Shari Black Velvet
Interview with Joel Madden - Taken From Black Velvet 36 - May 2003
Benji, Billy and Paul are four guys from Waldorf, Maryland, USA that make up GOOD CHARLOTTE,
a rip-roaring rock band with punk and occasional hip-hop leanings (not
too much hip-hop though, so don't let that put you off). They signed
to Epic in May 2000 before releasing their debut self-titled album that
same year. Their dynamic follow-up, 'The Young & The Hopeless',
was released in the UK in February 2003.
Good Charlotte on the (now sold out) cover of issue 36
band, who haven't had a permanent drummer for a while, headed into the
studio to work on album number two, 'The Young & The Hopeless', on
February 1st, 2002. It was released in the US a few months earlier than
the UK - on October 1st 2002. They brought in Eric Valentine as producer
(Third Eye Blind, Smash Mouth) and Josh Freese of The Vandals to play
"I know Josh from touring and I just called him and said 'hey, can
you come play on our record?'" explains lead vocalist Joel. "He
had actually mentioned it before. He was like 'I heard you guys might
need a drummer to play on your record' and I was like 'definitely'. I
called him and it was awesome because he's my favourite drummer of all
time so it was like a dream come true."
The word 'Vandals' does not go down well in Black Velvet land though.
They're a band who promote and take part in bullfighting. Not good.
"Oh, they do? Wow. I didn't know that. But that's their own thing,
To each their own."
Maybe Joel's guitarist brother Benji would have more to say on the matter.
"Yeah, you'd probably have good conversations, good passionate conversations."
He reveals, "Benji just went vegan. He's been completely sucked into
it. So we support that".
Benji and guitarist Billy Martin had been vegetarians for a while. The
band were even featured on PETA's website, www.peta2.com recently.
"Yeah. They have problems with meat. They have meat issues."
Joel's not joined Billy and Benji yet though.
"No. I don't really eat red meat that much though," he says.
It was the band's friendship with Goldfinger that brought the vegetarian/vegan/animal
rights issue to the fore.
"John's a vegan. That's who got Benj to be one. Me, Benj and John
are together starting a record label. We'll probably do things for animal
You should. That would be amazing.
"We will. I guarantee you."
When does he think that will happen?
"It's launching right now. We're in the middle of it."
Young & The Hopeless' contains fourteen original tunes written by
the Maryland men. What's interesting is that the album starts off with
'A New Beginning', which is far from your typical rock tune. It's more
like a soundtrack composed for a movie, with an epic sound that's very
uplifting and out of this world.
"We wanted to do something a little different, y'know. Most bands
do, I guess. Also we love the Danny Elfman stuff, so we just did it.
Kinda came up with it."
So, is this album a new beginning or is it a continuation from your
debut and another step down the Good Charlotte road?
"Definitely another step in the path of us. But it's definitely
a new beginning for a lot of things for our band. That's how we do things.
We start over a lot. We learn a lot as we go. The album was definitely
a fresh start for us but just another step in the path of where we're
going, wherever that is."
Joel sees that Good Charlotte path being never-ending.
"If we were 80 years old we'd still be in Good Charlotte. It's
forever. It's like a family."
Of The Rich & Famous', released as a single in the UK in February,
was inspired by celebrities - but not in a positive way, it's more a
tale of what the boys dislike about them.
Joel says it's about "all sorts of celebrities, not just the ones
who complain, but the ones who do dumb shit".
He's well aware that it's not always easy being rich and famous though.
He knows that money doesn't buy happiness and that you can still have
a lot of problems when you're at the top.
"You can be rich and be happy but you can also be rich and unhappy.
The same way I was poor and happy. It doesn't matter what you have,
that's not what makes you happy."
So you were happy being poor?
"I wasn't happy being poor, but I was happy as a person. I have
my family. Even though we have problems, we have lots of problems, we're
still happy because we have each other."
Despite pointing a disapproving finger at well-off celebrities, there
are still some that he thinks are cool.
"There are a lot of celebrities that inspire me. I like Bono of
U2. I like that he's so involved in charity stuff. I aspire to be that
one day. I really want to make a difference. I want to make a name so
that I CAN make a difference.
He says he'd really like to help kids out.
"I want to try to do things for kids who have illnesses
already done things, y'know what I mean. I'm really into kids
signed to a major record company would obviously mean the guys have
more funding to spend on the band - from recording an album, to making
videos, to touring. Joel says they don't overspend though.
"We have a pretty good grip on it. They don't overspend on us by
no means at all. I'd say we were probably one of the lower maintenance
bands. We don't make expensive videos, we don't make expensive records
Our last video cost $150,000, maybe less. That's expensive to us. To
us that was the top. We started at around $50,000. It was like 'what
can we do for $50,000?' At the point where we are now, that was a big
video for us. What does that equal in pounds? £75,000 or something?
I hear of and I know many bands that have spent $500,000 on a video.
We would never do it just on principal. We couldn't spend that much
money on anything. Just because. But we have a pretty good grip on it.
I don't think we'll ever be that band that just spends money."
Joel sings in 'Girls & Boys', a track on 'The Young & The Hopeless',
'Girls don't like boys/Girls like cars and money'. He got that impression
while out in California.
"It's kinda just what I saw when I was out in LA. There are girls
out there that that's what gets their eye. That's what they go for."
He knows that all girls aren't like that though.
"There are a lot of great girls who I know," he confirms.
"I know a lot of awesome girls who I'm friends with who don't give
a shit what you have. If you're cool, you're cool. If you're not, you're
If Joel could be any female who would he like to be?
"If I would like to be any female who would I like to be? Tricky
I can tell you who I don't want to be!"
He laughs. "There are a lot of girls I don't want to be. I like
that Holly Valance. I'd like to be her!"
Who do you think has an easier life - girls or boys?
"I think it's equally hard, in different ways.
Yeah, we all have our trials and tribulations
finds Great Britain fascinating. He says "I love everyone's attitude,
their sense of humour. It takes a while to get used to but it's kind
of like a freedom over here to say things and do things and no-one cares."
He'd love the band to achieve success over here.
"It's like a rock n' roll dream. Some of our favourite bands of
all time are from here. Three of my top five - The Clash, The Cure,
The Smiths. And Oasis. Four of my favourite bands are from over here.
And I want to experience the place."
How important do you think Good Charlotte is to the music scene?
"I think we're important because we wave the flag. We carry a lot,
we promote bands. We have a show on MTV actually bringing rock back
to MTV. There's a lot that we do. We aren't saving it, by no means,
but we carry the flag. We push it a little further. And we love it.
Obviously if we weren't around there'd be another band playing but I
think most bands don't think the way we do. Sometimes we think more
big picture than just album by album. And we want bands to have a chance.
We want other rock bands to get a chance.
Is there anything else you'd like to do other than the band, the TV
show, your clothing ranges, and the record label (not that that's not
"I'd love to have a magazine that pushes good music. I'd also like
to get into movies, directing videos and being in movies. I've got a
lot on my plate that I'd like to do."
ends by leaving a message for the kids in the UK:
"We love it over here. We're going to come back a lot. We can't
wait to meet all the kids. What can you say? We just love what we do.
We really want to meet all the kids and we hope that they like us. Give
us a chance 'cause we'll definitely prove ourselves."
Visit www.goodcharlotte.com for
Good Charlotte are on the cover of issue 53 of Black Velvet with an interview with the band inside.
To order this issue, go to www.blackvelvetmagazine.com/backissues.htm