Interview: John Feldmann of Goldfinger


This past week I was able to catch up with the ultra-busy leader of Goldfinger, John Feldmann, to discuss the band’s recent re-release of Never Look Back (Deluxe). In this in-depth interview, John and I discussed the legacy of Goldfinger, as well as what lessons he has learned over the years of being a veteran producer. Never Look Back (Deluxe) features great re-worked versions of Goldfinger classics like “Superman” ft. Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro) and “Here In Your Bedroom” ft. Avril Lavigne, among many other great tracks in the 19-song set. Never Look Back (Deluxe) is available everywhere music is sold/streamed today.

So thank you so much for your time today, John! Goldfinger has been a band for nearly 30 years now, and you’ve released eight studio albums, which is an incredible achievement in this music industry, as I’m sure you’re well aware. What do you feel is a legacy that Goldfinger has achieved thus far, while still putting out new music every now and then?

I mean, I’m not dying. <Laughter> Really, I’ve watched so many of my peers I grew up with that have not survived this crazy business that we’re in. And yeah, 30 years, man. It’ll be 30 years in a year and a half. We started at the beginning of 1994, I think. We started in January or February of ‘94. So yeah, we’re coming up on that. I feel like my body is like a history book. I mean, I’ve got this scar over my right eye from when Kelly, our bass player, smacked me with his bass guitar and cut a big gash in my eyes. I still have a scar there. I can bend my pinky back. I was in Dusseldorf, and I put my hand on the barricade to stand on the barricade, and this kid came over and landed on his head and broke my finger, and now I can’t bend it back. I mean, I can bend it all the way here because of that. I’ve had four surgeries on my knees. I’ve had two surgeries on my neck. I feel like that’s the legacy that I have. We go out and we play shows, but I feel like Yoda in the prequels of Star Wars where he goes and he has those big fights, and then he just takes the cane and hobbles off. <Laughter> And that’s kind of what happens for me.

So what keeps you motivated after all this time? I understand that you have the new release, Never Look Back, which is going to be re-released on August 5th.

I think the pandemic was really a big motivator for me. I have a studio at my house, and so I just knew I was gonna be locked inside. And I figured, what else am I gonna do with my time? I write the music, I do all this stuff. So I wrote and did all the guitars and all the vocals. And Travis Barker, who’s my neighbor, came over and he played drums on his stuff. And then I sent it out to Mike Herrera (MxPx) up in Washington to play the bass and do all of his background vocals and sent it off to Phil in St. Louis. So it was a cool experiment! Everyone used their own studios to kind of build out the album, Never Look Back, and if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would have never made the record. I really didn’t have that much time on my hands.

Nice! And I understand you have some other kinds of re-issued type of Goldfinger classics like, “Here In Your Bedroom,” which features Avril Lavine whom you also collaborated with on her Love Sux album. And “Superman” featuring Simon Neil. So what continues to inspire you to work with all these great artists?

I mean, Avril was easy. She was at the house almost every day for the year 2021. And so she was just here, and I just had those songs recorded, I had those three records done. And I just figured it’d be really, really cool to make “Here In Your Bedroom” a duet. And so we turned “Here in Your Bedroom” into a duet, and she just killed it. It sounds amazing. I love the idea of being with a girl in the inner apartment and hooking up with them and then having the girl’s perspective, where it was only my perspective from before. Now it’s like, “What is she thinking?” Which is really cool. Simon from Biffy Clyro, who are probably in my top-five favorite live bands of all time. I mean, Biffy Clyro is this incredible Scottish band. And I did a little bit of work with him in the studio a few years back, and so I just emailed Simon and said, “Do you want to sing on this record?” And he said, “Sure!” And so I said, “You can pick any song.” He chose “Superman” because when he was a kid, he played Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and now that game was hugely influential for him. And so him playing on that song came full circle for him. And then for me, I’m just a big fan of the band. It was amazing!

That’s awesome. So you’ve produced a lot of legendary albums in our scene. The Used’s Self-titled comes to mind. Story of the Year’s Page Avenue, Papa Roach’s The Connection, and we talked about Avril Lavigne’s Love Sux. So, in your opinion, what is a producer’s main role, and what do you feel your strengths are as a producer?

I mean, my main job is to keep the ship heading in the right direction. For example, Avril said, “I want to make a pop-punk record.” So when the songs would come in, there’d be a ballad, or there’d be something that’s a little more rock-driven. It was my job to say, “Hey, let’s stay on track, and let’s stay the course with what your initial concept was, which was to make a pop-punk record.” And so that was my job. But it’s also to be a psychologist, and to be a friend, and to play guitars, and to help write songs, and come up with great anthemic choruses. I mean, my job is pretty all-inclusive. I play a lot of the instruments on most of the records I make and most of the artists I work with want me to write with them. So my job really is all over the place.

So where did the affectionate term “Feldy” come from? A lot of bands I’ve interviewed mention, “I’m working with Feldy on this new record,” when I interview them. So do you remember when that first started?

Yeah, when I was a kid, this guy, Dave Nelson, who’s become probably the biggest surf photographer in the world…I grew up near Santa Cruz in Northern California, and he just started calling me “Feldy,” when I was probably 15. And so he coined the term “Feldy.” And it just kind of stuck!

That’s cool! What’s the biggest difference between writing for Goldfinger and helping other marquee musicians you’ve worked with over your career?

I mean, Goldfinger is a Scott/punk band. Our roots are heavily embedded in Southern California. I grew up on Social Distortion and Black Flag, and then also The Who and The Buzzcocks. I mean, all those bands really influenced me as a kid. Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, too. And so there’s a hybrid of that Anglo-file part of me and the Southern California part of me, that just connects with what we do. And when I work with artists like Atreyu or Black Veil Brides, or even when I work with other kinds of hip-hop-inspired artists like EMG or SWACO, it’s still in my bones. I mean, I grew up. When you’re, like 12 to 17, that kind of music will always be part of you, no matter what. That’s what it is for me. But for Goldfinger, there’s a mission statement of I’m going to be wanting to make a pop-punk album, I wanted to make a ska punk album. And I think I did it. I think we killed it, and Never Look Back and The Knife, the last two Goldfinger records, are some of our fan’s favorite records we’ve ever made. And so you know, I don’t really work with a lot of ska bands. And so I get to get all my ska/punk energy out when I do Goldfinger. And I think the songs are typically under three minutes long, and I can just blast out and do whatever. An album like this, a deluxe record, is going to be an 18-song album, which is pretty awesome.

That is awesome. Is there a certain Goldfinger record that you most look fondly upon?

I feel like on our third album, Stomping Ground, we came into our own. I feel like that record, has “99 Red Balloons” on it, and it’s just like a real right down middle rock record. And I feel like that record is so fun to play live. But I mean, our first record was the album that got me out of selling shoes. I was working in retail. And that was the album that allowed me to do music as a career. So I’ve got an affinity for that record. Our second record is all about my wife, who I met in 1996. And then I wrote that 1997 album about her, and I’m still with her in 2022 so that record means a lot. It’s very endearing to me that all the songs are about her. And I mean, with The Knife, “Million Miles” is one of my favorite songs to play live. “Tequila Sunrise” became a fan favorite, just with the reggae, and Sublime vibes to it. And then with the new record, we’ve never played anything off it live, ever. So I can’t wait to play the songs live and just see how the fans react.

Are there any core memories that stand out from either one of those records that you mentioned?

Yeah, I mean, making “Superman” was such an interesting endeavor. I’ve written the song as part two of a song called “Question” which ended up on Hangups, our second album, and it was really like this long eight-minute song where the two songs connected. And I cut them in half and made Superman a separate song. But yeah, when we were making that song, our guitar player Charlie, had a lot of pushback. He was like, “I don’t want there to be horns on this song.” He will agree to keep it more rock, and so he and I really butted heads a lot making that song in the end. What came from it was this epic guitar lead that he had come up with for the last 16 bars of the song and then the guys from Reel Big Fish did the horn arrangement to go with his guitar part. So what we ended up with was this epic compromise of one of the best guitar lines on any Goldfinger record. And then this great horn section and I remember recording that song and just really butting heads with Charlie. But in the end, everyone was so happy with the way it turned out. So that song is probably our biggest song. Because Tony Hawk put it in his game, and it just became this legendary skateboarding song.

I loved playing that game! What are your most proud moments as a producer?

I mean, there’s been so many, man. Discovering The Used for sure in Salt Lake City and making that first record with them was just one of those moments that I knew was going to change history, and it was right when things got thin in the music business. You had electronic dance music like Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia, and that sound really took over rock. It’s funny, someone suggested I should be DJ Feldy! <Laughter> And I changed my hair, and then 5 Seconds of Summer came into my life. My career had a second or third life to it. was Goldfinger, The Used, Story of the Year, and then 5 Seconds of Summer came along and opened up all these doors in the pop world for me to do all sorts of other things. Then Blink-182 came along, and Travis Barker, my old friend, hit me up and he said, “Hey man, you want to produce our California record?” So, we again changed history with that record. We got our Grammy nomination. We have this platinum album, it’s like we really just killed it. We have two number one songs on the radio with that album, so I really can’t narrow all of that down.

That’s understandable. But first of all, congratulations on all of your success as both a producer as well as longevity with Goldfinger’s success too. After many years of being a vital part of this music scene, what continues to inspire you as a person, vocalist, producer, and artist?

I mean, my kids and my family inspire me the most. On The Knife, I wrote a song about my daughter Mila, and it was like it’s one of my favorite songs we have. And I was so excited. I was so happy we finally put it out on an album. Just having a song about my daughter. Having Josh from Twenty-One Pilots on it was super inspirational, and getting people that I work with outside of Goldfinger to play on Goldfinger records like Travis Barker with California, Save Ferris being able to sing on the record…It’s all those kinds of moments where my two worlds collide. My band and my production life collide. I mean, those are the things that inspire me.

Nice! Any last words for fans of people looking forward to more music from Goldfinger?

Yeah, I hope you liked the Deluxe! I mean, we’re super excited to have all these features on it. To re-release “99 Red Balloons,” we have five new songs on the record. We’re super pumped, so I hope you guys enjoy it!

Thanks so much. It was great connecting with you, John! 

Thank you!