On Tuesday, I had a chance to talk to Puddle of Mudd guitarist Paul Phillips.
The band is currently out on the Carnival of Madness tour with Sevendust, 10 Years, Chevelle and Shinedown.
The tour made a stop in Clarkston last weekend at the DTE Energy Music Theater.
Phillips talked about the tour, the band’s latest album, his return to the band after leaving because of personality differences and the state of the music industry today.
Q: Where are you guys at now?
A: Pikeville, Kentucky. Don’t ask me where that is because I don’t know where I’m at.
Q: I was actually out that way over the weekend and was surprised because it was actually cooler down there then it is out here in Detroit.
A: Yeah, well it’s hot today. I can tell you that but we’re playing indoors today so it’s all good.
Q: You’re currently out on the Carnival of Madness tour. How is that going?
A: So far so good other than like I said: the outdoor hot shows have been a little trying but other than that it’s been fun. A lot of good friends out here who we get to hang out with. I get to play in front of a lot of people so it’s been good.
Q: How did you get on this tour?
A: Actually all of the bands have the same management and they kind of dreamed it up and you know it’s kind of like a family-type thing. It was a chance to have all their bands out and we’ve known all these bands forever so they dreamed it up and contacted us and we were all in. That’s the long and the short of it right there.
Q: And you were already touring with Shinedown before this right?
A: Yeah, in like January and February. You know we’ve done numerous shows with Sevendust and Chevelle as well.
Q: You were out in Detroit over the weekend at DTE . I couldn’t make it out for the show but I’ve been hearing great things about it. How do you think it went?
A: It was good. Those amphitheaters are sometimes weird. I don’t really like them especially the ones that have heat all the way up to the stage. That kind of freaks me out a little bit but that was good. It was fun I had a great time and the crowd was good so that made up for it.
Q: So the crowd reaction has been pretty good for the tour so far?
A: Yeah. It’s been a good turnout. All these bands have been around for awhile and have been lucky enough to have a lot of songs that people know. I think from start to finish everyone’s been enjoying it.
Q: When you put together your set list how did you decide what to play with a shorter time?
A: It was a tough one. It was really hard because we haven’t played that short in awhile so it was virtually impossible. Luckily, we have a lot of songs that have been on the radio but the hard part about that is you end up having to cut some. Then people afterwards are going, “I can’t believe you didn’t play this or that song!” Then if we played it they would just ask why we didn’t play another one. It was tough. I definitely kind of stressed out a little bit trying to get it to where it is but but it’s got a little bit of all our records and the hits so it’s good.
Q: The last album came out awhile ago but when you play the newer songs how is that going?
A: Good but like I said, both singles we play have hit the Top 5 in rock as well. Those are the only two we are playing right now because of the time.
Q: What’s your favorite song to play live?
A: We’ve been doing a cover actually that’s kind of fun and different. We do a cover of AC/DC’s “TNT”. That’s really fun to play. Like I’ve said, we’ve been playing these songs for years. It’s not that I’m tired of playing them but it’s nice to do something new and refreshing.
Q: Do you get a chance to get out while you are on tour and check out the different cities?
A: Mostly we’re on the tour bus but a bunch of us on this tour go to the gym so we all kind of jump in the car and go out. But then we’ll come back and that’s about it with all of the press and meet and greets and stuff like that. You don’t have much time on a actual show day. On a off day you can get out and do a little bit.
Q: What makes Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love & Hate different from your other albums?
A: I think musically it’s not really that different. I mean the process of making it was different from how we normally do it because we were kind of touring in the midst of it. So we would go in and record for like a week, tear all the gear down and go out for like two or three weeks and then come back and set it all up again and record for another week or two. The amount of time we were actually in the studio was the shortest. It was like five and a half weeks but it was stretched out over like six months because of the touring so that was different. Normally you go lock down in the studio and you just don’t leave until you finish it but this time we’d do two songs here and two songs there.
Q: This was your first album back with the band after departing during the making of the previous album?
A: Yeah, I left during the writing cycle of Famous which was the record before.
Q: What made you come back?
A: Oddly enough the band actually played in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida on a big festival that me and my friends go to every year. I wasn’t going to go because you know I obviously didn’t want to see my old band play but I got talked into going and ran into the guys and ran into Wes [Scantlin, Puddle of Mudd vocalist] and we ended up going out to a bar. We ended up having a good time for once. That was something we didn’t have there at the end of my run. We started talking on the phone and staying in touch and it wasn’t even about coming back to the band but everyday stuff. Then I got a phone call and Wes was like, “Hey we’ve got a show next week. What do you think man? You want to come back out and give it a whirl again?” Under the different circumstances I was game to come back. I definitely wouldn’t have come back to the same situation and so far it’s been great. It’s better than it’s ever been.
Q: I just saw somewhere that it’s coming up on ten years since the release of your first album Come Clean.
A: Yeah it’ll be ten years next August, which is just crazy. There are so many bands who come out and have a huge record or a huge single and then they’re just gone and you never hear of them again. I never though we would make it ten years. We’ve been very fortunate.
Q: Why do you think you have been able to stick around?
A: You know, I have no idea! We just kind of you know definitely don’t follow trends. Like when we came out the big trend was nu-metal like Limp Bizkit and Korn and we came out and just stayed true to just rock. Some people kind of lump us in with the blues thing or whatever but we just stayed true to our guns and don’t try to change our sound or reinvent the wheel and like I said we don’t follow trends. I guess we just stay in the middle and just play music that people want to hear and they don’t get tired of it.
Q: You were talking about AC/DC and they do exactly that: stick to their guns and sound.
A: Yeah they’re the king of that. That is for sure but you love them nonetheless and they still sell out arenas so there you go!
Q: Do you think it’s harder or easier to promote your music now?
A: I think it’s easier with the whole I mean well there’s two sides to it because obviously the labels aren’t spending the kind of money that they used to because they don’t have half of the kind of money that they used to because of the Internet. On that front it’s a little harder but that also opens up all of the ways that you can promote your stuff in the future with Myspace and Facebook, which has become the bigger of the two. It’s very easy now to get information out at just the touch of the button. It’s right there you don’t have to wait and do an interview about it in a magazine that comes out a month later. You can get it out to all of your fans right then in real time. You know on Twitter whenever people have subscribed it comes up a second later on their phone. In a lot of aspects I think it’s much easier because young bands can go film their own home video and millions of people can see it on Youtube or whatever. It’s out there to be seen so I think it’s a little easier.
Q: What would you tell someone who is trying to get a band together?
A: Like I said in this day and age labels are just not spending money so chances of you getting a huge record deal out of your hometown and getting put in a bus with lots of money is very slim to none unless you’re like Lady Gaga or the Black Eyed Peas or something. For a rock band all I can say is use all the tools you have to build your Facebook and Youtube page and do as much as you can do on your own and build a following and put out a record yourself. Now you can print a record yourself and sign a distribution deal not a record deal and the distribution company will put the cds out for you in stores and you don’t have to have a record label. Go tour and build up a fan base. I tell people too at this point if you can afford it buy a van so that’s less that a label has to spend on you. They don’t have to buy your transportation. The more you can do yourself the better. The better off you’ll be and the more a label will be willing to invest a small amount of money to your cause. That’s just where it’s at now. I mean obviously if you blow up there’s more money but in the beginning now for rock bands it’s very, very tough.
Q: Is social networking something that you’re involved in?
A: Oh yeah for sure. We’re very active. I have my own Facebook as well as the band’s and we try to every night after the shows to put up photos from the show and let them know where we are everyday and any kind of press articles that come out we put them up. We try to keep it fresh. I mean obviously you’re competing for people’s attention. So the more you put out there the better the chance that they’ll actually look at something.
Q: Have you thought about different ways to get your music out in the future?
A: Yeah I’ve been having this conversation a lot and it’s not really about how to get it out but the format I see coming. I mean with Itunes the way people can just go and buy your songs as opposed to the record. Now they go with $.99 as opposed to $13.99 or whatever for a whole cd which works for the consumer and it’s great but not for the artist and it affects the whole music industry. I think what’s going to happen is the whole album per se is going to go away and we’re going to go back to singles like you had with the old 45’s where you had one song on one side and one song on the other. That was the single. There wasn’t an album and that got sent to the radio. I think that is what is going to happen. We’ll send a song to the radio, which you can get on Itunes and get another song with it and that’s it. I think albums are going to go away. Nowadays people are having multi-platinum single sales instead of multi-platinum records.
Q: How did you start out playing guitar?
A: I actually started when I was 11 when I got MTV in my city and was just enthralled by rock music and metal music and guitar players. I got a guitar but my mom put me in lessons and you know that really wasn’t something I was in to because I wasn’t playing what I wanted to play. I put it down for awhile and then around 15 I had some friends who were a little more advanced than me and they showed me these song books called tablatures where you have to know how to read music. It’s graphs and photos and shows you exactly how to do it. They showed me a couple of little things and they showed me songs I wanted to learn and after that it was the whole Summer and I just didn’t turn back. It just went from there. I’m still learning today. Everyday.
Q: Is there anybody in particular that influenced you?
A: Yeah there’s a few. The big two are definitely Slash and Dimebag Darrell. James Hetfield from Metallica was big as well. Those are probably my top three for sure.
Q: Do you get a chance to get out and listen to music?
A: A little bit. There’s not as much lately. I’m just kind of stuck on what I grew up on. Every now and then I’ll hear a band that I like but you know times change and right now there’s not a lot of new stuff that’s grabbing me. There’s a few bands here and there but I’m mainly interested in bands like Nirvana and all of the stuff I grew up on.
Q: What’s your strangest fan encounter?
A: There’s been a few I mean people get crazy which is just shocking to me. I remember one time there was a guy in the front who was in a wheelchair and he got lifted up and was crowd surfing in his wheelchair from side to side of the venue. I think it was in a arena. I can’t remember but they picked this guy up and I would hate to be a little kid or a girl trying to hold this big guy up in a wheelchair going over my head, you know? That was a sight to see! Not safe for any of the parties involved but whatever it was something different.
Q: Is there anyone you want to tour with in the future?
A: Yeah there’s loads of bands. I mean the ones who are still touring though it’s a little more difficult. I could say like my idols but a lot of them aren’t around anymore but I could say like Metallica, maybe Motley Crue. Might be a little weird but I guess those are two of my idols that are still around and still touring.
Q: You’ve done some USO tours. Is that something you’ll be doing more of?
A: Yeah I would like to. We’ve gone over there twice and it was a very rewarding experience. The people over there just can’t believe that you came over and they just can’t believe that a band would come and play for them over in the desert. I mean the lives that they’re living is definitely not easy. It’s a tough lifestyle and I don’t know if I could do it but if we can go over there for a little while and maybe bring a smile to their face for a couple days or a week it’s the least we could do really.
Q: If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
A: You know I don’t know but before I got a record deal I was going to college and about to graduate with a management and marketing degree so I would probably be somewhere in a suit and tie behind a desk. That was the route I was heading so thank god I got a record deal!
Q: Is there any future plans for the band?
A: Right now we’re just trying to figure out what we’re going to do for the rest of the year. We just released our third single off of this record so we’re gonna kind of see where we are. We’re probably going to take the month of September off and figure out if October is the time to tour through maybe Christmas and then start a record or maybe start a record in October. We’re kind of on the bench right now. I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to do. We’re definitely writing and getting ideas down and getting ready to go just in case. We’re kind of playing it by ear right now but definitely no later than early next year we’ll be writing a new record and getting in to record.
Q: So ten years down the road where do you see Puddle of Mudd and yourself?
A: Oh that’s a hard call because like I said I never thought we’d make it this ten years so I mean obviously I would still love to still be doing it and we’ll do it as long as people want us to do it. If people still want to come to the shows and actually care. I don’t want to be that band playing bars in front of twenty people. They were big in the eighties and now they’re playing their local pool bar, you know? Not really my dream. Hopefully in ten years we can still be relevant and still be going strong.