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Joel Madden explains Goldfinger's energy, the White Stripes drumming, and high school guidance counselors' lack of vision.

by C. Bottomley

The last time a pair of identical twins made this much noise, they were Nelson and it was scary. Fortunately, Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden and his guitarist brother Benji - born five minutes apart from each other on march11, 1979 - are as far away from the primped pomp of "love and affection" as you can get. GC has bum-rushed the airwaves with a catchy pop-punk that’s as savvy as that of their heroes Green Day. You’ve already heard "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," a gleeful assault on celebrities who complain it’s lonely at the top. Now, with "The Anthem" turning into exactly what its title declares it to be, they’re wooing their prime constituency: suburban kids who don’t want to grow up to be like mom and dad.

The products of a broken home in Waldorf, Maryland, Benji and Joel decided music was their calling after seeing the Beastie Boys on the Ill Communication tour. Older brother John provided their musical schooling, playing discs by the Cure, Minor Threat, and the Smiths. When future Good Charlotte bassist Paul showed Benji his first guitar chords, the band were off and running.

Their self-titled 2000 debut caused only a minor ripple. But last year’s The Young & the Hopeless found the band mastering the art of pithy punk songs. MTV liked it enough to make Benji and Joel hosts of the show All Things Rock. Now the band are so white-hot Joel can only spare ten minutes for VH1 to check his head. He explained why he has a lot to learn from L.A. ska punks Goldfinger, why the White Stripes should dump their drummer, and why, if you eliminate the photo shoots, being a rocker is the best job in the world.

VH1: You and Benji are identical twins, so how do I know I’m not talking to him right now?

Joel Madden: You’ve got to trust me, man! You’d know Ben because he cusses a lot and he’s a little crazier than I am. He’s probably more exciting to talk to.

VH1: Prove it. Tell me something about yourself that Benji doesn’t know.

Joel: I don’t know, dude. He pretty much knows everything! We’re that close.

VH1: Have you ever pretended to be Benji with his girlfriend?

Joel: Nah, we’ve never done that. Even though we’re identical twins, we’re not that identical. We’re not into the same kind of girls anyway. Benji’s into dirty punk rock chicks. I’m into all different kinds of girls, but they’re pretty normal compared to his girlfriends.

VH1: What’s the last rock show you’ve been to that really blew your mind?

Joel: Goldfinger are one of the best live bands. Any band that thinks they’re good should go see Goldfinger and see how much energy they have. We’re both pretty melodic, but they go faster.

VH1: As your group’s front man, do you envy the energy Goldfinger’s singer has?

Joel: A little bit. If a band’s kicking ass and ripping it up onstage, you want to put on as good a show as they do. It gives you a run for your money. We’ve toured with all those bands, and when you watch play live, you learn a lot.

VH1: What’s the last thing you learned or stole from another band?

Joel: That’s a tough one. I don’t know. We’ve been on the road for the last four years straight, so we’ve learned stuff from a hundred different bands.

VH1: Are the White Stripes the greatest rock group on the planet?

Joel: Hell, no! They’re good, but they’re like a critic’s band. The critics’ bands are always a let down. I checked them out because they’re so acclaimed, but the girl can’t play the drums to save her life. I’m sure the White Stripes are nice people and good at what they do. But the best rock band on the planet? Whatever! The Foo Fighters – they’re the best band out right now.

VH1: "The Anthem" seems directed at high school outcasts. Were you bullied a lot at school?

Joel: Not really. I was pretty normal. I was quiet and kept to myself. "The Anthem" isn’t just about high school. It’s about everyone that doesn’t want to have that status quo lifestyle where they go to college, get a job, get a house and two cars, and a wife and two kids. High school is a part of that, because that’s where they teach you how to be the rest of your life. I hated high school. The song’s aimed at kids who want to be different and do something like be a band.

VH1: Did you tell your guidance counselor you wanted to be a rock singer?

Joel: Yeah. I failed a class one time because of it. We were doing this whole semester of career things. We had to take these aptitude tests. You had to fill out all these questions and then there’s a whole list of careers to choose. I was looking at it and thought, "I don’t want to be any of these jobs! I want to do music." The teachers were like, "Well, music’s not a real job." I refused to do the test. It was like an eight-week college prep course and I failed the class because they didn’t have any options I wanted to do. In a small town like the one where I came from, nobody believed that music could be a real job.

VH1: "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" took aim at celebrity self-pity. What’s the best thing about being a rock star?

Joel: I don’t consider myself a rock star. The best part is being able to do this for a living – traveling around, seeing the world, being with my best friends, getting to play music and make records and live every kid’s dream.

VH1: How does the reality compare to the dream?

Joel: It’s a lot more glamorous when you’re imagining it as a kid, but I haven’t been disappointed. The only downside is doing photo shoots.

VH1: Why don’t you like photo shoots?

Joel: All of a sudden you have to concentrate on how you look. Doing that kind of stuff is weird to me. We’re the worst band to take photos of, because we don’t do anything fun or cool. We just stand there and say, "Are you done yet? Why can’t you just take two pictures? That’s all you need. You’re only going to pick one." The photographers will be like, "Well, we need a lot …" It’s pretty bad.

VH1: What’s the last dream you had?

Joel: The other night I dreamt I was stuck on a battlefield. I guess it was because I was watching too much CNN. I was running around, didn’t have a gun or anything, and I was getting shot at. It was pretty weird.

VH1: So come on, soldier. What are we going to do with Saddam Hussein when we catch him?

Joel: I don’t know. Send him into exile in Afghanistan.

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