Interview with Singer, Songwriter and Producer, John Feldmann

My brother first introduced me to punk music when I was in high school (I graduated in 1997 if that tells you anything about my age) and I have been hooked ever since.  Today, my Pandora playlist consists of Today’s Hits Radio, Today’s Alternative Radio, Thumbs Up Playlist (I pay for Pandora Premium and it’s WORTH IT!) and I have stations dedicated to bands like Pennywise, Bad Religion and Goldfinger.  Their lyrics about life speak volumes, and not just because the music is blasting through my speakers (I know, I know, that was lame).

When the Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival came to Tacoma on September 16, 2017, I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Goldfinger front man and legend in his own right, John “Feldy” Feldmann, to talk about his first studio album in nine years, The Knife. I tried very hard not to fangirl as I sat with him backstage in a tent!

John Feldmann and I after our interview. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

The new album isn’t a nostalgia act, it’s the first introduction to the new Goldfinger. With the current band lineup featuring Mike Herrera from MXPX, Phil Sneed from Story Of The Year, and of course, Feldy, the album wastes no time making sure the music is the best Goldfinger has delivered yet.

The album features a host of special guests including guest vocals from Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, 311 lead-singer Nick Hexum, Mighty Mighty Boss Tones guitarist Nate Albert (“Get What I Need”) on guitar, Twenty One Pilots’ Josh Dun on drums (“Orthodontist Girl”), and ONE OK ROCK’s Takahiro Moriuchi, amongst others.

The Knife (Photo Credit: Goldfinger)

The whole album is intense and almost sad to an extent, as John writes about all the emotions life has thrown at him over the last decade or so.  With lyrics woven throughout the album including where did my life go, I lost myself to get what I need, watching the memories I made turn to dust, drinking by myself to forget about us, put the knife away and listen, sending out an SOS my head is a mess, where do I fit in, where were you when the walls came down, and cry me a river but I’m the one who ends of drowning first – just to name a few – you have to wonder how it must have felt to put all your emotions out on paper and then record an album about it!

The Knife is Goldfinger’s first album in nine years. You have been through a lot since then and the album lyrics are intense. Was it therapeutic to write these songs and share your thoughts with your fans?
This album was definitely therapeutic for sure. Going through the catharsis of being a guy in a band, to a producer, to signing bands, working at record companies and working on the other side and then coming back around and talking about the journey – that’s kind of why you start bands in the first place, right? A Million Miles, the first song on the album, definitely shows how fast shit goes. Everyone says life goes by so fast, and it’s true. All of a sudden, I’m an adult and I have kids now. How did this happen? I felt like I had written, Am I Deaf, Liftoff and Say It Out Loud over the last four years and I just needed to do a collection of songs to surround those three, and that’s what we did with this record.

(Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes)

What was it like recording this album with all the guests artists?
Travis Barker is the best drummer of all time. That was my favorite part. We would come in, listen to a song twice, and play it perfectly from start to finish and then say, NEXT! He is the best drummer that has ever lived. Reel Big Fish played horns, Herrera played base….I grew up with all of these guys. MXPX and I played at a radio show in 1996 together, where I met Mike, so I’ve known him for over 20 years now. I signed Phil from Story of the Year to a record label, and these guys are all my friends. Phil is one of the best singers ever.

Is there a reason for the order of the songs on the album? The album ends with a song about your daughter.
For sure, 100%. The last album ended with a song about my son, so this one ended with a song about my daughter. Milla was kind of a last minute addition, because it had a very strings/sappy kind of sound. I knew it wouldn’t fit alongside the other songs, but it works.

Fat Mike, John Feldmann, and Greg Graffin (Photo Credit: John Feldmann)

I think its great. The album itself is intense and just shows that people deal with a lot of shit and listening to this album, people can relate. But then the album ends with basically: it’s all good.
This is my favorite Goldfinger record.  I know everyone says that about their latest albums, but we had nine years to make this. I was in a band called Electric Love Hogs and we broke up in 1992.  I had two years to write Goldfinger’s first record in 1996. With this one, I had nine years to write it. I had more time and a better barometer for what Goldfinger is. When we broke up, we were a ska/punk band. But I love metal and heavy music and so now there are moments in the album that aren’t just ska and punk. Now I know what we are more than I did back then. 

You have been in the music industry for a long time and have seen it change drastically. I think the lyrics for Am I Deaf say it all, but what are your thoughts on going from CD’s and physical albums to live streaming and how social media plays into everything now?
Evolution feels like it moves in one direction. Sometimes I think when I hang out with my kid’s friends that they aren’t getting the same kind of education that I did because there is so much information thrown at them. Everything that has ever existed since the beginning of time is at their fingertips. I had to have an encyclopedia and look shit up. I do feel like when you are on Spotify and you want to hear a Beatles song, or a Bad Religion song and remember these lyrics to a Goldfinger song and its just bam, bam, bam. There is no taking a CD out, putting it in – streaming is the easiest and simplest way to listen to music.

As for social media, I was at a show, some band wanted me to produce them and in between songs, they would have this hashtag number and you could get a backstage pass, and the kids are all on their phones, texting this number. Is this really what music is now?  I think Skrillex is the biggest game changer in music in the last 20 or 30 years.  The guy is incredible and when I see him, people are really there. If you go to pop shows, everyone is filming and it’s just different.  Am I old for writing that song? Am I an old guy that is just out of touch with what it is?  Probably yes and probably no. Part of it is just the idea with how to be friends with people that are also on the internet and also being at a show where you are not plugged in any longer, you are just here.

(Photo Credit: Brittney Rumbaugh)

I think so many people these days can relate to the lyrics on this album, such as trying to figure out where they fit in, losing oneself to get what they need, etc.
That’s the idea of living the artist’s way, always trying to evolve as a writer, a producer and as a guy in a band. We don’t want to rehash the same shit over and over. I have been playing, Here In Your Bedroom, since 1994, so 23 years later, how do I make it interesting and change it? Get What I Need is interesting because I love the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and it’s cool their main writer, Nate Albert, who is now the head of Capitol Records and signed the artist, The Weeknd helped with it. He is a legendary A&R guy and he called me to write a Goldfinger song. Then he came over and now its the second song on the record. When I was growing up, song number two on an album was usually the best song on the record, so it’s all full circle for me.

How did you get hooked up with Fat Mike for Punk in Drublic?
John Reese, who put this together with Mike, used to manage Goldfinger and he is this great friend of mine. He facilitated this, but I’ve known Mike forever and NOFX is one of the top five best bands of all time. For me, its an honor to be a part of this. Bad Religion is definitely one of my favorites as well.

(Photo Credit: Brittney Rumbaugh)

Since this is What’s Up NW, what are your favorite places to do and see in the Northwest?
I really like that Bluebeard Coffee and Valhalla Coffee. I had this German pancake at this random diner in Tacoma called Elmer’s Restaurant. It’s so fucking good.  We always do VooDoo Donuts when we are in Portland. I love Stumptown Coffee too.

http://goldfingermusic.com/music/knife/

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