If his bubble burst and all else failed, Benji Madden is sure there’d be more than a few regular jobs waiting for him.
Flipping burgers, working in department stores, tending cash registers, living in small towns. That’s what Madden and his Good Charlotte bandmates were used to before rock stardom.
“One thing I never worry about is money. Because I have my health and my family and I can always go back to work,” Benji said.
“We’ve all had a million day jobs,” the 25-year-old guitarist/vocalist said during an interview at a Manhattan hotel. “We got by fine then. If we’re still here now, we just got lucky and we can afford nice things. But if worse came to worse, we’ve done it before, it’s not like we’re spoiled forever.”
He speaks with confidence because he and his four bandmates — twin brother and lead singer Joel; guitarist Billy Martin, 23; bass player Paul Thomas, 24; and drummer Chris Wilson, 23 — are all budding businessmen. They own and operate two clothing lines (Made and Level 27), a production company (they plan to direct music videos), a record label (DC Flag) and a toy company.
“Between all the stuff that were doing, Billy will always have a job for me and Joel will have a job for me. I’ll pack the toys,” Benji said with a laugh.
“We’re all used to working at McDonalds or Target,” added guitarist Martin, who founded the toy company and recently released a set of action figures resembling the band.
No longer 'young and hopeless'
Wise words coming from five guys whose pasts are filled with broken homes, school bullies, seemingly predictable futures filled with dead end jobs and dreams too big for small towns. Now, nearly 10 years after they formed Good Charlotte, they are no longer the “young and hopeless” punks they once sang about.
The Maryland-bred rockers’ recent release, “The Chronicles of Life and Death,” has sold just shy of 200,000 copies since hitting stores October 5. Their sophomore album, “The Young and The Hopeless,” has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. They’ve toured the world over, and most of them are proud homeowners.
“I’m only 23, but I feel like I’ve lived a lot already,” said Martin. “I had a conversation with my dad and he was telling me how he really felt like I was still the same person. I’ve always felt like that, but it’s nice to hear it from someone like that.”
They may be the same down-to-earth boys with big dreams, but life for these tattooed rockers is anything but ordinary. In a telltale line from the new album’s title track, Joel sings, “These are the stories of our lives, as fictional as they may seem.” It’s a sentiment they all seem to share — especially Benji, who equates his own experience to a “something out of a movie.”
“If you stopped any kid on the street and asked them what their dream life would be, I would say we probably have it,” agreed Martin. “It just actually happened.”
With such cinematic lives, Good Charlotte wanted “The Chronicles of Life and Death” to sound like a movie soundtrack. They even created the CD jacket with that theme in mind, and designed it like a book, complete with Tim Burton-esque drawings done by Martin.
Lofty ambitionsAt first listen, the new album is a departure for a band that is often criticized for sounding too similar to one of their biggest influences, Green Day. But given a chance, the experimental album simultaneously demonstrates the members’ lofty ambitions (the theatrical introduction to the album, a track spoken entirely in Japanese and laid over dramatic strings arrangements, was written by Benji, who has been learning the language) and their humble nature (“The Truth” deals with relationships, while “It Wasn’t Enough” talks about insecurity, faith and self confidence).
“The songwriting process is different on every record because you’re never coming from the same place when you’re writing,” said Benji, whose twin, Joel, penned most of the lyrics. “Each song means something different to each one of us. Were all kind of growing in our own ways. I think that’s what this record is about. It’s about confronting the past, learning from mistakes, there’s definitely things I’ve learned that I’ve had to be responsible for. I think this record says that. About not just running away.”
These days, they’d love to run home, but the demands of their chosen profession keep them on the road. While in New York promoting the new album, Joel had to miss this interview because he was recuperating from nearly being hospitalized for exhaustion, while Chris was suffering from joint aches.
“The weird thing for us now is being home,” said Benji, who was excited about approaching concert dates in his home state. “Maryland is our ‘Cheers,”’ added Billy.
It’s also where Benji would like to move back to when he settles down. But for now, they’ll continue to make platinum-selling records, tour the globe, expand their companies and live rock-star lives.
As much as they can, anyway. “When I have kids,” Benji says, “they’re definitely gonna work.”