“I think the most special thing about this entire process is that I’m still alive and I’m free and I’m happy,” says Wes Scantlin, vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for Puddle of Mudd in a recent interview about life in quarantine, touring and his sixth studio album in nearly a decade Welcome to Galvania. For Scantlin it’s been an up and down ride and a list of arrests stemming from domestic violence to disorderly conduct. Says Scantlin, “The fans are really kind of like what got me through a lot of weird crazy things that happened. Family and God.”
Puddle of Mudd formed in 1991 in Kansas City, Missouri as a primarily alt-rock band during the epoch of grunge, successfully sold over seven million albums and achieved a string of No. 1 hit singles and Billboard awards in the U.S. alone. Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit) is credited with discovering the band and releasing Come Clean, which sold 5 million albums, under his Flawless label. Scantlin tells a different story but it’s undeniable Durst had a hand in helping with the fledgling band’s success.
It has been well documented of Scantlin’s erratic behavior on stage and off, including an arrest on gun charges and missing court dates. After a stint in rehab the Puddle of Mudd vocalist has remained clean and sober for over two years. Welcome to Galvania is the first release in ten years from Puddle of Mudd, although Scantlin says he has continued to stay active, writing music and contributing to other artists. “I was writing all the time for several different types of artists and different genres of music and stuff.” The hurdles of divorce and incarceration weighed heavily on him for a time but now that’s all behind him as Scantlin moves forward with his new life focusing on songwriting, family, and health.
These days Scantlin is taking it a bit easier, and in these COVID-19 times, quarantine is allowing him to focus on his music and his health. “It’s pretty cool,” says Scantlin, “actually to be an artist. I can sit here and do art all the time.” When asked about touring he doesn’t know the future but he does know “touring is not like real life.” Global touring is exhausting, staying up late, in and out of airports, not eating a proper diet, and performing night after night subjecting your voice and your body to dehydration and sleep deprivation. When your instrument is your voice these are your hazards. “I basically quit smoking, quit drinking, quit doing drugs, quit doing everything – I got this exercise bike here and got a whole gym in the back yard. I’ve been working out basically every day.”
When a 13-year old Scantlin was inspired to play guitar after seeing the Van Halen, Jump tour, he didn’t understand what a global tour of that magnitude would entail. “I saw that and I was like that looks like fun. I want to do that … but you don’t see the back stuff. You don’t see the behind the scenes stuff.” You don’t see the rigors of touring and the being way from family months at a time. The ultimate stress and strain was more than he could handle. Touring and overexertion took a toll on Scantlin’s voice; the stress of singing night after night, he started to experience and hear some noticeable issues with his singing voice.
“I thought I was never going to be able to sing again and then I went to Dr. Joe Sugarman, an ENT here in Los Angeles.” Dr. Sugarman looked at Scantlin’s vocal cords and diagnosed him with acid reflux. “I couldn’t even sing falsetto and he stuck this thing up my nose, this camera thing in the vocal cords.” He was prescribed acid reflux medication, the problem cleared up and so did Scantlin. In preparation he started a regime of vocal training and applying the no smoking, no drinking, plenty of practice and rest to his routine, in addition to a little secret weapon called Manuka honey. “I thought I was never going to be able to sing again, believe me. He [Sugarman] was like ‘why didn’t you come back earlier?’ Man, I was in jail, sorry,” Scantlin chuckles.
Through the years Scantlin’s legal woes mounted and on one occasion he found himself incarcerated at the twin towers in Los Angeles. It was during this time he recalls a “divine experience,” which inspired words to the song Sunshine, on the Welcome to Galvania album. While in his cell Scantlin called out to one of the inmates asking if there was a chapel in the facility. The inmate replied, “No dude,” but no sooner did he reply a monk appeared before him. “All of a sudden this monk walks up and says a prayer and blessed me and everybody and just kind of floated out of the pod. It gave me a little hope at that time.” In the song “she always lights the way” speaks to this experience. Sunshine is also inspired by another incarceration story about a friend’s experience spending 23-hours in solitary confinement allowing only one hour of sunshine a day. What’s more the song mirrors our modern day COVID-19 quarantine and the accompanying video uses Coronavirus images as the backdrop. “A lot of times art imitates life, life imitates art. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve ever written anything that was actually somehow literally futuristically right,” explains Scantlin about the parallels in the song.
Welcome to Galvania is a compilation of songs written over the years through collaboration and from other songwriters. The album is so named after a phenomenon known as a “Galvanic skin response” or more commonly goosebumps you get when hearing something that emotionally moves you. “My dad told me about this,” tells Scantlin, “When I was younger he would basically kind of judge the song if he got goosebumps on his arms, then we got a hit. A lot of times it was like, you know that one didn’t give me goosebumps, move on.” One song guaranteed to give you goosebumps is Uh-Oh, a song that was already written and recorded by many musicians before it was presented to Scantlin. “It was presented to me and they kind of worked it out and I said, Wow this is really cool.” Scantlin knew it would immediately be a hit.
The writing and recording process of the album included Scantlin working with Christian Stone (lead guitar) and Doug Ardito (bass). They recorded at various locations but a good part of the work was done at home. “In the beginning Christian went up to my crib and he setup his laptop and his system and everything. We wrote a lot of stuff. We recorded a lot of stuff.” In fact, they produced so much, there’s already another album in the works and a potential side project or two for Scantlin.
Another inventive song Slide Away Scantlin collaborated with Tony Battaglia. At the guidance of Geffen and Universal, Scantlin flew to Orlando, Florida to meet with Battaglia for some songwriting sessions. On his way to the airport Scantlin was listening to the Pretenders song Special, and thought about redoing it for the album. He brought the idea up to Battaglia who said, “Why don’t we write one just like it?” So they did. Scantlin says Battaglia was an amazing guy and he hopes to write with him again soon.
Welcome to Galvania is the first album in 10 years from Puddle of Mudd, with songs conceived and written by Wes Scantlin and collaborations with other musicians and songwriters. Although the future of touring is up in the air and there is no immediate dates to announce, Scantlin is hopeful, he misses the camaraderie. “Everybody’s so cool and I miss everybody. I miss playing. I really do. I’m just trying to be safe.”
Wes Scantlin – (lead vocals, guitar)
Dave Moreno – (drums, bg vocals)
Matt Fuller – (rhythm guitar, bg vocals)
Michael John Adams – (bass, bg vocals)
Welcome to Galvania
You Don’t Know
Go to Hell
My Kind of Crazy
Time of Our Lives
Just Tell Me
Kiss It All Goodbye
Uh Oh (Come Clean Version)