There are a lot of things the guys in Goldfinger do really well, but we’ll name just a few of the most important ones. They consistently throw one of the most exciting live rock shows you’ll ever witness. They have set world records (case in point: the act holds one for performing the most shows in one year). Their frontman John Feldmann produces hit albums for numerous rock artists such The Used & Story of the Year. And, as the Southern California-based foursome’s extensive back catalog of a dozen years proves, they know how to write great songs!
This year’s installment is no different — it’s dubbed Hello Destiny, and for the Goldfinger purist, it really can’t get much better than this. That’s because Hello Destiny not only marks the return of guitarist Charlie Paulson, who was active with the band during their formative years, it also marks Goldfinger’s return to its earlier sound, including the reincorporation of its more “classic” elements into its well-traveled punk foundation.
“I wanted to make more of an old-school Goldfinger record, like Stomping Ground meets our first album, with a bit of ska.” says vocalist/guitarist/über producer Feldmann. “Now, we’ve never been a ska band per se, but I mean we definitely got our fanbase from a ska-punk following.”
The roots of Hello Destiny’s material lie just after the release of the band’s previous album, 2005’s Maverick-released Disconnection Notice. Feldmann had begun writing while touring for Disconnection Notice, penning some 40 songs before eventually paring it down to the final dozen that are found on the album.
Feldmann even regrouped with Paulson, who had exited the band during the sessions of 2002’s Open Your Eyes. “He didn’t want to make a pop-punk record, he wanted to make a heavier album,” Feldmann says. “We became tight again and we started talking almost every day.” And after the band parted ways with its guitarist at the time, Paulson re-entered the line-up.
“Me coming back isn’t just about a wayward son coming home as much as it is about the band rediscovering where it started,” says Paulson.
There was only one problem: Goldfinger became a band with enough material for a new album, but no record label with which to release its latest wares. Enter SideOneDummy label heads Bill Armstrong and Joe Sib.
“When Maverick disbanded as a label, it just felt like my relationship with these two guys and where they’re at, and as far as the other bands that they work, it just seemed like with me spending a lot of time with my family and producing other records, I felt like this was the perfect fit,” says Feldmann. “They love our band and we’re definitely going to go out there and work the record.”
With a label secured, Goldfinger began writing and recording Hello Destiny with its near-original line-up, which includes bassist Kelly LeMieux (“It’s as original of a line-up as Goldfinger’s ever going to be,” says Feldmann) in ’07, largely around Feldmann’s incredibly hectic production schedule. The album’s sessions was wedged in between Feldmann’s recording commitments (which included albums for The Used, Atreyu, Lostprophets, Josephine Collective and Beat Union). “Matt, my engineer, would come in and record guitars,” Feldmann explains. “We’d finish around midnight, and then he’d come in and work until 4 a.m. with Charlie. And then I’d start at 10 in the morning. We were doing those kind of nights.”
“I felt more involved in this record than I ever have in a Goldfinger record,” adds Paulson.
During the Hello Destiny recording process, Feldmann tried to remain as hands-off as possible. “I wanted everyone to be able to play whatever they wanted, because I can sometimes have a little bit of an iron fist since I’m a producer and I know what I want,” he says. “And being a producer in his own band can sometimes be a little overwhelming for other band members.”
But the album’s schedule did allow for several guests to make cameos on various tracks. The Used’s Bert McCracken and former Save Ferris vocalist Monique Powell contributed vocals to “Handjobs For Jesus,” vocalist Ian Watkins (from Lostprophets) sang on “War,” all the members of the Josephine Collective contributed backing vocals on “Goodbye,” plus Ray Cappo of Youth of Today and Shelter fame (who is also Feldmann’s yoga instructor) and Feldmann’s two-year-old son made their own vocal contributions as well.
The themes on Hello Destiny range from songs about Feldmann’s family, animal rights, and “even a couple f__k you jams on there, too. I try and only write when I’m inspired rather than force some shit,” says Feldmann.
Hello Destiny opens with “One More Time,” the album’s first single, which features the pop-punk fury that Goldfinger’s best known for — and the uptempo nature is bound to stir up a pit at every show. “That song to me encapsulates where we’re at with this band and this record,” Feldmann says.
Reflecting upon the introductory lyrics, “Everyday is just the same, there’s nothing inside,” Feldmann remarks, “It’s like, everyone’s just taught what to do, you just follow orders, you go to school and do the homework for whatever class. And it’s like step to the left, step to the right. The lyrics are very much about what we’re against, which is being an individual and standing up for what you believe in, even if it’s not the world consensus.”
One of Goldfinger’s strong stances comes in the form of “Free Kevin Jonas,” referring to the imprisoned animal rights activist (Feldmann himself is an animal rights crusader who has been the target of law enforcement in the past) who is serving five years for posting phone numbers of vivisectionists and those who funded animal testing at a laboratory. Feldmann obtained some of Jonas’ writings and included it in the liner notes of the album. “It’s a motivational thing about people who are scared to keep the struggle going,” Feldmann says. “It’s obviously a First Amendment case because it’s about freedom of speech and about Kevin saying that ‘I believe this is wrong.’ I went to visit Kevin about two weeks ago in a prison north of Minneapolis and he wrote this thing, and for me it’s really inspiring. He’s a 30-year-old guy who’s in prison with a bunch of rapists and child abusers. And he’s in prison, a guy that basically loves animals and all he’s doing is trying to protect animals with his website. He wrote this inspiring thing about not giving up the fight and the struggle that he has in prison. I just feel like he needs to be heard. He’s got my favorite voice — he’s the guy for animals. I felt like it was appropriate to put his comments in there.”
“Get Up” is one of Hello Destiny’s uptempo songs that’s also written about animal rights and against animal testing. “It’s about not being scared,” Feldmann says. “I mean, if someone is going to do it, why isn’t it you?”
The album title Hello Destiny has numerous connotations. Taken from a lyric in “One More Time,” Feldmann explains that the title itself marks a return to familiar ground. “We’re kind of back to Charlie being back in the band,” he says. “We’re going back to our roots. Disconnection Notice is definitely more of an experimental album. And this record is very old-school Goldfinger. It’s like, say hello to our destiny, which is going back to our roots. In fact, the album cover is drawn by the same artist who did our first album cover.”
Though the members of Goldfinger see Hello Destiny as an exciting return to their roots, the band is equally excited about delivering their newest creations on stage. “I want to be entertained,” says Feldmann. “If the band is just going to stand there and play the songs like the record, I just get bored. The only reason we’re still doing this is because of our live show — we really put an effort into it, and I want kids to go, “What the f__k is going on?’ I think that’s the most important thing to our band, is to be able to deliver a live show.”