Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden
BENJAMIN Madden is not exactly the most talkative guy on Earth. I know because I had a phone interview with him recently and though it was a pleasant chat, it wasn’t anything super exciting.
Well, it could be because he is rather shy and quiet, or he was just tired from doing all the interviews while in London to promote Good Charlotte’s latest album, Cardiology, released in Malaysia yesterday.
Still, the other half of the Madden twins (his brother is Joel, who is engaged to reality star Nicole Richie) did sound pretty enthusiastic when talking about Cardiology. He chatted about the making of the album, his bandmates and his possible musical side project.
“I’m excited about the new album. We started writing last year and went into the recording studio in September. We worked for a couple of months on it,” said Benji, who doesn’t sound like a “tough guy” over the telephone at all.
For all the muscles and tattoos he carries, you would expect Benji to sound tough, but he turned out to be a mildmannered rock star. On the phone, at least.
The boys worked doubly hard on the latest album, but stopped mid-way last year during pre-production when the music direction wasn’t going their way. They took a break and went back into the studio earlier this year with not just a different mindset, but a new producer and new outlook, too.
“Over the past few years, most of us had started families and had so many new experiences. So, with this record we wanted to take that wall that we may have had in the past down, and let our fans back in again like we did on our earlier albums,” he said.
“I love everything we have done, but we kind of had our defenses up on some of those albums, whereas on this one we decided to write from the heart and be vulnerable again.”
The band from Maryland, US, is made up of Benji (on rhythm guitar), Joel (lead vocals), Paul Thomas (bass guitar), Billy Martin (lead guitar, keyboard) and Dean Butterworth (drums). Good Charlotte was formed over 10 years ago and was initially labelled a pop-punk act.
The boys have produced hits such as The Anthem, Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous, Keep Your Hands Off My Girl and many others.
Cardiology is the band’s fifth full-length album, released approximately a decade after their self-titled debut hit the streets.
“We were kids when we first started out and we have all matured differently. I don’t cringe when I look back, definitely. I just smile and remember the phases that we went through as a band. We are kind of the same people but we look different from when we first started,” said Benji, obviously reminiscing the days when the band took on a “goth” image.
The band is known for their face-painting (for a lack of a better word to describe the tear-shaped drawing under Benji’s eyes), spiky hairstyles and tattoos. Now, the boys are clean shaven and only the tattooes remain.
“Nothing has changed much with us when it comes to our work. We have the same work ethics though we have learned not to waste time and to go with our instincts,” he said.
Benji also admits that all those years under the spotlight and public scrutiny have taught him to not take things to heart; that the critics can be harsh and never to let the negativity cloud his passion for music.
“When we first put out our album, people said that we wouldn’t last and that it was contrived and not real. I asked myself ‘ Why do they say that?’. We started out in the garage and it was almost a miracle that we got a record deal,” said Benji.
Such negative response frustrated him as a young man but being in a band did help push him forward and ignore the critics.
“It helps being in a band and that we all went to the same high school. Having that history among us helps, and makes us better friends and bandmates.”
Good Charlotte has gone through a couple of line-up changes since its inception, with the latest member, Dean, joining in 2005. Since then, the band members have remained close-knit, though Benji admits that there are some tough times.
“We stick it out, and we have never been on the verge of a break-up. It has made us closer.”
It also helps that the band members are on similar wavelength and agree on almost everything, especially when it comes to music.
“We may have different ideas, but we all have similar goals. Joel and I agree on pretty much everything and the band has three other guys who support us and our decisions,” said Benji.
The twins are busiest when it comes to promotional tours, doing the bulk of the interview sessions and other stuff. But when it comes to getting the record out and going on tour, the rest of the band members pull their weight.
“Opportunities come along and people could bail on the band and look out for themselves, but we’ve all stuck it out and that gives me faith that I’ll be able to do that in my own life.”
Though Benji is content with his work with Good Charlotte, he does occassionally dream of embarking on a solo project as a singer-songwriter.
“There are some songs that I would like to do that I can’t put on a Good Charlotte album. But the good news is that I can still always make them and put them online for my fans to listen to.”
Currently though, Benji is focusing solely on Good Charlotte. Cardiology, Benji said, is the end product of a band that knows how to communicate and have never sold each other out.
“Getting to the point where we could make Cardiology took 15 years of work, but there are some situations where time is the only ingredient and you can’t rush it. That’s what this album is all about to me and I think our fans will recognise and appreciate that, too.”