Shattering The Caricature: Our Interview With Patrick Stump

I've been telling anyone who listens that 2011 has been the best year for music since I can't remember when. Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump's solo disc, Soul Punk [review], only helps prove my point. Patrick was nice enough to sit down with us yesterday to talk about the new album, his tour with Foxy Shazam and Panic! At The Disco, his musical influences, and whether or not Soul Punk or Fall Out Boy is the true Patrick Stump.

How are you doing today?
I'm good. We just pulled into Austin and I just woke up.

It's been a day and a half since Soul Punk was released. Have you had a chance to breathe yet?
Yeah. It's weird because I had almost more of a chance to breathe this time around than anytime I've put out a record before because my record didn't really carry many expectations. I say that on a label/Billboard level. We don't really know what it's going to sell first week. With Fall Out Boy, we had all this heat on us for a long time and now once again, I'm kind of a little anonymous nobody putting out a record. It's kind of nice. I've had a bunch of time to get ready for it, get excited for it. My touring band, we all stayed up last night and had a glass of wine for it. We had that much time to ourselves that we could do that.

I love the album. What do you think of the response to it so far?
It's been awesome. Way, way more than I expected. When I was working on the record, I didn't think that I'd have a single on the radio and that I'd be going around doing press in support of it. It didn't sound to me like what was on the radio. It was kind of something I needed to do for myself. I didn't expect anyone to like it aside from me. It's been amazing not only watching my immediate audience "get it," because a lot of people that I didn't expect to get it have gotten it. It's hit a lot of different places that I was real surprised about. I've heard from people I never would have expected. A few guys I never would have expected in a million years to not say that I suck, have actually liked the record.

You wrote, recorded, and produced it by yourself. How hard was it to stop tinkering and walk away from the studio and just say, "It's finished?"
That is a brilliantly astute question because that was the hard part. That was the absolute toughest thing because you had the ultimate opportunity to do that. And in fact, I was making a tiny change here, a tiny change there, up to... I'm trying to remember when I got it mastered. Maybe a month or two ago? So up to then, I was still [making changes]. But the funny thing is the girth of the record was done over a year ago. It was completed over a year ago and it was done in thirty days. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I went in and it was just done. But since then, it's been like, "Oh, you know what? It shouldn't be 'they,' it should be 'them.' That lyric makes more sense." Or I would be like, "There should be a second snare here. I'm gonna add a second snare right on that one." So it would be these tiny little things. It really was obnoxiously perfectionist how much of that little stuff I was doing because a lot of those things actually do affect the release of the record.

How autobiographical are the lyrics to Soul Punk? I'm assuming "Explode" isn't about you except possibly in the metaphorical sense, but what about songs like "Run Dry?"
Most of the record is metaphorical or story-oriented. I drink once in awhile, but I wouldn't say I've ever had a legitimate drinking problem or anything. Something like ["Run Dry"] falls more under satire. I think I was real frustrated. On the radio, there's all these songs about partying and drinking and sleeping around. Everybody has some vice and that's fine, but I think culture was embracing them in a way that just kind of bothered me, embracing them with just a little too much gusto. I'm like, "No, there are consequences."

Something like "Allie" is inspired by a feeling of looking back on naivete with the benefit of experience. I think that's something anybody can do, so it is in that respect autobiographical. But then for the rest of it, for songs like "Explode" like you said or "I In Lie" or a lot of the ones where I'm really getting into character, those are very much metaphors for other things.

I hear nods, or at least I think I hear nods to Michael Jackson, Prince, and The Time on Soul Punk. I swear at times your voice to me sounds like a cross between Prince and Terrence Trent D'Arby.

Who are your musical influences?
It's funny that you said The Time. I've never gotten that. Even though I'm a huge Prince fan and I'm a huge fan of pretty much everything he did in the '80s and extending out from all the Minneapolis Sound stuff including Vanity 6, The Time is possibly a bigger direct influence on me so I'm very glad someone noticed that. I was actually really psyched because The Time reunited and put out a record yesterday, too.

Influences... Prince. David Bowie. Tom Waits is a huge influence on me lyrically. A lot of the ways that I choose to express myself lyrically come from people like Tom Waits or Randy Newman or Warren Zevon. I think part of my quirkiness is I don't really write soul music lyrics.

But then I find something inherent in my voice, my most natural voice... It's not something that I'm putting on, but there's something really natural in my voice that definitely owes a lot to Michael Jackson. I've thought about it and I'm like, "Should I try to sound like him less?" Ultimately, it's just something that's there and I am a huge Michael Jackson fan, so I'm fine with it. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was omnipresent when I was a little kid. He was the biggest music in the universe when I was a little kid. That's what a good pop singer sounded like to me.

What was the first album, tape, or CD you bought with your own money?
I don't remember with my own money. I might be misremembering this, but I think it might have been Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill on cassette. But the first thing I can confirm that I owned that might have been a Christmas present or something like that was Genesis. They had a double live record, I remember I got it in the longbox. They were sold as two separate CDs. It was called The Way We Walk or something like that. I had been begging my Dad forever for Christmas for that song, ["I Can't Dance"]. I remember being a little kid and totally loving that song. My Dad just saw the title of the record that said that and it had pictures of them walking and he was like, "Oh. This has to be it. The song has to be on here." But it's a two-disc set. It was the second half of the show where they don't play the single and it was all "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and a lot of stuff that was well over my head when I was a little kid.

I love the New Jack Swing medley and other covers you've been posting on YouTube.
Thanks, man.

Do you plan on continuing that?
When I think of fun ones to do, yeah. One of the problems with any of that stuff, when it stops being fun and starts being promotional, then it gets dark and sad. I get asked to do them now. It'll be like, "Hey, can you do a medley of this person that's on the radio?" and I'm like, "Yeah, I don't really want to do that." I'm not taking requests. It's just something I wanted to do.

You've probably already been asked this a billion times this week, but which is closer to the true you: Soul Punk or Fall Out Boy?
Soul Punk. To be honest, I haven't been asked that. I feel like no one ever reads between those lines or thinks to ask those questions. I feel I'm asked a lot of the mechanical questions like "So what's up with Fall Out Boy?" "When are you guys getting back together?" "Have you talked to those guys lately?" "How are they doing?"

Totally Soul Punk because anytime you're in a band, it's a compromise. Not in a negative way, that's the nature of it. How many more records have the Rolling Stones sold than Mick Jagger solo? But there's probably a lot more of the actual Mick Jagger on a solo record than there is on a band record because his individuality is at the mercy of the band.

I think a lot of the things I became known for and identified with... that I was kind of silent and very shy. I am a little shy, those things are sort of there. But I think I became a caricature in the way I was perceived in Fall Out Boy. I was real uncomfortable with the sudden attention we got so I kind of retreated into a lot of things, very obvious visual cues that I was uncomfortable: the hat, the glasses, the sideburns, the hoodies, all that stuff. When it comes to the music, there were a lot of things too, like I didn't necessarily stand up for my taste. But I don't think that has any negative effect on the records. I think they're all very awesome. But if you're asking which is more me, without question, Soul Punk.

How's the tour with Foxy Shazam and Panic! At The Disco going?
It's awesome. It's been really good.

That's gotta be a hell of a show. That's three great acts.
Foxy is an incredible live act and Panic's stage setup is amazing and they've been great for a long time and I fell like they've really come into their own in a really unique way. It's been an awesome tour. My band and I go out every night to win it. Not to win it, but to get it. We really want to put on a good show. The first night we watched Foxy, we're like, "We're gonna have to work."

We have three questions we ask all our guests called The CB3.

The first one might be the hardest one for you. Thriller or Purple Rain?
Thriller. But I have to qualify that. Prince, I will probably listen to more in my life. But if it comes down to album, Thriller.

Pretty In Pink or Sixteen Candles?
I've got to be honest. I don't know if I've ever actually seen all of them.

I'm basically from there, so a lot of the John Hughes movies that were about the Americana aspect didn't really do it for me. I've seen Home Alone and the National Lampoon movies and Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, but I never saw the high school ones.

OK. And finally, Tiffany or Debbie Gibson?
Debbie Gibson.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Best of luck with Soul Punk and your tour.
Of course, man! Thanks!

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Soul Punk is available now on iTunes.

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