“Respect the old ways, but it’s a new day” – True School
Ask any two people to describe what Hardcore is all about, especially in 2014, and the volume of responses will blow your head clear off of your shoulders. Neither Ian MacKaye; nor Mike Muir, nor any member of the Bad Brains would even want to try to explain it. This scene of ours is misunderstood to the nth degree, and all too often, the wrong party is left trying to school the uninitiated as to its characteristics. Attempting to put New York Hardcore into its proper context may be even tougher. Regardless, most will agree that the NYHC sound – the one most often associated with its scene – begins with Agnostic Front, and if you don’t already know the kinship between Madball and AF, you should probably do the knowledge.
It is no coincidence that many of the qualities universally agreed upon when it comes to HC, happen to be the very same traits possessed by Madball. Present day MB carries with it the same rage and rebellion that it always has, but there’s something to be said about remaining relevant, when many bands of the same semi-advanced age have been relegated to dinosaur status. The blood, the honor and the truth lives on through the band to this day, and Madball dares to embrace the responsibility of carrying on tradition – the rich NYHC tradition that is understood by few, and imitated by many. MB is one of the few bands representing this thing called Hardcore with enough triumphs, tests and overall experience under its belt, to be qualified leaders. They let you know with tremendous pride that eventually, people grow up, but that doesn’t mean you should ever abandon the fundamentals of the movement. See your way into it honestly, productively and respectfully, and you might find yourself as a welcome member of the greatest extended family in music.
A vital element, particularly for THIS band, is lyrics. If you truly desire to know what THIS band is all about, read the fucking lyrics. There’s no mistaking their message, or their bluntness. The internet has made this primary, yet crucial aspect of Madball unnecessarily fuzzy, with rumors and tall-tales galore. Rather than suggest to you where Hardcore Lives the album comes from, and where Madball is coming from with this uncompromising; dare it be said, “adventurous” ninth album, Freddy Cricien lays it all out – plain and simple – so there’s no error to be made when it comes to what it all means.
Hardcore Lives Song-by-Song Lyric Breakdown by Freddy Cricien
Intro – We wanted to do a throwback to when, not so much musically, but format wise – when bands would have a song with no vocals and actually name it “intro” on the record. This piece was essentially part of the song HC Lives, but kind of has a vibe and life of its own, so it worked perfectly that this would be the intro that sets up the song hardcore lives…which is a barrage of vocals.
HC Lives – is a coming of age song. It speaks of the struggles and rebellious spirit of the “kids” that sparked this musical subculture. There are many lyrical “nods” to influential bands from NY and beyond, and from different eras etc. within the context of telling the story. It’s also about how the “movement” continues. That spirit is still very much alive and vibrant today.
The Balance – is about balancing family life and tour life. We’re lucky to be doing something that’s “our passion” for a living. The bad part is, we have to leave the ones we love behind for weeks at a time. On one hand you appreciate your situation, and on the other, well, it’s extremely hard, especially with children involved. It’s a bittersweet life. I think anyone that has a job that takes them away from their loved ones will appreciate this track on many levels.
Doc Marten Stomp – is about paying homage to my extended family, my brotherhood; the DMS crew. Also, the Black n Blue supporters worldwide. It delves into how some people have always viewed us negatively and think we’re a gang or something of that sort (we’re NOT). It’s deeper than that. It’s something that started in the streets and there’s no shame in that, but, it has certainly grown into much more than a HC crew or street crew – whatever you want to call it. The song speaks of evolution, and paying respects to those who we lost way too young. It’s also an “anthem” of sorts for the whole BNB movement.
DNA – is intertwined with a connection to certain family members literally, but also speaks of how some of us are built the same or “cut from a similar cloth.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be a blood-bond, but the concept definitely goes back and forth between blood family and just people you’re connected to via music, life, etc. It speaks of how those of us from the same “stock” are flawed (like everyone) but we have the ability to overcome adversity and change, and hopefully pass the best parts of ourselves onto our children.
True School – is a reminder to the young kids in our music scene that well, everyone was “new school” at some point, so it’s ok if you’re just discovering this scene, or any scene. There’s a lot you can learn from the old school bands/people. You can also get stuck in a time warp and “stunt your growth” if you don’t grow with the times, like with anything. Things that are novelty-based can be cool. That said, it’s not what’s going to keep things alive and/or fresh. For those of us who choose to stay relevant while retaining some of those old school principals – I think there’s something to be said for that…a lot to be said. The true school is about the die-hards and the new kids that truly “get it.”
The Here and Now – is about living in the moment and seizing it. That can be applied to many things, obviously. Too many people get caught up in the past or future and miss the opportunity that’s right before them.
Nothing to Me – is written from two perspectives. First the “punk kid” who doesn’t respect who people are or how they came up because he/she basically doesn’t know any better. It can be applied to how some newer kids may view us. Also, it can be applied to a parent/child relationship, or just the youth vs. the old wise folk (haha). Not that the youth are dumb, they’re actually brilliant. But one can learn from others experiences. Humility is a good thing.
My Armor – is about just squashing negativity and negative people in your path, by not making them a focal point in any way, shape or form. People that hate for the sake of hating. People that are envious. People that take on personas via the internet, but don’t have an ounce of credibility in life. All that comes and goes, but what we do and how we carry ourselves – that will stand the test of time and speak for itself. Kill them with positivity and actual factual things of merit.
Beacon of Light – is about my wife and son. It’s about watching my son grow with amazement and how he/they are my “beacons of light.” They guide me to safety; keep me focused, humble and positive. They give me inspiration and essentially, life! I think anyone that feels that for any loved one or friend/mate, etc. will most definitely identify with this track. But it is a very personal tribute from me to them.
Born Strong – is about how we’re all born with strengths; physical and/or otherwise. It’s about summoning that when you need to, and when you do it as a united front with family, friends, or whomever, THEN you’re really “powerful.”
Spirit – It’s about overcoming certain “inner demons.” This one has a lot of personal sentiment as well, but I think a lot of people can relate to this struggle. Especially those who grew up as I did. This song can go as deep as you want or allow it to go.
Mi Palabra – is about living by “your word.” People, especially on the internet these days, seem to be turning more and more fickle. It’s about having dignity and actually LIVING what you speak – whatever that may be.
NBNC – was written by Mike and Mitts both musically and lyrically. So naturally it’s them on it. You’ll have to ask them what the sentiment is behind it all. Let’s just say it’s dark (haha). It’s one of those crazy, short MB songs that have become a tradition for us.
The Beast – it’s about fighting that horrible “demon” known as anxiety. I don’t suffer from anxiety disorder, but I most definitely have felt the feeling and still do from time to time, to be honest. Kill this fucking beast!
For the Judged – is precisely that. For people who have been judged because of their appearance, skin color, gender…whatever. No one likes being judged. No one likes being profiled or belittled. I’ve had it done to me A LOT, and I see it being done all the time. It’s an ugly, ignorant “habit” that our species has really mastered. Be who you are without shame!
Spit on Your Grave * bonus – This is an old song from the Droppin’ Many Suckers EP (92), that we still do live. This was one of the first songs that really demonstrated how we were “coming into our own.” Ironically enough, the lyrics were written by my bro Roger. I hadn’t quite grasped the whole songwriting thing at that point. I had ideas, etc., but I didn’t really know what I was doing per se. Roger wrote the lyrics for a lot of the songs on that release. He had books of old lyrics, and we just utilized them. I just amended some things here and there.
All of the above speaks not only for Madball, but the worldwide Hardcore movement the band has so laboriously strived to create, and tirelessly fought to preserve. HARDCORE LIVES!
Freddy Cricien – Vocals
Hoya Roc – Bass
Mitts – Guitars
Mike Justian – Drums
Set It Off (1994)
Demonstrating My Style (1996)
Look My Way (1998)
Hold It Down (2000)
Infiltrate the System (2007)
Hardcore Lives (2014)
Ball of Destruction (1989)
Droppin’ Many Suckers (1992)
N.Y.H.C. EP (2004)