Born into a family of ultra-talented brothers, he may not be the main man in the spotlight, but he’s just that behind the scenes. For as long as he can remember, it was his overwhelming interest in music, style, culture, and the arts that moved his life forward. And as the oldest of four, he delightfully handed down those interests to his siblings, nurturing them through the process. Not a fan of taking credit for things he’s done, he’s humbled by the opportunities he’s had, reaching many through his work. As a stylist, he’s done editorials for Paper Magazine and as a journalist and marketing maven, he’s worked for Nylon Guys. As a DJ, he’s played at some of the worlds hottest clubs and as a producer, he’s created videos for musical acts like Jessie J, Anti-Flag and worked alongside of his younger brothers’ band, Good Charlotte. He’s even created remixes for 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake, too. A self-proclaimed sultan of all things sonic, he’s nothing short of a cultural style maven. All done with a level of dedication that surpasses most, he’s definitely earned his title.
1.) To start, tell us a little bit about how you got your start in music and fashion. Also, please explain your work with Epic Records and the punk/pop band formed by your brothers Joel & Benji, Good Charlotte.
My first formal work, that put my name in print, was for PAPER Magazine styling 50 kids for three days to be photographed by this great photographer Torkil. Grateful to Kim, David, Mickey and Drew from PAPER and Geordon, Leigh and GregK from the Misshapes for asking me to do that. We did that for free, I think I actually lost some on the shoot because all the kids ruined these George Cox shoes. It was more money than I had. I had a whole room of borrowed clothes and my own collected stuff. Thanks and praise to Jimmy Webb at I NEED MORE for letting me pay him back late. I love Jimmy. That shoot means a lot to me to this day. There’s so much I’ve done that I didn’t even keep for a portfolio or whatever …
I worked at Epic because Charlie Walk brought me in to help with this band The White Tie Affair. I’ll always be grateful to Charlie and Andrew McGinness for bringing me in on that. The guys from that band were, and still are, solid guys and great song writers. While there, I got to work with Pete Giberga, Karim Karmi, Jacqueline Saturn, Harvey Leeds – all kinds of people I learned at lot from. I actually ended up working on a lot at Epic. A fun kinda side project I got to do was make this remix record for Good Charlotte (GC). The label wanted to do a greatest hits, but we did this record with practically no budget and it has all these insane people on it from way before they were big. You should look that up, it’s really wild. I laugh when I listen to it because it was 10 years too early (nobody got it). Again, thanks to Charlie for letting us do that.
Good Charlotte – “L.A. Worldwide” from their Greatest Remixes album
2.) According to your interview with DJ Jon Phenom, one of your first projects was with Paper Magazine working on “The Citizen’s Band” cover and spread. Tell us how the project came about? How has life changed for you as a stylist since then?
That PAPER thing was so good. It was basically the team at a magazine just giving a bunch of kids 10 pages and we did what we wanted. Since then, my life has changed a ton. Now I’m a creative director at MDDN where we have over 20 clients, making all their videos, album art, merch. designs, etc. I’m not really a stylist, but I’d like to think I help everyone get dressed some. I have a room at the compound that’s like a store, but I don’t sell anything (it’s a concept from something like 10 years ago). I just bring people in and have them try on fits and give them all of it. It’s so sick when you have someone in and they leave looking like the illest version of themselves. I wanna do that for everyone, not just people you know of, like anyone I see on the street. That’s what’s in my mind at all time, ha-ha-ha. – “you know, what would be a solid fit for that person …”
3.) Explain the creative process that goes into your work and describe your creative style in three (3) words.
I don’t really have a process … I don’t really sleep much, I just listen to all kinds of music and do internet deep dives until I nod off and drop my computer or phone, haha. My personal reference library is all in my head and that’s all I utilize. I don’t really know how to explain it I guess. It’s just that I started noticing how things go early in life and I’ve lived a lot of places so I’m mostly just referencing memory. I don’t even know where it’s coming from a lot of the time, but I know what’s right and wrong. I have maybe a hundred DVD’s that are solid references – things that aren’t on Netflix or anything like that. You know, old stuff to just look back at and see every element. It’s crazy, I had a thousand or so, but I had to cut them down and just keep the ones I have.
4.) List three (3) of your top emerging menswear designers and then tell us your favorite designer of all time.
I don’t know any new designers — I left New York almost 3 years ago and I haven’t been to fashion week in a while. I’ve been collecting late 90’s/early aughts skate shoes, the big ones, DC, Osiris, stuff like that. I like wide leg pants like what we wore in ’94 and work wear. I’ve always liked X-Large, Ben Davis, X-Girl, Hook-Ups and Shorty’s. Over time, I’ve have collected a lot of that stuff. Right now I’m just in the process of collecting all the stuff I couldn’t afford when we were growing up poor, stuff that came out when I was homeless. I’ve got a couple pairs of Hoka’s that I wanted for a long time. I’ve got like nine different pairs of Nike Uptempos. I don’t really wear ‘em, I just like to look at em. I want every pair of “Old Skool” Vans ever made. That’s what I wear daily Have you ever looked at the styles of Vans through the years? There’s one called style #73. I wanna bring them back. Have you seen this guys blog Pillow Heat? It’s cool to go and look at all the different Vans. He’s organized it well. I know it sounds like a cop out, but I’m down for all new designers, I’m down for fashion week in every city, open shows, selling stuff on the internet. Do it all as far as I’m concerned. I might go to shows again sometime, I might buy some stuff — who knows. I’m not really doing that right now, I’m off in my own world. Throughout the years, I’ve sold everything I own twice to pay rent at one time or another and hunted it back. It’s all just a feeling for me. I follow an invisible scent like snoopy floating toward a pie in the window. You’d never guess what I’m collecting now haha …
5.) As a creative collaborator, either as a stylist, producer/director or DJ’ing, you’ve worked with the likes of Jessie J., Good Charlotte, Ben Sherman, Kangol, and even Timberland. What’s been your most memorable experience to date? How has working with these brand/individuals helped to shape your career?
I first have to say — working with artists is all about the artists. I just try to do the best version of their ideas, which are pretty amazing most of the time. I can’t take any credit on the artist side really. I have connected some really fun stuff for videos and corporate clients that I think was great work. There’s a whole list of things I could probably come up with that probably aren’t seen by the world. I had a lot of fun working with Alex James and Publish Brand on a capsule collection a few years back. Much like the GC Greatest Remixes record, I think it was about 5 years too early so nobody really got it. But the whole thing was fun to make.
Getting to be the head of Marketing and Content for Nylon Guys was really fun. We’ve known Marvin Scott Jarrett for a long time, so working with him and everyone there was so great. The magazine was ultimately sold and I left. But that time was definitely one of the best times I’ve had.
MDDN, working with my brothers and our team is definitely the culmination of all my work experience. It’s by far the most fun and game changing concept/company I’ve ever been involved with. Benj and Joel are nothing short of genius. They’re the best business people I’ve ever met. They’re the most hard working, fair, visionary guys on the planet – HANDS DOWN, NO QUESTION. This chapter of my life has been wildly insane and I know what is happening here will go down in history when people get to see the full picture (MDDN).
6.) In regards to your work, you’ve said, “I just want to be part. I just want to be of service to my generation in subcultures. I’m in love with subcultures and popular culture as a whole. I’d like to help the companies that make things and the people that buy things make a little more sense of the stuff that we have. You know … in fashion and otherwise.” What’s the favorite part about your job? Describe what a typical day is like for you? What do you do? Where do you go? What kind of projects do you work on?
Damn, all these questions deserve a chapter, but with all do respect I don’t even know who’s going to read it. I’m realistic about the fact that what I do is the invisible part and I kinda like to keep it that way. I wake up at 5:30 am every day with my daughter and spend the first 3 hours of my day with her, watching what she wants, drawing, playing youtube videos on TV, showing her videos we made that are about to come out. That’s the first part of the day and she’s the best audience to know what’s going to keep anyone’s attention. She’s the coolest person on the planet and she’s made everything I do have purpose.
I go to the compound most days and prepare for a music video or photo shoot. We make 4 or 5 videos a month and there’s magazine shoots or press stuff. I’m always hunting clothes and stuff for those things. There’s a rhythm now though. I know and love everyone we work with, so I’m always constantly just picking up clothes and stuff with everyone in mind. On the weekends I hunt stuff and handle planning too. It’s a 24/7/365 existence and I’m blessed to do it with my family and a team I love with artists of all kinds that I truly believe in and a fan of. I’ll type out a list of everyone at the end of this, I can promise you there’s someone in there for everyone. These artists are all great and at different places in their travels, which makes every day exciting. We’ve been working behind the scenes with some brands. I don’t want to say too much because it’s for them to talk about.That’s really our biggest sentiment. I’m here to tell you what’s up next, not really about anything I did or we did. That’s not really the MDDN way. I’m telling you, I learned some interesting stuff from Benj & Joel, they never really say much of what they did on projects then later on you find out they had a huge hand in the success of something. But they don’t have much to say. They’re busy. I moved out here and got busy, that’s all I wanted — 19 & 20 hour days every single day. It’s so freeing because you stop caring about everything and just chase your dream.
7.) In an Instagram post featuring a video by Jessie J. you wrote, “It’s important for artists to make what they want and what they need.” Explain. How have the words in this quote influenced your work?
Jessie has influenced me. Look, a lot of people in the creative world stand on opposite sides of the room and whisper about how stupid the other side is … the art department is dissing the CEO, the video director is questioning the band whose video they are making, the illustrator is trying to impress their idea or take credit for the tour mercy …WE DON’T DO THAT! It’s important for artists to have an idea and a vision and see that come to life. The only thing I’m here to do is execute and maybe make a suggestion or two they like and want to implement. We’re here to present facts and strategic options that reflect consideration for all the details that might get overlooked. Artists have busy lives, it’s up to us to be intuitive but also really detail oriented and offer options. Jessica Cornish is a genius. I get to be in the room with her when she talks about her vision and I get to suggest options — but the truth is, if we’re good at anything, it’s just listening and putting the artist first. We don’t work with anyone who doesn’t have a vision, that’s why it’s possible. My work isn’t a cash grab, it’s never been cash driven, I like money, it’s fun to have money, but that’s never going to be the driver on the decision making part — being legendary and making work that changes things and lasts forever has always been the goal. The only reference I’d make to the work I did in the past with Timberland or Kangol is that, I got to work with radical people who I still know and that the images and work that were made are still fresh, they’re timeless. I still look at them like “yeah that was solid.” In that respect, I’m the artist. I made what I needed (yes, while inside the confines of a corporate structure and I wasn’t getting rich), but I’ve been fortunate to make art that I still like. I don’t sit around and look at these things, I made rent and kept it moving … but the art part is solid. I like what I’ve made and yeah, maybe one day, I’ll have the free time to look back over it and show someone. That time is not now, we’re busy still making the next thing. This stage of my career is about making things artists want and making sure it’s done to 110% quality assurance, you get me?
Most people can only make their idea, they don’t go all out for other peoples ideas like they would their own. That’s not us. We’re dedicated to making these ideas how artists envision them. That’s a next level way of thinking if you ask me – “Go as hard for someone else’s idea as you would your own.” Also, then don’t try to take credit, just be a part of the win … can you imagine if Jobs and Woz just kept making stuff and not caring about money or credit or who get’s what they want? Think about it for a minute. I do all the time. I don’t need credit, credit doesn’t do shit for you — be legendary, make something that changes the face of culture and gives art the highest platform, crowd surf someone else’s idea.
8.) You’ve declared that the Good Charlotte video “War,” released this past summer, is “one of the favorite things you’ve ever made.” Tell us more about the creative process and overall experience behind the production working on it as a producer through your company MDDN.
All the credit goes to the band and Jake Stark. That was my favorite thing because the story is a kid who came from a real sad place and there’s a part in the video where he’s all alone and he smiles — that’s the happiest you can be when you’re coming up in a mess, when you’re alone you’re free. That video was my favorite because the song is great. I love working with GC and I healed a little bit from making the video. It connected with a lot of people because it was a real story, just like ‘Hold On’ that was a real story about a real person. I love when the art is real — that’s why I can only really watch documentaries.
9.) Who are your musical and style influences? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I have too many. I love Michael Stipe and I love the Beastie Boys. I don’t know them, I don’t plan on it, but they taught me about un-conventionalism and commercial art based on truth. R.E.M did “Shiny Happy People” with the B52’s and then did “Everybody Hurts” and “Night Swimming.” The MTV documentary about them is cool, you should watch it. You know, The Beastie Boys broke the mold and then fixed it. They were punks, then toured with Madonna and Run DMC and L7 and then The Roots. They gave us so much on all corners of culture and asked for zero credit, they just seem to create because it’s in them. Damon Albarn has always done everything right, musically and otherwise. Great dude to learn about and study his work.
The style thing is weird. I love The Specials down to my core but I also love The Lemonheads. I love Bob Marley’s uprising, but there’s also a dozen Grateful Dead tunes I can sing note for note. Rancid has a record, simply titled 2000 that’s forever burned in my mind. I also love the Prodigy, Tee Grizzly, Stone Roses, Ryan Adams, Tribe Called Quest, Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins but also Eminem (back to Soundbombing). I’m entirely agnostic when it comes to music because I truly value and enjoy what’s necessary in culture. We need Lil’ Wayne, but we also need Rufus Wainwright and Bjork and John Mayer (I really like the ‘Who Says’ song and video). I wanna work alongside all kinds of artists, I find identification and enjoyment from the music and I’d be super happy to work on projects with them. I met Spike Jones in Tompkins Square Park one time. For a while, I just got to talk to him. He knows my friend Holt and they were hanging out eating. I just got to listen to him ask questions. He sounded so interested in stuff and it changed my thinking forever. “Here we are, just some guys telling him about different stuff and he wasn’t trying to sound smart or be above anything. He was just so sweet natured.” Maybe it was just the day, but I think he’s probably genuinely a nice guy. It’s funny how just a small block of his time in a day affected my thinking forever. That’s how I want to be. Think about it, he coulda’ been a jerk and that would’ve affected me in the opposite way, forever. But he was rad and it sent me on another path. Could you imagine if we all worked to be our greatest and turned around to kinda just be nice and do what we could to encourage the next person?
10.) What posters were on your wall in high school? What bands were you listening to? What was your favorite piece of clothing?
Posters: Beastie Boys, Nirvana, Operation Ivy…maybe a Canseco poster (definitely at some point) definitely Bob Marley. I definitely loved Ice Cube’s Predator record. hmmm, I’m trying to think. I blocked out a lot of that time and I have no pictures so it’s weird to go back in the corner of my mind and try to see it. I worked a couple jobs starting at 15 and ordered clothes from CCS (California Cheap Skates) or Sessions or Intensity, you know, different skate shops and then often up-sold them or gave them to my brothers. I was always flipping clothes and thrift shopping from 1993 or so.
11.) What are your three (3) favorite men’s looks for the season?
This is just for me, I’m not saying anyone needs to like or do this.
– Regular wide leg pants like we wore in the 90’s.
– Work Clothes.
– Second hand/Vintage shoes.
12.) What are you currently working on? What are your plans for the future? Who would you like to work with? What kind of work can we expect to see from you?
I’m going to do MDDN until I die. I think we’ll probably have close to 50 music videos come out this year — I want to see a hundred next year. Eventually, I want to make a movie.Amy wrote a book called, “A million miles.” I’d like to see that become a movie when the trilogy is finished. I also want to remain open and keep learning. I’m 40 now, which means I’m 13 years past my expectancy and every year is better than the last (there’s been some tough years to grow), but hopefully you get my drift. As always, I’m having a lot of fun working with my brothers. I’m gonna keep doing that. They’re incredible guys and my best friends. The artists we work with at MDDN are all radical thinkers, so, I’m excited to see how they all grow. I’s love to become a creative director for a new or existing brand. There’s also bunch of older brands I’d love to help. And fashion houses, too. It’s an interesting time because I think people are so distracted. I’m working on my clarity and referring to my intuition. I appreciate you bringing the questions and whatever person takes the time to read any of this. But, I care most that there’s a positive message in what we do. I just hope to stay as busy as I’ve been able to for the last 8 or 10 years.
– Who would I like to work with?
Jules Gayton, OP or Gotcha, Jeep, Poland Springs …
I’m sure there’s a bunch of things I forgot, I didn’t read back over this for fear that I’d erase it all.
Josh Madden – Latest Tracks