Young and Hopeful: An Interview With Good Charlotte
Guitarist Billy Martin explains how neither ruining the scene nor a Spinal Tap-like string of drummers has bothered the band.
Good Charlotte guitarist Billy Martin really, really likes to try new things. Just not all new things.
"I absolutely hated the horns," Martin said in reference to "Broken Hearts Parade," a song that appears on his band's latest release, Good Morning Revival, and features a massive, jubilant sound of feel-good horns and power-pop guitar chords as the song begins to reach its climax.
"I protested them as much as I could, but I got voted down. I've never been a fan of that kind of stuff. It's just too '90s. The kids seem to love it because they say it sounds like our first record, but I just can't get in to it. We tried it live once and it was a disaster. For the horns, we used a computer and it was so bad that we just started laughing on stage. We knew that we would never try it again."
One thing that hasn't turned into a disaster on stage is Martin's band's surprising opening slot on pop-megastar Justin Timberlake's Future Sex/Love Show tour that has only recently made its way back to North America. While many die-hard Good Charlotte fans may have been scratching their heads at such a venture, Martin claims a lot of the planning came naturally, considering that he and his bandmates love to -- remember -- try new things.
"Just when you think we can't do anything different, we go and try something different," he said in reference to the choice of tourmate. "We belong to the same booking agency as Justin and when our booking agent came to us and asked us if we would be interested, we immediately said, 'Sure.'
"We never had the opportunity to share the stage with a megastar like that. A lot of bands would be ashamed, but we know that we could never play places like that on our own. We were looking for something different anyways. The show is in the round, which is another thing we have never done before, so everything seems a little warped at times, but it has worked out great.
"Justin's show is absolutely amazing. It's crazy. [It seems like] he and his band have to rehearse for a month straight because he just never stops. We just go on stage and do it, while he seems so professional. It's so good to get this experience under our belt."
As if they really needed any more "experience."
After over ten years of being in a band, Martin and the rest of Good Charlotte have seen it all. From making themselves into an underground pop-punk favorite, to watching pre-teen girls cry upon their every move, to being called every impertinent name one could think of, Martin and his bandmates have been through everything an upstart pop-punk band promises they'll never have to go through. So when a tour like this came around, Martin and his bandmates knew it wouldn't bring anything the boys haven't heard or seen before.
"I could tell why people wouldn't like my band," says Martin with a palpable sense of sincerity. "When we started this band, I was only 17. I was still in high school. We were just fashionable kids writing stupid poppy songs. We used to get upset about all of the criticism, but we love what we do. I have heard people say that this band has ruined the scene, but anymore, I just think to myself, 'Who cares.'
"The music industry really frustrates me. It's pissed me off. Take a look at Alternative Press. We were on their cover five times in one year and then the next year they want no part of us. All they do is trash us. They just did it to sell magazines. It's that kind of stuff that pisses me off."
Martin and his bandmates have also been troubled by their constant problems with finding a full-time drummer. The band's childhood friend Aaron Escolopio played drums for the first five years, but his departure in 2001 (to play with his brother in the sugar-pop outfit, Wakefield) was followed by a revolving door of players.
First, Dusty Brill handled the duties when the Maryland natives were in a bind, then on the band's second album, The Young and the Hopeless, Josh Freese, whom has seemingly played with everyone, manned the kit. It wasn't until 2002 that the band finally found someone they could call a fifth member. And then that was even short-lived as Chris Wilson, because of what was noted as "health issues", left the band in 2005.
"So many drummers come and go with us," Martin said. "It always seems to be the same thing. They will play with us for three months and then want to know if they can be a full-time member. To me, [to play with us] would be the opportunity of a lifetime. I wouldn't be begging for more."
It wasn't until recently that the band finally hired a full-time fifth member, Dean Butterworth. And according to Martin, adding Butterworth, who has become famous for his time spent on the road with Morrissey and as a member of Ben Harper's backing band the Innocent Criminals, should be the last change to a revolving-door lineup that Good Charlotte will ever see.
"We have been playing with him for a year and a half already," Martin said. "We just felt like he deserved it more than anyone else. He is a different kind of drummer and he brings a lot of different aspects to the band. He has a cool drum feel that can be really beat driven. Morrissey actually asked him to go on tour with him recently and he turned him down for us. He's a full-time Good Charlotte member now."
Butterworth's work can be heard on the band's latest effort, Good Morning Revival, an album that is decidedly filled with much more sunshine than the rain clouds that centered around the band's previous effort, The Chronicles of Life and Death. And that, according to Martin, is a sign of the band's maturity. "On this record, I really think we grew up," he said. "The lyrics on the record are more general. Everyone says it's really upbeat, but the first song on the album is called 'Misery', so it can't be that upbeat."
Another sign of maturity on Good Morning is the band's first ever collaborative effort on record with "The River". On the track, the first US single, the band joined forces with pop-metal performers M. Shadows and Synyster Gates from Avenged Sevenfold. And even though this may have been the first time Good Charlotte has ever dabbled into the duet world, the song itself almost didn't even happen.
"We were all just hanging out one day while we were recording this record and we thought we would ask the guys to come down to the studio with us," Martin said. "'The River' was already done. We decided to let Shadows try the second verse and once we heard it, we knew we were keeping it. It's not even a single anywhere else; it was only released in America.
"We were nervous when we played it for the record label. We knew how much we loved it, but we weren't sure how they would respond. But they tripped out, too. So we were really happy about that."
And while happiness doesn't seem to come easy for Martin, his upcoming venture into the world of children's books will hopefully be a quick turnaround from the frustrations he has recently had to go through. This October, Martin is readying the release of his first book, Damious McDreary: A Boy and His Bat, a tale about a boy's journey as he attempts to find his escaped pet bat.
"It's cool to get stuff out there," Martin said. "We are going to release collectible figures along with the book, so I am really looking forward to it. I have had a clothing line for five or six years now, but this will be brand new. It's a good opportunity to get my art out, which is something that I really want to do. It's really the best of both worlds."
And so it goes. With Martin's children's book set for release in the fall, an opening spot on the biggest pop-star in the world's tour and a brand new full-time fifth member, the boys from Good Charlotte indeed enjoy trying new things. That is, as long as there aren't any horns around.