Wes Scantlin is one of those people who don’t just play rock ‘n’ roll but live and breathe it. As the lead vocalist and songwriter of Puddle of Mudd, he has spent the better part of his life fully immersed in rock ‘n’ roll. Fearlessly blazing his own trail for over two decades, Scantlin has been the driving force behind the band’s success with his distinctive vocals and songwriting style. Over the course of the journey, the band has sold over seven million albums worldwide and has produced chart-topping hits such as “Blurry,” “She Hates Me,” and “Psycho.” That’s not to say that it’s all been sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. It’s no secret that Scantlin has weathered his fair share of storms along the way, but his commitment to making the music he loves has never wavered. In September 2023, Puddle of Mudd released their seventh studio album, ‘Ubiquitous.’ The album features eleven new songs that retain the band’s signature sound while adding a fresh twist to their style. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently interviewed Wes Scantlin to get an insider’s view on the making of the new album. Scantlin discussed his creative process and shared insights about the new music in the pipeline.
It’s great to hear your voice again, Wes. The last time we talked was in 2019 with the release of ‘Welcome To Galvania.’ We’ve all done a lot of living in that time, and now Puddle of Mudd is back with a new collection of songs. Tell us a little bit about the release.
With this new album, ‘Ubiquitous,’ there are a lot of songs on there that had been previously written. They were re-recorded in a nice, professional studio. It’s a diverse record that has a lot of vibes on it, and there are a lot of interesting songs. At the end of the day, I’m just out here trying to write catchy, cool music that people dig and connect with. So, basically, I’m doing the same thing as everybody else out there is trying to do! [laughs]
In our last interview, you mentioned writing 30 or 40 songs during the ‘Welcome To Galvania’ sessions. So, I’m assuming some of those tracks bleed over onto this new release.
Yeah, and then there were a bunch of other songs that weren’t even released on this LP that are still in the pipeline. Those songs need to be freshened up and professionally recorded to make them sound nice, tasty, straight, and shiny! [laughs] Everybody has their own opinions and their favorite ones. When putting together something like this, you’ve got to take into consideration other people’s vibes. There are some songs that I really wanted to put on this record that didn’t get on this release, but that’s okay because we can just put it on the next one.
From what I’ve been told, you’ve been spending your nights hard at work with songwriting and recording. What does it take to get the creative juices flowing these days?
When it comes to songwriting, you’re making a lot of noise. So, you really need to be in your own spot. What you really don’t want to have to deal with is anybody complaining about how loud you are while you’re working on lyrical content and melodies. You’re going to make a lot of noise! Seriously, you need the right space to make as much noise as you want at any time. That’s my personal advice! [laughs] It’s always nice to write and record in the later hours when everybody’s opinions are tucked in and sleeping. That way, I don’t have to deal with any opinions, complaining, listening, or anything else. I try to keep everyone at bay and at a distance. Hopefully, they are all sleeping while you’re creating the magic!
Tell us a bit about how some of these songs took shape.
I was collaborating with Doug Ardino, the OG bassist, guitar player, and songwriter, and Christian Stone, who I worked with every night/morning until the sun was coming up. We were writing songs, and he would come over with Pro Tools, and we’d record. That was years ago, but it’s nice to finally have some of this material see the light of day. I also got to collaborate with a lot of different people on a couple of the newer tracks like “Man In The Mirror” and “Butterface.” Somebody was like, “Hey, write a country song, man!” So, that’s how “Butterface” came about. I don’t know if it’s country, but that’s my country!
‘Ubiquitous’ is the perfect title for this record. As you’ve said, these tracks come from several different periods and span multiple styles. How did the title of the record come to you?
I was watching Joel Osteen, who is an amazing pastor. He’s really captivating. Whenever I watch this guy do his sermons, it seems as if he is talking directly to you. At some point, he used the word “ubiquitous,” and I said, “Wow! What’s that?” So, I looked it up on the interweb. When I saw the definition of it, it means “everywhere all over the universe,” I thought it was such a cool word. As you said, it’s fitting for this collection of songs.
One of the songs from this album that gets stuck in your head immediately is “Cash and Cobain.”
Yeah! Johnny Cash and Kurt Cobain are very inspirational artists, and I’ve looked up to both of them for my entire life. I was recording with producer, songwriter, engineer, and guru Colin Brittian. It was his idea to draw people into the song and different genres of music with these iconic people and vibes into one compact song. It’s super catchy, and there are many connections made throughout the song, both lyrically and musically.
It had to be an eye-opening experience to revisit some of this older material.
It’s really magical, man. In the beginning, it’s just raw recordings before it’s mixed. Then, you send those different compilations to a mixer who does his thing. Once the songs are mixed, they sound tons better. Finally, you send it to the mastering company. Once it gets mastered, it totally blows your mind. It’s not that complicated, but it really comes to life when those entities/people sprinkle on their “magical fairy dust.”
That’s what you pay the big bucks for!
Yeah, but seriously, everything goes to a whole new level. I don’t know what they are doing in there, but I’ll gladly pay them to do it! [laughs]
Reflecting on taking these songs to the next level, which ones put up the most fight?
The song “California” that is on the actual record was a mistake. I’m going to re-release the real version of it with the real lyrical content and real verses and melodies. I recently had to let go of some phantom person who was working with me, who had switched up the verse. I don’t think I’m actually even singing the verses on that song. I’m not sure who it is. I don’t think it’s me. The lyrics and melody were changed, so I was very disappointed about that song. I’ll release the real version (of the song) that I wrote and sang the melodies to with the correct lyrical content. The chorus is right, and the whole song, in general, is the same, except for the verses. I just wasn’t really happy about that.
‘Ubiquitous’ is the 6th studio album from Puddle of Mudd. Has getting a record off the ground and on people’s radar gotten any easier for you through the years?
Yeah, it’s gotten a lot easier. There are so many platforms now, from satellite radio to various streaming services. One of the biggest changes is in releasing your album globally. Now, there is no delay because of the internet. Back in the day, Europe was a year behind the United States. So, you could do a launch in the United States, and Europe wouldn’t get their launch until much later. When you release a record now, it’s automatically global, so that’s a big change. It’s pretty cool.
You started cutting your teeth in the music industry long before the rise of Napster, file-sharing, and streaming services. Technology has really changed the game, as you were saying. What’s your take on the rise of tech and what it offers artists today?
It’s a wild time. It seems to be very helpful for people who are coming up and looking to become an artist or songwriter. They are able to sample all kinds of different riffs/songs that people write. They can tap in and buy a song that someone else has written, pay $50 to $100 bucks or whatever, and potentially write the next humongous hit song. It seems to help songwriters who don’t really play any instruments but who still have vibes singing-wise. They have good vision and can create melodies/lyrical content and vibe with other people. They are basically collaborating with people who are musical writers or underscore writers. Then, the melodies, lyrics, and vocals get thrown in. If it’s money, if it’s awesome, it’s cool! It is really cool that technology allows people from around the world to collaborate. Now, what happens if a song blows up! [laughs] Do they send in the lawyers like, “Hey, hey, Big Dawg! What’s up! Gonna need a couple extra bucks!” [laughs] With all that said, I don’t do any of that collaborating on the internet thing where you are sourcing pieces and parts for however much money. I write songs on actual musical instruments and use a wild array of instruments to do it. It’s all over the board, from drums, bass, guitar, or keys. I do it all hands-on! I don’t like to bum and borrow other people’s jams!
How has your songwriting process evolved for you through the years?
Back in the day, I recorded on a karaoke machine with two blank tapes and an old-school keyboard with a bunch of 4/4 beats on there. I would plug that into my amplifier and plug that into the karaoke machine, where I’d put the blank tapes in to record the guitars and drum beat. Then I’d switch the tapes out, push play, and record on the fresh tape the drums and guitar and then do a vocal. That’s how I wrote and recorded songs back in the day. I would try to bum a four-track or eight-track from anyone I could! [laughs] I would go crazy when someone would actually let me use their equipment! So, it’s come a long way for sure!
You’ve been involved with every aspect of the recording process. Are there elements you’ve fallen more in love with over the years?
Yeah. During the pandemic, I got a new iPhone. So, I got into iMovie and GarageBand. It’s incredible technology. I’ve gotten really good at recording myself on my iPhone and GarageBand, which is epic! I’m still astonished when it comes to the amount of things the program is capable of, and it impresses many engineers and producers who are still using Logic or Pro Tools. GarageBand has really stepped up their game, and they are kickin’ some butt, man! I have a great time with it, basically every night! That’s what keeps me up late, but it’s super fun. There are so many different instruments and options. So, there’s no more karaoke machine! [laughs] GarageBand kicks ass, and thank God for it!
As you mentioned, many tracks on ‘Ubiquitous’ emerged from past sessions. What goes into keeping track of it all? Most importantly, what else might be lurking in the Puddle of Mudd vault?
Doug Ardito, Christian Stone, and a few others are those millennium-type wannabes, so they store all that stuff! [laughs] There are a bunch of really, really cool, in-your-face songs. They are as rock and grunge as they can get! These songs are pretty much already written and recorded perfectly. We have that in the pipeline, and that’s a good feeling! They’ve already been sprinkled with fairy dust. It was all done professionally with a fantastic producer/singer-songwriter/engineer named Eric. I loved working with the guy and will likely work with him more in the future. So, we have way more jams, and I can’t wait for Doug and Christian to show me some of the new stuff they’ve been working on and recording. Then I’ll put a vocal on it, along with some sweet melodies, scream my brains out, and have a good time!
What does the future look like for Puddle of Mudd, both short and long-term?
There is a song called “Dream Girl” that is really amazing. Another song that I really dig is called “Son of Sam.” There are a bunch of cool songs that I wish I could have thrown on this record. But hey, we can always release another record in a year or two. In the meantime, I will keep writing. I wrote a sick-ass acoustic Spanish roller vibe that meets Alice In Chains meets Puddle of Mudd. I’ve got this insane guitar player, an MIT instructor, doing this Spanish solo stuff over the top of it. I plan on laying a vocal down for it tonight in my studio.
I’ve also been thinking about doing a radio/streaming tour. I’d jump in the tour bus and drive from city to city, hitting the morning shows and 5 o’clock drive shows to play a live acoustic set at these stations for contest winners or whatever. So, I’m looking at a whole radio tour and I’m setting that up right now. I’m pretty excited about it!
I really like the sound of the old-school approach.
I’m as old school as they come, brother!
It sounds like you’re in a great place creatively right now. Is that fair to say?
Yes, sir! I’ve got a really fantastic spot here in Cali. Nobody is bitching or complaining! In fact, in the building I’m in right now, the people who have the spot next to me just installed an amazing new photography/videography studio. They do everything, and it’s only about 20 feet away. I’m getting ready to do the music video for “Cash & Cobain” with what are basically my neighbors, so that’s awesome!
Anything you’d like to say to the fans before I let you go?
I love you guys. Always sorry for the delay, but I’m working my butt off here. I’m multi-tasking, so sometimes stuff gets a little pushed, but hang in there, everybody. We’ll be on tour soon. We’re going around the world again! Sit tight, we’ll be out there, and we love you! Thank you for everything!
Thanks for touching base today, Wes. I wish you all the best, and we’ll keep spreading the word!
Alright, man! I appreciate your time! Talk soon!
‘Ubiquitous’ is now available, via Pavement Entertainment, on streaming and traditional platforms worldwide! For the latest information on Puddle of Mudd, swing by the band’s official website at www.puddleofmudd.com.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.