When hard-partying Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden took a long, hard look at his life recently, he shuddered at what he saw.
“I wasn’t really happy and I was in kind of a bad place — I’d been in a bad relationship and I’d been making some unhealthy decisions,” says the tattooed 32-year-old, who — along with his twin brother and band vocalist Joel, the husband of Nicole Richie — had become a popular paparazzi target.
“So I told myself, ‘I’ll either be a loser and keep going downhill, or I’m gonna pull myself out of it and do something about it. And my band’s either over with, or we’ll be the best we can ever be!’”
The pep talk worked.
Good Charlotte, appearing in San Francisco on Friday, returned for a knockout fifth album. The pop-punk “Cardiology” on Capitol has soul-searching anthems like “1979” and “Let the Music Play.”
Personally, Madden changed his diet, started boxing and then exploring mixed martial arts. He dropped 25 pounds to become the lean, mean fighting machine he is today.
MTV/VH1 host Riki Rachtman scoffed at his transformation, and challenged Madden to a boxing match last year. In less than two minutes in the ring, Rachtman’s lip earned him a busted schnozz.
It started with Jason Ellis, a Sirius Radio host and pro fighter who invited Madden to start training in styles such as Muay Thai; it was for “Ellismania 5” that Rachtman scheduled his bout.
“It’s an event that Jason throws every year — it’s all pro-skaters and motocross dudes and guys who are involved in his martial-arts world,” Madden says. “And Riki was asking for it. He’d been boxing for a couple of years, and he told Ellis ‘I want to fight your friend Benji, because he’s not a real punk, blah, blah, blah.’ And he kept on talking s---, so I got to break his nose as a bit of payback.”
Madden was no novice. On Fridays, his gym often closes for private, members-only matches in which he often participates. And growing up a sheltered kid in Waldorf, Md., he regularly resorted to fisticuffs to defend he and Joel’s unabashedly melodic outfit.
“I definitely had a chip on my shoulder,” he recalls. “When I was 21, 22, 23 on tour and somebody trashed our band? I would fight them in a second.”
Now that he’s got real skills, he says, “I go out of my way to avoid a fight. I will run in the other direction, because I just don’t want the trouble.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com