Freddy Cricien, whom we all know well as the frontman of Madball, is dropping his debut solo album as a hip hop artist. “Catholic Guilt” features appearances by Slaine, Vinnie Paz and… Rancid among others. The man in the center of all the lights, Freddy Madball, doesn’t hesitate to explain to me what is it like being one guilty Catholic that shares a love for both hardcore and hip hop at the same time.
- Hi, Freddy, Judging by the area code of your phone you should be in New York now. How is the city doing?
- Yeah, I’m there. The city is doing just fine.
- There was a mayoral election in New York last Tuesday – did you vote?
- No, I was too busy doing other stuff and unfortunately I didn’t have the time to go vote.
- I’m actually calling from Sofia, Bulgaria, and you have been here with Madball a couple of times. So, what do you remember from these shows?
- Sofia! It’s always a good time, a good show. The crowd is great!
- So, you have your debut solo hip hop album out now. Why wait until now? I mean – it’s known you have been into hip hop since forever.
- Well, it is just now that I got around doing it. It was something I wanted to do for a long time and I just never found or took the time needed to make it happen and now, finally I did. As the saying goes – better late than never. And I kind of think this is for the best. I finally reached a time in my life when I need to express myself in this way. I finally found the time and the means to do it. So – here it is.
- The title – “Catholic Guilt” is kind of controversial How are we supposed to interpret it?
- Anyone can interpret it in a different way. For me basically it applies not only to the religious aspect of things but also this feeling some of us have to live with – guilt. I refer to it as Catholic guilt which is a direct religious reference, but in the same time you do not necessarily have to be Catholic or Christian to relate to the stuff I’m talking about on the record. It is just a personal thing and experience – something I lived with. It is pretty much explained throughout the record and the different songs – making mistakes and learning from them or just going through certain experiences, living with the guilt of how certain things were handled. It is just a feeling.
- Catholicism is probably the only religion that has the practice of verbally confessing your sins to another person, a priest. And in some of the songs you do refer to some past dirt that you may have on your hands. Is the album your own way of confessing these sins?
- Yeah, that is one way you definitely can look at it. I do talk about certain situations and experiences. It could be viewed as sort of a confession in a way. But it is really just telling stories that come from experience. Some people may view it as a confession, some people may view it as an expression.
Freddy! In church! A documented fact!
- Back in 2004 I talked to your half-brother Roger Miret of Agnostic Front and I believe he said he was from Cuba.
- Yes, he is.
- So I figure you have some Cuban blood yourself?
- Yes, I do. We have the same mother with him. We have different fathers and that’s why our last names aren’t the same. My father is from Columbia, but my mother is Cuban, so – yeah that is definitely a part of what I am.
- I am asking you because that suggests a strong Catholic background. And I was wondering when was the last time you went to church?
- Ha-ha! That is a good question! I recently went to church to baptize my godson. It was for my boy Hoya (Roc, bassist in Madball) who asked me to be the godfather of his kid. That was a few months ago. We baptized him and that was probably the last time I was in church. I go to church every once in a while. I don’t go often, to be honest, because I’m at a point in my life when I don’t really feel the need to go to church every day to have some kind of connection with God. I was brought up as a Catholic and they told me “you have to go to church every Sunday” and what not. This is something I do not necessarily agree with at this stage of my life. This goes back to the whole “Catholic Guilt” thing. They kind of push this guilt on you, not just Catholics… for me it was Catholics because I was brought up in that religion, but organized religions in general make you feel guilty for not giving them money or not going to their church or whatever. But that does not necessarily make you a bad person in God’s eye. But then again I do respect some of the basic stuff in the Catholic religion. Even still to this day I do the sign of the cross when I pass by a church and some other things that have been implanted in me. It is like a cultural standpoint and it is hard to get rid of. I give respect to religion. Church is a nice relaxing place for me. It is not that I don’t like to go, I just don’t do it often.
- OK, enough with religion. Slaine is making a guest appearance on the album. He was here with Ill Bill in May. And we all know Bill is all about metal and hardcore. Madball has always been influenced by hip hop, but is there now a new wave of hip-hoppers who are in turn influenced by hardcore?
- I think there is. More so in the underground world, though. You have guys like Ill Bill who obviously respects hardcore music. You got Slaine who is a good friend of mine and has always respected hardcore and everything about it. And then you have Vinnie Paz from Jedi Mind Tricks who is an established underground hip hop figure and he grew up listening to hardcore. He is actually a hardcore kid! There is definitely a wave of people who coincidently are really talented in doing hip hop that also have the whole hardcore connection. And I’m obviously one of these people now, ha-ha! And it goes for crowds too. Some of the people that are in hardcore and metal also happen to like hip hop. That is how I am, you know. I’ve always liked hip hop and I like hardcore and also some metal – a little bit of everything. It doesn’t surprise me to see the same people at all kinds of shows. And it is cool to see people supporting two genres like that. I hope we see more of that!
- Do you plan to tour on this album?
- I definitely plan to do some touring. I do not have anything set in stone for now, but I do have some ideas. It is not an easy thing because of my schedule with Madball which is a full-time operation. But I definitely will try to make this happen.
When someone gives you that look maybe it is not such a good idea to tell that really funny joke about those lazy latinos...
- Oh, and another thing – what is your favorite track on the album?
- It is really hard to say. Every song is a different expression for me. It’s hard to pick one. I like certain songs for different songs for certain reasons. I’ll let people be the judge of that. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I have to, I’d go with “Y Que”, the Spanish one. Then again there’s a bunch of other songs that I think are good. I was talking to people about making a single from this album the other day. I’m definitely doing a video for the Spanish song. And “Dead Man Saloon” is probably going to be one of the featured songs from that record. The title track is also one that I’ll try to do something for. I don’t really know if there will be a single. I have a few songs that I want to do videos for and I guess that these will be the singles. But it doesn’t matter what video I do first – people could consider it a single if they want to. It is important for me that they listen to the whole thing.
- Rancid are making an appearance on the album in the song “London Calling”. How did you convince them to do a hip hop song?
- They didn’t need much convincing. I have known the guys for many years, I have a friendship with them, especially with lars, but Tim as well. They respect what I do musically. They have always been big fans of Madball which is very flattering, considering they are very iconinc in the punk world. But even for Hazen Street and other projects that I’ve done – they have always have been big supporters of the stuff I do. And when they listened to the song “London Calling” they thought it was a really honorable tribute with all The Clash samples and what not. They liked it a lot and couldn’t wait to be on it.
- And another sort of punk rock question - everyone refers to you as Freddy Madball, and this is also the name you have decided to put on the album, instead of your real name. This reminds me of course of The Ramones, who all changed their last names to “Ramone”. And I can’t help but ask you what do you think about the whole punk and hardcore culture nowadays? Is it too much penetrated by commercialism and trends, or is it doing just fine?
- It is doing just fine, ha-ha. It is definitely not being penetrated by commercialism. That is not the case. If anything, there should be more attention paid to it. I am talking more on the hardcore side of things, although punk and hardcore are like cousins. And as far as punk and hardcore going mainstream – that is one thing you don’t need to worry about. I think it is at a good place – it is growing, more territories around the world are opening up for it and I think it should continue to grow and blossom. I don’t think that we ever have to worry about it being commercial. The music is just too abrasive. And there is nothing bad with growing and people paying respect to the genre. It is the blue collar genre of the music world. It’s weird when people start complaining about a band getting too big. To me it is like that – if a band does what they do and stay true to their music and they happen to get big and get more attention, detouring from listening to that band just doesn’t make sense. If it is music that you like, you have to support it. I see nothing wrong with a band working hard and having success come from it.