In the years since pop-punk stalwarts Good Charlotte last released an album, co-frontman Benji Madden has set up a music management company (MDDN), become a judge on “The Voice” (the Australian version) and married a movie star (Cameron Diaz).
Until recently, no one was particularly optimistic about the future of Good Charlotte, formed by Madden and his twin brother, Joel, in 1996. The band had hit big in the early 2000s, but in recent years, fans and the Maddens themselves had seemed to lose interest.
In July, Good Charlotte released “Youth Authority,” its first album since 2010, and hit the road for a 20th anniversary tour. With that in mind, Benji Madden got on the phone to talk about band life, married life, and the permanent impermanence of Good Charlotte. “We’re fine with it being something that happens only every once in a while,” he said.
The following is an edited transcript of that conversation with Benji Madden:
Q: You don’t know, during your long hiatus, what’s waiting for you when you come back, right?
A: You just don’t know. It had started where everywhere we went, whether we were at an airport or a restaurant, some 16- or 17-year-old kid would come up to us and say, “Oh my God, you’re in Good Charlotte! You guys are legends. You guys stopped playing before I was ever able to see you live.” This was happening all the time, everywhere. We always just said, “Oh, that’s nice.” Joel had said he was never gonna do it again. Not in an angry way or a bad way, he just said, “I have to do what I feel sincere about, and I can’t do Good Charlotte if I don’t really feel sincere about it. I think I’ve just moved on.” We had worked with a few bands — amazing young guys, and I think Joel started to get some of that energy back. One day he was just like, “I wanna do it.”
Q: If my band was the only thing I knew and my brother told me he didn’t want to do it anymore, I’d be terrified.
A: We share an interesting relationship. I actually manage my brother, I manage our band, so I’ve worn a bit of a different hat. It’s a little bit less emotional. It really didn’t bother me at all. I felt the most important thing was protect the sincerity of the brand, which had gotten a bit watered down. We’d lost a little faith in ourselves and had (put) some of the decision-making into other people’s hands, and they didn’t treat it with care. We got talked into doing certain things for the money. We had to learn the hard way, when it comes to your band and your music, you can’t give anyone else the responsibility like that. You’ve gotta go with your gut. I was happy with the time off; during that time we became completely independent. We’d finally taken our band back.
Q: And the fact that you’re coming back in the middle of a pop-punk renaissance is lucky too. Were you thinking you wanted to reclaim your throne? Is there a level of competitiveness?
A: Not quite. I don’t know if we sat on a throne. We were certainly at the podium, that’s for sure.
Q: Do you look at your older songs, some of them dealt with hopelessness and despair, and say to yourself, “I’m 37, I’m in a happy marriage to a famous actress, I can’t relate to the person who would sing those songs?”
A: I actually just have compassion for that kid. I actually love those songs even more than I ever had. If I didn’t try to do any excavating and any personal growth — when you grow up and you get married and you have a relationship, hopefully you are growing. That’s what relationships are all about. That’s the most amazing thing about marriage is that it forces you to grow, and you get to know yourself even better. For me, when I look at those songs, I understand them better than I ever have, even when I wrote them.
Q: You’ve said you can’t see doing Good Charlotte in your 40s. Is there a way to have the band make sense as you get older?
A: I think this record is a good start. We’re very optimistic guys now. I’m sure a lot of people would look at our lives from the outside and go, “Of course you are.” But we didn’t get where we are today — both me and my brother have a great relationship with our band, we have amazing friends, and No. 1 we have the most incredible wives who are our best friends. That isn’t achieved without doing work, without working every day to try to understand yourself better, to try to be a better version of yourself, to try to understand where you come from, what you’ve gone through. All the music we’ve created throughout the years was a pathway. … I don’t know how long we’ll do this, but we’ll never break up.
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