A few weeks before Generation RX’s release, we had the chance to catch up with Benji Madden, guitarist and main composer from american band Good Charlotte. After a 20 years’s carrier, Benji is still enthousiasm with new bands and new music. A very nice guy with a fresh point of view on music industry.
Benji Madden (guitar/vocals): Hi! Congratulations for the World Cup!
Thank you, are you into soccer?
Benji: Yeah definitely. I kind of like every sport. I love to watch every sport that I see on television. But soccer’s getting a lot more popular in the US. It’s coming up.
What is your link with Paris?
Benji: To me, it’s the food. If you’re not from France, the first thing you’re thinking about Paris is food. You can eat everywhere. All is amazing. I like the coffee too. But, I also feel like the music fans are different here. For me, I really appreciate the French fans because I feel like they’re a bit more passionate. Even if they’re pissed at you, which is something you can appreciate. They really look at the lyrics.
We have to. English is not our main language so we have to read lyrics and take a good care at the songs to really connect with.
Benji: Yeah, I feel that way too. And it’s something that we really love about French fans in the band. Sometimes you make that record and you’re like: “does anyone really listen?” or you feel like people are just listening one song. But when people are listening the all record, it means a lot because you put a lot into it. Sometimes you really open up about yourself in a record and, when people don’t seem to listen, it’s a bit like when you say: “I love you” to your lover and she’s like: “yeah whatever”! It’s annoying, you want to hear: “Yeah I love you too!” (laughs)
It’s like you’re naked in front of her.
Benji: Yeah, exactly! You’re naked. And it’s something that we like with the French fans. They make you feel appreciated. Even if they’re pissed. Even if they’re asking: “why did you do that?”. They care! And I always love to have those conversations. And it’s something in particular with the new record. We went true into the lyrics. We talk about things that are a bit tough to talk about. And that’s why I’m really excited to have it out in France especially. I feel like the French fans are going to get something out of it. It’s all about the lyrics.
Benji: When we made “Youth Authority”, we were back from five years off and I feel like we were just about playing simple things, we didn’t want to dive too deep. There are many heart-warming moments in that record. We didn’t go too deep, we wanted things very light. But on this new record, we wanted to go fucking deep. Let’s talk about real shit. So, we started to write the music and our rule was: “we don’t want to force anything”. We’re going to just let the melodies in our head and let the lyrics coming out of it. We were just sitting, playing the song with our guitars and we just riming words and only at that moment you realize that you’re writing a song about your mom, or about things that happened to you. Even some songs on our previous records, I had no idea what they’re about! I was just yelling words. And then you look back on those songs and you realize that the song was about depression or anxiety. On this record, we wanted to come back at the real shit. On this record I wrote a song called “Leech” and, man, it’s heavy. It’s about my childhood, it’s about coming clean. I didn’t want to finish it because it was way too personal. But Zack, engineer and producer of the record, told me that I had to finish the song because he felt related to it. So that’s why this record feels so dark but I think it feels hopeful too. But I think it’s important to write about shit that makes you uncomfortable.
It’s funny because when you talk about looking at your songs years after their release. What are you guys thinking about “The Chronicles Of Life And Death” (2004)? Because it feels like Good Charlotte doesn’t assume this record anymore.
Benji: Man, I see what you mean. Sometimes, a record is a heartbreaker. We put a lot of work in this record and, it was a successful one. This record came out before a new wave for the rock bands. We really tried to do different things with this record. You know, 14 years after its release, not a single person noticed that the intro of the record is the same as the outro of the record. Not a single person in 14 years! It was so much work to do this. We worked with a live orchestra. I spent like 3 weeks to write this intro, and write lyrics in Japanese. I would never take it back, I love that record. But it’s also the same situation when you say:”I love you” to your lover! You spent all this time and no one noticed it. And after an experience like this, you kind of go like: “oh ok…”. When you get older, you learn to appreciate your work for just what it is. But when you are younger, you’re a bit more unsecured, and you’re getting more frustrated. That record was very special for us. A song like “I Just Wanna Live” was one of our biggest single but man, this song is not funny. It was about having too much success too quick and not being able to handle that.
And now you spent the last 10 years working with younger bands than yours. Why are you one of the only band that are sharing their knowledge and their experience with younger bands?
Benji: First we are lucky to do that. We learn from them. I never want to be the old guy who is not into new music because he thinks everything sucks. I always search for new inspiration. I don’t want to feel like I know everything because I know I don’t. And young bands are so fucking smart. They see the world as it is and as I see it now. Selfishly, I think that I want to help young bands because I want to heal some little cuts from my past. It helps me to sleep better at night when I help a band.
Maybe this is because you never had bands or a band member from an older band that had helped you when you were young?
Benji: Yeah man, it’s like we are becoming the big brothers we wish we had by the time. That’s very true. There’s a lot a people that showed us some love but older bands were so harsh with us. Honestly, I wish they were cool. Sometimes, I was thinking that this is good for me to not receive some help because it makes me tough. But, honestly, I wish I had a guy that took me by my shoulders and gave some good advices. It’s something that you applied in everything. Not only music. If you have the possibility to be the mentor for a younger person, it’s one of the biggest rewarding situations. You learn from them and they learn from you. And all the bands we work with are good people.
On your new album, Sam from Architects is singing on a song. How did you link with him?
Benji: Interesting question! We have a few people working at our company now and one of them is Joey who is a manager at our company. And I know Joey since 2008. I always thought he was a good dude. When he came back to L.A, he had spent the last seven years with Architects in the UK. So, when he came back, I’ll ask him to come to check what we were doing at the company. He loved the very positive vibe so he told me that he wanted to join us. And Architects was already one of my favorites “new band”. I think especially the last two albums made them so huge, they just figured it out and it was deserved. So, it is a very exciting perspective to watch them as a fan then to work with them. I really enjoyed both side of my relationship with them. So, I very easily connect with Sam. He told me a funny story where his mom dropped him at a Good Charlotte concert when he was young. It means a lot to me because I love his band! He’s almost like family now.
It’s a nice thing to see that you’re really into younger bands because it’s not really something that often happen in the rock/metal world. Will you bring those bands on tour with you?
Benji: Definitely. For the US Tour we’re going to play with Sleeping With Sirens, Knuckle Puck and a young band called The Faim. And then we’re still working on what we’re going to bring for Europe but it’s going to be a good one, we’re going to bring good bands for sure. We love young band. I love Chase Atlantic, Waterparks. It’s funny because I was talking about that with a young band. I don’t work with them, we’re just friends but their label and management did not treat them right. And they were pissed, obviously. So, I told to them that if it weren’t bands, label wouldn’t exist! No matter how great the label is, if you take off all the bands, they got nothing! If you leave the label, your fans are going to follow you and not the label. Most of the musicians, we’re having a low self-esteem. Even if we do a lot of photoshoot, looking like tough guys, inside we’re like: “I hope they like me”. (laughs) So, it could be very easy to take advantage of us. In the music industry, there’s a lot of people that are saying: “you need me!”, motherfucker, no I don’t! It doesn’t mean that you have to be all alone. There’s some good people and you need good people to make it. At our company, we’re like: “you’re going to do it by yourselves, we’re just going to be part of it”. In the music industry, people are like: “you’re lucky to have us”. It’s not true. It’s a mutual thing. It’s important for bands to remember that, they have to be confident in their work.
It’s something that we could see when A Day To Remember broke their contract Victory Records and became bigger than ever, just by themselves.
Benji: Exactly man. And that’s what I’m always saying to the bands: “You’re the one with the instinct, you write the songs, you woke up one day and decide to become an artist”. At the end of the day, we just want to leave a positive impact. Money doesn’t matter, neither Platinum records or… rewards. What does matter it’s the positive things, the songs and what it actually helps people. We just want to make a difference.
To finish, as our media is called “RockUrLife”, so what rocks your life Benji?
Benji: I’m constantly excited about new bands I’m working with. Architects, Chase Atlantic, all the new shit from Hollywood Undead, Anti Flag. And I recently went back on a workout routine and it helps a lot to feel better. This and meditation. But you have to find your own meditation!