Rubber Band Man
Patrick Vaughn Stump had the slightly awkward role of being the voice of a band whose celebrity was all wrapped up in its bass player. But the former Fall Out Boy frontman has more up his sleeve than most people think.
Interview: Ryan J. Downey /// Photos: Jayme Thorton
Patrick Stump: the anti-frontman.
That was the narrative throughout Fall Out Boy's rise from playing first-of-five on random hardcore shows to the heights of MTV's Total Request Live and several turns on this very magazine's cover. He was the quiet guy hiding under the hat, behind the glasses, hanging on to the mutton chops that helped shape an otherwise cherubic face. He might have written the music and sang the songs, but Pete Wentz wrote the lyrics, stood closer to the front of the photos, greased the wheels of the business, crafted the image and, eventually, landed the TMZ headlines.
With the group now on hiatus, Stump has emerge slim, trim, dressed in sharp New Romantic-esque gear and bursting at the seams with the soulful, funky, R&B- and pop-influenced rock he placed (sometimes incongruently) into Fall Out Boy's later material, as Wentz promotes his electro-tinged Black Cards and the rest of the band tour with The Damned Things. His solo debut, Soul Punk is a true solo album, with Stump playing all of the instruments. (Remember, he first tried out to be Fall Out Boy's drummer before the band discovered his voice and nudged him into singing instead.) This step, alongside his turns as part-time actor (a small role in an episode of Law & Order), rock journalist (as a contributor to Rolling Stone) and sideman (his gig with Hall and Oates), has Patrick Vaughn Stump re-emerging as a nuanced, multi-faceted individual as well as the kind of high-caliber artist that rarely surfaces in today's pop-rock world.
Sitting down at trendy Los Angeles vegan restaurant Real Food Daily, Stump tells AP how he clearly envisions himself having a prolific and fulfilling career in music-with or without the band that first made him famous.
AP: You made Soul Punk the old Prince and Lenny Kravitz way: It's an actual solo album where you're playing everything.
Patrick Stump: One of the things I like about Prince is that, while he acknowledges that he's not punk rock or whatever, he has such an admiration for it. When you look at [his 1980 album] Dirty Mind, that's him going, "No!" Because his label was trying to push him into R&B...
AP: You're known as sort of being the anti-arrogant frontman. You're the frontman who wasn't out front.
PS: [Laughs.] Right. There were a lot of things that were projected onto me [in Fall Out Boy] that I was happy to absorb but weren't necessarily me. I'm quiet. But I'm not so shy, necessarily. I'm not extremely outgoing. I'm not a type-A personality who walks in and owns the rooms. But that doesn't mean I'm this wilting flower.
In a band, everything takes on a dynamic. Obviously, there's the perception that I wrote all of the music. I did write most of the music for Fall Out Boy, it's true, but I wrote it in close discussion with the other guys. Andy [Hurley, drummer] and I would talk a lot about what he wanted to play. Pete [Wentz] had ultimate veto power. It's weird that I was ever the songwriter, anyway. I just wanted to be able to write any songs because none of my bands before that let me. I was given this ability to write songs within our structure. Pete really wanted to write the lyrics and I was like, "Well, that's cool, I'm getting to do something."
But at no point in any of this has it been my thing--I've never had my thing. I wanted to do my thing and I wanted to do it my way. I don't think I'm going to do it this way every record. I like being in the studio, so I'll probably do it for most of my songs. But there'll be times when I really want a bass part that I can't play or a feel I don't have or whatever it is, so I'll call in somebody else. But for this one, I wanted to set the tone for the future. It's kind of like a calling card. The first Foo Fighters album is a great example. Before that, everyone expected Nirvana part two from [Dave Grohl].
I want to make pop records at this point in my life. But I want to make pop way better. Pop is really depressing right now. There are things about it I enjoy, but nobody ever goes the full monty and, like, really gives it. That's been my whole goal with the whole record now; trying to find a way to say all of the things I wanted to say when I was buying hardcore records but into pop music.
AP: Do you think fans of punk music or R&B music will fully embrace your solo work?
PS: This is another reason why I named the album Soul Punk. When I put this record out, I don't expect that it will be fully embraced by the punk-rock community, nor do I expect that it'll be fully embraced by the R&B community. I'm saying these things influenced me so that's in the record. Down the line you'll probably hear more of either in my latter records than you'll hear in this record. But that's not the point of this record.
In that same way, when Fall Out Boy came out, we weren't a hardcore band, but we weren't a pop-punk band. The emo thing was a really unfortunate wrong place/wrong time. Coming from the Midwest, it was a totally different scene. The emo kids hated us! They were so rude to us, so not welcoming. We'd go out and play and hardcore kids would kind of abide, kind of golf-clap. The pop-punk kids were so not into it because we didn't sound like Lagwagon or whatever. I expect that's where I'll be the rest of my life. I'll always be in-between. I'm never going to be too comfortably [in one thing or another].
AP: Now that you're a published rock journalist, has it changed how you regard the media and doing press?
PS: I didn't go to college, but I did study journalism in high school. I knew the basics of interviewing. I knew a lot of the tactics that dudes were employing on me. I've been there. I'm not seasoned but I know the basics of it. I have a cocktail knowledge of what interviewers are doing, or why a reviewer is saying things. I love reading reviews and going, "Oh, well, their editor made them say that." You can totally tell. I love when the tone of the review is one way, but the star rating is another. I love that! Writing for Rolling Stone was really fascinating. It was a lot more mom-and-pop than you'd expect for something which is so iconic.
AP: In the movie Funny People, Jonah Hill tells Seth Rogen he was better when he was fat.
PS: I've gotten stuff like that, too.
AP: I remember seeing a quote from you once where you said something like "If I just look at a milkshake, I get fatter." What changed? How did you do it? It must have been difficult.
PS: That's the point: It's a lot of hard work. I was reading something about "things that elicit bad advice" and one of them was weight loss. If you're looking to lose weight or if you've lost a little bit of weight, everyone has some sort of remedy or whatever. I had tried them all. Well, I never did Atkins because I wasn't eating beef, but I tried a lot of the shit. It all comes down to mass and exercise. And that's it! It's a sentence long: diet and exercise. I mean, it's three words! There's this whole industry around it, but it's no more complicated than that. People have taken on this insidious thing about it, like maybe it's the drugs or weight loss pills or surgery.
AP:It's not like you were that extreme.
PS: You know what's weird? I was surprised by how might weight it was, actually. I did lose enough that I was like, "Wow, I had that much to lose?" It was kind of upsetting. There are these perceptions sometimes that are absolutely wrong, like the jolly fat man. I've come to the realization that no one is happy being really fat. You get there because you're not dealing with something. When you deal with stuff, you lose weight.
AP: Many complained when the members of Metallica cut their hair. But should successful guys in their thirties wear ripped jeans and bullet belts just because that's how some fans what to preserve them in time? Does a certain element of your fanbase want to keep you in baseball caps and T-shirts?
PS: I think that's everyone's audience. It became this thing: hat, glasses, sideburns. All these things that when I went home, I took off. It felt natural to me when I was 19 but somewhere in there, it stopped feeling natural to me.
I don't mind being the wallflower, I don't mind being in the back, but I'm tired of embracing schlubiness. I'm tired of just giving up and being like "Okay, I'm the fat friend." It was so defeatist. I'm 26. I don't have to dress like I don't care. I also don't have to dress like I care too much. I can be natural about it. I know it's probably ironic to a lot of people--or even offensive to some--how much I talk about punk rock, but that's an essential part of me. The punk I look up to is the punk that was always honest, always pushed itself. The most punk rock thing Blondie ever did was play disco. People call them new wave, but all of those bands were there at CBGBs--Devo, Talking Heads, Television--none of those bands sounded the same and that was one of the things that was really honest about it. And that's what punk rock meant to me. The second it became a hairstyle and "This is how everything should sound"? That's ridiculous! Rules for rebellion? That's obnoxious. I know it bothers some people that maybe don't agree with me about this, that I consider my direction to be punk rock. I was really psyched there's a new Crimson Curse record. I'm still there, dude. I'm still with you guys.
Punk rock is all about honesty. If the concept of selling out means anything, it means being dishonest with yourself. And I'm not doing that. Ultimately, that's why I called the record Soul Punk. I don't think you're going to hear that much punk in there, but I think the fact that I'm embracing...
AP: The fact that you're doing soul music is pretty punk. That's how I took the album title.
PS: [Laughs.] Well, I'm glad you got it.
AP: There are those marriages in rock--Mick and Keith, Lennon and McCartney, Axl and Slash--where no matter what they do apart, people only want them together. Are you stuck to Pete Wentz in that way? Is it in your mind to get away from that association?
PS: No. It's not something that I'm really worried about.
AP: But how many interviews have you done where people are like, "Cool, cool solo record. So when are Fall Out Boy getting back together?"
PS: I've done a lot of those. I know there is definitely something that I can't do without him. And there are things that he can't do without me. There is a thing that happens. There is this thing that people like and I like.
Whatever. It’s so lame how [the hiatus] got blown out of proportion. It was just like, “Hey, we’re taking sometime off.” Dude, Beastie Boys take, like, five or six years between records. And we’ve been gone for, like, maybe two, tops. And people are like, “You killed me! When are you coming back?” And I’m like, “Jesus Christ! I’ve been on tour forever! I wanted to do something different! I just wanted to do something different! I just wanted to try something else.” Then it’s like, “But I hate your new music!” You may hate my solo music, [but] you may like the next Fall Out Boy album [because of it].
AP: Soundgarden are back, Lifetime came back...
PS: That's something that I don't ever want to do. That's something that I will say: I don't want to take 10 years off. I don't want to do that when I'm 40. I don't want to try to call back to material that I wrote when I was 17.
AP: You are so creative and full of energy, I'm guessing you wouldn't just come back to play the hits. You'd make a record. And you'd come back because you want to, not because you have to.
PS: Yeah! And I want to. I'm happy to do that. I think it's awesome. I was talking the other day to this band, Transit, from Boston. Someone suggested them as an opener for me shows, so I started a conversation with them. And it hit me that they made absolutely no sense with my stuff, but they're great. It's still a part of me. It's not like I don't like that stuff. It's just that I also like other things, you know?
I'm Like a Lawyer, Always Tryin' to... Oh, forget it!
When Patrick Stump turned up on an episode of NBC's Law & Order a few years ago, it was easy to assume that the Fall Out Boy frontman had simply consented to one of many offers to play himself or somebody else on anything from a Disney Channel show to a crime procedural. Not so, he says. "I didn't really get a lot of offers for things. But I really wanted to act. There was a turning point in my life where I had to decide if I was going to take music seriously or take acting seriously," He says. "I'm a better musician, no question, than I am an actor. But there's still always that thing there, I do want to do it."
So what's stopping him? Stump respects the art the same way he respects music, so he's not likely to audition for anything more substantive that his short scenes as a psycho voyeur on the NBC crime drama until he's developed more chops. "I really like rappers if they can freestyle, and I really like actors if they can do theater and character acting," he says. "I really would rather go through the natural channels, the natural progression of acting. I don't plan on coming back without a lot more work on it. Maybe when I'm in my fifties I'll be playing psychos and weirdos. I'd be very happy with that."
source for the scans
Thank you for transcribing, pskoala!