Following the release of their latest album, Conor O’Nolan talks to Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden about troubles with album producers and life with Nicole Richie
Good Charlotte, a band best known for their infectiously catchy pop-punk sound and eye-liner heavy image, have been working on their fifth album, Cardiology, for the last year. It has just been released and Joel Madden is eager for fans to finally hear their new work. “I’m really excited to hear what they think,” he says, “really excited to get some honesty back. So far it’s been great, but I can’t wait for the live show to see which songs they really go off to.”
This album seems to be a significant departure from its predecessor Good Morning Revival, with the dance element stripped away.
When probed on revisiting their trademark sound, Madden admits: “It’s good to get back to the guitars and I’d say [that] oddly, the single from the record is the black sheep of the record, it’s the only song that sounds like that. It’s so weird, but it’s a good bridge from the last record to this one, so it makes for a good first single.” The “black sheep” he references is the first single, ‘Like It’s Her Birthday’, which features a strong synth line throughout.
The band initially enlisted mega producer Howard Benson, who has previously worked with artists ranging from The All American Rejects to Sepultura to My Chemical Romance, producing The Cheers For Sweet Revenge, the album that propelled them into stardom. Yet despite such an impressive track record, Benson was taken off the project.
“Do you want the truth?” asks Madden. “Howard Benson is a successful producer obviously. He’s had a lot of success [but] he’s never there. If you’re producing a record, you should be in the studio, with the band, producing the record. He works on eight or nine records at a time and he has a lot of success with his system.
“But for me, it’s the principle. You shouldn’t get credit for producing a record, or paid for producing a record, if you just have your engineer there recording the band, and you’re not there.”
Consequently, Benson’s less than meticulous production style did not gel with the band. “I don’t believe in producing myself,” Madden reveals. “I want to have someone there who’s pushing me, and criticising me, because that’s the only way you learn. You grow with each record. So yeah, we got about half way through and we realised [our mistake].”
The material that was captured during these sessions was promptly disposed of. “It sounded like a really good demo. The guitar sounded great, the drums sounded great, but there were no vibes on the record.”
Following Benson’s departure, the band persuaded Don Gilmore, who previously produced the band’s eponymous debut and their last album Good Morning Revival, to take the role as producer. “Don Gilmore is one of my favourite producers of all time. He’s done some of my favourite records. I mean, he engineered Ten from Pearl Jam, he did Linkin Park’s first two records, which are awesome rock records, he did Bullet For My Valentine’s last record, he’s all over the map.”
A good working relationship was subsequently rediscovered with their faithful old producer. “He’s just really serious about making the best record possible. He doesn’t put a time limit on it, he just believes in getting it right. It’s refreshing to see a producer who doesn’t just want to get his pay cheque and move on to the next band.” In three months working with Gilmore, they had the 15 tracks of the album completely finished.
‘Good Morning Revival’, one of the main singles off the album, featured a collaboration with members of the metalcore band Avenged Sevenfold, but on this record, there aren’t any collaborations on such a scale. However, the band have prepared some localised special editions
“We did some in different countries,” Madden reveals. “This [Japanese] guy Miyavi is a guitar player that we know, so we did a little thing with him just for the Japan album. We did a song with Jyrki from 69 Eyes in Finland, as one of the songs for Finland, just like [with] some of our friends around the world.”
While having special editions for different countries isn’t exactly a new concept, Good Charlotte have been taking it one step further. “It just makes it special you know. Like [for] the fans in Finland, we have a good relationship with them, we want to show them that we care about what’s going on there.”
The pop-punk scene that Good Charlotte have been so closely associated with has been accused of becoming very stale lately. When asked about his feelings about being associated with this, Madden explains: “I’ll always be proud of it, it’ll always be a part of us. We were always a part of the scene and apart from the scene. We were always on the outside of it in a way. We came up in that scene, but we were always a little different to [other] bands.”
This February, Good Charlotte will embark on the Kerrang! Tour – an annual tour that starts in Dublin, bringing four or five alternative bands across the United Kingdom. The line-up has previously drawn a massive variety of acts, such as Coheed and Cambria, Biffy Clyro, Dir En Grey and Bring Me The Horizon.
“I’m really excited about that. It’s nice to do a bigger tour of the UK, of all the cities and you know, getting twelve or 13 dates. We’re especially excited to come to Ireland.”
The band, who have previously headlined venues like The Brixton Academy, will be playing much smaller venues this time round. “It’s good you know, especially in the small venues, it’s packed and it’s a really fun show, and it’s special. We just did a show in London in Koko and it was nice. It was only 1500 people or something. It’s just special man, it makes for memorable shows.”
With their UK and Ireland tour completed, Good Charlotte intend to continue around the globe. “We’re gonna do some more of Europe, we’ll do an American tour, then we go to Australia, Japan, back to Europe in the summer,” Madden reveals. “We’re not sure, we’re routing it all out. We’re going to be on tour all next year, so we’ll probably be back in the UK again. It’s good to stay on the road.”
Despite the relatively comfortable living conditions that the band enjoy while on the road, touring gradually becomes more difficult for other reasons. Madden has two children (Harlow Winter Kate Madden and Sparrow James Midnight Madden) with socialite and fashion designer Nicole Richie.
“The whole band has families and stuff. We’re pretty efficient on tour, so we can get our job done and go home. We don’t waste a lot of extra days. If we’re not on tour, we’re at home with our families. It sucks man, [there’s] no way around that.
“The show is the best hour of the day – an hour and a half on stage is the best. [For] everything else, you just want to be home. I miss out on a lot of stuff. Luckily, I have an awesome partner and if she wasn’t with them all the time, I’d probably worry, being away, but [when] you got a good mom, the kids they’re happy, it makes my job a lot easier. Occasionally, between the band, our families come out at different points and visit.”
With that said, life on tour isn’t always bad. Madden admits it can be a welcome break from family duty. “We still have a good time. When I’m on tour, it’s pretty much my only chance to really go nuts if I want to party. If I want to hang out, do whatever I got to do, you can’t do it every night, but I still like to have a good time.”
So what have the group got planned for when they finish touring for their latest album? “Make another one man! Jump back in the studio, spend time with my family, and make records,” he says. “We feel very lucky to have this job. And I guess we feel that if we took time off, we’d be taking it for granted, because we’d know there’s someone out there somewhere working harder than us. And that’s always been our attitude. There’s someone out there working harder than us, so we’ve got to work our hardest.”
Having secured a successful career as part of Good Charlotte, o-two asks slyly if there were any plans to break out into solo stardom, particularly following his well-received DJ performance at the 2010 Academy Awards. However, Madden brushes this idea off. “I never really understand why lead singers do solo projects, because for me, it would just sound like Good Charlotte.”
With the group seeming to be as close-knit as ever and a global tour on the horizon, we can surely expect great things from Good Charlotte and lots of irritatingly catchy songs bellowing out of 2FM in the coming months. Just when we’d finally gotten ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ out of our heads…
Good Charlotte’s new album Cardiology is out now.