This past Monday, Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump stopped by the Viper Room for a special open to the public industry showcase. The sold-out, heavily media attended performance was enthusiastically received by the intimate crowd as Stump performed songs from his much anticipated solo debut Soul Punk.
Days before his triumphant return to The Sunset Strip, Stump phoned in from the road to discuss his forthcoming solo endeavor, his heartbreak over harsh fan criticisms, and the ever burning question, “What’s the future of Fall Out Boy?”
So tell us about Soul Punk.
Well, first off, I’m a musician… My name is Patrick Stump. Some people may know me from a band called Fall Out Boy [laughter]. I did that for about 8 or 9 years, and I just wanted to do something that was really me.
So it’s my first record. I did everything myself. I played all the instruments.
A lot of people say it sounds like Prince or maybe some Bowie. But at the end of the day, I didn’t really think about any of that. I just followed my ear and made stuff I wanted to hear… So I guess that means I want to be more Michael Jackson sounding [laughter].
And the title, you kind of derived from, or have coined this term “smart pop.” What exactly do you mean by that?
Well, I mean, when I look at the early ’80s, that was a really formative era for me. There was this really great convergence happening in pop music that wasn’t bottom of the barrel, lowest common denominator type of stuff. The artists at the time still cared, and put some effort into it… Ya’ know like Prince, Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel or David Bowie… I mean look at like Robert Palmer or Phil Collins; that was great pop music!
So that kind of music is something I’ve really been missing, and it’s not something I’m trying to invent or even necessarily emulate, I just feel like that sort of field for smart pop music is wide open right now…
For instance, when I look at Kanye [West] he’s very much a “pop rapper,” but I think he’s making very “art-centric” pop music. So all those sort of influences brought me to this direction I’m going now.
With this transition into pop, has it been difficult trying to get your music placed and picked up by radio? Are program directors sort of having trouble trying to figure out what to do with you?
Yes, absolutely! First off, there’s no way “modern rock” is playing me with this. I mean, this isn’t a modern rock record, so I don’t really hold anything against them. It really doesn’t make sense for them…
But then it’s this sort of situation like, “What are you?” Because I’m not really an R&B artist really, and so a lot of the “hot R&B stations” aren’t playing me… So that just leaves the indie/college stations, which I’m obviously not “indie” since I’m signed to a major label, and I’m some guy who was in a big rock band for a minute.
So from a radio perspective, it’s kind of a terrifying place to be in, ‘cause pop radio plays you when you have a hit; that’s their gig…so if I don’t have a hit, then basically nobody is playing me on the radio.
I’m just doing my thing. Doing what I’ve always done and hoping for the best.
So, producing versus playing. You’ve done a lot of recording on both sides of the console. Do you have a preference?
Definitely playing! Producing isn’t really a fun job. It’s a rewarding job, and you get to collaborate with a lot of people who you wouldn’t necessarily get to work with, but it’s not really a fun job. It’s really thankless as far as immediate music making jobs go…
And ya know, you work really hard, and you give up a lot of time for not a lot of money. It’s basically got to be a labor of love type situation, ‘cause half the time the band is mad at you because you have to be the bearer of bad news. It kinda feels like that movie Up In The Air where you’re that guy hired to fire everyone…
I don’t think the general public really has any sort of idea how much a producer shapes the music and is really sort of like a fifth member of the band. Don’t you agree?
Yeah, absolutely… You have to not only sort of be in the band, but you have to be like a parent and make those really tough decisions, where it’s like, “Man I really don’t want to have to make this call, but I have to… You guys would want me to do this.”
And it’s hard for bands to really be objective, and you have to be the second opinion. So it’s an awesome job in a lot of ways, but it’s definitely not the most fun job in the music industry.
Everyone’s going to want to know, so I’ll just ask: What’s the status of Fall Out Boy? Permanent hiatus?
Yeah, I mean we say “hiatus” and we say “break” and I think a lot of people just employ those words for press things, just to have something to say… Ultimately Fall Out Boy either comes back or we don’t, and that will ultimately decide what we call this period. And that’s really all I can tell people at this point.
As far as I know…I really want to do it, but ya know I’ve been focused on getting my record out, and I’m not the only decision maker in the band. There are three other people with very strong opinions that are also in the mix.
All the members of the band are still on friendly terms though? No friction?
Yeah, there’s definitely no friction.
One of the big things has been…our last record, Folie à Deux, was fairly well regarded. People like it a lot. People come up and say, “Oh that’s my favorite record,” or “I really liked such and such song on that record.”
But when we put that record out, we got met with so much negativity! It’s like when you read about Metallica putting out “the black album.” Where their fans were just so mad at them…and to us, to the band, we put a lot into our records. And it’s not that we don’t respect our fans’ opinions, but it honestly hurts our feelings, and I think for all of us it was really hard.
For example, we were out on tour with Blink 182, and we were getting booed when we would play new songs specifically…and it was like our own fans flipping us off when we’d play anything from our new record.
At the time it was just really difficult and dark, and it bums you out! So it’s like trying to get over that…like trying to drive again after a car accident.
Fall Out Boy was pretty big for almost a decade. Do you think your fans maybe sort of grew out of the music, or their tastes have just changed over the years?
I’m sure that has something to do with it…but I also think some records take a while to grow on people… You could have said Fall Out Boy was a pop punk band. That would have been really easy to say 10 years ago. But now looking back on the whole catalogue, I don’t really know what you would call us, because we didn’t really sound like the other pop punk bands, and we didn’t sound like the other emo bands, or the other pop bands. We were just like our own little thing, I think.
And people have trouble sort of digesting when bands start to mature and grow… Good bands survive it, and I guess only time will tell whether we are/were one of those bands or not.
But I’m ready to get back out there… I have a lot of good ideas for another Fall Out Boy record, but everyone has to be on board.
And finally, The Sunset Strip… Have you spent much time here? Any recollections?
Well, I don’t think I’ve ever played the Viper until now, but I’ve spent a lot of time there. There’s definitely something very unique and distinctive about The Strip… I used to live over there when I first moved out to L.A., so I was at the Viper and The Roxy a lot.
Patrick Stump’s debut solo album Soul Punk is available now on iTunes.
Photos: Patrick Stump performing with his band at the Viper Room on Oct. 24. Photos courtesy of Genie Sanchez, www.liketotallyduh.com.