Did you think prejudice against long hair went out with the Age of Aquarius? According to Puddle of Mudd lead singer Wes Scantlin, it’s alive and well in rural Missouri, where he grew up. “People look at you as a juvenile-delinquent crazy person,” he says. “Managers of restaurants, they don’t want to hire a longhaired hippie. The only jobs you can get without cutting your hair are framing houses and mowing lawns.”
Scantlin found another career path for the long-locked: rock musician. His band’s name pays tribute to his Missouri background — when the Mississippi flooded one year, Scantlin’s rehearsal space became a swamp. Now, Puddle of Mudd’s first single, the raging “Control,” has become a monster radio hit. This success almost didn’t happen: In 1999, after years of plugging away, Scantlin broke up the first version of Puddle of Mudd and got ready to move to New Orleans, where he was planning to manage his then-girlfriend, a stripper. A friend dragged him to see the Family Values Tour, where Limp Bizkit were headlining.
“I got a fake backstage pass,” says Scantlin, leaning back in a large white leather chair in New York’s Paramount Hotel and lighting a Parliament. “But I didn’t meet Fred Durst.” He did meet Durst’s security guard and gave him his last copy of Puddle of Mudd’s demo tape. Three weeks later, Scantlin was stunned to get a call from Durst, who flew him out to L.A., signed him to his Flawless label and hooked him up with his new band mates. “They’re my new best friends,” Scantlin says.
All the members of Mudd have been bouncing around the music industry for years. Drummer Greg Upchurch also played with Eleven, who backed up Chris Cornell on a club tour. Upchurch reports that when Cornell wanted to avoid mobs of fans, he would pretend to be stupefyingly drunk and get carried to the tour bus. Bassist Doug Ardito decided he wanted to be a rock musician when he went to a J. Geils concert as a kid and saw that Peter Wolf had an enormous hickey. The time it’s taken everyone in the band to achieve those childhood dreams has made them more aware of how fortunate they are.
Puddle of Mudd’s first album, Come Clean, is a full-on blast of grungy, angry rock & roll. Targets of Scantlin’s lyrics include authority figures, himself and, most of all, ex-girlfriends. “I’ve been through a lot of crazy relationships,” he says. Now he’s memorialized those exes in lines like “She was queen for about an hour/After that, shit got sour” (on “She Hates Me”).
“I write in spurts,” Scantlin says. “I write a few songs, show them to people and take a break. Then I let some more fucked-up emotional situations happen to me, and I write some more.”