“If we’re going to walk away from Good Charlotte, let’s walk away with a record that we love” - Joel Madden talks to hmv.com
It's been six years since their last LP Cardiology, but pop punks Good Charlotte are back! We chatted with frontman Joel Madden about the making of new album Youth Authority (which you can purchase on the right-hand side of the page, including an edition exclusive to hmv with two bonus tracks), why this might be the last Good Charlotte album and their plans for a hit-packed live set....
This is your first album as a band for six years and comes right after you and your brother (guitarist and fellow songwriter Benji Madden) made your solo album Greetings From California together. When did you decide to do another Good Charlotte album?
“It was interesting. It all happened last year and quite quickly, the whole conversation started when we found out that our contracts were up with the label. My brother manages everything and he came to us and said ‘We’ve got the opportunity to be independent or sign a new deal with a label’. And all of us said that we didn’t sign another record deal and we let it go and went back to our lives. But then, not long after that, the band started talking about how it’d be cool to make another record and then they came to me and it was clear that everyone was getting the itch to write a record, but I was pretty firm with them.”
In what way?
“I told the band that we all had to ask ourselves ‘If you can live without making another record then let’s not do it’. And we all went away and I really thought hard about it, I didn’t know what a Good Charlotte record would be in 2016, what do we have to say anymore? So I thought about and it turned out that I had a whole lot to say, I wanted to make a Good Charlotte record on my own terms, so I said to the band that if we did it we should go independent and not be dictated to by anybody and the band was down with that.”
How did you find having no label behind you? Did it change anything about how you worked?
“We made this record and we paid for it ourselves and we were all behind it, we did it just for ourselves. We’d write a song and we’d record it, every day for three months, it was a very honest process, very straightforward, we were getting back to who we were as a band. This record felt very cathartic and I actually think that our next record will be better, I’m really proud of this one, but I’m so excited for our next record.”
You worked with John Feldmann on the album, every band we speak to tells us that he’s quite a hard taskmaster, did you find that?
“We’ve always wanted to make a record with John, we’ve written songs with him before, but not a full record. He’s a very hardworking guy, very obsessive and he expects a lot of the people he works with, it’s definitely not a vacation. We’ve been a band for 20 years and we’re all good players, but John still pushed us really hard, he’s a producer who puts you through it and you grow from that.”
Did you have a goal for the album and how it would sound? Your early albums are quite straightforward pop punk, but you’ve experimented with lots of different sounds, what did you want from the album?
“The whole process was weird, there was this very new energy, all John’s records have this youthful energy to them and he’s got this young team who work with him, but this record is quite a reflective record. There’s a lot of looking back and asking ‘Who are we? Where did we come from?’, sonically there are songs that remind me of our first two albums and there are songs that are like nothing else you’ve heard on a Good Charlotte record before.”
“It’s this weird mix of different energy, but none of it was planned. I wasn’t sure if we were going to make a nostalgic throwback record or something more experimental. There wasn’t a plan beyond let’s just make a record that we love, if we’re going to walk away from Good Charlotte let’s walk away on our own terms and walk away with a record that we love.”
You’ve got a collaboration with Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro on the album, how did that come about?
“I was just a Biffy Clyro fan, I didn’t know I’d get to meet Simon and then write with him! It’s one of my favourite songs on the record, it sums it up really, it’s a strange record full of surprises.”
You’ve got Kellin Quinn from Sleeping With Sirens on the record too…
“Another one that wasn’t planned. He was around and he’s a friend of mine, I love his voice and his songwriting and I asked him if he’d like to come and write a song for a Good Charlotte record. He was great.”
You said earlier it’s quite a reflective record, is that the case with most of the lyrics?
“I put a lot of focus on questions like ‘Where are we? Where are we going?. 20 years in you inevitably find yourself asking the bigger questions like ‘Who am I? What’s the point of all this?’. I’ve always just tried to make the messages in our songs to make people feel hopeful, to give people songs that make them feel better and lead to a good place. I really want to try and inspire the people who listen to this record and to feel like they can bet on themselves.”
When did you settle on the title of Youth Authority?
“I actually happened with the artist who was making the album cover. We feel like album covers are kind of a lost art and we wanted to work with this guy called Brian Montuori, he’s done a lot of the Dillinger Escape Plan’s covers and we’re a big fan of what he does. We wanted to make an analogue album cover, a real piece of art and so we gave him the record and he lived with it. He wasn’t a Good Charlotte fan to start off with and it’s not like he became a super fan, but he got to know us and understood the band and he built this installation. It’s this huge collage and it’s all done by him, no photoshop, there’s so much thought into all this and the title came out of that. When we started this band there was no social media, no internet and we had to everything by hand, we had no money and no connections, but we had each other, that’s youth authority.”
Finally, how are you going to be putting your set together when you take this out live? You’ve got a lot of songs to choose from...
“It’s crazy, we’ve got a lot of songs now, but I don’t know how long we’re going to be doing Good Charlotte, I can’t put an expiration date on it, I don’t know if it’s three years, four years or one more record, but what we want to do is make everything special, play every song the fans want to hear. Quite a lot of the fans seeing us now are seeing us for the first time, so we’re trying to make it special for them, all the merchandise will be one-offs, new stuff for every tour, so when we walk away we can feel like we did everything we set out to. We’re going to play every song everybody wants to hear and it’s going to be a long ass set.”