GQ, June 2016
When Joel Madden solely accepted the 2015 GQ MOTY Award for Double Act of the Year, he revealed his brother’s absence was due to final touches needed on Good Charlotte’s first album in six years. On the eve of the long-awaited record’s release, he talks survival, the perils of the music business, and why he’s doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
If you were born in the late 80s, there’s a fair chance you had a pop-punk-soundtracked adolescence, Blink 182, Sum 41, Lagwagon, Jimmy Eat World, Millencolin, MXPX... bands that nailed teen angst, with a sense of humour. Punk, minus the anarchistic abrasiveness, and in its place, images of highly saturated, kitschy styled class-clowns and down-and-out sk8rbois. Arguably, one of the most enduring bands of the era is Good Charlotte. The Maryland-born five-piece that opened a record with a dedication to “every kid who’d been called a freak” and the band that made it cool to be uncool.
“We took a lot of shit back then,” laughs Madden, when asked about the aforementioned legacy (and his fashion choices). “It wasn't always easy to be Good Charlotte – we were doing our brand of pop punk and opening for acts like Bad Religion, Pennywise and NoFX. It was tough for puppy bands like us!” Dismissed as for-teens-only, pop-punk was then assumed to be a fleeting blip in the rock cannon. Yet, here’s the “uncool” Good Charlotte, with album number six, twenty years on.
You may remember when Good Charlotte called it quits while they were ahead, five years ago. Joel and brother Benji then launched their own music management company, dropped an album as The Madden Brothers, became producers and signed on to The Voice Australia. “I was done,” Madden sighs. “I limped off the field as an artist. It just started to feel like we were squeezing every last drop out of this thing –and the bad side to the music business took over. We were kids when we started this, and when you’re a kid wanting to make it, you’ll sign and do anything.” What began was pursuit to turn a shitty experience into a good one – the twins, passionate activists for mental health awareness (Joel is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador) now work to prevent young artists from the similar pitfalls. “No one did that for us. No one put their arm around us and said, ‘Let me protect you, don't do that.’ Everyone was pushing us and we had to learn the hard way. I got victimised at a young age, and then I became a victim, and have the scars to prove it.”
Naturally, those themes of survival, change and strength are also the cornerstones of Youth Authority, Good Charlotte’s comeback album (out July 15), which is coupled with a sound that harks back to classic Good Charlotte, and yes, teen angst for the youth vote (surprisingly, the band’s legacy is so iconic that at shows, the median age is still around 18-years-old). “It just felt like the right time to make a record,” says Madden. “We’re independent and in control. We took it back. It’s ours.” There’s the punk spirit. “I learned that when you put out art, and you go out in front of people, you get ripped apart. But I'm tougher now, I can go on TV and people can criticise me, or say I don't have the right to be there, but I'm at a point now where I don't have to prove anything to anyone.”