The past two decades have been a long and winding road for Wes Scantlin. He exploded onto the scene as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Puddle of Mudd in 2001 with the release of their first major album, “Come Clean.” The album spawned the hit singles “Control” and “Blurry.” These hits propelled Puddle of Mudd to reach the No. 5 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This success led to the band venturing out on a full-scale European and American tour, hitting the road with Linkin Park, Stone Temple Pilots, and Staind. “Come Clean” reached triple platinum status in January of 2003. The subsequent album, “Life on Display,” was released in 2003 and reached gold status. They went on to release “Famous” in 2007. In 2009, they released “Vol. 4: Songs in the Key of Love and Hate.” In 2011, the band released an album of cover songs, entitled “Re:(DISC)overed.”
In spite of all the band’s successes, it was Scantlin’s dependency issues that soon began dominating the headlines. He soon became the living embodiment of the rock excess lifestyle with arrests for cocaine possession, driving under the influence, drunk and disorderly conduct on a flight, leading sheriff’s deputies in a high-speed chase while under the influence of alcohol, erratic onstage behavior, and an arrest at Los Angeles International Airport for trying to board a plane with a BB gun. It was a challenging period for him as he spiraled down the darker side of rock ‘n’ roll. The road to redemption was not and easy one. Weathering the storm came down to a combination of a stint in rehab, the unwavering support from his family and friends, and his raw determination to live.
With his a renewed lease on life and a deeper passion for music-making, Wes Scantlin and Puddle of Mudd are back and more focused than ever before. After inking a deal with Pavement Entertainment, the band forged their sixth studio album, “Welcome to Galvania,” with producer Cameron Webb (Alkaline Trio, Disturbed, Motorhead). The highly anticipated new album serves as a exciting new chapter in the band’s rich history and leaves them primed to reach the top once more. Armed with an impressive back catalog and a new album full of bone-rattling jams, the future is bright for Wes Scantlin and Puddle of Mudd.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Wes Scantlin as he roams the land with Puddle of Mudd. In the interview, Scantlin opens up about the early years of the band, his battles with addiction, his songwriting process, and the making of “Welcome To Galvania.”
It’s great to connect with you today, Wes, and it’s great to see you back in the swing of things and doing well. Before we get to everything you have going on with Puddle of Mudd, I wanted to go back to the start. How did music first take hold in your life?
You know, I think a lot of it had to do with my parents. I was always hearing what they were listening to when I was growing up and that was a wide array of artists. Then I heard Van Halen and I was seeing a lot of videos on MTV. It was a huge melting pot back then. There were so many artists that had an impact on me from Led Zeppelin to Michael Jackson to Prince to ZZ Top to freakin’ Madonna and .38 Special. The list just goes on and on. I remember when my Mom was listening to me trying to play “Spanish Fly” by Van Halen on a classical guitar when I was 12 years old. It was months and months of me trying to do it and I just couldn’t get it. One day, she came downstairs and said, “You know you can write your own songs. You should just start writing music. Publishing is really, really nice for songwriters! You’re not going to be Eddie Van Halen when it comes to soloing, which is fine. Maybe look into songwriting!” [laughs] I was like, “Ok, fine.” [laughs] That’s when I started writing songs. I knew I really wanted to be in a band when I saw Van Halen on the “Jump” Tour in 1984. I actually got kicked off my soccer team because of it. I accidentally forgot to go to practice and I missed a game because of that show. [laughs] From there, I got a really crappy guitar for my birthday from my parents from K-Mart. I got a little, tiny combo Gorilla amp and a keyboard. I was running everything through a karaoke machine as I tried to write songs. That’s kind of how I did it. I’d switch the tapes out and I could only get like three tracks, but I had bass and drums from the keyboard, and I could add the vocal and guitar at the same time. I’d just swap the tape but after you swap the tapes out so much, it would start getting mushy! [laughs] I didn’t have a lot of money, so that was basically all I had to work with really.
At what point did you decide music is something you want to pursue professionally? That’s a big step to take at any age.
Yeah. I was trying to form a band, but it wasn’t going to well. I had a band when I was in school from the ages of 13 to 15 called Good Question. It was just a high school band and we did cover songs the best we could at school events. We’d even rent out a community building in an apartment complex and basically have a party. I spent a lot of time trying to get a band going. It wasn’t until I went to this music shop called Big Dude’s Music City that things really started to happen. I saw a flyer saying, “We’re starting a band. If you’re interested, call this number.” I called the number and left a message. I got a call from Jimmy Allen and they had a rehearsal studio down on the river bottoms in Kansas City, right next to the levee. I showed up there to try out for a different band, which belonged to the original [Puddle of Mudd] bassist, Sean Sammon. Jimmy and Kenny Burkitt where upstairs at the time. They came down and said, “Can anybody here fucking sing?” I was like, “Yeah. Fuck it. I can sing!” I had a few beers in me at the time and I went up there and played some Alice In Chains. Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell were massively influential to me as a vocalist. I would basically sit there with Alice In Chain’s first few records, play it on the PA and sing right along with it. I also took some vocal lessons from this 70-year-old lady in her little basement apartment by her piano. I’d go over there, take vocal lessons and sing these Alice In Chains songs. Pearl Jam was another band that was very influential, along with Soundgarden. However, it was really hard to follow Chris Cornell because he had such an amazing voice.
Puddle of Mudd basically formed that day when I went down to that studio. We all went upstairs and go to rehearsal every day. We’d rehearse in the blistering heat in the summer and the winters were freezing cold! We started writing and would show Sean and Kenny the songs. From there, everything started to mesh together. We started writing songs and playing cover songs as well. That went on for a couple of years before we started getting some cool shows, like the RockFest in Kansas City. This was back when it first started. We were playing some opening act spots for bands like Queensryche at the Sandstone Amphitheatre. We were really starting to build the name up and we were doing really well. We had actually gone to the studio in Lawrence, Kansas and recorded the record, “Stuck.” That was the first one. We paid three or four grand and did the record in about 2 days! 98.9 The Rock in Kansas City put our song, “You Don’t Know,” on full rotation out of the kindness of their hearts. I owe a lot of the success I have achieved in my career to 98.9 The Rock because they really gave Puddle of Mudd a great platform. We were right up there with the big dogs, man! People were calling in and voting for us and they loved the music. “You Don’t Know” charted when we didn’t even have a record deal. We were just doing our own thing. We just kept trying, trying and trying. We had some record labels come in along the way, but they were saying we were too green. Maybe we were partying to much or something, I don’t know. [laughs] It got to the point where nothing was really going on and the band broke up. I tried to piece it back together, but it just fizzled.
I lucked out when I went to the Family Values concert. A friend of mine had made these fake backstage passes and one of my biggest fans of all-time, this girl named Leeshan Nunez, did me a favor. I had asked her to make a couple of tapes with all of the music I had recorded over the course of 8 or 9 years. She put it on a cassette tape and mailed it to my house. When my friend came over saying he had tickets to Family Values concert, I was about to leave Kansas City with this girl who was a super-stripper, feature entertainer, Miss Nude Italy, Miss Nude Hardbody. I was going on tour with her and driving her all over the United States. I ended up going to show, got the fake backstage pass and I had the tape with me. I got down there, went backstage and gave my demo tape to Fred Durst’s security guard at the time. He gave the tape to Fred. I guess Fred went to a pawn shop and bought a ghetto blaster, put the tape in and started rocking it! I ended up getting a phone call when I was in Mobile, Alabama from my good friend Dave, who had put his number on the tape like he was my manager. He said, “Yeah, man. Fred Durst called and said he wants you to fly out to Hollywood.” That was pretty cool, man! That’s basically how all of it happened!
That’s wild! I guess it just goes to show that perseverance is key![laughs] Yeah, definitely.
Rock ‘n’ roll has clearly been a through-line in your life. What does it mean to you?
You know what? Rock ‘n’ roll has really saved my life over and over again. I’ve been really fortunate to be able to work with some truly amazing producers, players and songwriters. It’s a blessing, man. It’s a blessing from God and I love him for giving me this gift.
It’s no secret that you’ve been through some trying times over the past few years. What went into turning it all around?
Yeah, as you know, I was in a lot of trouble. Fortunately, I guess, I got arrested that last time at LAX in Los Angeles. At the time, I was hanging out with the wrong kind of crowd. So, when that happened, Judge Corne put her foot down and said, “You’re just going to be good from now on or you’re going to prison. Be good or go to prison for 10 years.” It’s definitely been a long hard road for me, but it has been well worth it. Where I was is really the result of getting into too much trouble and having the law step in. Where I am now is a combination of my family and some other people in the industry not wanting to see me do anything like Layne Staley did. There were a lot of people who really cared a lot about me and didn’t want me to die!
I’m sure you’ve done your fair share of reflection over the past few years. How do you view your evolution?
I have evolved greatly over the years. Thank God for recovery and for the fact that I’m still alive. Like I said, I was in a pretty piss poor spot, and I knew it. I’m thankful for God and everyone who cared so much about me and didn’t want to see me die. I didn’t want to die either, man! I’ve definitely grown. I just don’t fuck around anymore. Once your body runs out of juice — that’s it, man! We lost so many of the greats in recent years from Chris Cornell to Scott Weiland to Prince to Michael Jackson. I was lucky that I had people who cared and didn’t want to see me die. I know I’m really lucky to still be here. It’s not something I take for granted. I want to keep going for a long as I can. I want to play shows, tour the world, and make music.
Thankfully, you are still with us and you’ve been channeling your energy into a brand-new Puddle of Mudd record, “Welcome To Galvania.” From what I understand, you had a ton of material already written for this album before the ball even got rolling.
Yeah, I had about 40 to 50 songs written. It was really freaky to pick the 11 or 12 songs to go on the album. I was really open minded to anybody’s input in regard to what they thought was catchy or really cool. It was a combination of a lot of people’s intuitions. In a way, I look at this album as a new beginning.
Tell us a little bit about the title, “Welcome To Galvania,” and how it came to be?
Let’s start with “Galvania.” It’s a term I kind of invented but it’s a derivative of galvanic skin response, which is something within the human body. Think of it this way – it’s the electrical charge you experience when you’re listening to some seriously killer, groovin’ music. It’s something I took from my father. He would use galvanic skin response to judge the songs I was writing, recording and producing. If a song made him get goosebumps, made the hair on the neck or arms stand up, or gave him a really good feeling, he would say, “That song could be a number one hit single.” With that said, he’d also listen to some of the stuff and say, “You know, that really didn’t get the juices flowing.” He helped me out a lot in that respect.
Did you have any goals in mind when creating this album?
Well, the most important thing was to get some new music out there. Hopefully, some of these songs will help people get through some difficult spots in their lives as much as “Blurry” or some of the other songs have. We’ve had some huge hits with Puddle of Mudd. I’m really excited to have this record come out so the long-time fans have some new music to listen to.
Which of the other songs are really resonating with you at this point in time?
I really like all of the songs on this record. I really do, and I’m excited to play a lot of these live. “My Kind of Crazy” is really cool. I can’t wait until the record is released so we can go to rehearsals and start playing a lot of this new stuff.
You rolled out “Uh Oh” as the first single, which is a really cool tune that everyone can relate to on some level. What made you choose that particular song?
You know, when I first heard that song, it really blew me away with how catchy it was. It was also very reflective of my situation. It was also reflective of some of the situations in the lives of the people who were the co-writers on that tune – Doug Ardito, Christian Stone and a girl we were writing with named Leanna. Everybody gave the thumbs up on that being the first one because it is so catchy and, like you said, is so relatable. Everybody fucks up and everybody fucks up again and again, too! [laughs] I mean, some people get wise and don’t fuck it up again, but EVERYBODY fucks up, man!
When it comes to songwriting these days, what goes into capturing your ideas?
Most of the time, I’m just trying to keep things really simple so that I can create a really great melody. My brother, Scott, told me a long time ago that I needed to find a lot of cliché-type of expressions because that is what a lot of popular music is. I’ve taken his advice, along with my father’s advice, and keep it nice and simple. I try not to overthink things – keep it simple and focus on a very melodic melody line. I try to start with a cool vibe lyrically, get a focus for the song and hopefully find some really bitchin’ ass cliché that can be a bit repetitive and pair it with a little optimism or light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t want to have a song come across as “all is lost.” Everything can be better. I really try to inspire people through melodies, lyrical content, and the focus of it.
It’s awesome to hear that you are in a great space creatively. What does the future hold for Puddle of Mudd?
I think we’re going to be rockin’ for a long time, man! We have this album, we’re excited to continue touring, and it’s an exciting time. I think it’s safe to say that the next record definitely won’t take 10 years! There will be far shorter of a wait! [laughs] Everyone is so focused right now and we’re on a really good page. We’re doing well. I think we’re going to take a little time off, briefly, before starting to rehearse and start on another new record.
Do you feel that the struggles you experienced and overcame brought you closer as a band?
Yeah, I really do. You know, everybody is here with me right now. We’re in the car and we’re cruisin’ to Beaumont, Texas. We’ve got 4 shows in a row and we’re really happy to be on tour. We haven’t lost sight of the fact that we love to rock out every night! These shows are going great and we’re doing Muddfest with Saliva, Trapt, Saving Abel, and Tantric. Everyone has been having a really good time. Not too good of a time though! [laughs] All the bands have been doing great, so I think we’re all really enjoying it.
You’ve been at it for a long time. What’s the best hardest part of keeping a band like Puddle of Mudd moving forward?
I think a lot of it has to do with being able to be friends and get along with each other. That’s a big part of it. People change over time and some people can get bored or sick of it. All the changes I’ve had in this band, I didn’t really want it to happen like that. I guess people just get lonesome. They might miss their girlfriend, wife, or kids. They might think they’re not making enough money. If you get pissed off about it and start griping and want to leave…well, okay. It sucks to have to replace people but, like I said, sometimes people just get sick and tired of it. If they aren’t making enough money and can’t pay their bills, that’s not really my fault. You know what I’m saying?
I do. It’s not a lifestyle not everyone is cut out for. There’s sacrifice involved and not everyone is willing to make those sacrifices.
Yeah, exactly. To do this job, you’ve kinda got to be a freakin’ gypsy out here! You’ve got to be able to go at the drop of a hat!
On that note, I know you’ve got to get going, so just a few more for you. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
The best lesson you can learn from me? If you’re looking like shit, feeling like shit, you’re probably a shithead and you might want to get your shit together! [laughs] Get your shit together real fast or everyone is going to take a shit on you and sweep you to the side! [laughs] But seriously, when it comes to music, if that’s what you want to do — Practice, practice, practice! Never stop writing songs.
What’s the best way for us to support the band in this day and age?
I appreciate you asking. The record comes out September 13th and it will be available online and at the shows. If you come to the shows, we have pre-order Puddle of Mudd cards that have a code that allows you to get the album for just 10 bucks. You just buy that card, type in the little code and download the album. That’s a great way to support us!
Thanks for your time today, Wes. I’m really excited to help spread the word on “Welcome To Galvania.” I’m looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us in the years to come.
Thank you, man. I really appreciate it.