ourselves and we’ve come up from being kids to adults. Now we’re in our thirties, some people are in their forties, some are in their fifties and now we’re becoming a part of the establishment that we used to just pay to see and whatever. We’re starting to have people in places of power in the music industry and in other kinds of business like that. Our people that grew up with us are now in these places. The “Empire” is just the continuation of that. We have this world wide thing based on hardcore and now it’s become what we do. It has many different angles, not just music: It’s also shows, it’s also business and all that. Musically, I think we wanted to see on “Infiltrate The System” how far we could go towards a modern sound with a little bit more metal. Madball is always a mix between hardcore and metal… And punk. There’s always that little bit of balance to anything that Madball does. On “Infiltrate The System”, we kind of pushed the metal side a little bit more than we usually do and on “Empire”, we were like “O.K., let’s take it back, let’s bring back the groove, the balance”, while keeping the punk and the heavy, metal sounding parts, so we wrote a couple of songs that are more old school hardcore. It’s a balance of everything but that’s what we do.
Is there any political or social movement that you sympathize with or that you’re a part of?
Not really. Madball’s never been a big political band. Freddy’s written a couple of songs where he started to touch on topics like that but there are always two sides to every political argument and when you pick one side, you’re a little ignorant sometimes. We have our beliefs that we believe strongly but it doesn’t necessarily go into the music.
Have you been following the evolution of the hardcore scene? What do you think of the current metalcore / mathcore etc. movement?
I follow it. I like hardcore for 25 years now. The majority of my life, that is. I think every kind of music has to evolve. If hardcore never evolved, if it still sounded like it was 1985, it would be silly ’cause it would just be the same thing over and over again. And I always try to make an effort not to look down on new innovations. There’s a lot of people out there that listen to stuff. They hear a new record and they’re like: ”Ah, that shit sucks. I remember back when blah-blah-blah, that was the way it should sound.” But if it always sounded like that, then it would never change. And change is good. Change is good for anything. I think there are some bands out there in today’s hardcore that are amazing, that keep true to the roots of hardcore but sound new. They have a new sound, they don’t sound like the 1980s. So, it’s good for things to change, it’s good for things to evolve.
It’s amazing that Madball is a nearly 25 year old band now. Will you celebrate this anniversary? Will you bring out a DVD or any other special release?
It’s a good idea and we should. The 20 year anniversary came and we didn’t really do much about it. We just did some t-shirt designs that said “20 years” and things like that. So, you’re right, it would be cool to do an anniversary show for Madball.
What do you think of the old stereotype according to which New York is such a dangerous place to live and the people involved in hardcore are troublesome guys?
New York was a dangerous place when we grew up there. It’s certainly way, way safer now than it’s ever been. As for hardcore, the hardcore scene was a street scene and streets aren’t the safest thing in any city of the world. It’s aggressive music, it wasn’t rich kids but very middle-class and working class people when it started out. And I know we’ve all made mistakes in our lives but we’ve grown from those… I don’t think there’s any bad people that I know in this scene. Again, I know a lot of people that made mistakes. I’m sure you’ve done something in your life that you regret. I know I have. But I don’t think there’s any bad people that we associate with.
Peter Steele was one New Yorker that definitely had something to do with the local hardcore scene. Did you know him in person?
I met him on a couple of occasions. I wouldn’t say he was a good friend but I have seen him before I was ever in bands. I remember him hanging out in New York City and seeing him in bars. I certainly saw Carnivore playing many times. The last time I saw Pete Steele was when we played With Full Force Festival in Germany in 2003, I think. Type O’ Negative was playing and after we finished playing he came by our backstage and just said hello. He seemed like a really nice guy. It’s really sad to see somebody like that pass away so young.
Madball started as a side project of Agnostic Front. Do you ave any projects besides Madball nowadays?
Well, the one thing that we were all kind of involved in was Hazen Street. Originally Freddy and Hoya were the only ones that did Hazen Street in 2004. And then I ended up playing guitar when the record was done. They asked me to come play guitar in the live show and now they asked me to be a part of the band. So if we do another Hazen Street record, that will be me, Hoya and Freddy involved in that. Freddy’s got his hip hop solo project going on, he’s got a new record out called “Catholic Guilt”. I’ve been in a side band back in 2003 called Rag Men. That was me, our old drummer Rigg, Jorge from Merauder and Bulldog from Earth Crisis. That was more of a hardcore band. We did one record. I would love to get to do another one someday if I find the time. So it’s kind of an ongoing thing.
Which bands would you call your closest friends?
Definitely Agnostic Front, they’re family to us. Literally family. Then H2O, Sick Of It All, Terror… I’m scared to start naming bands because if I forget somebody it’s not right but basically 95% of the bands we toured with were good friends to us. We become good friends and look out for each other. We get along with pretty much everybody.
How would you define hardcore? What does it mean to you musically and as a way of life?
When people ask me what I do and I say I’m a musician, they’re like: “Oh, what kind of music do you play?” I say hardcore. They don’t know what it is so I tell them that hardcore kind of sounds like heavy metal with a little bit of punk rock but it’s in between those two and there’s a lot more street vibe to it. Obviously, it’s not the fancy hair like metal but it’s not mohawks and spikes like punk rock. It’s a little more honest, stripped down… not to sound like a skinhead thing but it’s a working class kind of music. It’s a very basic kind of music. As far as the lifestyle, we all lived it at one point in our lives. I mean, I’m not hanging out on the streets and going to shows three nights a week anymore but I grew up with all these bands, this is what I listen to for, again, 25 years in my life. I listen to plenty other music but hardcore is always going to be a part of me, I always want to play it, I want to play as much as I can all my life and do this. What it’s given me? I’ve been able to travel the whole world, meet thousands and thousands of amazing people, play for audiences in every culture and every part of the world. It’s the greatest thing you can ever ask for and I’m very grateful.