An Interview with John Feldmann of Goldfinger
Ask anyone who was around in punk’s early days – the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when the music was raw, intentionally against the grain, and subversive by its very nature – and they’ll tell you that shows had the potential to erupt into violence, sometimes against the police, sometimes against each other.
“People used to tape razor blades to their combat boots and swing around these chains. And the circle pit was just insane,” John Feldmann, recalls. “I got knocked out at a Suicidal Tendencies show. This guy had these steel toe combat boots and did a backflip off the stage and just knocked me out. I was laying there unconscious for like 5 minutes. A little sketchy when you’re a 16 year old kid!”
Feldmann is best known for being the singer and guitar player for Goldfinger, a band who throws elements of pop punk and ska into their upbeat songs. Songs like “Here In Your Bedroom”, “Superman” and “Mable” may be sound like a far cry from these old punk influences, but Feldmann makes the connection from how that punk past has progressed into going on three decades of writing, playing and producing music, and now putting on a festival.
“Generation X influenced me as much as TSOL and the Dead Kennedys did, and even when I was a kid, I gravitated more toward the poppier side of punk rock. Black Flag and Minor Threat were more about the message, the aggression more than the melody, but for me when I started Goldfinger I wanted to do something between Elvis Costello, Bad Religion and The Buzzcocks.”
Feldmann grew up in Southern California and continues to live in Los Angeles. Over the years, he’s worked producing music ranging from Good Charlotte and The Used to Hilary Duff and Ashlee Simpson to Disturbed and The Fever 333. And while his versatility in the studio puts his work in demand for artists across the spectrum, it also gives him something to feed off of for his own performances.
“Since the beginning of Goldfinger, we’ve always tried to be a super high-energy band. I remember seeing Fishbone play with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction in the late 1980’s, and watching [Fishbone’s singer] Angelo Moore do a double backflip off the balcony and then headwalk across the crowd. Now I started running, thinking maybe I can do something like what Angelo does.” After years of headline tours, festivals appearances, and just shows in general for punk crowds, Feldmann laughs about his onstage energy. “I fee like if people aren’t going ballistic in the crowd, I’m doing something wrong. But I’m 51 now. I started the band when I was 26. I think about the Star Wars prequel scene where Yoda fights Palpatine and he’s just going crazy, but afterwards he grabs his cane and hobbles out of the arena.”
On top of recording 7 albums with his own band, worldwide tours, raising three kids and working with other bands in the studio, a couple years ago while Goldfinger toured as a part of Fat Mike’s Punk In Drublic tour where 6 or 7 bands played day-long festival style shows with free beer and food trucks adding to the festive environment Feldmann got the idea to create a festival of his own, and Back To The Beach was born.
“I just thought, if NOFX and Fat Mike can do a tour, why couldn’t I do a ska punk event? I reached out to everyone I knew, and I feel like we put together something magical.”
The inaugural festival had a lineup who loomed large over the 90’s and early 2000’s pop punk, ska and rock scenes in Southern California, with 311, Sublime, The Suicide Machines, Fishbone, Hepcat and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, amongst others. 2019’s continues to be a who’s who of bands mostly centered around the 90’s scene; Blink 182, Save Ferris, The English Beat, The Used, Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, The Aquabats and Goldfinger who promises a few onstage surprises.
“The first year turned out better than I could ever have expected. And it’s amazing seeing people bring their kids, all these adults now showing their kids, ‘hey, these are the bands I grew up on.”
Feldmann talks about there being something special about those bands that had an early affect on you. “I really sunk my teeth into bands that come from that area of Orange County; The Adolescents, TSOL, Social Distortion, all those classic Southern California punk bands.” The festival will take place on the beach in that same area where Feldmann years ago witnessed some of the violent shows of punk’s young rumblings. But today, being older, having a family, it’s a different era and Feldmann has a different appreciation and respect of the area, mentioning that the festival is within view of the Huntington Beach pier.
But before there were festivals co-organized with Blink 182’s Travis Barker, before Goldfinger and his own family who he jokingly admits has seen his band hundreds of times but opt for Lil Yachty and Billie Eilish on their own playlists, there was his best friend and early experiences outside Southern California and up in the Lake Tahoe area.
“My best friend growing up, Chris Cayton, was in a band Urban Assault from South Lake Tahoe. He pretty much turned me onto every great artist. It’s funny, the first show my old band, Family Crisis, ever played was in South Lake Tahoe with 7 Seconds. It was a pretty cool time in my life.”
Keep up with John Feldmann at goldfingermusic.com
or head to KWNKradio.org to listen to Nocturnal Transmissions and other freeform programming for the Reno area.