Puddle of Mudd’s Doug Ardito Interview

Doug Ardito was a veteran bassist before joining forces with Puddle of Mudd in 1998. Since then, he has been on a wild ride that has taken him all over the world, including playing twice for the military in Iraq and shooting a music video for his new album Volume 4: Songs In The Key Of Love And Hate with the members of MTV’s Nitro Circus. I got a chance to talk to Doug and he talked about all of these experiences as well as his thoughts on critics, the new album, and his musical upbringing. We even got into some minor political discourse which is always fun. 

Let’s start at the very beginning. When did you fist start playing music and was it on the bass?

I was playing like, saxophone stuff and my friends next door had a garage band and I had just gotten a guitar at like 12 or 13, when they realized they had every instrument in the band covered but bass. They just kinda looked at me (I was always hanging out and watching them play) and were like “Hey why don’t you just play bass, ya know?” I was so happy to be in a “band”  even though it was a garage cover band that was right next door to where I grew up. I went and bought a bass and the guitar player showed me how to play a bunch of AC/DC songs and Aerosmith songs and Led Zepplin songs all night, one night, and I was a bass player at 13 years old. After that I realized that you could jam with anyone if you played bass because everyone else was busy trying to play guitar, ya know?

Do you have a preference on playing with or without a pick?

I do both because, for me, it just depends on the song. If it’s gonna be something with syncopated 16th notes that are just kind of rolling, open notes something like “Control” on our first record, the pick lends itself to that kind of playing, ya know. Sometimes when I use my fingers, sometimes I use one finger, sometimes I use three, sometimes I use two, sometimes I use the first and third, sometimes I use the first and second. James Jamerson from Motown only ever used one finger. Sometimes I play like Sting where you use your thumb and you kinda rest your fingertips under the high G-string and you play with your thumb to get a “meatier”, rounder, jazzier tone. It just depends.

Sting for sure is an amazing player. But you know, these guys like Paul McCartney and Sting are SICK bass players but it stems from the fact that they are such great melodic creators and song writers and melody creators that when it comes to the bass playing. Their melodies on bass are just so amazing and beautiful. And you know, even Kim Deal from the Pixies is an amazing bass player because she’s a singer and I think that lends itself to being a great bass player too. John Paul Jones from Led Zepplin is another one. I also like Primus, for sure. That guy, he is a sick mo-fo. No doubt about it. He takes bass playing to where it’s more of a lead instrument where he was like a tremolo on one of his basses. He’s like the perfect middle ground between a shredder and a song writer. He’s done what most people can’t do where he walks the line and does all of this crazy shit but doesn’t make it sound cheesy. Because there are some people who just shred and that’s it. There’s no song or sometimes there aren’t any vocals period. And that’s cool but I think people want to hear a story, they want to hear words, they want to hear someone singing. 

Do you have any favorite “stories”?

I think “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith is a great bass line where he starts the whole song. Probably the reason it came to my head was because I was watching Dazed And Confused last night and that song is in the opening credits and you hear that bass line *sings bass line* and Steven Tyler has that harmony and it’s just an amazing bass line and that tells a HUGE story for me. 

How did you like shooting the “Spaceship”  video with the members of Nitro Circus?

They’re fun. They make any scene or any day fun, I mean they’re crazy guys, ya know? It’s kinda like, I look up and I go “Is that the guy from Jackass behind the camera?” And they’re like “Yeah, that’s the guy in the Nitro crew.” And then I met Travis (Pastrana) and all that. And, you know, anyone that does back flips on a dirt bike is alright with me man. I mean, that takes a lot of balls. These guys have bravery skills is all I’m saying. They earn every cent. But it (the video) was like a party theme and they were just DESTROYING the set and the producers were like “Well, that’s what insurance is for.” Because some people were freaking out like “Don’t break the chairs!” And they were just throwing everything around and throwing people around it was just the ultimate party scene. My friend called me and said “Hey I just saw your new video. That might be one of your best ever cuz it’s kinda like Van Halen and that ‘party, good time’ Van Halen kinda thing.” And I was like man that is awesome. 

When I heard the title of your new album Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love & Hate, I thought it was going to be a pretty heavy album. But then I heard “Spaceship” which is certainly not heavy, mood wise, and it threw me for a loop. Is that an indication of the rest of the album or is that song merely an aberration?

That song is pretty much the “party”  song, and then the rest of them are more apt to fill in that gap for ya. You girls LOVE these sexy songs, like “Control” had that lyric ‘I love the way you smack my ass’ and I was like ‘we have to change that’ and we never did. *laughs* And I thought ‘My God we’re doomed, we’re going to be the “Smack my ass Band”. But luckily, you know, “Blurry” came out and blew the roof off of everything. But yeah, you can to go strip clubs for the rest of your life and you will see women dancing to that song. There is just something about women that innately love dirty lyrics. 

What is the musical direction on this new album?

It’s pretty much, ya know, if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it, ya know? We do a certain thing, people like it, and we keep doing it. We don’t try and reinvent the wheel. I mean we grew up listening to classic rock and the “Seattle movement” and it’s, it’s very obvious that we did. And that’s what you hear put of our music and we like it that way. We don’t really want to change it. I mean if you listen to Rage Against The Machine every time they put out a record, it sounds like Rage Against The Machine. They aren’t putting like classical interludes into their songs, it’s just classic Rage Against The Machine. There’s bands that do it, like I swear Weezer throws, like Rivers put’s these a capella vocal interludes into like “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”. And I remember hearing that and thinking “Wow he’s taking that to a new place, that’s kind of cool.” So you gotta give people who do want to change it up and break that mold credit for pulling it off, ya know? But for us, we decided to get into a room and jam, and that’s pretty much what came out of us.

Is this album a collaborative effort or are their major song writers in the group?

I’d say that Wes (Scantlin) writes the lion’s share of the music. But a lot of this record was from Paul (Phillips) living at Wes’s house, so a lot of the songs are Paul and Wes. And then I have two songs on the record with Wes that are great songs as well. One is “punker” and one is more of a ballad. The ballad was actually, it’s called “You’re The Only Reason” was recorded for the last record. And when I did the demo, Paul had left the band temporarily.  I was recording in California and Dicky Bett’s son Duane ripped this southern sounding kind of solo on the song. So that didn’t end up going on the last record, sat around, and then we put it on this record. 

Do you let what critics say get to you or do you just take it in stride?

I don’t know man, I guess, you know, for them, Thom Yorke could take a shit on a digital drive or a CD and they’d take it and analyze his feces and find all the good parts about it, that’s how I see those critics. They’re just such fucking suck ups to “the right” people, it’s just like high school. There’s these cliquey people who only want to associate with “the cool” people. It’s like yeah, Thom Yorke is a fuckin genius, we know that, but just because you write about him and say “Thom Yorke is a genius and I hate Puddle Of Mudd” doesn’t make you Thom Yorke, you know what I mean? And Thom Yorke ain’t gonna hang out with you and fuckin have tea with you at his house just because you say “You’re fucking great and this is shit!” So there you go, that’s how I feel about it.

Besides the obvious excesses of the road, how do you guys keep from killing each other? How do you keep it light? Do you like to play pranks on each other?

Yeah, there’s this one thing called “The Spider Bite”, I don’t know WHY it’s called that. And if you shut off all the lights on a tour bus…Like the tour bus is divided up into three sections, the front lounge and then the middle section, which is where all the bunks are. There are 12 of em, 6 on each side. So you have a bottom, a middle, and a top bunk, and if you shut off all the lights in the hallway and all of the lights in the lounge, you kind of have to fly blind when you walk in the center section of the bunks until you can get to the center of the bus where the light switch is. So our thing was you’d pull down your pants, you get up on the top bunk, and spread your legs, one on each bunk, and then turn your butt towards the front door so when someone’s walking blind, ya know, kind of feeling their way down the hallway, their face walks right into your ass. That’s a good wholesome one for ya. 

You guys have gone over to Iraq to play for our troops their twice. Why did you guys decide to do it?

When we play concerts in America, there are so many kids from the military at our concerts, buying or CDs, and supporting us, that whether or not you agree with invading another country over God knows what or you don’t, you put all that aside. It has nothing to do with your political views. It has everything to do with these kids who love your band who have been there for you. Because trust me, their political views aren’t coming into play either, all their thinking about is going to college, or getting out of their small town and getting a career. And the next thing they know, they’re holding an M16 in a flak jacket and wearing a bullet proof helmet in Tikrit. So you gotta know it’s for this individual kid who loves your band and is driving around in his Bradleys and Hummers blasting Puddle of Mudd. And that means a lot man. They’re putting their ass on the line, some are DYING, and their listening to our songs while it’s happening. That’s a pretty heavy thing. And (playing for the troops) is the least you can do. 

Would you mind if your music was used to interrogate a terrorist?

*Laughs* I think, nah I wouldn’t mind. I think that like, water boarding people to get information out of them because they are gonna go a kill a bunch of people; I say get out of the terrorist business if you don’t want to be water boarded. That’s how I feel, ya know? Get a new job!

Anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Thank you for your support. Here we go, one more time again, uno mas.