While Jay Weinberg isn’t old enough to legally drink yet, he’s built up a ton of credibility as a drummer. As Madball’s latest drummer, he joined a legendary hardcore band that’s older than he is. And he’s also played in his dad Max’s band, some guys called the E Street Band. A serious drummer and a serious metal fan, Weinberg spoke to Metal Insider about Madball’s latest album, Empire, the music he’s into, and what it’s like to step into a band with such a legacy (we’re talking about Madball, but his dad’s band has a legacy too, we suppose).
How did you come to join a band that’s older than you are?
It was crazy. I got in touch with Mitts, the guitar player from Madball, in October. We had a lot of mutual friends through the band H20. We had met each other over the years. I met Hoya and Freddy back when I was like 15 through the H20 guys, but I met Mitts in October and we started talking and just exchanging information. I was doing this drum-off in California that Tommy Lee was putting on with Guitar Center. It was this big, huge show and all these crazy drummers. My dad and I drummed together as part of the show and I advertised it online. Mitts saw it and he asked me, “Do you know, keep this on the down low, of any drummers that are out there are the drum off that would maybe wanna do Madball stuff? We’re looking for a drummer to do this next tour.” I was like ‘Well, I’d like to do it.” I had a punk band that I was in at the time and I think that he thought that that was my main thing and I wouldn’t be able to do it or I wouldn’t be interested So he sent me a list of maybe thirty songs to learn. I came back from LA from that drum-off the next day and drove up to Queens to audition with Mitts. He thought I was good enough to do the job and. [We] just kept working on it, me and Mitts, and then Hoya came into the mix. My first show with them was probably about three weeks later.
Did you find it easy or hard to learn all those songs in a relatively short time?
I’d been a Madball fan from growing up. I grew up in Central Jersey and all the good shows happened in New York. I’d be going up to New York like every week to see bands like Madball, Sick of it All, Murphy’s Law, stuff like that, so I was all ready familiar with all that stuff. It just took a lot of fine tuning and really paying attention to what I would have to do to play it. I knew a lot of their material, but I hadn’t played it, obviously. It was a lot of studying the nuances of Will Shepler and Rigg Ross and all the drummers Madball’s had, figuring out their style and how I could put my own spin on it. That was kind of the preparation. It was no easy task to come in on twenty years of a band. It’s like jumping on a really fast moving freight train, but I think at least jamming with Mitts and Hoya in the studio we had quickly clicked. Musically, I think you can get a real feel of how you gel with someone within the first day and we had that. It was easy, in that regard, that we got along musically.
How much nuance do you think there is in hardcore, and hardcore drumming specifically?
For anyone who’s not familiar, or maybe even if you are familiar with hardcore, it’s a very specific way of playing. Drums, guitar, bass, vocals- it’s a very specific genre. That’s not to say it’s limiting in any way, because it can be brought into a lot of different kinds of musical realms. So far with a band like where Madball is concerned, you have to pay attention to a very specific feel and mood that’s set; otherwise you miss the overall vibe of what they’ve been doing for the past twenty years. I think that there’s a lot of nuances that might go over some people’s heads. If you’re in a hardcore band, you know what the music dictates. It’s all music from that specific time period or the area. Growing up in New York with the bands like I mentioned, Sick of it All, Agnostic Front, and stuff, it’s kind of like a musical culture thing. It’s a specific sound, it’s a specific way of writing and arranging, but once you have that or once you tap into that, I feel like it totally comes naturally. Even working at this new album that we just finished recording, once you find that first little thing, it just goes from there.
What was the first music you really got into? And what about the first heavy band?
I have a sister that’s three years older than me. My mom got us both into classical music. I know that’s kind of weird to hear, but a lot of Beethoven and Mozart and all that kind of stuff just to get my ears and my sister’s ears into music for being first exposed to at three or four years old. Then when I was five, my parents brought me to see The Who do Quadrophenia at the Garden, and from there I was totally sold on rock n’ roll, or just stuff that was loud and in my face. So I grew up on The Who, The Stones, The Beatles, kind of like classic rock n’ roll bands that are just timeless.
What did you think of your dad’s band?
Oh, I loved it! I loved it. I’ve grown up around the music my dad’s been playing and the stuff that the E Street Band has been doing pretty much my whole life. So it’s kind of rooted in my family I guess, that kind of sound or that music, and it will always be there. But yeah, I love the music that my dad exposed me to. To answer your question about heavy stuff, when I was nine, my dad brought me to Ozzfest to see Slipknot and Slayer, because Slipknot had been on Conan’s show promoting the self-titled record, and he was like “Oh, you’ll love these guys! They’re crazy! They yell and wear masks.” So I went and I was completely sold, and further down the line I got from the bands that were enormously popular too, you know Slipknot, System Of A Down, the really accessible bands, and then that led me to finding bands like Mastodon, which led to Neurosis, Baroness, Kylesa and those kinds of bands, and obviously the hardcore scene in New York. I loved it, going to CBGBs all the time and just checking out bands. Once I was thirteen or something, I was going to the city regularly just to check out bands and the culture on the Lower East Side. That’s kind of something I guess I share in common with the Madball guys even from before when I joined the band. We’re all from this area. We all know what the culture is about, and I think that comes through in the music for sure.
I know you’re down with the Mastodon dudes from seeing you and your dad at their shows.
Yeah, we met those guys on the ’05 Ozzfest when Mastodon was on the second stage. I met Brann the drummer. I didn’t meet any of the other guys. I met him and we were just hanging out that night, like him, a friend of mine and my dad, and we were all just hanging out. We didn’t keep in touch after that. So yeah, the next time I saw them was a year later at the Unholy Alliance Tour, and that’s actually when I started keeping in touch with them. I love those guys.
Having seen your dad at the last few Mastodon shows, do you have any good metal stories involving you and your dad at shows?
Let me see. I know one actually about that Meadowlands show you just mentioned. Me and my friends were right on the barricade, right up front for Mastodon, Lamb Of God and Slayer because I’m a fan of all those bands, and I was too young to drive so my dad had to pick us up. He got into the show and I think wanted to watch Slayer from the side of the stage, and some security guard got in his face and said he couldn’t stand there, being really belligerent or something. So Johny Araya, Tom’s brother, saw this happening and some fans were starting to yell at the security guard to leave my dad alone. Then Johny stepped in and took my dad and made sure he was ok, but I remember we met up with my dad after the show and we were in the player dressing room or something and I had never met those guys before, the first thing that Kerry says to my dad is “I heard that you got in trouble!” It was really funny, but oh my god yeah stuff like that. I mean I’ve been going to shows with my dad since I was nine I guess with Slipknot. I know a lot of people saw us. We went to see two nights of Mastodon and Neurosis in Brooklyn in ’08.
Yeah, it was funny, I remember seeing him kind of sitting just outside like a parent. Almost like “Where’s the wood paneled minivan?”
(Laughing) Yeah, and I know a bunch of people do double takes when they see my dad at these kinds of shows. I mean he got me into it. He got me into metal in general, and then I would find out about these bands and I’d be like “Oh, you got to see these guys with me!” We would go to shows together and just experience these bands together because that’s one thing we really have in common. We love seeing new bands and getting into new stuff, and that’s something we‘ve done. I’m nineteen, almost twenty. We’ve been doing that for the past ten years, and especially now that I’ve started playing the drums as a real serious thing, not just as a hobby, it kind of throws a really cool dynamic into our father/son relationship. He’s got a plethora of knowledge and I’m trying to tap into that and all the stuff he’s doing. He’s got a big band now and it’s very in the vein of Count Basie, Buddy Rich, that kind of stuff, and he gets me into the real old school stuff that he grew up on. I get him into stuff like Madball. He and my mom came to the Superbowl of Hardcore that we did with the Cro-mags, H2O and all those bands, and they loved it. It’s cool how now heavy music has become a very important part in my immediate family. So it’s pretty cool. I like it.
Have you turned him onto any other bands other than your own?
Yeah, I mean like, I remember when the Dillinger Escape Plan was scheduled to go on Conan, I was like ‘You’ve got to say hi to them. You got to check them out! They’re really great.’ He got into Dillinger and The Mars Volta. I saw them for the first time in ’08 when Thomas Pridgen started playing drums for them. We went to see them and we were just floored. So going to see bands like The Mars Volta, people who are just doing different stuff because you get a lot of cookie cutter, good cop/bad cop yelling guy and singing guy kind of bands.
Like songs written around the breakdown.
Yeah yeah, exactly. I love stuff that just not that, and when we’re finding music together that’s something that we haven’t heard a million times before and is something new and refreshing then that’s usually a band we’ll both go see multiple times or try to strike up a conversation with them, because that’s the band that we want to get to know or whatever. So we definitely share that.
Very cool. So how do you feel about touring with younger hardcore bands like Terror, Trapped Under Ice or Cruel Hand versus the traditional old school NYHC bands?
It’s great because it totally shows that this genre is still going. People can say whatever they want, that the older bands are the only ones that were good, but you’ve got bands like Cruel Hand and Terror that are just killing it. I think I’m younger than the Cruel Hand guys (laughing). I’m a young guy and I’m into this stuff just as much as I assume the Madball guys were when they started Madball. I think it’s a very young kind of music. This music keeps people young, and that’s not to say that the ‘old timers’ of the scene are old by any measure, but if you’re in your late thirties or whatever and you’re playing this music, it’s almost like when you hit the stage you’re still eighteen or nineteen. It’s a very youth oriented kind of scene. It’s lively, it’s energetic, it’s in your face, and you get that across the board, especially in bands like Terror, Death Before Dishonor and all those kinds of bands. Those are at least the bands that I did my first Madball tour with. I’ve been a big fan of Terror for a long time. Now I’m a huge fan of Cruel Hand. They’re album just came out I think last week. It’s amazing! It’s very encouraging for somebody that’s like my age to know that the greats are still around, the Cro-Mags are still around and Agnostic is still around, but there are new guys doing stuff that is just as important as, I mean who knows, the next One Voice can be written, the next Age Of Quarrel could be written. It’s very good to know that there are fresh, young blood doing really good things and I don’t know, maybe hopefully Madball gets a little bit of that with me being nineteen years old (laughing).
On a related note, how do you feel about the older NYC hardcore bands, like not only just getting back together but also releasing new records and touring like Maximum Penalty and Killing Time?
It’s great. I mean, now that I am playing in Madball I’ve met a lot of those people, been able to sit down and actually have conversations with those people and I think it’s awesome. It’s like seeing, if I could draw a parallel to any other band, it’s like I don’t know, people flipped out when Cream did that reunion in ’05 or ’06 and tickets were going for like $20 billion, but it’s kind of like an internal thing. You’re never going to see somebody who was like “Yeah, I was into the New York hardcore that one year, that one summer.” You’re never going to see that. It’s like a lifetime kind of commitment. It’s something that’s in you, and you do this kind of music because you really don’t know how to not do it. So I think that these reunions that are happening because the guys in the bands just because they don’t know how not to do it. It’s something so innate and so eternal that after a while of not doing it I would imagine that you’d be itching to get back to it, and it’s great to see that they’re killing it. They’re just as relevant making new music. It’s, I don’t know, beautiful. (laughing)
Awesome. Lastly, obviously you’re the newest member of the band, however you’re still doing interviews and press. Is it something that you wanted to do, and is the band comfortable with you doing press?
Oh yeah! I think they’re comfortable with me doing it because, I mean, whenever I’ve been telling people that I haven’t seen in a long time like ‘Oh since I last saw you I joined Madball,’ every reaction has been like “What?! You’re playing in Madball now?!” Because before that, I’d been playing with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for like eight or nine months before that, and going from one type of music to a completely different type of music is quite alarming and as far as interviews go, is a cool story. And I love to explain it and talk about what’s going on with Madball, what I’ve done with so far as with preparation and switching from the E Street Band to Madball in a relatively short amount of time and just keeping active. I love talking about what we’re doing, keeping people updated. So long as people are willing to ask questions, I love answering them.