In our new “Punk Icon” series we are going to be celebrating some of the brilliant musical minds that have helped shape punk rock as we know it. Today we’re kicking things off with a closer look at the life and times of rabid vegetarian, super producer and Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann.
There is a whole lot more to John than Goldfinger. Get to know him a little better below.
John William Feldmann was born on June, 29th of 1967 in beautiful San Diego, California. It was here where he spent childhood years before hearing the one album that would change his life forever. At the age of 13 he listened to “Mommy’s Little Monster”, the first album by Social Distortion, and became so inspired by the music that he decided to start learning the guitar. One might say it was then that his legend was born.
At age 21, John relocated to Los Angeles where he started the short lived funk metal band Electric Love Hogs in ’91. During their brief three year stint, the Love Hogs went on tour after releasing their one and only album. More importantly it is at this point that Feldmann met bassist Kelly LeMieux who would later join Goldfinger. A point of interest is that during their short tenure, the Hogs were kind of a big deal and some of their opening acts included Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Korn and Rage against the Machine who as you know all went on to become major players in the music scene.
It was 1994 when Feldmann met bassist Simon Williams while working in a local shoe store and after teaming up with drummer Darrin Pfeiffer and guitarist Charlie Paulson, Goldfinger was born. When the guys started playing together, Feldmann had only modest goals for the band, stating years later that “The band was just something we thought we could have fun at, do a few shows, I never expected it to go this far.”
Goldfinger’s first order of business was creating and releasing the EP “Richter” which did well on college radio stations and brought them to the attention of Universal Records. With Universal they released their self titled album in 1996 which was full of ska-punk goodness and a fantastic album all around. Now a wonderful thing was happening in the 1990’s and thanks to bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Rancid, Reel Big Fish and even No Doubt, third wave ska was getting a good amount of radio airplay and was arguably reaching its peek. Due to this short lived fad, Goldfinger was able to fit right in with their first radio single, “Here in your Bedroom” and thus became a household name for many a trendy youngster.
As the years went by, Goldfinger continued releasing albums including Hang-Ups, Stomping Ground, Open Your Eyes, Disconnection Notice and their latest Hello Destiny as well as cover and live albums, all of which were released with varying success. Not that John Feldmann didn’t put his all into the band, he was even inducted into the Guinness Book of World Record by playing 385 gigs in a single year. The band also had success in the video game market, appearing in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Burnout Revenge and their songs have appeared in motion pictures including Eurotrip, Not Another Teen Movie and The Waterboy.
While the band is still together, Goldfinger has not released a proper album since 2008 due in no small part to Feldman’s focus on production work. Most recently they released the song ‘Am I Deaf’ and plans for a new album are still rumored.
Anyone who has listened to any of the more recent Goldfinger albums has no doubt noticed Feldmann’s incredibly strong connection to PETA and animal rights in general. He allegedly became a vegan at the age of 29 after seeing the family film Babe and the rest is history. Certainly not shy about his opinions either John can often be found handing animal rights materials out at shows while speaking out for PETA and even making an appearance in Behind the Mask, a 2006 animal rights documentary.
Over the years John has become one of the loudest voices in the animal rights movement. After Goldfinger released their album Open Your Eyes, the folks at PETA held a ceremony for him at the groups headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia where they honored him as one of PETA’s heroes. If that isn’t enough, he also has set lobsters free from supermarkets, and organized a protest at a popular circus. All very noble stuff, after all there’s nothing more determined than a punk rocker with a cause.
Much to the dismay of hardcore Goldfinger fans such as myself, other than a small tour here and there, Goldfinger has basically taken a six year break as Feldmann focuses on producing music for other bands. He does this in a professional capacity as a past and present A&R representative for companies including Warner Bros. Records and Maverick Records among others. He likely got his start during the making of Goldfinger’s first two albums, which he helped produce and engineer.
After he took a lead role in the production of a demo for the Chicago band Showoff in 1998 which led to the band being signed to Maverick Records, John’s fate was sealed. Since then he has either mixed, produced or written on albums for rock bands ranging from The Used, Story of the Year, Mest, Black Veil Brides, Escape The Fate, Papa Roach and Four Year Strong among many, many others. In addition to the harder stuff, Feldmann has also produced albums for mainstream pop acts including Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff and Neon Trees.
His success in this arena is no secret, John Feldmann works his ass off to produce the best albums possible. Feldmann is self taught but has learned volumes along the road and his work ethic is beyond comparison. He is willing to try everything and work anywhere from recording in a studio to a sandy beach, whatever is necessary to get the best sound for a particular track. Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco praised his dedication, mentioning the man working up to 19 hour days. And for you audio nerds out there, John uses Pro Tools for most of his mixing. So next time you see John on the street, shake his hand and say thank you, chances are he’s helped create one of your favorite albums.
At age 46, although his first love is his family, John Feldmann continues to work non-stop, producing and making rocking music for fans of all genres. Next on the production side of things, Feldmann will be producing future albums for Set It Off, The Used, We Are the in Crowd and 5 Seconds of Summer among others and that’s only in 2014!
As for Goldfinger, over the years since their last release, Feldmann has hinted at potential aspects of a future album, stating that he wants to stay true to the band’s classic ska-punk vibe while also maybe adding in other sounds, once stating that he wants to “push the boundaries as a producer as much as a writer and performer” on their next record. Optimistically in the same interview he also stated that 2 new songs have been recorded and another 8 have been written for the new record so sit tight!
In the end, it is clear how much John Feldmann has done for the alternative music community as well as for animal rights and no matter where you stand on the topic, his efforts must be applauded. In the end his dedication to the arts, his gusto for standing for what is right and the fact that he is a kick-ass musician are all reasons why John Feldmann is a true punk icon.