Interview: Hoya / Madball

28.05.2011

Interview with Madball’s bassist – Hoya conducted before band’s Rebellion Tour 2011 gig in Warsaw (22.03.2011, Proxima Club)

RockOko: Hi Hoya, how are you?

Hoya: Hi man, I’m very good, thanx.

RockOko: Let me start with question about your latest album “Empire”. How did you approach the writing process for this album? I think on „Infiltrate the system” you tried to incorporate more metal to your sound, then “Empire” on one hand sounds more like going back to the hardcore roots, but on the other hand also has some progressive elements into it, broken drum rhythm, tempo changes e.g. in „The End or „Empire” . What’s your view on it?

Hoya: You got it exactly right, you got it perfect, this is exactly how we felt when writing this album. When we came back with “Legacywe came to show that this is New York hardcore we love it. Then when “Infiltrate..” [successor to “Legacy] came out, the times have changed, because Madball was away for little while. We are a band that we never talk down on the new school. When were new school back, people used to talk shit about us when we first came out, “you’re too hiphop, you’re too graffiti”, you’re too this, you’re too that and we always embrace the new bands. So on “Infiltrate ..” we said: “Let’s make it more metallic”, to kind of show that we can do that too, that you don’t to be a metal band to sound hard, tune down guitars, you don’t need nothin’ of that. And then with this record we did exactly the same way, we said to ourselves: “Let’s go and do a record that we feel can be somewhere between of some of our favorite records Hold It Down “, DMS” [Demonstrating My Style] and still make it up-to-date without being experimental. We grow as musicians, we feel we play better, but we also respect Madball so much that we won’t out of the box completely, you know what I mean. We don’t try to change, we just try to give a little more different perspective for the elements we already use.

RockOko: As far as I know the title “Empire” relates to everything you have managed to built over all those years, your world, your legacy, your empire. With your music being the main core of the empire I think there are also its receivers, the fans that are also integral part of your world. In a recent interview I heard Mitts saying, that he prefers refer to the fans by calling them “supporters” and I liked it, I think it’s very respectful, so I wanted to ask you how or where would you locate fans within the structure of your empire?

Hoya: Firstly let me relate to what you said about the empire. You’re right and we also feel we go for ourselves as a band, but on the other the empire umbrella covers not only the band called Madball, but spreads over the whole underground hardcore music. Empire refers to the whole scene and as far as hardcore music, we’re part of that empire, we’re a brick. Empire is also our supporters – that’s their empire too. You know how it is, you can have a hundred kings, but still have no country, so it’s really about the people, people are the real shit. When we say empire we mean everything what we’ve built over the years and we feel we always stayed true. We are one of those few bands that will always do that, but we also leave it open for others. As corny as it sounds, there is no band without your people, the fans. Without them, there is no you, then it’s just people playing in the room. So when it comes to this record when we talk about the empire we don’t mean only us, we mean anybody who supports the entire underground movement, especially hardcore music. In fact we ourselves are still fans, the fans are musicians, these are the same people, that’s what’s special part of hardcore music. You know, you‘re at a show talking to a guy standing next to you and he suddenly he goes oh hold up, I gotta play“.

RockOko: Two tracks on “Empire” seem stand out a little in a sense of having very particular subject contained in the lyrics, although two of them have different emotions manifested in them. I mean „Hurt you” and „Rebel for life 18”, could you tell us who is the subject of both of them?

Hoya: The lyrics are obviously written by Freddie, but I think I can speak for him on these two. Tough guyis nobody so much specific. It’s more about that many people try to take being good as your weakness. Freddy tries to let people know he’s the real person too, you know. It ain’t about being tough guy, but at the same time don’t think that you can invade on my space. Just because I’m respectful don’t think that I won’t protect myself or won’t confront you if I feel I’m being confronted. That’s what he’s trying to say.

RockOko: As for confrontation, it actually did happen during your last year’s concert in Poland in Lodz. What exactly was it about? [at some point of the show Hoya stopped playing, took off his guitar and in gestures having little in common with the peaceful greeting of the Hopi Indians wanted to take care of a some dude fuming in front of the stage. The band stopped the concert, the mix-up was joined by guitarist Mitts, roadies].

Hoya: Yes, there was a pother, but I think that we sorted it out, ’cause I talked to these dudes after. There was this female in front of the stage, which they pushed very hard to the amps, so the amps almost fell on her, so it was more than just a stagediving, there was a threat to life and it got really dangerous. But I think we eventually straightened it out. We love Poland, we’ve been coming here for like 100 years, we got many Poles coming to our concerts in Brooklyn, we meet up with them there, it sucks that you have stuff like that, but we have much love for this country.

RockOko: How about “Rebel4life”, who is Suzy?

Hoya: That was my wife, she passed away. Basically Freddy wrote something for her, for her funeral and that was the song. I won’t get too much into that, but it’s a song for my wife.

RockOko: Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know.

Hoya: No, it’s ok, after all we put out the track. Freddy wrote it for her. She used to call herselfa rebel”, so that’s why the name of the track.

RockOko: Thank you for this answer. Much is being talked now about the crisis in the music industry, crash of album sells, piracy etc., but would you be able to name any positive side of the current situation, maybe breaking the supremacy of the labels? It seems that nowadays bands don’t need to be signed right from the start of their career or at least be dependent on labels as much before, what do you think about it?

Hoya: It definitely took away power from record companies, which could be good, but also has its negative side. People don’t understand e.g. the costs of touring. To be on the road you need to have gasoline, you need a van, you need to eat, you need to live, so without labels bands put out the music, but if people do not pay for it, we have a situation where only one side takes. So this is like a double-edged sword. It’s hard, it really hurt, it hurt the underground music even more because the underground music needs even more support.

RockOko: It seems to me that people do not realize how many people are involved in this industry, it’s not just musicians, but also whole backstage staff, the crew.

Hoya: Exactly. It needs a lot to make it happen. People have to leave their jobs, we have to leave our homes, so you have to respect hardcore as it is or at least to support it financially. You can be brand new metal band and have your record company paying for the bus and for other things, but if you ask Madball, who pays our bills the answer is nobody – we do. People don’t understand that. Internet spreads the word quickly – which is a plus. We play gig somewhere, throw the information – come to the show, then suddenly last moment change pops up, you can inform people about it quickly.

RockOko: So it’s both.

Hoya: Yeah, no matter where you take the records from, you download them or from somewhere else, support the band you like.

RockOko: Yes if you do not buy the CD, but you download it, at least go to the show.

Hoya: Yeah, do something. If you want to download the album, then at least come to a concert, buy a T-shirt, do something. People ask us, why won’t you come here, why won’t you come there, but it’s not so easy, we simply can’t afford it. We are normal people, we are fortunate to do what we love as work, but it’s not as people sometimes imagine. I still don’t’ even have a car.

RockOko: I think people from audience frequently imagine how cool it is to be a musician, because they see only the positive side, you know, you play music, go to different places, party, but they don’t see difficulties connected with it, there is a lots of sacrifice, right.

Hoya: A lot a lot, and we’re no longer kids, we’re grown men. I have a son, I have to support him. I love hardcore, it is beautiful, that I can do it, but it’s also rough.

RockOko: In many of your songs you often call your involvement in music as a “passion”. Nowadays media and generally the society is pumping the message into people about how important it is to have a passion in life and many people say they do have one, even though sometimes I get the feeling many of them can’t really define or describe what it actually means to them. How would you define passion in your life, be it on the example of music or any other activity that feels like passion in your life?

Hoya: I’d say that passion is something, that you have to do. Something which you have no control over, something that you want to do, because you feel you simply have to. You don’t have to be 100% passionate in a particular style of music, but when you use this word and it comes from our type of scene, underground music, you must have that kind of approach. At the beginning within our scene we were are also the little guys in the big world of hardcore music, so we had to be so passionate, had to have this attitude that shows how much we love our shit, be protective and show the outside world how we are proud of who we are. We believed that we got it special. And that’s what makes people so passionate about this music, and it’s all real music. None of our lyrics are bullshit, all real life, things that happened to us or our friends. Nothing made up, ever. Everything is real, because we feel that hardcore is the real shit. We got plenty to say about lifestyle, about losing people, about loving people, about fighting people. That is why we still do it, because we still love it and we feel people still love it. This is what we do, we don’t know anything else. That’s why passion for music is still in us, that’s why we go on the road, play live shows, it’s an important part of our lives.

RockOko: People from hardcore music scene and culture very often say that “hardcore” is more than just music style, that it’s a lifestyle. Could you tell me what exactly kind of way of lifestyle is it, how does it manifest, in what way of thinking and behaving?

Hoya: To me being a hardcore, except for style of music, basically is doing what you want, no matter who’s telling you different. You wanna have a mohawk? Everybody says it’s stupid but if you want it you do it, you feel good about it and you shit on what others are saying. That to me means to be hardcore, just doing what you want.

RockOko: Going further with that, would you say it’s about being free?

Hoya: To be free and to think for yourself. That’s what it means. Think for yourself, do not say “oh I want to be a straightedge, because it’s cool, I want take drugs, because it is cool.” No. Think for yourself. Hardcore is able to have skinheads, punks, hiphoppers, people from Poland, people from China, people from New York, Latin, black, white, whatever. If you like to have no rules and also make your own without listening to what other say, support the movement.

RockOko: I like this definition because hardcore is often associated mainly with the style of being or the look, you know, specific clothes, tattoos, but what you are saying goes much further.

Hoya: It’s like I’m saying on one of our records [Intro to Hold It Down], it’s more than how you dress, it’s more than what you wear, that means shit. At the end of the day it’s how do you go about and react to certain things. Do you support your bands? Do you still listen to the music? When people talk bad about it, do you stand up for it? To me that’s being passionate and hardcore.

RockOko: Freddy said about “Empire”, that it’s basically pissed off and in your face, the way hardcore and Madball always should be. It definitely can be heard on the album, so I’d like to ask you how anger as an emotion is significant in your life, and eventually music?

Hoya: I think in life anger is a big part of everyone’s life. Even if there are people who are trying to be “all pinkand a positive, eventually we’re still only humans. We use anger, his energy to try keep doing what we were doing when we were young kids.

RockOko: As for the anger, I think that there are two kinds of anger – there is the negative, destructive anger and on the other hand there is the positive, energetic one.

Hoya: Yes, we take the destructive anger and try to change it in the music As we get older, we do that more.

RockOko: With age you do that more?

Hoya: I think so, because when we were younger we were just more violent. When you’re young you act quicker than you think, you’re pissed off at somebody you want to punch him in the face. Now as we’re older and have real life problems that generate anger, we want to stop it and do something with it , say something about it, put it into song. Like with “Rebel4Life”, emotions for my wife or other songs where we want to put a message how people should act towards each other or what we think the world is missing this day and age.

RockOko: Let me ask you now about response to your music. I know that depending the location it varies, e.g. central states in America come up to you or in general hardcore music with some reserve, the response in Europe I think is very good, but I really wanted to ask you about Japan. I know that you played there as well. It happens that I lived for some time there, so I know that Japanese people aren’t very expressive with their emotions. I’m curious how such energetic music as yours was perceived in so emotionally conservative country?

Hoya: This is another reason why the music we play makes us still passionate, because this fuckin’ music makes such reserved people go so crazy, that the show is as if we’d playing in Europe.

RockOko: Really?

Hoya: Oh yeah. Of course afterwards they go quiet because they want you to speak, you know, after all they are Japanese. We have been going to Japan for many years, they have old punk scene there, the hardcore people, they love the music, we got very good friends there, old friends. Some of the gigs in Japan really are as if we‘d be playing over here. If you play a show in Osaka then it’s like in New York. People go wild, they dance, style is aggressive. But that’s what I love, first they go nuts at the gig and then they go back to their everyday. And I think that’s why hard, heavy music does well over there, because it gives them change from everyday chores. So it’s really amazing, I love it there, I can’t wait to go back. I also hope that everything will work out after the earthquake and I say this not only because we have friends there.

RockOko: Let me ask you about your musical inspirations from outside of heavy music, do you have any? Please, do surprise us.

Hoya: Plenty. Me and Freddy grew up listening to lot of hiphop, so we love hiphop, but Freddy for example also loves Coldplay. We listen to everything. The other guys listen to even more different things than me. I like hip-hop, Black Sabbath, Slayer, New York hardcore, so you know, I’m pretty conservative (laughs). Generally I listen to everything that is good, I just appreciate the music. The rest of the guys has a really open horizons, you name the band and certainly one of them listens to it.

RockOko: After your last gig in Lodz I talked to Mitts about jazz influences in Madball’s music.

Hoya: Exactly, you can add to this Latin music, rock’n’roll, old metal, nu-metal, punk. Anything that is good.

RockOko: What is in your life, besides music of course, a thing for which you feel is really important.

Hoya: My son. I’d do everything for him. Referring to what we talked about before I can say is that my son is my passion. Joy of my life is to see him grow up and succeed. I’m lucky that now I have a life that allows me to support him and do what I love. People say that children change your perspective on life, you listen to it and take these words, but it really does not reach you. I had that too. You really understand it only when you have your own children. You realize that this is something that is part of you, that was made from you and that you have connection to.

RockOko: There is this saying, that love to a child is the only unconditional love there is.

Hoya: I agree. I have a saying that I say to people who do not have children yet, when they ask me how it feels to be a parent. I tell them that having children is the hardest thing you’ll ever want to do. Because when you have kids, their raising is hard, but you want to do it.

RockOko: Do you take your son to tours as well?

Hoya: Not yet, he’s only 2,5 years old, but he’s been to 2 Madball shows already. So he’s too little, but who knows, maybe someday we will be selling our T-shirts on the tour.

RockOko: (laughs) I’m sure he will.

Hoya: Freddy also will be a father soon.

RockOko: Really? So there is Madball 2 coming up?

Hoya: (laughs) You never know.

RockOko: To finish off, could you just tell me where does you nickname come from?

Hoya: Hoya? Well, my real name is Jorge, which is George in English and I was one of the few Latin kids hangin’ out in the streets at the time. Back then there used to be these Spanish beans calledGoya Beans”. And also there was a basketball team from Georgetown college calledGeorgetown Hoyas” and they had a bulldog in their logo. So because I’m Latino my man Joe was calling me, you goya bean” and also because I was looking like a bulldog then they started calling me ‘”you big goya hoya beanLater it shortened to just “hoya” and that’s how it stuck. You know, these stupid kid jokes, that was when I was like 15 years old, and now I’m 20, so…

RockOko: (laughs) Nothing like positive thinking.

Hoya: (laughs) Oh yeah man, the positive thinking.

RockOko: Thank you very much for talking.

Hoya: No problem, thank you.

Interviewer: Krzysztof (Chris) Bienkiewicz

Madball – All Or Nothing

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