If Joel Mad­den – leader of Good Charlotte, co-owner of man­age­ment com­pany MDDN, and mu­sic in­dus­try men­tor – ever fan­cied a change of ca­reer, he’d make a won­der­ful life coach. Within five min­utes of Ker­rang!’s catch-up with the 39-year-old mogul, Joel has al­ready hap­pily preached about the im­por­tance of “get­ting back up ev­ery time you fall”, “be­liev­ing in your­self”, and “keep­ing your head down and work­ing hard”.

It’s an at­ti­tude that has fol­lowed Joel through­out his life – from co-found­ing Good Charlotte back in 1995 with his twin brother Benji, right up to this year’s Gen­er­a­tion Rx al­bum (the band’s sev­enth full-length over­all, and sec­ond since re­turn­ing from a four-year hiatus in 2015).

“For the most part, we don’t ad­ver­tise our failures. We just try to build on our suc­cesses,” the front­man sug­gests as K! in­ter­rupts him from – what else? – a hard day’s work. “Ev­ery­one de­serves to be able to fail, but then if you keep try­ing for long enough, good things can hap­pen. Even­tu­ally you can look back on your ca­reer and be proud of it.”

In­deed, while Joel has ma­noeu­vred through the tricky life­style that comes with fame and be­ing mar­ried to an­other celebrity (ac­tor Ni­cole Richie), he’s built more than just a fruit­ful liveli­hood with Good Charlotte. Both Mad­den broth­ers have be­come the go-to guys for ‘mak­ing it’ in mu­sic, hav­ing a hand in steer­ing the suc­cesses of the likes of this week’s cover stars Ar­chi­tects, Wa­ter­parks, Sleep­ing With Sirens and many more. All the while the pop-punks have con­tin­ued to build on the al­ready-im­pres­sive foun­da­tions Good Charlotte cre­ated with 2000’s self-ti­tled al­bum, and its 2002 fol­low-up, The Young And The Hope­less.

Fol­low­ing three more records – 2004’s The Chron­i­cles Of Life And Death, 2007’s Good Morn­ing Re­vival and 2010’s Car­di­ol­ogy – the group took a break to step “away from

the grind”, but this time wasn’t wasted: Joel ex­panded his CV fur­ther, join­ing The Voice TV show in Aus­tralia as a judge in 2012 (Benji later fol­lowed suit af­ter three sea­sons), and re­leas­ing The Mad­den Broth­ers’ pop-rock al­bum Greet­ings From Cal­i­for­nia two years later.

“What we set out to ac­com­plish was just to try to do our best and to do what mat­tered to us,” he re­flects. “We wanted to get across that any­one can do it if they be­lieve in them­selves, and they work hard for long enough…”

When Good Charlotte started out, did you feel like you were treated dif­fer­ently to the rest of the bands in the scene?

“From my per­spec­tive, Good Charlotte was al­ways a lit­tle on the out­side of every­body, and I didn’t al­ways know where we would fit in. We weren’t ex­actly like all the other bands in the genre, and we weren’t nec­es­sar­ily the ‘face’ of a genre ei­ther. We weren’t al­ways in­cluded in cer­tain things, and people didn’t know what to do with us. We were just dif­fer­ent, and I to­tally un­der­stand that now. When you’re young, you wanna be in­cluded – and some­times we were, some­times we weren’t – but we al­ways ac­cepted that as the fate of our band. Good Charlotte were never nom­i­nated for a GRAMMY, and that was some­thing that I al­ways found my­self wish­ing for, but I ac­cepted that we just are what we are. We can’t be any­thing else, and if we ever tried it never felt right, so we had to just be our­selves and be happy with the re­sults. As a band, we learned how to be re­silient, and we learned how to keep go­ing. I think the great­est thing about Good Charlotte is that we al­ways get back up. Over a long pe­riod of time people will look at the high­light reel, but in be­tween are the low­lights, and I think those are the ones that are the most im­por­tant. If a band can move through the dif­fi­cult times and sur­vive this hard in­dus­try, then that’s re­ally what de­fines them. We’re in an in­dus­try that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily lend it­self to bands suc­ceed­ing, so you have to have the stom­ach to push for­ward.”

Was there ever a point where you felt like you fi­nally fit­ted in?

“We un­der­stood it later on, when we re­alised that the most im­por­tant thing that we could do was be true to our­selves. On each record, we had to block it all out and make the mu­sic that we felt, and that was al­ways when we got the best re­sponse from fans. Hon­estly, the first four al­bums were all sim­i­lar, but I think we stepped off the path a lit­tle bit on our fifth record [2010’s Car­di­ol­ogy]. It was a dif­fi­cult time. I wouldn’t change a thing, though, be­cause we wouldn’t know what we know now if we hadn’t made that record. I love the record for that rea­son, be­cause I can hear us strug­gling. We learned to stay true to our feel­ings and let the rest sort it­self out. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate hav­ing to go through that experience.”

Was it hard to cre­ate mu­sic with that whirl­wind sur­round­ing you?

“When I was younger it was hard, be­cause I didn’t quite un­der­stand the whirl­wind of it all. I was prob­a­bly a lot more in­se­cure about my­self, and I wasn’t sure about the fu­ture. We love Good Charlotte, and we wanted us to be liked, and we wanted to earn people’s re­spect. So when you’re young and you’re go­ing through

all that stuff, there’s a lot of pres­sure – both self­in­d­uced and out­side – as well as the per­sonal, emo­tional side of just grow­ing up. At this stage, be­cause I’m in a dif­fer­ent place, I can look back and re­flect on that with some real per­spec­tive. We were im­per­fect, and we were just fig­ur­ing it out, but I think – whether we be­lieved in our­selves or not – we were al­ways am­bi­tious, and al­ways hun­gry to try to achieve things.”

What was it like be­ing so young and sud­denly sell­ing mil­lions of records?

“In the early suc­cesses, I don’t think we ac­tu­ally re­alised what we were achiev­ing for our age. I don’t know if we fully ap­pre­ci­ated it, in the sense of how dif­fi­cult that could be, or what that meant. But I think what we re­ally did ap­pre­ci­ate, com­ing from noth­ing and hav­ing noth­ing, was all of a sud­den we were con­sid­ered valu­able. We hadn’t felt that way our whole lives, and noone ever treated us like we were spe­cial. And then all of a sud­den ev­ery­one does – that was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing experience. Work­ing that out can be pretty con­fus­ing, as well as ex­cit­ing. It’s ev­ery­thing – it’s all good and bad, all in one.” Were you com­fort­able with the sit­u­a­tion, sud­denly be­ing thrust into the spot­light? “I never re­ally was – and I’m still not. I think I’ve learned how to man­age it in a way that I do feel com­fort­able, and I kinda nav­i­gate out­side in­ter­est in my life. I al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate in­ter­est in my mu­sic, my work and my craft. I gen­uinely feel like I want to make the time for people who ac­tu­ally like the things that we’re do­ing. The other stuff, though; the in­ter­est in me as a per­son, or my per­sonal life, I’ve al­ways been un­com­fort­able with. I’ve tried to find the bal­ance with shar­ing what I feel like I can, be­cause I do un­der­stand it. But I’ve al­ways tried to nav­i­gate through it. As I’ve got­ten older, I’ve learned that I don’t want to be com­bat­ive with people. But I try to work around it.”

You were al­ready fa­mous in the rock world, but then you joined The Voice Aus­tralia as a judge in 2012 and be­came more of a house­hold name. How does that level of celebrity com­pare?

“It’s a weird place to ex­ist. For me, the ‘rock’ suc­cess is what I en­joy and un­der­stand the most. The more kind of ‘mass ap­peal’, ev­ery­day people know­ing who you are, but not nec­es­sar­ily know­ing your mu­sic, is un­com­fort­able. But I’m sure I don’t have it as bad as other people. I get a lit­tle bit more of a bal­ance. Cer­tainly at times it can be­come a stress that you just have to man­age, es­pe­cially when you’re talk­ing about your kids and your wife. I’ve al­ways wanted a fam­ily life that’s very sa­cred to me; it’s the most im­por­tant thing in my life, and I have tried re­ally hard to pro­tect that. At times, though, people can in­vade your pri­vacy, and you have to kind of re­spect a lit­tle bit that that’s part of the game. You have to teach your kids that this wasn’t their choice, but it’s our life. Hope­fully we deal with it with no stress or drama.” If you had the op­tion to make that side of your life go away, would you take it? “If I’m be­ing hon­est, ab­so­lutely. It’s some­thing that you can’t say, though, be­cause what that im­plies is that you don’t ap­pre­ci­ate your suc­cess. And I never want any­one to think that I’m an­gry, be­cause I’m not. But if I could have all of the mu­sic suc­cess with­out some of the cir­cus of celebrity? Then of course. But we were the guys who said, ‘Life­styles of the rich and fa­mous,’ you know? ‘They’re

al­ways com­plain­ing.’ And I think we hon­our that. I re­spect that we kinda asked for it, and we have to live with it. But if you were just ask­ing me that ques­tion, and it was a real choice, then ab­so­lutely. I’m not in­ter­ested in the cir­cus of it all, but I un­der­stand the way the world works. So I just try to keep my mouth shut these days, and live my life, and be the best I can be. I think any­one who’s grown into them­selves as a per­son can un­der­stand it’s a lit­tle ridicu­lous. It’s all be­come people try­ing to get im­pres­sions and clicks and eye­balls and likes. They’re just try­ing to catch a sec­ond of you re­act­ing or what­ever, and that’s kinda silly. I don’t think that’s the ma­jor­ity of people, though. The ma­jor­ity of people are self-re­spect­ing, and they re­spect you as well.”

Did grow­ing up out in the woods in Wal­dorf, Mary­land im­pact your re­ac­tion to fame?

“We grew up in a work­ing class place, with work­ing class people, and they have a lot of val­ues and prin­ci­ples. We didn’t grow up in a place that was very ma­te­rial – it was more about

who you are and what your name means. That

def­i­nitely gave us a set of val­ues that we car­ried with us, and that we still do, that have kept us on our path. It would have been very easy for us to stray from the path and get caught up, but I think those core val­ues al­ways stayed with us, and we put more value in the things that we want, and less value in the things that we don’t quite un­der­stand. So yeah, I def­i­nitely think that all of us com­ing from the work­ing class made us work­ing class guys, and we still are. We still have that ap­proach. People can say, ‘No you’re not,’ and I un­der­stand why they’re say­ing that, but at the heart of who we are, we’re a work­ing class band.”

And yet you and Benji have now built a busi­ness em­pire to­gether in MDDN…

“We feel a huge con­vic­tion to prove that it’s pos­si­ble for two kids from the mid­dle of nowhere, with no ed­u­ca­tion and no-one back­ing us, to suc­ceed. We al­ways look for­ward, and we al­ways go, ‘How can we con­tinue to build some­thing spe­cial and mean­ing­ful, and show other people that they can, too?’ So far, the blue­print is just: work hard, be nice to people, be hon­est, be con­scious, and be­lieve in your­self, and be­lieve in other people – be­cause it does take a group of people to win to­gether. Our com­pany, while it is our name, is re­ally more about the people that work there, that share the same ethics and val­ues, and the fans that be­lieve in it. It’s re­ally about ev­ery­one. We’re only as good as the bands who work with us and be­lieve in us like we be­lieve in them. We just feel con­victed – like we have to do this. It’s never not been an op­tion to keep try­ing to af­fect cul­ture in a pos­i­tive way.”

When it comes to mak­ing busi­ness de­ci­sions with Benji, how do you go about it: from the per­spec­tive of busi­ness part­ners, or as twin broth­ers?

“These days we don’t re­ally dis­agree, we just have con­ver­sa­tions, and will leave it un­til we’ve come to a de­ci­sion. We both have to agree in prin­ci­ple, and then there are var­i­ous de­tails [to iron out], but we’re both process-driven. We will go around on some­thing a few times, and if both of us don’t feel it, then we’re not do­ing it.”

What’s the big­gest les­son you’ve learned from your work at MDDN?

“In the past we’ve each made de­ci­sions that both of us didn’t nec­es­sar­ily feel, but one of us had talked the other into it. We’ve now re­alised that we both al­ways come to re­gret those. We only came to that re­al­i­sa­tion over time: that we do just go by feel­ing. If you do not feel some­thing, you shouldn’t do it. If you don’t know it in your heart, you shouldn’t do some­thing. It doesn’t mat­ter how good it sounds, it doesn’t mat­ter how much money some­one tells you you’ll make. The money will never mat­ter. You can lit­er­ally make money and feel bad about how you made it later, so you should ab­so­lutely al­ways fol­low your heart, and trust your gut in­stincts. The more you do that, I truly be­lieve the hap­pier and more suc­cess­ful you’ll be in life. And the more grounded and set­tled you’ll be, too. To me, that’s ev­ery­thing. If you can stay calm and you can be happy, then that’s real power.”

What sort of wis­dom can the artists that you man­age ex­pect to have im­parted on them?

“When we talk to younger artists, like Aw­sten [Knight, Wa­ter­parks], or the guys in Chase At­lantic, the mes­sage isn’t that we know all the an­swers. We’re ex­tremely lucky to be work­ing with such tal­ented, hard-work­ing artists who are also con­scious and agree with us on cer­tain val­ues and ethics. They want to be in­di­vid­u­als, and they don’t wanna go the way of the stan­dard. They want to be dif­fer­ent; they want to be spe­cial. And we en­cour­age that kind of think­ing, with the idea that, ‘When you’re hum­ble and you work hard, people will be happy when you win.’ It’s a long road – it’s a marathon, ac­tu­ally – and you just have to show up ev­ery day.”


What is the proud­est achieve­ment of your life so far?

“My chil­dren and my wife. I’ve been with my wife for 12 years, and my kids are re­ally spe­cial people – they make me proud ev­ery day. They sur­prise me ev­ery day. And my wife… I just love who she is. I be­lieve in her as a per­son, I love her val­ues, and I love what she stands for in the real world. It’s in­ter­est­ing, be­cause I think there’s this idea of who she is. And, to me, the great­est joke that any­one’s ever played on the world is who people think she is, com­pared to who she ac­tu­ally is. It’s re­ally spe­cial, and im­pres­sive that she’s been able to live these dual lives. I’m so proud of all my fam­ily – my broth­ers and their wives, too. What we have as a whole fam­ily is very spe­cial, and I’m so proud of that – and that’s as real of an an­swer that I could ever give any­one. I usu­ally wouldn’t even talk about that stuff, but that’s 100 per cent the truth.” And ca­reer-wise what are you most proud of?

“Good Charlotte have never com­pro­mised who we are. We’ve sur­vived. It’s al­most like the mu­sic busi­ness had all these big ex­tinc­tions – like cli­mate change or some­thing – and we sur­vived all those changeovers. To still be mak­ing the mu­sic that we’re mak­ing, and still be to­gether 22 years later, and still love each other, is a huge ac­com­plish­ment. It wasn’t al­ways easy not know­ing what the fu­ture held for us, when ev­ery­one’s telling you that, ‘It’s over,’ or, ‘Mu­sic’s changed now,’ or, ‘This doesn’t age well.’ But we stuck it out to­gether, we fol­lowed our hearts, and we landed in a place where we’re happy to be. I once thought it was over, and it now feels like it’s only just get­ting started.” K!


Black was a bad choice

Good Charlotte de­mand re­funds from their bar­ber The search for a de­cent hat goes on…

Like but­ter wouldn’t melt…

Good Charlotte didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate our at­tempts at hu­mour

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