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Monday, June 28, 2010

Interview with Billy Martin of Good Charlotte

Pop-punk act Good Charlotte began scoring hits at the start of this decade with songs like "The Anthem" and "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous." The band is currently touring with the Bamboozle Roadshow (which passed through Pittsburgh earlier this month) and will be releasing a new album, Cardiology, this fall.

Guitarist Billy Martin recently gave us a call to discuss Bamboozle, Billy’s affinity for Michael Jackson, and why the band fired its producer during the making of the new album.

How have the shows been going so far on this tour?
It’s been really fun for us. We’re really playing to some new crowds. We’ve been meeting a lot of the kids, and a lot of them are saying they’ve been fans of the band for 10 years and this is the first chance they’ve had to see us. Maybe they were 10 years old when our first record came out and now they’re 18 or 20 and this is the first time they’ve been old enough to go see us at a show. I don’t think we expected that, but it’s almost like a whole new generation of Good Charlotte fans who are getting to see us for the first time.

Good Charlotte seems to be getting the best reviews on this tour so far, particularly for some of the older songs from The Young & the Hopeless. Why do you think those songs still resonate today?
First of all, that’s cool to know we’re getting good reviews. I think a good song is a good song. There’s so many good songs from decades ago that still generate the same kind of excitement when people hear them. I also think we’ve been playing those songs for so many years and we’ve been touring for so long that when we get on stage we’re the most comfortable. We kind of have that thing figured out pretty well. We just get up there and do that thing we’ve been doing for a couple years. Luckily these sets are 30 minutes so we can just power through a set of all our singles, plus we play one new song.

How do you approach a tour like this when you know you only have 30 minutes on stage?
We’ve done Warped Tour so many times and Warped Tour is 30-minute sets, so we’re used to it. It’s nice because you don’t get tired. When we headline a tour we usually play an hour and a half, so you put a bunch of rock songs up front, chill out with a few ballads in the middle, and bring it back up at the end. You kinda need to take a ride to pace it out. But with this you just go hard for 30 minutes. You just try to keep the audience excited and energetic the whole time.

What’s the current status of your new album? Is everything finally recorded?
Yeah, the new record’s way done, the second incarnation of it. We did it twice. We did it the first time (with producer Howard Benson) and didn’t really enjoy the experience. It didn’t sound the way we expected it would. So we scrapped it and we started back over with Don Gilmore, who we love working with. We knew we could go in and do something great.

We re-recorded about half the songs and wrote another batch of new ones. We finished it and it’s ten times better than the first go-round. It’s all done, mixed, mastered, ready to go, and we’re aiming for September for the release.

Benji had some pretty harsh words for Howard Benson on spin.com. He said that Howard didn’t really care about the record and it was just a paycheck for him. Does the whole band share that viewpoint?
Howard’s one of those guys who has produced all these great records, but his process is that he does multiple records at one time. I don’t see how you can focus on one record when you’re doing multiple records at one time. He kind of has a team of guys who he uses to produce the CD and he just pops in every once in a while to check in on it. We’ve never worked with a producer like that. Every producer we’ve worked with, like Don Gilmore and Eric Valentine, they’re hands-on. They’re in the studio everyday. If you’re there, they’re there. The producer’s a big part of the team.

We were really hesitant to work with Howard because we knew that he’s not so hands-on, but he kept telling us, ‘Trust me, I’ve done tons of records. I know what I’m doing. You’re going to be happy in the end.’ So we trusted him and we weren’t happy in the end. It just didn’t feel right. It felt wrong the whole time. No hard feelings… he’s gonna keep making records and so are we, but his process is just not how we like to make records.

Can you talk about a couple of the songs that stand out to you?
One song that we’ve been playing every night on this tour is called “Like It’s Her Birthday.” I got to do a guitar solo in it. I’ve been pushing to do some guitar solos for years. I got to do a really cool one on that song so that was definitely a highlight for me. It’s a fairly pop song for us. It’s still rock, it’s very guitar-heavy but it’s sort of a real pop melody. By putting a big rock guitar solo in the middle of the song, it gives it a nice edge. I like that fine line between being a rock band and writing pop songs.

Another track I really like is called “First Plane Home.” It’s kinda upbeat, a little electronic-y but really guitar-driven too. Joel wrote it about wanting to get back home to his daughter and his family and if he needs to be, he’ll be on the first plane home. My wife and I had a baby a little over a year ago so I surely relate to those lyrics about having those moments where you just want to be home. If they need you, you’ll be there. Definitely a really good song and a really nice sentiment.

The fact that a lot of you now have families, is that reflected in your music in any way?
Absolutely. There’s plenty of lyrics on this new record that are based around fatherhood and that new sense of responsibility and maturity that we’re going through. It has affected the music. It affects everything. I’m not number one in my life anymore. My family’s number one. Every decision the band makes, you have to think how is that going to reflect how I can take care of my family?

I’ve had my wife and my son out on the tour for a little bit. He has these big giant earphones so it’s not too loud on stage. He sits on stage and points at me and wants to run out on stage and doesn’t understand why he can’t come out. It’s a new feeling when I look over at the side of the stage and I see my son watching like, what is dad doing? It’s like a whole new chapter in my job.

I saw an illustration you did of Michael Jackson in the Thriller outfit. Were you a fan of his?
Oh sure, that’s my favorite artist of all-time. The crazy thing is I drew that maybe 10 days before he died. Which was really weird. I thought, I’ve never done a really cool Michael Jackson piece and I did that Thriller thing. I made posters of it and got some prints made of it. A week and a half later when he died it seemed really eerie. So that drawing is definitely special to me.

Are you working on any other art projects right now?
Yeah I have a comic book that I’m working on right now. I’m not sure when I’m gonna put it out. The name of the comic book is called Vitriol: The Hunter. I’m putting this out through IDW Comics. They do comics for Transformer and Star Trek and a lot of other cool stuff. I co-wrote it with my brother-in-law and I’m gonna be doing all the illustrations. It’s a lot more work then I guessed it would be. Six issues is what we’re doing and it’s 22 pages an issue so it’s a lot of drawing. So that we can put it out on a monthly basis, they would like me to get four issues finished before putting the first one out and I’m just starting the third issue right now.

As soon as I get through another couple of issues we can actually start planning a release date and promotion, but it will be coming out as soon as I can get it finished. It’s been quite a challenge but I love drawing so I’m happy to take it.

Finally, are you guys having as much fun now as when you started touring?
Yeah, it’s like a different fun now. Back then it was innocent, everything was new, everything was mind-blowing. I think 10 years later, the fact that we’re still doing it, it almost feels like this is step two. Those ten years were learning how to do things and learning how to co-exist as five guys who were doing the same thing with different personalities. It’s gonna be harder now that we have families and we’re gonna miss things, but as long as we’re there for each other...

It’s fun because we’ve gotten to a point where it all makes sense now. You don’t have to think about everything. We’ve seen so many bands come and go that aren’t even bands anymore. We just keep thanking our fans, thanking ourselves, our family and everything that ten years later we’re still a band and we’re getting ready to put out a new record. It’s definitely great and I hope that we can keep doing it.

Good Charlotte's album Cardiology is expected to be released in September. Find the band online at www.goodcharlotte.com.


Anonymous said...

Do you love GOOD CHARLOTTE?!? They ROCKED it at Q102 – Watch the video and see the pics here: http://www.q102.com/cc-common/ondemand/

JoJo said...

Dude, GC was at my station in Philly and their set was crazy! Check it out here: http://www.q102.com/cc-common/ondemand/