Goldfinger’s John Feldmann: ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ Impact Was Greater Than Anyone Could Have Imagined
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 has been remastered and will return to the spotlight with a Sept. 4 release. The game became a sensation, allowing gamers to replicate the action of one of skateboarding's legendary heroes, along with many of his peers, and do it all with a killer soundtrack.
“The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series is a big factor in the evolution of modern skateboarding tricks and inspiring many of the pro skaters you know and love today,” said the game's namesake, the legendary Tony Hawk. “I’m excited to help inspire a new generation of skateboarders and gamers — and existing fans — to grow the sport even further.”
One other key element that helped make the game so popular was the music, with a wealth of bands seeing a boost in their careers as the popularity of the game soared. Among the acts to enjoy a surge in popularity thanks to their inclusion in the game was Goldfinger, as the song "Superman" became one of the tracks most associated with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.
As we prepare for the return of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 with its faithful remaster, we spoke with Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann, discussing what the gaming franchise meant to his band and how it helped to set the bar for the marriage of music and video games to come. Feldmann, who has also become an in demand producer, also speaks on some of his recent collaborations. Check out the chat below:
I’ve been enjoying the Goldfinger quarantine performances ...
I think the quarantine videos started as I was just stuck indoors like everyone else on the planet and thinking I’ve got to do something. I can’t just pretend I’m a robot and not be as energetic as I normally am. I just decided to do it for fun and entertain. We had to cancel probably about eight shows.
The idea was that I was going to sing it and record it in one take, which is how we did these things where we recorded it and mixed it later. And it was just incredible the response that “Superman” had. I think there was something like six million views on Facebook on that video, which is just insane. It just goes to show that there’s a nostalgia and a resurgence of that era anyway.
Especially with our fans now having kids of their own, at least the videos I’ve seen, people are posting that they’re watching the videos and showing it to their kids for the first time. It’s so cool to see it full circle.
How great was it to see the Twitter and YouTube spike once the remaster was announced by Tony?
It was insane. And it was also cool for me to do a re-record of the song. Now we’ve got our own version that we own that our old label doesn’t have rights to. So now there’s this new version that people are listening to right as the Tony Hawk reboot got announced.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2 Announcement Trailer
We often ask if you’d know if a song would take off, but in this case, I wanted to ask if you had any idea the response that “Superman” would get when it was included with the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game?
The songs that I’ve written really quickly that come out as inspired end up being some of the songs that last the longest. A lot of times when it takes three or four days to finish a song, people don’t care as much. When it’s really passionately inspired, like our first song "Here in Your Bedroom" was written in about 10 minutes, and ‘Superman’ was written like an eight-minute song. There’s a song on our second album Hang Ups called "Question," and "Superman" and "Question" were one song start to finish. It was ska punk into like a hardcore song. But then I decided our fans weren’t going to have the attention span to sit through eight minutes in one sitting.
Even back then, most of our fans were into the two or three minute songs — the Descendents, Black Flag style of writing. "Superman" became its own thing, and we recorded it as a one off. It was just going to be as a single. We did an A-B side 7" with Reel Big Fish, and "Superman" was going on that record and that was going to be it. But everyone liked it so much at the time that we decided to put it on our second album.
I had no idea that it was going to be what it was, and to be honest, it was always cool, but until Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out, it was never the song that it now is today without Tony Hawk’s help.
Speaking of Tony, I was curious because we don’t know what happens behind the scenes. How did this all come together? Did you meet with Tony or the gaming company? Did you have any idea how the song would be used?
No. (laughs). No is the short answer. When I think about the lyrics of the song, I think of a song like "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac — I’m getting older and children grow older, too. It’s like the idea that "Superman" is this anti-superhero song, like I’m pretending I’m a Superman doing everything I do and spinning all the plates when it never really works out that way. I’m growing older all the time, and the song means exactly the same at 52 as the song did when I wrote it when I was 27.
Lyrically that song has stood the test of time for me, and for Tony Hawk, I don’t know what resonated with him. I don’t know if it was a marketing person who suggested that Goldfinger was having success and you should put them in your game or if he just really gravitated toward the song. I’ve never met Tony, but I’m really grateful that he chose us to put in his game.
At the time, some music was starting to make its way into video games, but the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game really set the bar for video game soundtracks. Can you talk about the legacy of what that game did for marrying music with video games?
I think it’s really important to talk about this. Back when the game came out, there were soundtracks for games during that era, but it was mostly music written specifically for the game. I’m sure it existed before Pro Skater, but Pro Skater was the game that people had where it was the soundtrack to their lives. They were so involved in playing this game, and you’d be in one room and that would be the only song that was playing in that room as you played.
I really didn’t know how much Tony Hawk helped our band with that song until we were on tour in England. We were touring with Bloodhound Gang and supporting them as they had this huge hit at the time in Germany, so we played with them in England and all of a sudden when we played "Superman," everyone went ballistic. It was the biggest circle pit of the entire night. There was no moment in Bloodhound Gang’s set or our set that surpassed what happened with that song. I was like, "What the fuck is happening with this song?" But I put two and two together and realized that Pro Skater had globally just become this huge hit of a video game.
Everyone was listening to punk rock and the whole skate community was playing this game and it became this thing that was much bigger than anyone could have imagined. I was asked if it was okay to put this song in the video game and I was like, "Fuck yes it is. Tony Hawk’s a legend." But I had no idea it was going to be that big of a deal until we were on tour in England and all that came together.
Were you a gamer and also were you a skateboarder by any chance?
Yeah, I skated when I was growing up. I was always into skating as a kid, and it went hand in hand with the punk rock community. A lot of the bands that I discovered were through Thrasher magazine at the time. I bleached my hair cause of Duane Peters, who was the chief skater back in the ‘80s. He started a band himself and it all went hand in hand. I discovered T.S.O.L. and the Circle Jerks and all these great bands that I grew up with through Thrasher magazine. The whole community of punk rock was hand in hand with the skateboarding culture.
I know your production career is booming, but with the quarantine sessions and spending more time with Goldfinger, I wanted to check in on the status of the band at this point. Might we be seeing some new music?
Well part of it was my constant need to be an artist. When I’m in the studio with other artists, I’m behind the board guiding the artist in the direction they want, whether it’s writing bigger anthemic choruses, whether it’s making heavy music. Whatever the artist wants to do, I’m at their disposal. But when it comes to my own band, I get to control everything. I’m a fucking control freak anyway.
I love still having my band 25 years later. So I’m making another record, and I guess partly because of how well these quarantine videos have done I’ve been motivated more than I have in years to write music and to make another record. Plus, I’ve got a big band. It’s like a supergroup with Phil [Sneed] from Story of the Year and Mike [Herrera] from MxPx and we tour a lot with Cyrus [Bolooki] from New Found Glory. It’s like I’ve got this supergroup of artists that I’m playing with who are singing and playing on this record, which I’ve never done before. In the past, I’ve often played everything myself, and it hasn’t been as collaborative. But this record, it’s been really, really great.
It’s an interesting thing because our band live has been bigger than it’s ever been. When we tour, the shows are bigger and the crowds, there’s a nostalgia to it. There’s a song on our last album The Knife called "Tijuana Sunrise," which really connected with people. It’s kind of a Sublime-ish song. So these new kids that are coming and then there are people who know me from my production career and there’s a bunch of people who are nostalgic for high energy punk rock shows that are coming.
I think a lot of artists these days don’t have that experience of getting in a van and touring for a year or two years before they really explode into something. They explode off of Spotify or YouTube or TikTok with a song, and then all of a sudden they have to go out and play in front of tens of thousands of people without the experience of touring, where we have 24 years of touring under our belt. So I’m going to keep doing it. Fuck yeah!
Had a chance to speak with The Hunna earlier this year, another example of a great young band you’ve worked with. You seem to have a golden touch for picking great up-and-coming acts, and I was wondering if there’s anything in particular you are looking for when deciding which bands to work with?
Well a lot of bands come to me to collaborate or co-write and maybe they’ve got a song that’s 80 percent and they need someone to take it all the way. Most bands I work with I do co-write, and there are only a few that I have only produced and not co-written. But most of the time, I just help guide them.
I’ve heard that being a great songwriter and being a great musician, sometimes you’re one and not the other or vice versa. But there are some people who just break that mold. Me, I’m not the greatest musician, and I think I’m probably a better songwriter than a musician, so a lot of times I’ll get these great bands.
The Hunna is a great example of a band who are amazing musicians and amazing songwriters. They just had me come in and I can try to simplify what they’re trying to do. Because I’m not the greatest musician, I have this ability to have this very simple catchy chorus that I can help lend to a song that maybe is too busy or convoluted. I can simplify it.
All the artists, pretty much through my production career, I’ve kind of co-written with, whether it was young bands like Panic! At the Disco or 5 Seconds of Summer or legacy bands like Blink-182 and 311, I’ve been able to collaborate with and it’s been the greatest joy in my professional career.
The Hunna Featuring Travis Barker, "Cover You"
You mentioned legacy bands there, and one whose legacy you helped to create was The Used. How has it been to come full circle with them working on the Heartwork album and was there a goal you were hoping to achieve with the new album?
God I’m just so proud of this record. This album Heartwork, I’m so proud of it. I started a record label about a year and a half ago with two friends of mine and when we were able to sign The Used to my label I felt my life had come full circle. I was working for Warner Bros. at the time when I discovered The Used back in 2000, and so I signed them to Warner Bros, and I always in the back of my mind wished back then that I had started my own record label. But I was touring with Goldfinger, and I had so much going on.
I’m so grateful for what Tom Whalley, he ran Warner Bros. at the time and he was able to mentor me and I learned so much. They say everything happens for a reason, and I believe that. But to have The Used on my label and to be able to make a record like we made. The album before this is great, but I think we needed to make a record that connected the dots between the first three albums.
The first album I made with The Used changed my whole career as a producer. Music like that didn’t exist. Bert [McCracken], the singer, he discovered My Chemical Romance. Bert got them signed to Warner Bros., so it was this whole movement with me discovering Story of the Year and The Used and then My Chemical Romance all being part of the same family, it was like we changed Alternative radio.
I think as The Used progressed in their career and worked with other people, coming back to me as the producer was like a full circle family moment. I’m just so grateful we were able to do this and that they chose to work with me again.
The Used Featuring Jason Aalon Butler, "Blow Me"
I definitely wanted to hit on Fever 333. We got a new song “Supremacy” from them this morning, which you had a hand in. What has it been like to see that group evolve over the last few years in working with them?
Jason Aalon [Butler] is just a really good friend of mine, and I worked with letlive., his first band from a long time ago. When Letlive split up, Jason’s always been an activist, and he was working part time for a cookie company. He was selling cookies to a grocery store in L.A. and he came by my house just to have a chat. He was like, “I don’t know what to do for my next project.” So we just had a meeting, and I invited Travis Barker over and we all just sat down and talked about what we wanted to do.
He wanted to change the world with a real activist band. The point was to be a protest band and talk about politics and talk about real life shit and not be a pop band. I worked with so many pop groups and we knew this was not going to be that. But the Fever, [Steve Harrison] is from the Chariot and Aric [Improta] from Night Verses, and we had this group of epic musicians already. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even the first showcase we did for Elektra, they were like the greatest live band ever without even playing a show.
But “Supremacy” is just a song we needed to release right now because it is so timely for what’s happening. I just feel like more than ever right now we need The Fever to lead the way when it comes to social activism and social issues and the protest movement that is happening right now.
Fever 333, "Supremacy"
Our thanks to Goldfinger's John Feldmann for the interview. Revisit the music of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1-2 via this Spotify playlist. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 will be available worldwide for the suggested retail price in the U.S. of $39.99. A digital deluxe version that includes unique content and in-game gear will be available for the suggested retail price in the U.S. of $49.99. For the ultimate fan, a collector’s edition will be available for the suggested retail price of $99.99 in the U.S., complete with the digital deluxe content and a limited-run Birdhouse deck. You can pre-order the game via the TonyHawkTheGame.com website.