Wes Scantlin of Puddle of Mudd on the cover of Maximum Ink in August 2001
photo by Christopher McCollum
It all started with a fake backstage pass that got Wes Scantlin backstage at a concert he really didn’t even want to go to. There he was, wandering around Family Values, and he starts talking to one of Fred Durst ‘s security guards. He recalls that Fred Durst just started a record label, and decides to pass his only remaining copy of his demos on to the security guard, hoping they may reach the Limp Bizkit frontman. Scantlin couldn’t write music that sounded any less like rap-rock, but he knows Durst’s a businessman above all, and decides that if there’s an off-chance the phenom would hear his tape, he’d take it… A few weeks later, the phone rings, and it’s Durst. He not only got the tape, but he was impressed by it, and not only agrees to help the guitar-slinging singer/songwriter find a band, but offers to sign the soon-to-be quartet on his Flawless Records, as well.
The results are the brilliant debut Come Clean, an infectious blast of rock ‘n’ roll that swirls high-strung melodies around a punk rock raciness, serving up an inspired sound that stands head and shoulders above today’s murky musical depths. Album opener and lead single “Control” squirms in it’s own sexual energy, an anthem for anyone that’s been in a relationship for far too long. With the catch phrase lyric, “I love the way you smack my ass,” the track offers the perfect introduction to Puddle of Mudd, diving to bogged-down lyrical depths, kicking around the bottom, then exploding back up to break the surface, the whole experience defining why Puddle of Mudd aren’t your typical turn-of-the-millennium band.
Where other acts rage defiantly, Puddle of Mudd take a light-hearted jab at their own insecurities. Where other acts whine, Puddle of Mudd whimper softly. And where other bands attack from the get go, Puddle of Mudd aren’t afraid to nurture their sound from its angriest depths to its most spirited highs. Any guy who can’t relate to “She Hates Me” needs to get out more, and any woman that claims the song’s not about her is lying. And with a sound that blends equal parts Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains with a bevy of influences running the gamut from AC/DC to the Beatles , the results will be far-reaching, as summer tours with Staind and Godsmack have already proven.
All in all, it’s a good start for four guys who’ve united from four different parts of the country. Before moving to Los Angeles, Scantlin was raised in Kansas City, bassist Doug Ardito is a veteran of Boston and the band Cellophane, guitarist Paul Phillips shared stomping grounds with Fred Durst in Jacksonville, and drummer Greg Upchurch, an Oklahoma native, is fresh out of Eleven, who toured as Chris Cornell’s solo band. The frontman and bassist sat down with Maximum Ink to fill in all the proverbial blanks…
MAXIMUM INK: Compared to a lot of the angrier music out there today, you guys are a breath of fresh air.
WES SCANTLIN: I think we’re more melodic and there’s a lot more singing involved, which is something I like a lot. I think everyone’s ready for this melodic sound. You have to have melody… For me, I’m a singerand a guitar player for just as many years and when you really take it seriously, you don’t want to go out and just scream. If I can make my hair on the back of my neck stand up when I’m writing a song, playing the music and singing it, and it gives me some weird sensational feeling, and you get a little shiver. If I can make myself feel that way, it’s got to connect with people and make their body’s feel strange.
MI: Lyrically, you seem to have a healthy outlook…
DOUG ARDITO: The songs that are about underdogs, they still have their day. By the end of the song, it’s not music to slit you wrists too. Even The Wall, by Pink Floyd, had an optimistic vibe every now and then. No matter how dark our shit gets, there’s always that hint of optimism where it’s over, the downward spiral is done. With us, it’s about rising to the occasion, that’s what underdogs do. We almost wanted to call the record that… We started and noone knew about this little band at our label, they don’t expect anything to ever come out of Mudd. It’s a constant uphill battle Wes’ been doing it since he was 12, and I’ve been playing in clubs since I was 15…
WS: A lot of that stuff that might seem lighter, was still kind of coming from a miserable situation in my life. The lyrical content and stuff. A lot of different things have happened in the past, and a lot of stuff has happened in the recent past. When this all happened, it was really like a crazy feeling, because I didn’t really know if I was going to come up with some really good shit.
MI: From the sounds of things, I presume there was a pretty whacky relationship with a woman going on?
DA: Yeah man! That’s the undercurrent here!
WS: A lot of these songs… Take “Control,” it’s completely about this girl that I was seeing, and she was just crazy. And at the same time, I was crazy, but it was this intimate relationship. She’s so beautiful, and the intimate part of our relationship was so awesome, and it totally blocks you, it makes you blind to what’s really going on. You kind of wake you and you go… For every psychotic chick that ever dated a musician, there’s a song! But I guess we’re probably as much to blame as the girls. Sometimes I actually think that I’m subconsciously searching for psycho chicks!
MI: Yet there does seem to be a lighthearted side to all of this.
WS: Yeah… Most of the lyrics are about misery and pain, but then I try to add a positive ending to it. It’s kind of like how every sad movie always has a happy ending. Most of the time, at least!
DA: Why concentrate on the ones that don’t? You don’t go to therapy and get like all, “Fuck you motherfucker, you suck!” So why feed the fire when all these other bands do it already? And some of the lyrics are just about being strong, and sometimes being strong sounds like a more positive, lighter-sided thing, because you’re not being weak.
WS: You could write a song where the entire thing is about being beat down, but everybody that gets beat down or gets picked on when they’re a kid is going to jump up at a certain point and not take it anymore.
MI: Who were some of the bands that had an influence on you growing up?
WS: For me, it was like listening to like the radio. I didn’t even really go out and get a lot of CDs, but I listened to radio all the time. When I was a kid, every night before I’d go to bed, all through my teenage years, I’d fall asleep listening to the local radio station in Kansas City. I would listen to the radio all the time. I would listen to all the bands from AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, to Van Halen amd Jimi Hendrix. Then you had the whole grunge phase, which was totally a mind-opening experience in music, because everything had been so glam. When the grunge phase came in, and the Seattle bands, there was this new kind of music that people could actually play some of, because it wasn’t as hard to play as like Van Halen and stuff. Then there was all that stuff like the Beatles, that everyone listens to Lynyrd Skynyrd and all that stuff. We used to listen to the Cure all time when the glam bands were happening. I would listen to the Cure and the Violent Femmes, and I’d listen to that glam stuff, too, because if you listened to the radio, you couldn’t not listen to it. So there a lot of bands and artists that influenced me.
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