After four albums, platinum-plus sales, sold-out crowds and more than a dozen radio hits, Puddle of Mudd has cemented its reputation and its repertoire in the rock ‘n’ roll world. It’s the proverbial force to be reckoned with, possessing the kind of track record that most bands would be proud to have had over an entire career. Think songs like “Blurry,” “Drift & Die,” “She Hates Me,” “Away From Me” and “Psycho” for starters.
Rest assured it’s been a good time, but now Puddle of Mudd wants to have some fun.
RE:(DISC)OVERED is an entirely different kind of endeavor for the group, which has been churning out its own material since their debut album Come Clean was released in 2001. This time the Mudd men have put down their pens in favor of recording 11 classic rock tracks by artists such as: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Steve Miller Band, AC/DC, Elton John and many others. Some are perfectly in character; others are surprising, but ultimately RE:(DISC)OVERED is Puddle of Mudd getting to both show and explore some different sides of its musical makeup.
“When we were on the road last time we were playing (AC/DC’s) ‘TNT’, (Miller’s) ‘The Joker’, ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath and ‘Summer Lovin’’ from the Grease soundtrack — just kind of bouncing around, doing covers,” Scantlin says. “We never put any cover songs on our records before, so it just seemed like something fun to do. Plus they’re all hit songs, all timeless songs. Who wouldn’t want to make a record like that?”
Guitarist Paul Phillips adds that, “I think we needed something like this because it was a no pressure situation. We just wanted to do something for fun in the studio. We had a great time, and I think it was the right thing to do.”
But don’t think that the project was, as Scantlin would say, “easy peasy.”
“It was challenging to sing these songs by these really legendary singers,” he recalls. “Not only were these great songs and great performances, but they were all in their 20s when they wrote this stuff and recorded it. I really had to buckle down and push myself to get ’em right.”
Song selection was the first order of business as Puddle of Mudd set out to make RE:(DISC)OVERED. The “committee,” which included Scantlin, Phillips, Producer Bill Appleberry (Stone Temple Pilots), and band manager Danny Wimmer, initially threw around ideas and came up with a list of about 30 possibilities. That was whittled down to the batch the band decided to record, hitting Stone Temple Pilots drummer Eric Kretz’s Bomb Shelter studio in Los Angeles during January and February. The band utilized a few additional side musicians, including up-and-coming singer BC Jean, whose vocals grace the track “Stop Dragging My Heart around”, originally recorded by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.
“There’s a reason that every song was chosen to be on the album,” Phillips explains. “They were all songs and bands that we have been fans of forever. When choosing these songs, we really looked for ones that were both inspiring and challenging. We chose some that may be unexpected just so we could push the Puddle envelope a bit. We really wanted to stretch our legs on this one. It gave us a chance to try some things that we have never really done on our records.” At the same time, the guitarist adds, Puddle of Mudd was not out to reinvent these tried-and-true favorites.
“We wanted to pay tribute to these songs rather than bastardizing them like a lot of people do when they do covers,” Phillips says. “We really tried to keep them true to what they were. They are great songs already, so who am I to go in and change a Rolling Stones song? They’re not slavish copies; these songs do have a Puddle of Mudd flavor to them, but we didn’t go in and change parts just to make it sound more like us.”
Scantlin confirms that “every single song on this record hits home with me,” even those from particularly unexpected sources. Neil Young’s “Old Man,” for instance, carries the message that “everybody kind of ends up becoming their father one way or another.” Meanwhile, Elton John’s “Rocket Man” is a beautiful metaphor for life on the road.
“Rocket Man is like your girl’s packing your bags and you’re going on tour and ’I’ll see you in about three months. I miss my family and I miss everybody, but you’ve got to go out there and do this musician thing,” Scantlin notes. “So that hit home with me.” And as far as Bad Company’s “Shooting Star” is concerned, Scantlin says that, “It’s directly related to my entire life, except for the very end, because I’m still alive.”
Phillips was most surprised to be recording Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer M’ker,” “just because the reggae feel is not what we do.” Nevertheless, he has a very personal attachment to the tune. “Growing up there was a guy down the street who was a little older and he used to drive me to school every day,” the guitarist recalls. “He had this convertible VW Bug, and I swear he used to play that song every single day in his car, and I hated it because I was such a metal head. Growing up I was all about Metallica and whatnot, and I was like, ‘This is the worst thing I’ve ever heard!’ As time went on, I grew to appreciate classic rock, and Zeppelin has become one of my all time faves.” Phillips says the solo on Free’s “All Right Now” was his “arch nemesis.” “The whole time that gave me problems,” he says, "but luckily on the day of recording I managed to pull it off.
Billy Squier’s “Everybody Wants You” was the most surprising track for Scantlin. "I never expected to see this one on the list, but it’s really hooky and groovy. “As long as it’s fun or feels good, I’m in.”
Selections like that were key to Puddle of Mudd’s mission in making RE:(DISC)OVERED. “People hear Puddle’s gonna do a covers album and they think it’ll be Nirvana and the Ramones and Metallica and stuff like that,” Phillips says. “We wanted to stretch our legs, and it was a very challenging thing to have songs that have piano and these big crazy arrangements. I mean, doing an Elton John song with piano and backup singers is not the easiest of tasks. It’s quite difficult, and that’s exactly what we wanted.”
Puddle of Mudd plans to give RE:(DISC)OVERED its due on the road, with a full set of its songs followed by an intermission and then “every Puddle of Mudd hit we’ve every released,” according to Scantlin. There will be plenty of touring, he and Phillips promise, but they’re also already writing new material and are excited to get back into the studio to apply some of the musical lessons they learned while making RE:(DISC)OVERED. “I think this kind of opens us up,” Phillips says. “I think it brought everybody’s playing up and created a platform for us to experiment a bit more and try some different things on the next record. The next record is a real important record for us and we really want to try to take it to the next level and surprise people, so I think (RE:(DISC)OVERED) is a great springboard for that to happen.”
Scantlin adds that, “The whole process just inspired everyone. It brought us all back to our roots. I think it’s going to have a big effect on the next original recording in a really good way.”