Q&A: Patrick Stump

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Patrick Stump talks to SPIN.com
WRITTEN BY
William Goodman

Patrick Stump is working through an identity crisis.

The 25-year-old is currently living in Los Angeles, recording, producing, and playing all the instruments on his yet-to-be-titled debut solo album, tentatively due this summer. And with Fall Out Boy on hiatus, the Chicago native is free to shed his pop-punk image for ... well, that's the problem -- he's not entirely sure.

"It's like, 'What kind of record do I put out? Am I a singer? Am I trying to impress people with my songwriting? Or my skills as an instrumentalist? Am I going to be avant-garde? Who am I?!?'" Stump says. "It's a new and interesting challenge."

Stump is game. In late January he released a video clip of himself in the studio recording a new track called "As Long As I Know I'm Getting Paid," on which he plays guitar, bass, drums, piano, and even the trumpet, one of a few new instruments he's picked up to push himself on his debut. And if the tune's sound is any indication, Stump is rediscovering his true self alright: the kid who loves Prince and was raised on his dad's jazz-fusion records.

"Funk is my default setting," explains Stump. "It's part of me."

What should fans expect musically from your new album? The video preview is funky. Really funky.
[Laughs] Yeah. I can't help the funkiness. But when you're in a band everyone has to meet in the middle. And now, with Fall Out Boy away from each other, it's possible to see who we really are. [Guitarist Joe Trohman's metal band] the Damned Things is sooooo Joe. It is Joe. That's the Joe that's been trying to get out for a long time. And [drummer Andy Hurley's hardcore band] Burning Empires -- it's so Andy. When I was a little kid watching Batman -- the 1989 Michael Keaton Batman -- there was something so incredible to me about Prince [who wrote the film's soundtrack]. That was my first real exposure to Prince. His sound to me was just tremendous. Between Prince and my dad's fusion-jazz records, I didn't have a choice in being funky.

Is the record funky as a whole?
Not necessarily. I had to exercise some restraint [laughs]. At the end of the day, I don't have to do a solo record. There are plenty jobs I could do to make money. Or, if I just wanted attention, I could hit up all the parties and be a hot mess. But I need to know that I'm making something quality, so there are times when funk doesn't necessarily serve that. It's hard. As they say: a good writer knows when to scratch his favorite paragraph. My favorite paragraph is always the funky one.

Will Fall Out Boy fans be surprised by your new songs?
I used to think that. But I've grown to understand that the good side-effect of all of the information that's swirling around these days is that everyone's open to new things. Back in the 1980s "Walk This Way" was a crazy idea -- unheard of. Now crossing into another genre is requisite for pop. Snoop Dogg has a country record, you know? I'm surprised at how nonchalantly people accept stuff like that.

You're recording songs that are new -- and others that are a decade old. What's it like working with material that spans nearly half your life?
It's interesting because some songs actually hold up... while others don't. And I feel like a different person when I sing them. The process has also been liberating because I'm not corralling together a bunch of collaborators. I'm the only constant. You know, there's a lot of music that I have to get out of my system before I can move on. And In a way I just want to get it over with.

You have your whole life to write your first record, and this is basically my first record. Writing music in a collaborative setting doesn't count. But I have all this material and I have to make something stylistically cohesive out of 10 years' worth of writing music and lyrics, the style of which changed all the time. It's like an animated movie -- it takes so long from the time you record the voices to the time it's in post-production. Coraline came out last year and Dakota Fanning was like six years old when she recorded her vocals.

Can you tell me about specific songs and their lyrics?
"As Long As I Know I'm Getting Paid" is a satire. Lyrically, I want to be direct. With my history in Fall Out Boy, there's some expectation that I'm going to be lyrically obtuse. But that song is a straight-faced satire of consumerism. Another song is called "Mad at Nothing." Conan O'Brien said a really great thing on his last episode of The Tonight Show. He spoke to how cynical our generation is and how unfortunate that is. That's what "Mad at Nothing" is about. I feel very strongly that we need to be a bit positive. It's too bad that people relate to each other with sarcasm and misery -- but that's what we know.

Is this a recurring theme in the new songs?
Definitely. I also have a song called "Love Selfish Love." You know, a lot of people ask me why I don't have a Twitter. It's sad that people really go out of their way to tell everyone everything about themselves. Our country has verbal diarrhea. It's really sad -- there's no mystery, no surprise. "Love Selfish Love" is just about that. It would be nice to go on a first date with somebody and not be able to know everything about them from their MySpace or Facebook profile. There's no first impressions anymore. You go to a job interview and they'll probably Google you. It's a shame -- people should play it a little closer to the chest as far as what information they release to the world. If I'm angry about something I'm not going to take to my Twitter. The whole record explores that idea.

Was a solo album always part of your grand scheme?
You know, life is what happens while you're busy making plans. I was going to record a solo album when I was 15 on a four-track. I started working on it, but then Fall Out Boy happened. The band was awesome and took me in a totally different direction. I don't regret it at all, but the band delayed the record I had been planning. Ultimately, I feel like I've been working on the same solo record for the past 10 years.

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