Good Char­lotte’s Benji Mad­den

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By SHARMILA NAIR sharmila@thes­tar.com.my

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.”

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