Patrick Stump: "Prince Sounds More Like Backstreet Boys Than He Does Pantera"
Amidst his current solo tour, which stops at Culture Room on Saturday, the loquacious Stump called County Grind to discuss myriad typics, including his forthcoming full-length Soul Punk and its influences, talking James Cameron flicks with Pete Wentz, and how the Fall Out Boy well "dried up for a little bit."
County Grind: What would you say is the state of R&B today and also what is your favorite era from the past?
Patrick Stump: Those are great questions. I love getting asked that. I think R&B right now is fractured into two schools. There's either the hip-hop-esque R&B, where pretty much it exists for the club or whatever, or there's like the throwback history kind of R&B, which really pays a lot of homage to specifically '60s and '70s really organic kind of R&B. There are a lot of other artists who are messing with it, but for the most part I feel like on a grand scale there's a lot of those two things when you say "R&B" to people. It frustrates me because I was always a fan of the '60s and '70s. That covers a lot of ground as well. That's a mouthful already. One thing that I kind of miss is that I do miss a lot of the post-funk stuff that had such a really interesting effect on, before it intertwines with hip-hop, there's a lot of interesting things that happened with Prince, with James Brown and his influence on and that echo chamber that happened and Sly Stone and where that plays into funk and soul, if I had to pick an era. Ultimately, Minneapolis is my favorite thing, I really have this historian love for it. When I pick up a guitar, it sounds like a Time record.
Especially "Everybody Wants Somebody" from Soul Punk, might I add. I noticed that Prince vibe as soon as I heard it. I'm actually from that area, too. Who else are these soul punks? Do you see Prince as a "soul punk" performer?
Oh yeah. Absolutely. I think Prince is a great example of it. In a lot of ways I always felt a really strong punk undercurrent in somebody like Curtis Mayfield. It's obviously very different music, but I thought "Nobody's serious and it makes me furious," that's a punk-rock lyric. Eugene McDaniels, it's really proggy and fusion-y, but it has some really serious punk-rock-isms. I think everything post-Prince is really fused. I look at it now and you know the modern generation want to look at Janelle Monae or J*Davey, or Bad Rabbits. There's a lot of these artists coming up now who have very much of their own accord, this weird kind of fusion-y funk thing with a lot of punk energy.
All of these people you mentioned all have huge bands that they're commanding to do this and you've made this album by yourself. How hard is it to get all of that together if you're working on the project alone?
I think it's a little bit easier, actually, because I got to explain it all to the people. One of the hardest things was to, because obviously I come from more of the punk end of things, where I cut my teeth. So I still feel like I'm hopefully acheiving the same ends. Getting there, there's a lot of resistance to it in punk rock. There's a lot of "Oh, R&B is for Backstreet boys," or something like that. Which of course if you've never listened to any R&B, I guess it sounds like that if that's your only benchmark for R&B, you know. Prince sounds more like Backstreet Boys than he does Pantera, but you're still talking about wildly different music. I think it was a lot easier to do it and show it to people than it was to talk about it.
One thing that I was really cognizant of early on was that when i wasn't listening to punk rock, I wasn't listening to the same stuff as my punk rock friends. A lot of guys were treated to country music, they grew up on it. I have no base in country music. I really have no idea. I've never owned a country record, to be honest. It's not something I dislike, it's just that I don't know that stuff at all. I never had a Metallica poster on my wall, never had the Led Zeppelin poster, or the Nirvana poster. Those weren't really things that spoke to me. It's not something that I disliked, it just wasn't as strong an influence on me as the Time, or Michael Jackson. You say pop, but at the end of the day Michael Jackson was an R&B artist who got huge, especially the 1970's Jacksons stuff that's crazy. "Blame it on the Boogie" is a really groovy song. I love the history of R&B. I love taking it from Nat King Cole to Ray Charles, to Stevie Wonder and watching that influences keep going.
What about your Chicago hometown hero R. Kelly?
Yeah, R. Kelly is in there, it's just tough to really separate man from myth. He's definitely influenced me a little bit, I think, as a singer. It's really hard to mess with him. Love him or hate him, he's definitely has a lasting impact on modern R&B. When you put on Trey Songz's record, you know where he's getting it. When I hear something in modern pop-R&B that I dig, I still latch onto it. There are some records that come out that I really feel. I like to look at the lineage of it.
"This City" is a good local jam in the tradition of many. Kanye did one about Chicago as well, which I'm sure you've heard. Are there any other city pride songs that you can get down with?
One of the things that I really wanted to do was, that I wanted it to be pride, but I wanted it to be conscious pride. So that was something that I really thought about, like Stevie Wonder, or Bill Withers' "Harlem." It comes from love, but I think those two songs are a lot darker. In both cases I think those guys really loved their cities. I was thinking broad. I started writing it, I looked at it and thought, "this could be a song about Chicago, I could take this all the way and have it be a big Chicago song." I was like, "Chicago has songs. I love Chicago, but Chicago doesn't need another song. Chicago has a lot of songs."
This needs to be everybody's song. This needs to be about every city. It needs to be about every aspect of a city. I wanted to be subtle with it. I don;t think it's really aggressive in its politics, but I wanted to say that I love my city unconditionally, here are the conditions. Every city has some stuff that's wrong with it. I was looking at Detroit and New Orleans, because these are places where they've been ravaged by either economic or natural disasters. People ahve the audacity to say, "Oh, they should just move." No they can't move! It's their home, it's their soul. Motown, come on. New Orleans, come on. I didn't even think of that until this conversation, how vital it is to music, music history. And that's world music history, too; how important New Orleans has been to the world, so you want these people to move? That's not fair. So I wanted a song for that. i wanted a song because it can happen anywhere, any city in the world. Everything's fragile and we all love our cities. That's where i was really coming from for that.