Disconnection Notice, the California band’s fifth full-length album, is a major departure from the group’s past and a big step toward something great and new. It’s mature, it’s power-pop, it’s subtle, and it’s a lot of things you wouldn’t expect from one of the most influential punk bands of the past decade. We interview frontman John Feldmann.
How’s the road?
It’s been great.
Do you still get amped up to hit the stage?
Oh yeah. I mean we don’t have the Green Day record sales so if kids weren’t still having a good time I wouldn’t be out here.
You have your diehard fans, but it must be cool to pick up new fans.
Our shows have younger and younger fans even as some records might slip in record sales so I think that speaks a lot about the internet.
What is most interesting about Goldfinger is that you guys were out playing your punk-pop style before it became trendy.
I’ve always played music that I liked. I always wanted to be a hybrid of Joe Jackson, Squeeze, and the Buzzcocks and with that South California feel to it. I like the broken hearted, better off dead, Breakfast Club mentality. When we came out Green Day was starting to explode and Rancid was taking off. It was interesting to see Blink-182 open for us and Good Charlotte in the crowd singing every word and coming up and stage diving and then become a platinum band. Then Simple Plan opened for us and then they became a huge pop, whatever they are. All the sub-genres around it like Yellowcard has their own twist on it, My Chemical Romance has their own twist.
And I’ve spoke to those bands and they always mention you guys as bands they idolized.
Yeah, I mean we aren’t icons, we’ve stayed on club tours and I think that has given us the longevity. In ‘96 we played 396 shows consecutively and that’s like a world record.
Is it interesting, because you mentioned the Buzzcocks, and a lot of these new punk bands don’t know the history of punk.
I don’t know if I could compare myself as a music fan now compared to when I was in school. Because I work with other bands I try to listen to the radio and figure out what people are listening to but I really did the research as a kid. When I was a kid I saw Social Distortion in 1981 or 1982 and a lot of great bands in the Bay Area and that it wasn’t that far off from the Sex Pistols. To go that far back for a kid now is a lot different than when I was a kid going back 3 or 4 years. For me the Sex Pistols were the first true punk rock band, for me. Some people claim the Ramones and the New York Dolls, but for me the Sex Pistols were the group that made me want to play punk rock.
The same for me. I came in around the Exploited and Black Flag and then worked my way backwards. Things are a lot different now with the major labels.
Yeah, when I was a kid there were only a few like Frontier records, SST, and Alternative Tentacles. I could look in Thrasher magazine and find the bands. Every label had their own sound. There weren’t that many. Now you can have a sixteen year old kid who doesn’t hear Ska anymore and then goes and starts his own Ska label.
When I talk to bands they talk about Goldfinger being a really tight band that knows how to play their instruments. Is that weird, I mean there is this thing where punk rock bands aren’t seen as good musicians.
(Laughs) You know when you are growing up you learn how to play from the bands you like—Obviously if you are a Dillenger Escape Plan fan you are probably going to play your instrument better than if you are a Goldfinger fan. (Laughs)
Or if you are a Van Halen fan and you can riff like Eddie. Although the guitar solo has become a lost art.
It may be coming back. Thrice really said they were going to bring that back for the Iron Maiden style and that has really had an affect at Emo shows. I go to a lot of Emo shows and fans will put their hands in the air and twiddle their fingers kind of like when a good guitar solo happens. There are good bands like Eighteen Visions who are guitar oriented.
It must have been great growing up in So. Cal with all those great artists in that scene.
It was, but my parents were really strict. I remember when my parents brought me down to a Dead Kennedy’s show on Broadway in San Francisco and I was twelve and I dressed up like a punk, where I grew up was suburban—there were maybe three punks in our whole city. So my parents brought me down there and all these people were in line sparing for change and these junky people, gays, and lesbians. It was a eclectic group and my parents said “you aren’t going in.” I was so f**king pissed. I saw them the next year at the Democratic convention in ’84. I went to a bunch of good shows like GBH, Suicidal Tendencies, the Exploited, and I saw Social Distortion more time than I can remember. That Dead Kennedy’s show was one that always sticks out. I saw a DVD of that show and my friend Evan, who I was supposed to meet at that show, was on stage the whole time.
Has songwriting gotten easier for you over the years?
Not really, I mean I just write what I feel. Unless you have something to sing about it’s going to be a f**king disaster. It has to come from your heart. I’ve tried to write for other people when I’m not inspired and it is terrible.
I guess if it were a science someone would have figured out the formula and we’d all be songwriters.
That’s really the thing isn’t it? How inspired can “Louie Louie” be? Yet everyone in the world knows that song. There are people like Linda Perry for instance who has a gift to write on command. I feel like I’m a songwriter, but I look at people like her who wrote the song for Pink and Christina Aguilera and No Doubt song and are so different in styles but yet amazing songs. She is a truly gifted songwriter. I feel like I’m still developing as a songwriter.
Carole King is one of those people who seemed to be able to write on demand.
Exactly. Paul Westerberg and Ani Difranco are my favorite lyricists of all time and Paul McCartney is my favorite songwriter of all time. I use Linda Perry as an example because she is really an anomaly. She had that hit in the early ‘90s and then she came back. I heard Westerberg’s last record and I’m not a big fan because something has gone missing. I’m so impressed by Linda Perry because she is able to tap into the passion of a 23-year-old. I don’t know that I could do that. When you hit thirty your body changes and the things you were once willing to die for has changed.
Check out Goldfinger’s official site: (www.goldfingermusic.com)
+ Charlie Craine