“An interview should be like a conversation, you know? Not a boring question-and-answer session.”
That’s Joel Madden’s way of telling me that he’s enjoying our little tte–tte. The clean-cut adult bersexual Good Charlotte frontman has lost his boyish charm, having grown into a bona fide rock star: the cut-off sleeve black tee, the 48-hour beard and a look that you, the average guy, would interpret as “Keep Your Hands Off My Girl”.
Funnily enough, that’s also the title of Good Charlotte’s first single off its fourth album, Good Morning Revival, a title full of significance. Lyrically, it doesn’t sound much different; Joel continues to dwell on love (“Where Would We Be” reminds us of his recent break-up with Hilary Duff), Hollywood (in “Misery”, he sings, “Look at all these plastic people”) and exorcises old demons; musically, it’s a new territory for the band, who has outgrown all that adolescent punk pop which characterized the band. Finally. “That wasn’t what we really wanted to do,” says Joel, “We wanted to play stuff that we actually liked.” He reveals that the band felt “trapped in an image,” and this album releases them of some of those trappings. “I mean, we’ve grown up, just like our fans.”
Good Charlotte suffers from the Misconception Syndrome, where a band is placed in a category it doesn’t really feel it belongs to. “We’re not what people think we are: a bunch of teens who never grew up and who can only play poppy songs.” While the album takes some tentative steps into old Charlotte territory, the band deserves the merit of having made its most experimental album to date.
Not only is it ambitious and adult, but it is also a crossover effort. The American quintet (composed of Joel, his twin Benji, Billy Martin, Paul Thomas and Dean Butterworth) recruited the production genius of Don Gilmore to push them over the edge. The famed producer of Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne knew what the band was going for and how to get them there. But first, he had to get the Madden twins and songwriters, Joel and Benji, out of Los Angeles and somewhere remote and less distracting like British Columbia. “He said that he wanted to reinvent us, to make people wonder whether they were listening to Good Charlotte or not.” Gilmore was even tyrannical at times in his quest. “He made us get rid of about 50 songs. We had to rewrite everything we’d done.” Perfectionist, Dan? “Totally. And I’m glad he would say, ‘No, that’s no good.’ It pushed us even more. He knew how to get the best out of us.”
The overall sound is now devoid of all the teenage anthemic choruses of their debuts. The music is accentuated by hints of new wave, pop punk and rock. A disco-like beat is even detectable in “The River”, while “Dance Floor Anthem” is more progressive 80’s rock full of the dynamics of this new era. “We love 80’s music We like a lot of stuff, actually, and I think all of that translates into this album,” says Joel.
And despite some dark lyrics, revival is also full of hope after a rather bleak period known as the Chris Wilson Dilemma. “I guess the whole rock ‘n roll thing went to his head,” says Joel of their former drummer, who has now been replaced by Dean Butterworth. “Fame got to him. He was doing a lot of drugs and, at that point, we were done with all of that. I’d stopped taking drugs, I wanted to be clean. We asked him to leave the band, because we couldn’t have that. It was our way of helping him and we never even mentioned he had a drug problem. We’d always denied it.” Unfortunately, Wilson didn’t see it quite that way. “He started saying crap about me, but I really felt for him so I kept my mouth shut.” Joel eventually got fed up with Wilson’s false accusations. “All this stuff was written about me on the Internet – things that I had apparently said about him – so now, I just want to make everything clear: he had a serious drug problem and got kicked out of the band.” For Joel, whose sole addiction now is the occasional cigarette, this is a clean slate a revival. And some new clothes.
Reportedly engaged to fashion plate Nicole Richie, Joel Madden couldn’t have made a better match and regularly attends Fashion Week. “I love shopping in Paris, although I haven’t had the time yet,” says the singer, who also attends Fashion Week in Paris. Where does he exactly like to shop? “I like Dior and for women, I like Chanel. It’s very elegant and classy.” Spoken like a true black-clad rock n’ roller.