I love most genres of music, but I have a special place in my heart for hardcore music – Terror, Hatebreed, etc. You know who else loves hardcore music? Chad Gilbert from New Found Glory. I thought it would be cool to sit down and talk about one of his favorite hardcore bands, Madball. So we went to Starbucks in Portland, OR and talked about exactly that – Madball, and memories he’s had with them. If you’ve never listened/heard of Madball before, definitely give this a read and check them out.
So for the record, your favorite band is Madball, right?
Well, it’s a three way tie between Madball, They Might Be Giants, and Björk because they have the most albums I can listen to all the way through.
I’ve always been fascinated by your love for Madball though, you’ve always been super vocal about them. When was the first time you had ever heard of Madball?
There was this record store in Florida in Coral Springs at this mall that’s now a private school, Sid’s, and I would go through the vinyl there…this was probably around 94′ or 95′ I think, and I found a Madball 7′ called Droppin’ Many Suckers and it was on Earache I think, I can’t remember. And I got it, and it crazy because the cover looked like a rap record, all this graffiti and dudes in the street. And you put it on, and it’s this pissed off, mean hardcore record, and I loved that, I thought it was awesome. So I listened to that 7′ for awhile, until I discovered they were on Roadrunner, and that was right around when their Demonstrating My Style album came out.
That was around 98′?
Demonstrating My Style? No, I think it came out way before that, because that’s around when Look My Way [came out]. So yeah, that’s how I discovered them, flipping through hardcore records at Sid’s Music Store.
Do you remember how old you were at that time?
I was born in 81’…how old was I? I was probably 14 or 15 at the time.
What’s something about Madball that most people don’t know?
Madball started when their singer Freddy was a little kid and he roadied for Agnostic Front. So when he was a little boy, I forgot what age, they would pull him on stage and play a song and have him sing it. The toy Madballs were out, so they made this joke EP, Ball of Destruction with Freddy. But that’s how the band started, members of Agnostic Front with Freddy, a little boy, singing. That’s how Madball started, him grabbing the mic and singing these songs.
Do you remember the first time you saw them live?
The first time I saw them live, I actually opened for them. It was Shai Hulud, this local band Brethren, and Madball at Cheers in Miami, around 96′-97′. It was really crazy, the crowd was insane. One of the reasons they were so popular in Miami was because they were really into graffiti, especially when the band started, a lot of the guys did graffiti. And in Miami, it was the same thing, graffiti was huge in the hardcore scene in the mid-90’s, a lot of kids did it, so I think a lot of them had a connection with Madball. Most of my friends in Miami were either Cuban, Columbian, Puerto Rican, and Madball, a Latino band, would play and do the entire set in Spanish. They would talk to the crowd, and in between songs speak to the crowd in Spanish and that was pretty cool. That was the first time I saw them, that was in 96′ or 97′.
What was your first thought when you got the offer to open for them?
I was so excited, man, I was so excited. I worked in a movie theater, and I did every job – ripping tickets, popping popcorn, concessions, usher. The way my theater worked, we didn’t pop the popcorn in the concession stand, we had a place upstairs where we’d pop the popcorn and bag it. If your shift was popcorn that day, you could come in normal clothes, bring in a boombox, and you’d just be in a room for eight hours popping popcorn. So at the time, I would just blast Madball popping popcorn. You’d be there for eight hours listening to music – oil…kernels…bag, repeat. So I would just listen to punk rock and hardcore while I was doing that, but Madball was the thing. So around that time I was working in a movie theater, and I got to open for Madball, and I thought “This is insane!”. I remember staying after and meeting Hoya (bass) at the bar and saying “What’s up, dude? I’m a big fan and we opened the show…” It was cool.
What songs have carried the most impact for you over the years?
I would say a lot of the songs on Set It Off. As cliche as it sounds in hardcore, growing up where you really feel like you don’t belong…that’s real, you don’t just say that. I got into punk rock and hardcore early because I didn’t relate to anyone in my school, I just felt like I was a freak, straight up, I didn’t feel like I related to anyone. So when I got into Madball and they had songs like “Down By Law”, [with lyrics like] Why’d You Turn Your Back On The Crew?, all these songs about family and this camaraderie, listening to that and going to shows with all my friends in Miami…being a teenager in South Florida…you see the cops in Florida, it’s a weird place, COPS do all their episodes in Florida now, haha. I think that element of that album was really [important].
Do you have any other significant memories or moments with the band over the past ten years that you can share?
We became really close friends from touring, they heard I was a really big fan through my friend Toby [Morse, vocals] from H20. So they would come through New York and we would go out after [the show] and get food or just hang out. We became friends and then released that Hazen St. project and released a record. It was really awesome living in New York for two or three weeks, doing demos and hanging out with Freddy and Hoya in New York City, taking the trains. When you’re on tour, you’re only there one day and you take a lot of taxis, so you don’t really go very far anyways. But taking the trains and going around in the city and going out, it was a really really fun experience. So that was amazing, and they’ve sort of embraced me as a little brother. We still talk, I flew in a day earlier to Groezrock to hang out with them, it was a nice little get together. Mitts [guitar] just came to our show in New York, so I was hanging out with him. The original guitar player, Matty lives in Long Beach, CA, and I see him every once in a while.
I have to ask, is there going to be any sort of follow-up or reunion for Hazen St.?
Honestly, we all want to do it, but it’s all timing, because Madball and H20 are always on tour. New Found Glory just put out a new album and we’re always on tour. So if we could find a good week just to meet up somewhere and do it, that’d be awesome. I feel like it’d be realistic to go “Let’s do five songs.”
How has Madball’s music influenced you as a musician?
I think one thing that New Found Glory brought into punk rock a long time ago was that when New Found Glory starting writing songs, there wasn’t any other bands that sounded like New Found Glory. We weren’t copying another band, we weren’t like “We want to sound like this band!” We created our own style by combining some of the influence of the Green Day-inspired west coast style punk, mixed with Quicksand, Texas Is The Reason, post-hardcore sort of lyrical views or you know, melodicness of that with the speed of west coast punk combined with a big element that most bands don’t have and we had, which is the New York Hardcore groove…that’s the word, groove. Madball has a groove, they have these riffs that make you bob your head, no matter what. And they’re behind the beat, and they really make you bounce. When you hear them, they’ve got this groove to them and aggression, and that’s what we added, and that’s definitely a big influence that we got from Madball and New York Hardcore in general.
Even back on Self-Titled, on “Better Off Dead”…[beat boxes opening riff to song] – if that was a minor key, that’d be a Madball riff. So yeah, that was that kind of thing that we brought in, and Madball and their groove was a big influence.
Hardcore Lives came out this year, and you were on the track “My Armor” with Toby [Morse] from H2O and CM Punk.
I’m kinda on there, we all went and recorded together. You know what, on the NYHC EP back then, I’m on that a lot. I’m on the enhanced version in the studio and I do backups on that record, which was really cool. And to be on [this track], that was really unexpected – I got a call from Toby, saying “Yo! We’re all gonna go to Todd’s and do this, come help out!”, so we just went and Punk was in town, hanging, and we had him do the 1-2-3-4. It was cool, I’ve been able to contribute with Hazen St. and other random Madball things, it’s definitely very cool. It’s cool to be able to love and admire a band, be friends with them, and still respect them because they’re all cool people. It’s always annoying when you love a band and then you meet them and they suck.
Wrapping up, for someone who is brand new to Madball or is thinking about checking them out for the first time, which album should they start out with and why?
I feel like…it’s kind of weird, because I always have this feature where someone would be like “Yo, you gotta hear their first album!” and then you hear it, and the production quality isn’t good and the parts are weird or maybe sound funny, and then they go “Why do you like this?”. First album of bands, they’re nostalgic to the fan. So for me, my favorite record is Set It Off, and I think if you’re a Madball fan, eventually that’s going to hold a special place in your heart. But if you’ve never heard anything about them, a good intro piece would be Hold It Down. I think on that album, Freddy’s vocals sound the best in my opinion, the way they’re mixed, and their guitars sound so heavy and it sort of has that groove. I mean, Freddy’s vocals always sound awesome on all the records, he has so many different styles. On Dropping Many Suckers, he sounds way different than Demonstrating My Style, it’s all different growths and changes. But again, as an introduction piece, Hold It Down is a great first record.