I got the call from Puddle of Mudd singer, guitarist and songwriter Paul Phillips, an hour earlier than expected, which made the opening interview chatter even more exhilarating. While catching another glimpse of the band’s new video ‘Stoned,’ I picked up the phone and heard the voice of this friendly musician, who, along with his band mates, had just been destroying a ho-hum typical American office space, while their new song pulsed in the background.

Phillips enjoyed the success of Puddle of Mudd’s multi-platinum debut, Come Clean', which sold over 5 million copies and featured the dynamic single, ‘Psycho.’ He also participated in the band’s follow-up, 'Life on Display', which was certified gold. He left, however, in 2005, citing “artistic differences,” played with the band Operator, and did not perform on the band’s third major label record, 'Famous', released in 2007.

At that time, producer Brian Howes, renowned singer and member of Closure and front-man of the group DDT, however, joined forces with Puddle of Mudd, and oversaw 'Famous'. Howes, while engaged in DDT’s 'Urban Observer' album, realized his talent for production, in 2003 and also produced hits for Hinder, Faber Drive, Hedley Skillet and David Cook.

Alhough Phillips had not been around for that penultimate project, he rejoined the band in 2009, replacing Christian Stone, after a serendipitous reunion with vocalist Wes Scantlin, and threw himself completely into Puddle of Mudd's current release, their fourth studio album, 'Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love and Hate'. To his credit, Phillips has already been receiving positive reviews about his superb guitar work.

In support of this new album, Puddle of Mudd is preparing to tour the US on 'The Carnival of Madness' tour, which will also feature colleagues from Shinedown, 10 Years, Sevendust and Chevelle. This project will begin mid-July in Jacksonville, Florida and finish up in Washington State at the end of August. The tour will include stops in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Alabama, South Carolina and will make good use of these states’ popular arenas and amphitheatres.

The band’s energizing ‘Shook Up the World’ was penned for Team USA for the 2010 Winter Olympics, with all proceeds benefiting Team USA.

“We just keep writing hooky and catchy stuff,” says Scantlin. But, even this singer’s quote doesn’t do justice to the fact that Puddle of Mudd’s successful track record has only been possible through the band’s constant desire to create fun for its fans.

Pennyblackmusic asked Paul Phillips to dish on the behind-the- scenes machinations required to create their lively video 'Stoned' and how the band has not only survived some key line-up transitions, but forged ahead successfully in spite of them.

PB: Hi Paul. Wow. I didn’t think I’d get to speak to you for another hour.

Paul: My management forgets about time zones. They forget that there are about three or four of them in the United States. It happens all the time.

PB: That’s cool. I was just watching your brand new video ‘Stoned’ and it was great to have the phone ring in the middle of it and speak directly to you.

Paul: Oh, cool. That’s funny.

PB: Let’s talk about that. How did you come up with the unconventional, ummm… choreography?

Paul: A lot of the times, we can be involved with the video shoot, like ‘Spaceship’ was kind of like our own idea.

But, this time around, we let the directors do it and they came to us with the treatment and it sounded like fun.

You know, I had a sledge-hammer and I got to smash things. That’s better than playing the song over and over and over again for a million times. I do that every night anyway, so it was a kind of a different day at work.

PB: I’ll say!

Paul: The choreography? We had nothing to do with that. That was kind of a whole team that was hired. We’d never done anything like that before, but it was like, whatever, that’s cool. At this point, it’s just….let’s have fun. What can we do to have fun?

PB: With the other cuts on 'Volume 4: Songs in The Key of Love and Hate', would you describe that material as having that same energy level?

Paul: There are also some heart-felt ballady-type songs. I mean, we tend to cover all ends of the spectrum. We cover every emotion. I mean, nobody’s happy every day. Nobody’s pissed off every day. If you say you are, you’re lying, you know?

With Wes being the main vocalist of the band, it’s obviously got a lot to do with what’s going on in his life, and if it’s a better time in his life, it might be a more up tempo songs. If it’s not so good, then it might be a slower, more heart-felt song.

PB: You’re touring with Adelita’s Way and you’ll be involved with the summer Carnival of Madness tour. Can you give me a run-down of the other acts and the touring schedule?

Paul: Yeah. The Carnival of Madness is going to be really fun. It’s bands we’ve all come up with. We’ve hung out together and played many, many shows together. So, we’re all friends and they’re great bands, so I think it’s a win-win, and for us, as well, as far as who we’re touring with, I’m really looking forward to it and the ticket prices – we’re trying to keep them pretty cheap.

So, I think it’s a good package and I think it’s going to be successful.

PB: How do you think 'Volume 4' will be received and do you think it will come close to the success of ‘Come Clean?’

Paul: Well, you know, when you go up that quick and that fast, there’s nowhere else to go. You know what I mean?

PB: Not exactly…

Paul: You kind of plateau right off the get-go. You know, all we do now is keep making records and stay on the road. As long as people are coming out to the shows still, and having a good time and singing the words, then we’re winning and getting to do this for a living, which I never thought we’d be able to do.

It’s been almost ten years now, since ‘Come Clean’ came out. I was thinking -like five years - and we’d be out. So, I just want to keep making music and being on tour.

PB: Wes has been compared to Kurt Cobain. Have there been any other comparisons to other band members along those lines?

Paul: No, I mean, that’s probably the biggest one that we’ve got since the very beginning. When we first came out, I think he sunk into his own thing and people accepted that. I mean, when we first came out, that was definitely a comparison.

PB: How did you guitar work come together? Has the process been more spontaneous or collaborative? Can you look at some songs of your choosing and explain what transpired?

Paul: Normally, what we do is – I’ll do all the rhythm tracks and then if Wes has some special part over the top, we’ll do that.

This time around, I did the majority of the rhythms to kind of make sure it was the same feel. It was tight and what not. And, that stuff worked out pretty quickly and ahead of time. You’ll go into a day and talk about other things that compliment it.

A lot of that can end up being pretty spontaneous and on the spot. A lot of times we do a long pre-production where we rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and get everything super ready to go before the time we end up in the studio. This was a little more spontaneous. We didn’t have everything worked out. We were working on a lot of the parts in the studio; a lot of vocal harmonies, a lot of drum parts, and what not, so it was more spontaneous than anything we’ve ever done.

PB: I get the impression that you enjoyed doing things in this way.

Paul: I do for a certain period of time. It’s like when you’re writing songs, you say, I can’t wait to get to the studio to record them. Then, you’re in there for three weeks, twelve hours days, and you’re like, "I can’t wait to be done and be on the road", and you’re saying, "I just want to go home and see my friends and my family." So, it’s like, everything in moderation, I guess.

PB: How did you like working with Canadian producer Brian Howes?

Paul: It’s great. I really enjoyed that. He’s probably one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with. He’s a really good, guitar player and a really good singer and a great songwriter. He’s written a lot of hits in the last few years and he just really, really cares about it.

When you work with him, he just lives and breathes it. His whole life is put on hold, and he’s never not thinking about it; never not thinking about this song or what he’s going to do with your music. So, for me, it was very enjoyable. I’d love to work with him again.

PB: The track ‘Better Place’ represents a much different feeling than ‘Stoned.’

Paul: Everybody’s got different moods like that on a daily basis. Unfortunately, a cousin of Wes passed away because of a drug overdose, so it’s an ode to him and a remembrance; a song about him. So we approach it in that way, in more of a somber mood than, let’s get up and party and have a good time.

PB: What would you say was technically the most complex work you’ve done on this album? I know that ‘Keep it Together’ has already generated quite a buzz.

Paul: The most complex arrangement on the album? Probably ‘You’re the Only Reason’ because it has a time signature change in it where it goes from 4/4 to 3/4. I guess if you’re not a musician…

PB: Yeah. Don’t worry, I get that.

Paul: (Laughs). Yeah, if you’re not a musician, it probably means nothing to you…

PB: Yeah, that kind of transition can be intense.

Paul: Yeah, it’s got a time change. We don’t do that a lot. We’re pretty much straight meat and potatoes rock and roll, and that just came about and it felt right for some reason. I’m not saying it’s anything overly crazy, but for us, it’s just something different.

PB: You’ve got a really great mix there. ‘Hooky’, for example, is a lot of fun. Were there some ideas spinning around in regards to that one as well?

Paul: A lot of people don’t know, but that was actually co-written by Wes’s son, who is in the video and he’s all grown up, or he’s on his way. He’s 13 now and he’s playing guitar – he’s playing guitar pretty good. He was with Wes last summer and I was at Wes’s house as well, recording, and he just started playing that riff – ‘Wow! That’s pretty cool. It’s like your own little song.’

And, so, we just started off and said, ‘hey, what would you rather do instead of go to school today?” and he started telling us all these things and we started writing it down. A lot of the lyrics actually stayed and then the more risqué lyrics, Wes kind of changed – a 13 year old wasn’t saying some of that. So, it came together like that and we wrote a chorus to it. It was fun and a joke.

If we throw it on the record, it will be funny. We got to play it for the first time. He didn’t even know we recorded it. So, we played it for him for the first time and he lit up. It was a cool father and son moment. It was even cool for me. It was fun.

PB: Out of these videos, ‘Blurry’ ‘Drift and Die’ and ‘Stoned’ – which currently reflects the band’s image right now?

Paul: Probably ‘Stoned’. We’re at the time of our lives in which we’re just trying to have fun and we’re not trying to answer the question of why we’re all here – the philosophy of life or anything like that. We play rock music and we’re really happy about that and when you come to our show – it reflects that. We’re just goofing off up there and having a good time and just enjoying what we’ve been blessed with. At the moment, it’s just this – hang out and rock.

PB: Now, with 'Volume 4', you had left and then come back to Puddle of Mudd. Were there challenges reconnecting with the other band members?

Paul: Not really. We hadn’t talked for many, many years. The band came to my hometown of Jacksonville to a radio festival that I go to every year. My friends kind of talked me into going. I wasn’t going to go. I went and ran into Wes and the guys. We started talking. We ended up going to a bar, like we actually got along for once.

Me and Wes talked on the phone and it really wasn’t about me coming back to the band.

"Hey, man, how ‘ya doing, " that sort of thing. We kind of formed this friendship that we never really had before. I got a phone call.

"Hey, we have a show next week. We want you to come play it." Under those circumstances, of things being different than they were before, we’ve been back together ever since.

PB: You were now coming back with Ryan Yerdon, the new drummer.

Paul: Right, before I left, our original drummer Greg left, as well, and went to Three Doors Down. That was actually the last nail in the coffin for me because at that point we were the only two that were talking. I think I left, maybe a couple of weeks later.

PB: So, would you say that transition went smoothly?

Paul: Well, he came in while I was gone. He was already in and on the last record ‘Psycho.’ So, when I came in, he was already in place.

PB: If ‘Control’ was sub-titled the “smack my ass” songs, are there some other songs that would stimulate interest simply by browsing Puddle of Mudd’s lyrics?

Paul: (Laughs) We just like to say this is a song and we don’t really know what it is about.

PB: So, it’s a do it yourself analysis…

Paul: Exactly – that’s kind of the joke that’s going around.

PB: Wes has said: “The lyrics come out of frustration, love and aggression.” You write about all kinds of emotion. Does that have to do with Wes coming from Missouri, the “show me” state? Do you have a commitment to establish an attitude? Because, also, I spoke to some teens and one said, “You guys have a very strong point of view and an attitude that channels the teenage brain.” Do you agree with that statement, Paul, and if so, how do you achieve that now that you’re well over 18?

Paul: Because, actually, we’re the biggest kids on the planet. We’re 17 going on 35 for sure. Anybody around us will tell you the same thing. We’re running around late at night, shooting each other with paint ball guns.

So, I don’t really think we’re the most mature human beings on the planet. I don’t think it’s that hard to connect (Laughs) with the same ideals.

I really don’t think we’re that much different. If I wasn’t making music, I’d probably feel really bad about that, but, given my job, I think it’s kind of required.

PB: So, Paul, what would you do if you were not making music?

Paul: You know, I have no idea. Before I got a record deal, I was in college, going for a double major in management and marketing. I was going to go that route, which I’m sure I’d be miserable at if I had gone that route. That was the plan B that I had, and luckily that didn’t happen. I haven’t had to do that yet.

PB: What’s the latest news in terms of generating new material?

Paul: We’re always writing a little, but here and there. There are a few ideas around already that we’re probably getting into early next year as far as making a record, but, the rest of this year, is probably going to be touring. I’m sure we’ll finish out the year around Christmas time and then we’ll see next year about making a new record.

PB: In terms of recording, are you looking to establish a theme for each subsequent project or is it more of the moment?

Paul: No, it’s more of the moment. We never really think of that sort of thing. It’s definitely just in the moment.

PB: What have been the real highs and lows that you recall about the touring process?

Paul: Yeah. It can happen on any given day. You can have a great show or you can have a bad show. You can have a good audience or you can have a bad audience. For me, it’s really not about the size of the venue or about the number of people, there. It’s about how you play. On any given day you can be up and down as far as how your performance was.

PB: What are some of the greatest songs you’ve been influenced by?

Paul: There’s so many. I grew up on Fanta and Guns ‘n’ Roses, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. There are so many great songs. I could keep you on the phone the rest of the day naming songs. Those are my favourite bands and biggest influences.

PB: Do you remember how you felt the very first time you heard one of your tunes on the radio?

Paul: That was pretty cool. I don’t remember exactly. I was sandwiched in between people I grew up on and that I was a fan of, so just for even being put on the same rotation as that, for the first time, was just kind of a crazy pill to swallow.

It was really weird to hear my name in the same sentence with somebody else like that that I’ve looked up to for so many years.

PB: Paul, are you a self-taught musician?

Paul: I took lessons for a bit, but, they were teaching me things I didn’t want to play. He insisted I had to play all this stuff, first, so I quit for a while and even quit playing guitar for a while. I had a friend who had started, who was a little more advanced than me. He started showing me the stuff that I wanted to play. That got me going on that, and from there, I taught myself everything.

PB: Last question, Paul. If there was a movie about the band, who would best portray you?

Paul: (Laughs). Wow. That’s an interesting question. I’ve never gotten that one before. Well, I’d have Johnny Depp play me.

PB: That’s a great suggestion. Too bad, I’m not a movie director.

Paul: Yeah, he’s pretty much “the man.” That movie would probably make a lot of money. So, who would play Wes? It would have to be somebody completely off their rocker and crazy, like, Johnny Knoxville, or somebody, would have to be Wes (Laughs). Yeah, maybe Johnny Knoxville, with a blonde wig. He’s pretty crazy. But, I’d have Johnny Depp be me and that way we’d all make a lot of money.

PB: Are there any final words you want to say to all of your fans out there?

Paul: I appreciate everybody with their continued support and, like I said, I never though we’d be able to make it this long and I’m looking forward to seeing everybody on the road.

PB: Thank you.

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