Paul Phillips, former lead guitarist of Puddle of Mudd, Operator, and former guitarist for Rev Theory, talks to South Texas Sound Project about the rumors surrounding a PoM reunion, his new book, his clothing line, his new hardcore project, and the dangers of rock star excess. Check out the exclusive interview below!
Rob Gomez- Paul, how you doing today, bud?
Paul Phillips- I’m good, my man! How you doin’?
RG- I can’t complain! Well, most fans know you from your time with Puddle of Mudd, but you’re pretty far down the road from those days. You have a new metal project called No Tears, Just Blood. Tell us about the inception of the band. How did the material for the EP come about?
PP- Yeah, man! Obviously, things went down with Puddle, with Wes (Scantlin) and his issues. God bless him, he’s sober now, and that’s a fantastic thing. Will we ever play together again? I don’t know. That seems to be the question of the hour. Regardless, he’s sober now, and that’s a great thing. I’ve always been a metalhead. In recent years, after battling my own addiction to alcohol, I really got into hardcore music. It seems to be very popular but still heavy at the same time, which I can connect with. It’s always been a bucket list thing that I’ve always wanted to do, but I never had anyone who could do that kind of singing or screaming, or whatever you want to call it. Actually, it’s so weird… I left Puddle for a while (I don’t know how much you know or anybody knows about my history) and had a band called Operator. My drum tech ended up being my roommate for many, many years. He kept wanting to do a project with me, and I kept writing it off, cuz he was just this little, scrawny kid! I was like “Yeah, ok, whatever, dude!” So he ended up getting a band, and I heard his voice, and I was like “Is that you doing that screaming?” He said yeah, it was, and I was wowed. I asked him if he wanted to do a project, just for fun; A hardcore project. He said “Ok, I’m in!” He was encouraging me, too. He was like “Man, you just sit around all the time and play acoustic guitar, and you write all these sad songs that are just making you depressed. You need to get back to your roots!” I started out on metal, and he was right, so that’s kinda how it started. I started writing songs, and he’s doing vocals for it. We added another guitar player just recently. It was kind of just for fun, to begin with, but we’re getting some traction. People are digging it, liking it, so we’ll see what happens. Right now, we’re working on the EP. As soon as we have a five-song EP, we’re going to put that out, and then who knows? We’ll see what happens. Could be round 2, or round 3, or round 4… I’ve been in so many bands, I think it’s round 4 now! (laughs)
RG- Ya’ll have released two tracks, “Persist” and “Unbroken”- lots of real sick riffing and hardcore metal attitude. You can tell you’re enjoying playing the heavier music these days. It’s good stuff.
PP- That’s what I listen to. I’m known for the modern rock stuff, and whatnot, but that’s not what I listen to. I don’t turn on the radio and dig out on the bands that are on modern rock radio. That’s not my thing. My thing is what I grew up listening to. I still listen to Pantera, still listening to Megadeth, I still listen to Metallica. Now, with hardcore, it’s like Hatebreed, Terror, Sick of It All, and stuff like that. That’s what I dig, so here’s my chance to do a project with stuff I actually listen to. When I go to the gym, I put on our stuff! I don’t go to the gym and listen to Puddle, or Operator, or Rev Theory, you know? I actually listen to our stuff and work out, and I’m thinking “Wow, this is really cool!” It’s been fun, man, so we’ll see what happens with it.
RG- How did this material for the EP come about? How are you writing it? Are you writing individually or as a group?
PP- I do most of it, both lyrics and music. It’s really personal for me. I also do a project with my fiancée called the Perry Phillips Collective, which is real somber, acoustic, piano-type stuff. When I play the acoustic, I tend to write really really sad stuff, and when I play the electric, I tend to write really really mad stuff. This is basically coming from the mad point of stuff that I went through in the last few years, with a bad relationship and with alcohol, and all the joy that comes from both of those! (laughs) So it’s basically my way of getting that out, and I just haven’t played metal in so long. That’s what I learned on, and it’s fun to do all that stuff again, to be able to get those lyrics out and get things off my chest. As a musician, that’s therapy for us. That’s how I talk. I talk through my music more than I do out loud.
RG- It’s like coming home from a musical standpoint.
PP- Exactly! It’s been cool, it’s been therapeutic, and it’s fun!
RG- Will you guys be touring for this project soon?
PP- I hope so! I’ve talked to a few bands. I’m not going to say anything yet, because nothing is in stone yet, but I’ve talked to a few bands on that scene, and it’s possible. Once the EP comes out, it’ll be a whole different story. Right now, it’s kinda fun, but once the EP is out, we’ll do a full press and see what comes from it. Like I said, I would love to. I’d love to play heavy music and get people moving again.
RG- You mentioned this band and the band you’re in with your fiancée. Are you involved in any other bands or musical projects at the moment?
PP- No, that’s it. That’s it right now. You know, me and her started dating, and I’ve never dated a musician before, so it’s cool to have someone I can be like “Oh, you know what an A-minor chord is? That’s weird!” (laughs) “You don’t listen to hip-hop and go dance at the clubs? That’s really weird!”
RG- Is she showing you anything? Is she giving you a pointer or two?
PP- Yeah, she’s a great piano player and a great singer. I owe a lot to her, actually. She really reinvigorated me, because I wasn’t playing, I wasn’t doing anything. She came into my life and she was just so active in music and so passionate about music. She really got me writing again and playing again. To be honest, I don’t know if my metal project would have happened, and obviously the project with her wouldn’t have happened, without her. She really put the fire in me to make music again. I found the love again. After Puddle, I was just so over it all with the way everything ended that I just didn’t want to play. I didn’t want anything to do with music. But the fire is back again, and it’s been great, and very therapeutic.
RG- Well, you tell her thank you from us, too! We appreciate having you back. I had told you before, Puddle of Mudd was, for me, one of the ground zero bands in my formation. One of the first songs I tried to pick out on a guitar was the intro riff from “Drift and Die”.
PP- Well, I appreciate that! It’s weird as a musician, because I’m still a fan. I look back at all the stuff we did, and it’s great, and I’m amazed by it all, but it was so fast that I didn’t get to appreciate it. So when people say things like that, it’s so weird to me, because I’m still a fan of all my heroes! When people say “You inspired me” or “ I picked up guitar from you”, it’s incredible. Record sales and awards and stuff are great, but to hear somebody say something like that is the highest compliment you can get, as a musician.
RG- Come Clean and Life on Display are two of the best alternative records from the 2000’s, and I don’t know if you realize how many people you all influenced between then and now. All the guys my age, we grew up listening to that!
PP- It’s crazy, and I realize it more now then I did then. When we were selling a bunch of records, it was like “Yeah, cool. We’re signed, and that’s what happens.” You sell a bunch of records, and you get to be on MTV and VH1, and all this stuff. It didn’t really dawn on me. But I get it more now from people like you, and even kids, which trips me out. I teach lessons sometimes, and kids want to learn my songs. I’m thinking “But that was so long ago!” and they’re like “Yeah, but it was awesome!” It’s crazy.
RG- You plant one tree in a field, and you come back 10 or 15 years later, and there’s a bunch of trees all around it, and you go “Wow! The impact of planting that one tree!” It’s pretty crazy.
PP- That’s a really good analogy, and it’s definitely 100% true. I definitely recognize it more now, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
RG-I saw you’re a personal trainer now, and you even have your own clothing line! Whats it called and where can we pick it up?
PP- Yeah! Well, to go back to the first thing, working out was always a thing for me, as well. I really got into it after I left Puddle, because what else am I going to do? I’m gonna sit on the couch? No, I’m gonna work out! (laughs) So I worked out a lot, and I ended up opening my own gym. Unfortunately, me and my partner didn’t get along, so I ended up leaving the gym. But I got certified in personal training. I don’t do it that much anymore, because I don’t have a place to do it. When I had my own gym, that was my spot to train people, obviously. I don’t have a place to do it now, but I do take on a few clients here and there. As far as the clothing line, they were just around. It’s called Demons Behind Me, and it’s an inspirational clothing line. It’s all about leaving the past behind, whatever you’re leaving behind, because everyone has something they went through. Whether it’s addiction, an abusive relationship, military with PTSD, everyone has something that they’re trying to run from and get away from. I just connected extremely (well) with the message, so I met with the guys that started it. We talked and talked and figured out a way for me to get involved, and I ended up partnering up with them. We’re trying to push it really hard now. They had kind of just been doing it on the side, but now we’re really trying to push it. We’re going to Vegas to do a convention out there, and try to get some retail going. Right now, it’s mostly just online. When you buy a shirt or a hat, you’re joining a community of people that are going through it, whatever “it” may be. If you order online, 10% of the proceeds go to a charity of your choice, whatever you want it to be. We deal with AA, NA, veterans, battered women, abused children. We have all these charities we work with.
RG- Then there’s the book… when did you find time to write a book!?
PP- That’s a good question, and it’s easily answered by telling you it’s been about a year and a half! (laughs) I’m almost done! I literally have like, two or three chapters left, and I’m done. I’ve been working on it today. The company I’m with, VIP Publishing, is mainly a Christian book company. The other guitar player in Operator, who was my best friend forever, went really off the deep end with drugs and alcohol and that sort of thing. He got clean and sober, got on the Jesus thing, and ended up getting book deal with this company. He told me I should talk to them, and I said I would. I did, and it ended up that they wanted to do a book with me. Obviously, Puddle is a big selling point, but also because of my story. I got really bad on alcohol and stuff, wound up in jail, and all that good stuff. (laughs) Then I went up on the other side, wound up being a personal trainer and trying to be healthy, and finding God myself. I’ve been working on it for a while, and it’s the tell-all. It’s the whole story of Puddle, the whole story of Operator, my short time in Rev Theory, and my short time after that, when I was a complete, absolute mess of a human being, and finally getting my life back in order. I think Puddle fans will enjoy it, and I hope that other people, who are going through bad things themselves, can appreciate it as well and see that there is light on the other side of whatever you’re going through.
RG- It’s nice to see people come out on the other side. The road can’t stay rocky forever! Eventually, you have to reach some pavement.
PP– For sure, man! Like I said, I put it all out there. I didn’t hide anything. All my heroes did it. Slash, Nikki Sixx. When they did their books, they put it all out there. I knew if I’m gonna do a book, I’m gonna put it out there. The bad, the ugly… there’s things in there that I’m not really that proud of. (laughs) But, at the end of the day, I’m on the other side now, and I don’t do that stuff anymore. For me, that’s the joy in it. I can show I did this, and I was a horrible human being, and now, I’m not! So you can do the same thing. (laughs)
RG- You’ve reached phenomenal heights of success in your career. What are some of the most incredible moments for you so far?
PP- There’s been many of them. Speaking as a fan, getting to meet your heroes, and actually hang with your heroes, and have your heroes be a fan. Was sweeping the Billboard Awards, and winning every rock category at the Billboard Awards great? Yeah, that was amazing! Was having platinum records great? Yeah, that’s amazing! But, for example, we’d play London, and Jimmy Page would show up to watch us play… Jimmy Page, from Led Zeppelin.
RG- Wow! That’s crazy!
PP- I know, right!? Kinda invented rock-n-roll as we know it, and he’s hanging out on the side of the stage, watching me play, just hanging out. I’m like, that’s insane! Luckily, I got to meet Dime, who’s probably my #1. I got to meet him before his untimely passing. I got to spend a lot of time with Vinnie, who just passed, too. I can’t believe half of Pantera is gone. It’s unbelievable to me. When I was doing the Operator record, Vinnie was a huge fan. I remember riding around in his limo, and he was blasting Operator, and he was singing every lyric to every song, and I’m going “What!? This is what I do every day to your music. You’re doing this to my music? This is insane!!!” Things like that are cool, when you get recognized by other musicians. But like I’ve said a few times, I’m still a fan, so things like that, for me, are still really, really cool!
RG- What was the hardest lesson the music business has taught you?
PP- That’s a good question. Being away from home all the time, after a while, can really suck. On those first two records, we had quite the schedule. We’d have maybe a week off, and that was a long break. But other than that, it’s just so easy to get caught up in the partying and everything like that. I did. Obviously my singer did, Wes did. Because you have no responsibilities. Like what time do we go onstage? 10pm… Ok, so the rest of the day I’m gonna fuck off and be an idiot. You know what I mean? And after the show I’m gonna drink and do drugs and all that sort of thing. But then what happens is you get off the road, and that’s your lifestyle. That’s what you do. You keep doing the same thing when you’re at home! When I left the band, I was doing the same thing, and it got even worse than when I was on the road. You gotta be careful with that. There’s a time and a place for everything. Unfortunately, on the road, it seems to be 24/7. Except for maybe the hour and half or two hours that you’re onstage. Maybe you keep it together for that, but the rest of the time is fair game. (laughs)
RG- Is there anything you would do differently on your musical journey?
PP- I would have appreciated more of everything we did. I say that a lot, and I kind of touched on that earlier. I thought that’s just what happens. You get signed, and you sell all these millions of records, and yeah, you’re on MTV, and on VH1. Yeah, you get to go to Paris, and you go to Berlin, and you go to London, and you go to Japan. You go to all these places. I didn’t really enjoy it. I didn’t even really sightsee when I was over there. It was like, no big deal. We’re in Japan, cool! Whatever. I didn’t really appreciate it! And a lot of it I didn’t even like, because I was such a punk rock metal guy. Being on TRL and VH1 and being on Top 40 radio with “Blurry” and “She Hates Me”, I hated it! I had that Kurt Cobain thing, you know? (laughs). “I like the money in my bank, but I absolutely hate this! This is so lame! I can’t believe we’re going to be on TRL again with the Backstreet Boys! This is terrible” (laughs) But looking back, that doesn’t happen to anybody! Nobody gets to do that! There’s millions and millions of musicians out there, and only a handful of people get to do that. I spent most of my time either not caring or absolutely hating it. Now, I look back and I’m so glad we got to do that! I can’t believe that we were on TRL, that we were on Top 40 radio! You know how hard it is to be on Top 40 radio? Not just rock radio, but Top 40 radio!? That’s impossible.
RG- Dude, even my Mom knows the words to “Blurry!”
PP- You see what I’m saying!? It’s insane! So I look back on it now, and I realize that doesn’t happen to people. I don’t know why I was so miserable and hated it… I guess I’m not that punk rock anymore! (laughs)
RG- What is on the horizon for you, Paul? What does the future hold?
PP- I’m gonna finish up this book, hopefully sooner than later. With that, I’ll be doing an acoustic tour. A guy that I brought into Puddle there at the end to kind of help Wes out (because obviously he was having some issues), another guitar player and singer, is gonna go out with me. We’ve actually done a few shows under the name Mudd. We do acoustic stuff. I’m gonna go out with him on this book tour, do full radio and book signing, acoustic shows, the whole nine. With that, I’ll probably include some Operator stuff, some Rev Theory stuff, as well. I’ve written a bunch of stuff myself, too, mainly about my struggles with alcohol and whatnot. I’ll be doing some of that. Hopefully that’ll be sooner than later. I’m going to try and get this No Tears, Just Blood EP done, as well. The sky’s the limit on that, so we’ll see. Really, that’s what I have on the horizon, and just working on this clothing line and getting that off the ground to really inspire people.
RG- That’s great, man! Make sure that acoustic tour comes down to South Texas.
PP- I’ll let you know, for sure! I’m gonna be hitting as many markets as I can, any that want me. Hopefully I’ll get some radio support on it and have a good little run.
RG- We’ve talked a lot about some really positive things, and lessons learned, but is there any other advice do you have for some young guitar players who dream of being rock stars?
PP- That’s such a hard question, nowadays, with the internet and the way it is, because my initial answer is “Go to school!” (laughs) There’s no money in it! But my fallback answer is what I’ve always said to any musician that’s growing up and starting out…follow your heart. Don’t try to do what’s popular now, because by the time you get your whole band together and actually get a record deal, that scene will be gone. There are so many scenes that come and go. You jump on the grunge bandwagon, or the nu-metal bandwagon, but by the time you get out, it’s already over! Because it’s just a fad that’s coming and going, and peoples attentions spans are just on to the next thing. So I always tell people to go with their heart. The people that change the world, like Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, or Nirvana, or Metallica… they didn’t go to the mainstream, the mainstream came to them, you know what I’m saying? It was undeniable, but they weren’t doing what was popular, they were just doing their own thing, and it was just really, really good! People paid attention to it.
RG- Don’t find your scene, start your scene.
PP- Exactly, 100%! That’s what I’ve always said. Just don’t expect to sell records anymore. Tour and sell merch. (laughs) Build your social media up, get YouTube and all that stuff going, and records are advertisement.
RG- I hear you, man. We get all our music in micro glimpses now. We don’t really have that scene anymore, or that experience.
PP- It’s so sad, because I used to love that! I used to love artwork, and I loved reading who they all thanked, who produced the record, who mixed the record, where they recorded it at, and read the lyrics! People nowadays, they don’t care! (laughs) They don’t care at all.
RG- Listening to a record used to be an experience, and we just don’t get that anymore. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.
PP- There’s nothing you can do about it. Times have changed, and it has affected us all. You gotta deal with the hand you been dealt! (laughs)
RG- You gotta start a band, write a book, and start a clothing line, that’s what you gotta do!
PP- That’s what you gotta do, man! You gotta find other outlets.
RG- Paul, thank you for talking to us, man. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to talk to one of my guitar heroes growing up. It’s one of those moments, like you said, where it’s great to be able to do this. We look forward to reading your book, listening to your new music, grabbing some merch from your clothing line, and seeing you down in South Texas soon, brother.
PP- Thank you so much, man. That really means alot. I really appreciate it, you have no idea.