Dating back to their musical inception in 1994, Goldfinger has been at the helm of the ska-punk rock movement and have cemented themselves as an iconic band. The L.A. based quartet spearheaded and survived by lead vocalist and guitarist John Feldmann has returned with The Knife – the first full-length album in nine years. Feldmann assembled a dream-team lineup for the record, to include guitarist Phillip Sneed (Story of The Year), bassist Mike Herrera (MxPx) and Travis Barker (Blink-182) on the drums. The new album also features several notable collaborations and guest features, and is comprised of 13 rock-solid tracks that are more than worthy of your time.
John Feldmann has constructed quite the resume from a production perspective in addition to the imposing, ever-growing discography of Goldfinger and has officially established himself as one of the most notable producers across the music industry. Most recently, Feldmann was awarded the 2017 Alternative Press Influencer Award in July at the APMA’s. He also produced five tracks on 311’s latest album MOSAIC in addition to working with Blink-182 on their 2016 album California, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album. Feldmann has also previously worked with other artists including Avicii, Anthony Green of Circa Survive, Beartooth, Atreyu, Papa Roach, and many more.
We had the opportunity to connect with John Feldmann for an exclusive, in-depth discussion on the recent release of the first Goldfinger album in nine years released via Rise Records, assembling the new lineup, Tony Hawk’s Proskater, Sublime, production and much more.
Interview: John Feldmann of Goldfinger
The Pier: Congratulations on ‘The Knife’ – we still can’t get enough of it! It had been 9 years since the last release, when did the writing process really begin to take shape? At what point did you know you were writing an album?
Feldmann: Yeah, we had three songs in “Liftoff,” “See You Around” and “Am I Deaf” that were sort of on the way – I’d written “Liftoff” with Rome Ramirez from Sublime with Rome, for SWR, loved the song — they didn’t use it. That was somewhere between 2013 and 2015, I really focused on this record starting maybe a year ago. I wrote “Put the Knife Away,” then I wrote “A Million Miles” and then I wrote “Tijuana Sunrise” back-to-back towards the end of last year and was like, OK. I’m gonna do this.
And then I really started focusing on what a Goldfinger record looks like. I do think the world thinks of us as a ska-punk band like Reel Big Fish or Less Than Jake – which you know, I love ska music and I love these bands, but I’ve always considered Goldfinger to be a punk band. And so, how do I make a record that makes our fans happy, makes me happy, and is true to the legacy of what I’ve created over the last 23 years? We’ve got a couple ska songs, and I had the luxury to be able to bring in Nate Albers of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to write “Get What I Need” – I didn’t have that luxury in 1996, I was just a kid starting out when we put out our first album. We started the band, and I wrote pretty much everything. Now I’ve got this luxury of all these people and to me, I know what Goldfinger is more now than I did then. When I was starting it out, I was like “What are we?” We started out with the idea that Goldfinger was named after a James Bond movie, was going to have a MOD element – somewhere in that Elvis Costello, 80’s, Police, new-wave, post-punk thing. And then it turned into more of like a Bad Religion meets The Specials, and so it kind of morphed. As it became what it ended up being, now I know what that is. Hang-Ups, our second album was kind of a hodgepodge of experimenting with Beatles sounds and more reggae elements – those songs never really worked live. And after years and years and years of touring, I knew what kind of songs would react on a live level.
The Pier: When was the title assigned to the album? We had seen the cover art potentially came from a t-shirt designer you go way back with — how does the cover relate to the overall theme of the record?
Feldmann: Well, when I was working in Santa Monica selling shoes – I had this artist, a kid named Julian who I worked with, and it’s funny my son’s name is Julian – when I first started Goldfinger, when I was still working at that shoe store, he painted a picture. I had an idea, I had just been heartbroken by this girl I was dating at the time. She dumped me for some friend of mine, and I said OK, so the girl has got the knife behind her back, she’s stabbing me in the back and I’m still trying to bring her flowers, you know what I mean? And so, he painted that idea and we never used it for anything, and I always had a debate with some of the old band members, no one ever really related or liked the art. So now that I sort of have free reign to do what I want, I kind of brought it back with a nuance twist of the skeletons. I’m a huge Halloween fanatic! Like a haunted house, scary guy fanatic. I wanted that to be part of what the art was going to be like, so that all connected full circle.
The Pier: That’s awesome! While we’re on the topic, one other album cover that we’ve always found captivating is your self-titled record from ’96 – can you shed some light on how that album cover came together?
Feldmann: Of course! Yeah, I started doing tattoos on the side – Alan Forbes who did the artwork for that album, I played him a bunch of music and he kind of came up with the concept of, again, kind of harking back to the movie culture of the early 60’s. A lot of the bands, especially The Who – thinking about that kind of jumping to planets, old Star Trek feel of what Goldfinger started out to be, like a MOD group. He kind of made the art based on that, like this really great 50’s, 60’s science fiction style-thing. An eternal, emotional, heartbroken musician – I guess this character is me being chased by this larger-than-life personality woman, that I’ve always been plagued by in my real life.
The Pier: You assembled quite the epic lineup for the album. What was it like working with Mike Herrera (MxPx), Phillip Sneed (Story of the Year) and Travis Barker (Blink-182) and how did that relationship materialize?
Feldmann: Travis and I started out together back in The Aquabats days before he was in Blink-182, so I’ve known him forever. And if you think about the history of Blink, you lose a key member – a lead singer, the death of their producer, their changing of labels and it’s just… so much had happened. There was a time for them to figure out what was next, they had done some self-produced and were willing to try someone else. We did a session, we did “Bored to Death” the first day together, and it all connected. And that’s kind of how Travis came back into my life after years, and he’d known me from producing and I’d been spending every day with him, and then him and I are business partners and best of friends and so that was a no-brainer to have him play on the record.
Mike Herrera – I’ve known since we played a radio show together back in 1995, and we’ve just been friends – he’s probably the nicest guy we’ve ever met. Phenomenal bass player, handsome guy, great singer, so he was my first call when our bass player joined Buckcherry and left the band and couldn’t tour anymore — he was my first call when Kelly left.
Phil Sneed is arguably the most overall talented musician I’ve ever worked with, so I just had basically my first call in the back of my mind if I needed a guitar player, Phil’s gonna be the guy. And he was my first call and he said yes, Mike was my first call and he said yes, and I just feel like I’m so fucking lucky to have these guys on the album.
The Pier: “Tijuana Sunrise” is one of our favorite tracks of the year, let alone the album! Really stood out for us – can you provide some insight on the theme of that track and how reggae and ska became the soundtrack for it?
Feldmann: It was a hybrid of my manager telling me, if you write like a modern-day Sublime song, an insanely great modern-day Sublime song, I think the world needs that. So he kind of pushed me and I think Bob Marley’s maybe the greatest artist of all-time, and I grew up on Steel Pulse, Peter Tosh and The Specials and now this has always been part of my life. So, it’s been like a stretch, I mean Goldfinger’s always done reggae songs. In the back of our mind, he kind of pushed me. And I had always wanted to write a song about my experiences as a kid, living in San Diego, drinking in Tijuana. As you get older you realize some of these experiences. I’d been a fucking hope-to-die alcoholic and was drinking for a long time, and they say I survived by seconds and inches. I drank with this guy named El Diablo that ended up being the meth dealer of Tijuana, and I survived but my roommate got kidnapped by this guy. It could have been me, the guy that was kidnapped and tortured… it could have been me. I needed to write a song about that three-year period in my life where I survived.
The Pier: Speaking of Sublime and “Liftoff” that you had mentioned earlier – Nick Hexum was featured on the track. You had recently worked with 311 producing five of their tracks for their latest album, what can you tell us about approaching Nick to be featured on the track?
Feldmann: Nick has been a longtime friend. To be totally honest, I’ve known that guy for a long time, almost 30 years! We toured with 311, and he ended up signing with BMG where I work as an A&R consultant, and they signed there and it was a no-brainer for us. 311 had never collaborated really with other writers, so they invited me in to start co-writing with the band, and it just turned out magical. And I’m sure I would do more with the band and I just said hey man, I would love for you to come in and sing on a track like you do, and so Nick came in sang on the song.
The Pier: Thinking back on all of the production you’ve been at the helm to facilitate and engineer, is there a specific project for you that stands out over others?
Feldmann: The Used, I would say is some of the most seminal, game changing artists in my life as far as a band that had nothing, started from nothing and we took it to turn it into such a seminal sound. Especially today, screamo, metalcore, all of that — bands like Bring Me the Horizon – you can kind of point your finger at what we did with the Used.
The Pier: Gotta ask – do you ever find time to play the original Tony Hawk’s Proskater? We read an interview a couple years ago that mentioned how Tony Hawk was a big fan of the band, the track itself is arguably one of the most famous video game tracks of all-time, wondering if you guys corresponded frequently back then with him or still today?
Feldmann: I’ve never met Tony Hawk, I’ve thanked him hundreds of times! Who knows, I mean that’s the thing about life as Steve Jobs says you can you connect the dots going backwards to see how you’ve gotten here. But I have no idea what my life would be like had I not been in that video game. I know “Superman” is maybe our biggest song because of that video game, so without a shadow of a doubt it helped tremendously. I played Pro Skater a bunch when it first came out when I was a kid (laughs), but I haven’t opened up my Playstation One in a long time.
The Pier: With reggae-rock being such an illuminating genre at the moment, is there any interest in producing more of that sound and are there any such groups of particular interest you’d like to work with in the studio?
Feldmann: Twenty One Pilots are one of my favorite bands – I’m friends with those guys and we’ve worked together. Josh Dunn is one of my best friends, I think that they are certainly the biggest band pushing the reggae, punk, rock envelope for sure. I don’t work with anyone I don’t want to work with, and I only work with people that want to work with me. That being said, MAGIC! had that massive song “Rude” a couple years ago and there’s always reggae influences. Even Skrillex – he’s a friend of mine, when he first started there was honest, reggae influences in his original style of music. It’s always there. And it’s always going to be in my heart and in my spirit. As a kid, the music I grew up on with Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and Peter Tosh, that’s always going to be there. So when I’m producing a record I’ll say hey, we’ll maybe listen to a Bob Marley song and say we could probably take the essence of this, but as far as specifically going after a style of music, that’s not really how I’ve ever worked as a producer. I typically work with people that I think I can help, and I think that can really change the world.
The Pier: One final question we wanted to get your input on as you mentioned Sublime earlier, would you mind sharing the first time you recall discovering Sublime? Do you remember where you were at and your first impression?
Feldmann: I saw Sublime play at Club Lingerie – it must have been 1991ish.. 92ish. And Brad was not sober. I mean to be honest, I didn’t see anything. It seemed he was too drunk to really perform and I didn’t get how it could become what it was, I didn’t understand it. And only in hindsight when you hear his amazing talent as a writer and a singer, he sounds like fucking Smokey Robinson! It was my first impression when I saw him play in front of people in Club Lingerie.
We cannot thank John Feldmann enough for taking the time! If you haven’t listened to The Knife yet, you should probably stop what you’re doing, grab your headphones and fire it up. It’s an epic record with an unreal lineup, grab the album on iTunes today by clicking HERE!
Watch: Goldfinger – “Put The Knife Away” (Lyrical Video)
Listen: Goldfinger – “Superman”
Listen: Goldfinger – “Tijuana Sunrise”