Young and Hopeful: An Interview With Good Charlotte

Colin McGuire

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.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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