MADBALL's MITTS: 'New York Pioneered What Still Lasts As Hardcore Today'
Greg Prato of Songfacts recently conducted an interview with guitarist Mitts (real name: Brian Daniels) of New York hardcore legends MADBALL. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Songfacts: What is MADBALL currently up to?
Mitts: We’re writing for a new record right now. We’ve got three or four songs. As a hardcore band, our songs are fairly short compared to metal — they’re not, like, seven-, eight-minute songs. Our songs are generally between two and three minutes, so we usually go for in the 12-to-15-song range for a record. We like to have at least 30 minutes.
Songfacts: How does the songwriting work in the band? Is it you that comes up with an idea or is it Freddy, or do you guys collaborate?
Mitts: It’s basically between my bass player, Hoya, and myself. We’ll come up with riffs and song ideas. If it’s not just one riff, we’ll have one or two riffs that go together and that’ll be a piece. When we get those, we’ll bring it into the rehearsal room and we’ll start to work on it as a band. Nobody ever writes an entire song in MADBALL on their own. Basically, we take a couple of riffs and we piece it together. Once we get it in the room, then the four of us work out the kinks and pitch in ideas on the arrangement and structure of it. And as we’re doing that, Freddy, my singer, he’ll make a lot of arrangement calls, because he’s starting to imagine what he’s going to sing over it. And so he’ll say, “No, this verse had go to be longer,” or “This is where we’ll stick a chorus. Let’s put a little intro piece here, because I’ve got an idea for this or that.” He definitely has a strong input as far as arrangement. And our drummer, Mike, he’s going to try to come up with different drum patterns. Generally the drummer in this band, whoever it may be over the years, has a lot of input as far as what they’re playing over these riffs. I’ll have an idea for how I think a drum part should go along with one of my riffs, but he’s the one that’s going to interpret that. And same thing with Hoya. Hoya will sit there and be like, “No, the beat’s gotta be more like this or more like that.” And he’ll specify. But at the end of the day, one of us comes up with a riff or a couple of riffs and then we take it into the room and we all hammer it out.
Songfacts: To the best of your knowledge, who would you say are some of the first bands that truly merged hardcore with heavy metal?
Mitts: I think AGNOSTIC FRONT, the CRO-MAGS. In those early records by those bands, you can start to see the development. On the first AGNOSTIC FRONT record, you can hear that late ’70s punk sound and that early ’80s sound that started to become hardcore. Bands like the CIRCLE JERKS and the DEAD KENNEDYS and the BAD BRAINS were merging that speed with the punk. Punk was the SEX PISTOLS and the RAMONES, but then hardcore started just making it a little louder, a little heavier, and a little more aggressive. And then you had the New York sound — I think New York pioneered what still lasts as hardcore today. They started to add more metal into it, more right hand riffing, more palm muting riffing as opposed to just, “dadadadadadadada.” That was punk, that open strumming. You listen to records like the first CRO-MAGS record, “The Age Of Quarrel”, there’s a lot of right-hand chugging, like metallic kind of riffs. Same thing with AGNOSTIC FRONT. Their second record, “Cause For Alarm”, all of a sudden you start to hear really fast picking, a lot of dissident guitar patterns and stuff like that. So those are the bands that really started to pioneer that. You look at hardcore today, and 90 percent of hardcore bands that are around today doing well still have that metal edge to them.
Read the entire interview at Songfacts.