back to top
Music

Meet The One Man Responsible For All Your Favorite Pop-Punk Records

From the Used and Good Charlotte to Ashlee Simpson and 5 Seconds of Summer, producer extraordinaire John Feldmann spills all.

Posted on

Meet John Feldmann.

John Feldmann (left) / Via instagram.com

You may think you don't know him, but you totally do. The man has had a hand in some of the most important pop-punk (and pop, looking at you, Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff, and Mandy Moore) records of the last two decades, perfecting a millennial sound all-too familiar: Loud live drums, a focus on vocal performance, raw guitars and bass. He started as the frontman of the iconic '90s pop-punk band Goldfinger and has since produced everyone from Good Charlotte, The Used, Cute is What We Aim For, Circa Survive’s Anthony Green, Saosin, Four Year Strong, Plain White T's, Panic! at the Disco, Neon Trees, All Time Low, Escape the Fate…the list goes on and on.

BuzzFeed Music sat down with the pop-punk prodigy—you know, in between recording with up-and-coming girl group Sweet Suspense and Aussie dreamboats 5 Seconds of Summer—to hear tale of some of the biggest and most important bands and releases he's ever worked on.

Showoff - Showoff (1999)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"There was never a decision [to become a full-time producer.] I knew I could make Showoff, the Chicago pop-punk band, the first band I ever produced; I knew I could make them sound better," Feldmann tells BuzzFeed Music. "They opened for Goldfinger at the Fireside Bowl, a punk rock bowling alley in Chicago. They gave me a cassette tape, and in my walkman on the plane back from Chicago I thought, 'Wow, this does not sound like the same band that I saw.' I called them up and had them come out to my house in LA. I borrowed a friend’s two-inch, 24-track tape machine and I recorded three songs. We shot that demo to a bunch of labels and got them signed to Maverick Records in 1998, which was Madonna's label at the time."

Mest - Wasting Time (2000)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"[Showoff] were friends with another band called Mest from Chicago. We played the Metro and they opened for us and I said the same thing. I took them to LA. I knew I could make their demo sound better. I did and I got them signed to Maverick, too. It all just kind of happened because I was just showing up and trying to help these guys. I didn't really know it was going to be a career because neither Showoff nor Mest really became—Mest had a gold album in Japan, but they didn't turn into Green Day or anything."

Advertisement

The Used - The Used (2002)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"Goldfinger was in Salt Lake City and Bert [McCraken] from the Used somehow weaseled onto our tour bus and chucked a CD at us. Our tour manager literally picked him up and threw him on his face out of the bus. I just thought this annoying kid—you know when you're on the road you meet all these sorts of weirdos, it wasn't like he was absurdly creepy—he just ran onto our bus and threw this demo. I listened to it and as soon as I heard his voice I knew exactly what was there.

"They're seminal. They were the turning point in everything in my entire career and me for them. What are the symbiotic relationships with the whale sharks and the fish that attach to them? I was the fish attached, and without that fish the whale shark is going to get sick. Without me helping to really define the sound...there was such a thing as post-hardcore at that point but nobody sang. Nobody sang like Michael Jackson. Nobody had these hooks like Bert wanted to do. Michael Jackson was his all-time favorite. That was what I knew I could make different. I could make this crazy post-hardcore sound with these amazing pop hooks and Bert would give it his all, vomiting three or four times a session."

Good Charlotte - The Young and the Hopeless (2002)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"To my mom's ears listening to Mest or Good Charlotte, she wouldn't be able to tell the difference. The nuances really aren't that devastatingly different. Good Charlotte was different because [they were] kind of promoted to me as a pop act playing guitars. I know that the band at some point definitely had their qualms with that. They didn't like being in the same realm as N'Sync or the Backstreet Boys, but ultimately they were super successful. I remember seeing them at the Congress in Chicago—a sold out crowd of 6,000 people or something. I got off the plane, went straight to the venue and they're three songs in. I'd never seen any boy bands or anything like that but it was all girls just screaming, tinnitus style. One scream and I put ear plugs in. I'd seen the Ed Sullivan Beatles' footage, but I'd never seen anything like it in person. I say they're a pop band because they write great songs that are super catchy and stick in your head. That was the first band that exploded and opened the door to Mandy Moore and Hilary Duff and Ashlee Simpson, into that world, because they were so successful at the Top 40 level."

Ashlee Simpson - Autobiography (2004)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"I worked with Ashlee Simpson on her first album. Unless you're just stoic, straight-up, unfaltering stoic, Presidential-style, you're going to be effected [by public perception] to the core of your existence. The Saturday Night Live thing that happened with her affected everything. She's a real singer. That's the thing, she can really sing. She's got this timbre to her voice that's very unique to her. As a producer and I writer, I understand the whole thing. I understand why it needed to be lip-synced. There's no chance Katy Perry's lip-synced performance at the Super Bowl is going to affect her career on any level today. Ten years ago when it was all Ani DeFranco and Lilith Fair, Ashlee Simpson was just destroyed by it. If that would have happened today if would be a much different story. It would have still be devastating but not in the same way."

The Used - In Love and Death (2004)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"I feel like I was on the bleeding edge of technology with the Used's In Love and Death, their second album. I had my laptop and sat on the beach at three in the morning with a full moon at the central coast of California at San Simeon just letting Bert sing "Sound Effects and Overdramatics" on the beach. People weren't really doing that then and I feel like people do it a lot now. I still do it."

5 Seconds of Summer - 5 Seconds of Summer (2014)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"The 5 Seconds guys are unbelievable musicians. I knew who they were from my friend Jess from the Veronicas who dated [guitarist] Michael [Clifford]. She told me about them way, way prior so my predisposition to the band was very different from what the world thought, which was that they were a boy band. I knew they weren't. I went into it thinking they were another Mest. When they started singing I realized, 'This is the best pop-punk band I've ever heard.' They can all sing. The drummer is a better singer than 90-percent of the bands that I work with and he's the drummer. 5 Seconds of Summer, they're all really clear of what their job is. Calum [Hood] is the best bass player 5 Seconds of Summer could ever have. He's a fucking phenomenal bass player. A lot of bands don't have that."

BONUS: The one record John Feldmann said "No" to (and totally regrets!)

My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (2004)

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

"Bert [McCracken] introduced [My Chemical Romance] Gerard [Way] to [Warner Bros A&R] Craig [Aaronson] and he signed them. Craig was like, 'I need you to do me a favor. This is an unknown band, and I need you to do this for me.' It's when shit was just fucking happening to me. I just signed to Warner Brothers, a full A&R gig. The Used and Story of the Year had just gone platinum. I just had a huge radio success with "Wake Up," the Hilary Duff song. I was meeting with Clive Davis. It was just insane. My life was insane so I was -- I wouldn't say arrogant, but as arrogant as I've ever been. When I saw them—it wasn't that I just blew them off—I went and saw them and Gerard wasn't sober yet. I saw them at Skate & Surf right before they got signed and he just seemed like a disaster. He wasn't sober; they just seemed like a mess. I didn't get it. That [record] was like handed to me. I would have had to do nothing. All I would have to do is show up and produce them... but I believe everything happens for a reason."

INTRODUCING
For beauty & style as you are.
a brand

Promoted