Is it punk? Or ska? Perhaps metal? Whatever the genre, the difficult to classify Goldfinger manages to tear the house down with catchy tunes, a wide variety of influences, and a killer live show. The original lineup included John Feldman (guitar and vocals), Charlie Paulson (guitar), Darrin Pfeiffer (drums), and Simon Williams (bass). Goldfinger released their self-titled debut album in 1996. “Here in Your Bedroom” hit the airwaves and enjoyed heavy radio and video play. Videos for “Mable” and “Only A Day” also found their way into rotation. They also toured extensively, with The Sex Pistols, The Vans Warped Tour, and Reel Big Fish, to name a few.
But the glory days of mainstream attention to punk and ska music were not to last. The band released Hang-Ups in 1997, but the album was only moderately successful commercially. After original bassist Simon Williams left in 1998, and new bassist Kelly Lemieux joined the band, Goldfinger released an EP of eight live covers titled Darrin’s Coconut Ass – Live from Omaha. Since the release of their third full-length, Stomping Ground, in the spring of 2000, Goldfinger has been on the road, bringing their mus ic to the masses.
I recently had the pleasure of discussing the state of ska on the radio, new punk bands, and other varied topics with guitarist Charlie Paulson (remember that line from “Mable?” “Then on Tuesday, Mable left me/I heard she’s goi ng out with Charlie“) and bassist Kelly Lemieux. They were… interesting. Perhaps chaotic is a better word? There’s definitely not a dull moment with them. I’m not sure who asked more questions… them or me!
Charlie: I need songs with “water” in them. I’ve got “Smoke on the Water”… umm… bong water…
Kelly: Why do you need songs with water in them?
Charlie: I can’t think of any others. KISS doesn’t have any water songs.
Kelly: What else?
Charlie: “Fire Water Burn”!
Kelly: Roger Waters.
Charlie: Rubber Waters.
Kelly: I don’t know, who else? John needs to show up, then we can do it.
Charlie: Do what?
Kelly: An interview.
Charlie: Let’s just do it. You’ll get the funny part of it first, then you’ll get the facts and answers later, if you want.
Kelly: First question ma’am! Liza! Were you named after Liza Minelli?
Kelly: Thank God!
Charlie: Were you named after “t here’s a hole in the bucket?”
No. I don’t know what I was named after.
Kelly: Your turn!
Why did you guys decide to tour with Reel Big Fish again?
Charlie: They owe us money, and the only way we fig ured we could get it from them was to get tour.
Kelly: No, we just like them. They’re cool guys, we thought it would be a good idea, and it has been so far.
Charlie: It’s been a lot of fun.
I remember hearing Goldfinger on the radio a couple years ago. Why do you think there has since been such a drought in ska music? Even though I know you’re not technically ska…
Kelly: It’s just a backlash. Everybody’s attention span is so short in the US, ’cause there’s so many radio sta tions and so many clumps of bands, everything becomes a flavor of the weekS no pun intended, like Hi Fidelity, whatever-the-fuck they’re called [American Hi-Fi — ed.], which they probably will become, too. You can’t print that, ’cause I like them. It’s j ust backlash, everything just goes in cycles. You know what? In three years, we’ll be huge again. But we’ll be like heavy metal ska. Or death ska.
Charlie: They pay attention to certain things at certain times.
Kelly: It’s boy bands and metal now.
Charlie: Ska and pop-punk like we do has always been around, you know, since 7 Seconds. The Ramones were kind of a pop-punk band, in a way. For a minute, it became really fashionable on the radio. And then right now, or maybe a year ago, metal was really fashionable. Metal never went away.
Kelly: There’ll be a backlash, the mainstream will backlash it. Then something else will jump out. It’ll be like, you know, polka fucking Hindu music or something.
[Enter two members of R eel Big Fish]
Yo, this is Tavis and Wong from Reel Big Fish, and we just wanted to say word up, you’re watching TRL.
Kelly: I drove by there in New York the other day, and there were a bunch of girls danci ng around. I had no idea who they were. I wanted to throw a tomato out the window.
So do you think ska is going to come back on the radio anytime soon?
Charlie: Maybe, maybe not.
Kelly: There’ll probably be a fifth wave!
Charlie: Or another brand of it, you know what I mean.
What about Sum 41? They’re number one on TRL and they’re like The Backstreet Boys or N’SYNC.
Charlie: I honestly don’t know anything about that band. All I know is, according to them, is that they claim to be big fans of ours.
Kelly: We played with them in Buffalo, and everyone came back and said, “Wow, that band’s totally ripping us off.”
Charlie: I didn’t see them. Probably their show, too, they borrow a lot of st uff.
Kelly: I saw them on TV and they were good.
Kelly: And then there’s Mark.
Charlie: So, God bless Sum 41.
Kelly: Maybe they’ll become huge and take us out on tour.
Mark: We’re doing this f estival in Texas… and Sum 41… what was SR-71’s big hit last year?
That “Right Now” song.
Mark: Sum 41 redid it with gay lyrics, and SR-71 was playing over on another stage and later Sum 41 and SR-71 got in a big huge fight, like a fist fight in the bar in the hotel.
Charlie: That’s a good story.
What bands do you guys like right now?
Kelly: Charlie likes A.F.I. That’s his favorite band right now.
You like A.F.I.?
Charlie: Love A.F.I.
Kelly: I like The Cardigans. That bass player’s hot. Oh wait, that’s the singer.
Charlie: Tiffany and the Mirth Masters. That’s a favorite of all of ours. This is new bands you’re asking about?
Charlie: Well, A.F.I.’s not really new… I listen to Black Sails in the Sunset every night before we go on stage to sort of get my head in the right place.
Kelly: I’m reading a book right now. I’m reading Motley Crue’s The Dirt. I just got to the chapter where Vince Neil’s four-year-old daughter got fucking cancer. It’s so depressing. I was reading it before I was going to bed, it was too depressing to fall asleep to. I had to get through it, it’s so long…
Charlie: Get to the Jack Daniels in the ass story.
Kelly: Yeah. I’m kind of reading right now, not really listening.
So you guys decided not to do the Warped Tour this year?
Kelly: No, they decided.
Charlie: No, we decided. We were offered some dates. It wasn’t enough bread. In order to go on the road and be able to pay everyone who works for us, and eat, we have to make a certain amount of money. And the Warped Tour is a lot of fun, and we would’ve loved to go out with bands like Rancid and 311, but it j ust wasn’t worth…. we couldn’t afford to do it.
Kelly: It wasn’t financially feasible.
Charlie: Which is a really boring, un-rock n’ roll answer. Sorry, that’s the truth.
Kelly: The fact of the matter is, a brother gotta eat!
What’s one band you would like to tour with?
Charlie: Rancid would be cool. I’d love to do a proper tour with Fishbone. We did the Warped Tour in ’96, but it wasn’t really us and Fishbone. They were a huge, huge influence on us before we were in Goldfinger, when I was a kid we used to go see them, and now we’re friends with those guys, so I’d love to tour with them.
Kelly: [Red Hot] Chili Peppers and The Foo Fighters.
Charlie: Yes. The Foo Fighters have seen us play twice, and both times they were horrendous shows. So I don’t know if they’re ever going to call us up.
Kelly: Oh really? Not since I was in the band!
Charlie: One when you were in the band.
Charlie: Portland, Maine. They never said hello or anything. It’s true! You can ask Darrin.
Speaking about Kelly in the band, how’s it working out?
Charlie: Three years later, he’s still in the band.
Kelly: Three years later, I’m still the new guy.
Charlie: Really, the reason isn’t Kelly’s prior tour experience, it’s his drug connections in every town we go to. We can’t afford to let him go. Even though none of us do drugs…
Kelly: You still have to have the connections.
Did your sound change when Kelly joined the band?
Charlie: Yes, definitely. We got heavier and tighter. Simon was good when he wanted to be, but he wasn’t an aggressive bass player. Kelly just fit in more.
Kelly: I have a prior history with John Feldman.
Charlie: They were in a band together before Goldfinger.
Kelly: I know how he works.
Charlie: So, tighter and heavier.
Are you still on good terms with Simon?
Charlie: Yeah, we see m around. I saw him at At the Drive-In recently.
Kelly: You saw him at the drive in?
Charlie: I saw him at the drive in.
Kelly: What did you see?
Charlie: Halloween 3.
I was going to ask John about the tapes, any idea what he’s trying to do with that?
Kelly: If he likes it he’s trying to produce them.
Charlie: He signed and produced Showoff, and a band called In Logo Deal, who I guess are doing OK, and a hardcore band called Frontside. Beyond that, I don’t know. Maybe he’ll sign us!
Aren’t you looking for a label?
Charlie: Right now, we’re just looking to finish this tour. We’re going to do another leg of this tour later in the fall, all the while writing and recording new stuff. John demos all these songs at his house and we come over and learn them and play them or change them or just veto them altogether.
He writes basically all of it?
Charlie: Yeah, the majority of it, 75% or something. Now that Kelly’s in the band, he writes a lot too.
Kelly: Charlie writes too.
Charlie: I wrote “Carry On” on the last record, and I write bridges and that sort of thing.
Do you write from personal experience?
Charlie: It’s really sort of hard to not. I don’t know how metal guys in the ’80s wrote about dragons and wizards and all that shit. They were channeling through their gurus or something. When I wrote that song about how I had-
Kelly: Overhead luggage?
Charlie: –finished m aking love to Angelina Jolie, just in time to destroy the entire plane ride, that was from real life experience. Kelly was there. Then I got on my winged dragon and flew off. Have you seen that movie?
Charlie: It’s pretty funny. Definitely get stoned and watch it. I can’t, but you should.
Goldfinger is encouraging kids to do drugs.
Charlie: [Directly into tape recorder] Do drugs. Do as many as you can get your grubby little fucking han ds on.
Kelly: Do them for us, not for yourselves.
What’s the most fun you guys have had on this tour?
Kelly: About 20 minutes ago, when I was dropping the kids off at the pool.
Charlie: Kelly’s a ladies man. [Starts impression of the Ladies’ Man from Saturday Night Live.] You can call me with any of your romantic queries. He is charming.
Kelly: [Ladies’ Man voice] I love beautiful women, and I’ve been with some skanks.
Charlie: [Ladies’ Man voice] He is not a trained psychologist or therapist, but he’s done it to a lot of ladies. [Deteriorates into assorted Ladies’ Man jokes, etc.]
Charlie: You’re going to have to edit a lot of this, because it’s not going to make any sense.
Oh, I’m not editing any of it.
Charlie: What I’m saying [is], if you read a lot of this shitS
I know, I’m just playing. What kind of music did you guys listen to as kids?
Charlie: A lot of KISS!
Kelly: I started out [listeni ng to the] Beach Boys, The Monkees, then I got into Cheap Trick, then Black Sabbath, then Ted Nugent for a little while. then Van Halen big time, but David Lee Roth Van Halen, which shows old I am.
Charlie: Dave was young and hot back then. Of cour se, we were embryos.
Kelly: Then punk rock stuff, then Prince, then Duran Duran, then I started listening to jazzS then once at band camp I stuck a flute up my pussy. No, I like all kinds of stuff.
Charlie: One time in juvenile hall I st uck a shank up someone’s pussy.
You were in juvy?
What were you in there for?
Charlie: Nothing! Next question.
Charlie: Stealing, fighting, whatever. Stealing bicycles.
What about jail?
Charlie: Nothing really. Just traffic things.
Kelly: Traffic shit?
Charlie: Trafficking! [Laughs]
Kelly: So far, I’ve managed to avoid it [jail].
Charlie: John’s been in, too. I’ve just been in nine days. Have you been in jail?
Charlie: Well, let’s hook it up! Let’s get started! Let’s go upstairs, I think we might be ready to play.
Go see Goldfinger. Your life depends on it.