"I don’t want to focus on where I’ve been. I want to focus on where I am right now."
Goldfinger have just released their brilliant new album 'Never Look Back' via Better Noise Music.
A collection of classic pop-punk and ska jams that feel as timeless as they do undeniably fresh, it's the sort of record that offers a glimmer of sunshine through the endless grey clouds that have hung heavy over the last 12 months.
We jumped on the phone with John Feldmann to talk about its creation and how important it is to have a positive mindset when it comes to dealing with the things that you love...
How did you know that right now was the perfect time for a new Goldfinger album? What was the catalyst?
“Really, it was quarantine. I was just trying to find things to do 24/7. When this whole thing started, people were really freaked out that if you caught this thing then you were going to die. People were really scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen with my kids or my wife or my mom. All this stuff was stuff was so weird.
“But they say that the idle mind is the devil’s playground, so I knew that if I wasn’t going to be busy and just waiting for all of this to be over I had to do something. So I’m so stoked that I was able to make this album. I just focused my mind on writing songs for Goldfinger rather than other artists. I just thought about what I wanted to say. The thing is that if I make a Hilary Duff album, I’ll want to make a FEVER 333 album next. I never want to get stuck in any genre or do a bunch of heavy or pop albums back to back. I want to be able to be creative, and with Goldfinger there’s nobody telling me to re-record a verse of that the chorus isn’t good enough. It’s just me! I’m the only one who is defining that. It all starts and stops with me.”
Especially in the last 15 years, it’s been about having Goldfinger there ready and waiting for when the inspiration hits and going all in on whatever you want it to be…
“There were times in my life when there were members in the band who would threaten to quit the band if they didn’t get their way. My vision as the main songwriter would then get diluted because of people’s threats. So after about five years of that mentality and people quitting the band and not being happy with the direction I’m going in, I made a decision that this was my project and I wasn’t going to let anybody interfere with the creative process.
“I definitely beat myself up about things musically, but at least it’s my barometer within my creative process rather than someone else who doesn’t understand the vision. I’ve worked with all sorts of bands before. Some bands have a leader who writes everything or there are five people who all have creative control. Every band is different, but with this band I just need something I can control and it’s so great to have it there.”
So what was the first song from this record that started to take shape? How did the extended collection of songs build from there?
“I can tell you that the last song I wrote was ‘Wallflower’. The A&R business side of me was like, ‘Do we have the single here?’ I love that song and it came from a place of love and joy. I’ve been with my wife now for almost 25 years and we’ve been through everything. We built up this amazing life and at one point it felt like I was dominating the world when I signed The Used and Story Of The Year. Then all of that went away and electronic music came up and everything was dubstep and EDM. We had to sell our house and we lost everything. We have been through every-fucking-thing that a relationship can go through and I really wanted to write a song about that. When we first met she was this shy and introverted woman who I fell in love with and that’s why I wanted this song to be about my little wallflower and how she has come out of her shell and become this amazing and independent woman. So I wrote the song initially thinking that it could be my single but then it turned into this really heartfelt moment.
“The beginning of the record was more a case of me going through a whole bunch of songs that I had written for other artists throughout the last three years that I loved but the artists didn’t. So I would think, ‘Could this be a Goldfinger song?’ ‘Standing On The Beach’ is one of those songs and ‘Careful What You Wish For’. Those are songs that I wrote for other artists that they didn’t think were right for them. I love these songs so much I just wanted to put them out in some way. Ed Sheeran did that on his last record in a way and other artists have done it as well. I just knew that these songs were too good to just sit on a computer.
“Then I wrote ‘Cannonball’ pretty quickly afterwards. Then you have ‘California On My Mind’ which is the juxtaposition of ‘Cannonball’ being this fast Bad Religion song into this reggae Hawaiian thing. So those are the four songs that really started it.”
Aside from the romance that exists in a lot of these songs, there are also a lot of songs that feel reminiscent. There are also a lot of moments about enjoying the moments you have right now. There are so many joyous emotions coursing through this album, which feel all the poignant in a year such as this one. Does that make these songs even more special?
“There’s something that I like to do no matter how I feel. When I wake up, and no matter if I’m homicidal or suicidal I am, I say, ‘I love my life’ as loudly as I can. When I was going through a really rough patch and didn’t know exactly what was going to happen with my career, I made a decision that no matter what’s happening in my life I’m going to have a good attitude. There was a friend of mine who had Parkinson’s, he has passed on now, who always used to say,’ The only handicap in life is a bad attitude’. He would say that he could have Parkinson’s with a bad attitude or have it with a good attitude. So for me, I could be stuck in quarantine with a bad attitude or a good attitude. Sometimes you just have to say that life is pretty cool and we’re alive. We’ve all got to think that there’s something better on the other side of this. Because the other way is you being can be negative, bitter, cynical, sarcastic and hating on life, and what does that provide in the end?
“That’s how I wrote a lot of this album. I’ve got to have a good attitude because otherwise my kids are going to suffer, my wife is going to suffer and I’m going to suffer. I don’t want any of that. I choose to run around my block. I choose to work out. I choose to do these things because what other choice do I have?”
The after effects of having that attitude when you go into the studio and turn those feelings into music, that feeling then lives on forever in that song…
“Art is such a funny thing. If you overthink it, it will never get finished. You could spend months on a two-minute song. I just want to make art that feels like it comes from the heart and comes from a creative space of feeling positive. I’ve spent a lot of years thinking negatively. I worked for five dollars an hour selling shoes and the idea that people think that just because I have a career now that it came easily. Life choices that we make first come from the heart and then from an action. I first have to have a thought that I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I want to feel good. Then the action has to come, whether that be meditating or working out or eating healthy. I used to think when I was working for pennies that if I was successful then I would feel different. That’s not true. Successful people believe that they are successful and believe that it’s going to work out and put that out into the universe. All of the stuff that comes with making albums and writing music comes from having that positive mental attitude. It has to always start with some personal positive manifestation.”
The thing that has been consistent throughout all of your hurdles in life has been Goldfinger. And having a band and an outlet like that doesn’t just come from nowhere. It comes from you having to force it…
“In the end, it came down to me either having to make Goldfinger work or live a life in a job that I hated. It just had to work. I believe the ethos of 10,000 hours and that you become a master of your craft when you put that much time into it. It was the same when I was starting out as a producer. I was working with bands who people had never heard of before I eventually found The Used and 5 Seconds Of Summer. I had put those 10,000 hours in. The same comes with playing live shows. The artists who end up having careers are the one who put that time and work in. There are moments when you’re travelling across America on a 17 hour drive to play a show and you realise that there is so much to be done in all of that time between the one hour of fun on stage. Some of the best times in my life have been on those journeys to where I’m going.”
So does ‘Never Look Back’ as a title of this record really define that ethos that you spent all of these years nailing?
“I don’t want to focus on where I’ve been. I want to focus on where I am right now. Everyone has regrets and there are things in my life that I wish I had done differently. I mean one of my best friends, Craig Aaaronson, literally handed me My Chemical Romance and said, “I need you to produce this’. I just didn’t do it for whatever reason at the time. There are things at the start of my life that I would probably change too. I just don’t want to focus on that right now.”