Hometown: Gouverneur, New York
Previous Bands: Gavin Rossdale, Carina Round, Ahmet & Dweezil Zappa, Joanna, Soul Kid #1, Caleb Cane, Tryptic, Noris, Lana Now Fell, Triggerfish, Modicum
Following a trio of gold certified albums, Puddle Of Mudd’s fourth effort, Volume 4: Songs In The Key Of Love & Hate — released in December 2009 — maintains the band’s legacy of delivering subtle innuendo and not-so-subtle lyrical wordplay around thick vocal hooks. Volume 4 also welcomes the return of original guitarist Paul Phillips — who quit the band shortly into the recording process for POM’s previous release, Famous — as well as marking the recorded debut of drummer Ryan Yerdon, who joined Puddle Of Mudd in time to support Famous. We began our interview by asking how Yerdon hooked up with the alt-metal quartet in the first place.
What were you doing when you first heard that Puddle Of Mudd was looking for a new drummer?
I was focused on a couple different projects at the time. I had just started playing with Carina Round — she is a great Indie artist that required very delicate playing. It was fun for me because it was all about the vibe and really listening to everything around you. Also, Carina wanted certain sections of the songs to have loops playing, but she didn't want a click going throughout the song. I was confused when they asked me to do that, but then I began to view it as a good challenge. I had to start the songs without a click, then hope we were close when the chorus came in and I triggered the loop to start. Thankfully they were super good players, so we were never too far off. I was also playing in a project called Lana Now Fell and one called Tryptic — two very different bands, one pop and one not. I played on both records.
How did you learn about the Puddle Of Mudd audition?
Through Barry Squire, an agent that hooks musicians up with bands. I have played in several bands, over the years, through Barry. Most of them had major record deals. He does the big cattle call kind of approach, bring down 30–80 drummers and let them jam a song or two with the band. He has you fill out a short résumé at the audition, takes your photo, and sometimes videotapes it. There’s often a series of auditions to get the gig. The band picks out a handful of musicians they liked in the first round and then they go back in a couple of days and jam again until they find “the one.”
How did you prepare for the audition?
I practiced the songs as much as I could and tried to envision what I would want to see from an audience’s perspective on stage.
Were you very familiar with the band's material?
Most of it, from hearing it on the radio.
What was the audition like?
Auditions are always nerve-racking, especially for bands that have sold seven million records already! They always run way behind schedule so you're there waiting with a bunch of crazy drummers. I remember the first day very well, the second day was “blurry” because I was very focused and was thinking ten steps ahead. The first audition I was trying to listen to the songs more in my truck to make sure I had them down because I didn't have much time to learn the songs beforehand. I had a show that night with Carina Round and it was one of our first shows, so I was learning Puddle tunes and Carina’s songs in my truck in the studio parking lot. I made small talk with some of the other drummers, but basically I walked into the room, said hi to everyone, sat down, and slammed out Puddle of Mudd’s first single, “Control.” By the first verse Christian — Puddle of Mudd’s ex-guitar player — was right up on the kit rocking with me giving me the “yes, it’s on” vibe, and Wes was digging down singing hard and feeling it. As soon as we ended, Wes said, “F*** yeah, dude!,” and ran over and gave me a high-five. That was the moment I realized I need to nail these songs tonight, and my life is about to get crazy! We played a couple more songs that day, and they sounded great. They started asking me about where I lived and who I played with. I told them I was playing tonight in Silverlake with an artist on their label [Interscope]. I had completely forgot that I told them about the show, when later that night I looked up and saw Wes and Christian in the crowd at the venue. When I got off stage, they told me to meet them at the bar where we then proceeded to do a bunch of shots. I asked them what they thought of the show and they said, “We feel bad for her because we’re taking her drummer.” It was on! Bass player Doug Ardito called me the next day and said they wanted to rehearse with me for a week or so and see how it goes. They still haven't told me I have the gig! [ laughs]
How long did you rehearse with the band after getting the gig?
We practiced for maybe three or four weeks.
How did you approach the songs the band had recorded with other drummers?
I approached them all the same. I tried to nail them. The Freese songs from the first record and the Abe Laboriel Jr. songs from Famous were the easiest for me because we have a very similar approach. The Greg Upchurch songs were a challenge for me. Greg has a very different style, almost a tribal metal thing going on, and his drum fills are very different from what I would do. Kenny Aronoff played on “Psycho,” which was similar to what I would have done. All these guys are different but clearly very awesome in their own way.
Do you tend to play their original parts or have you been able to add your own personality to them?
Little of both. But I like most of the parts on the records. After you’ve played with the guys so much live, the songs tend to take a life of their own. We did a show in L.A. just after “Psycho” was released and the producer JJP was there and said, “I really like the fill you did into the chorus. It sets it up better then the fill on the record.” So things like that have changed. I always want what’s best for the song, what fits with the guitars and vocals, and what inspires the guys the most. Fancy drumming comes last.
What is your favorite drum part on the new album?
I really like the new song we added to the record, “Shook Up The World.” We took more time with what we wanted and the producer and engineer mixed it. They were really attached to the song from the very beginning of the recording process. I really like the way it sounds and production of it.
Did you change your drum parts much throughout the recording process?
Most of the drum parts were done on the spot, not a lot of over-thinking was done. Some of the songs were put together as we were recording them, and most arrangements were done while we were recording it. We would just say “It doesn't feel right, it needs to go on longer.” And bang, it’s done.
What was it like working with your production team on Volume 4?
There were several different guys on the record. Each was very different. It's great to be able to see their perspective on how they work and what they like. All the guys have done a ton of records, so it was fun for me to pick their brains. That’s the beautiful thing about music — there is always something to learn and there is no right or wrong way of doing it. It’s just what you want at that time.
How prepared were you before going into the studio?
Not very. A lot of things are last minute with Puddle Of Mudd due to our crazy touring schedule, so that’s the way it goes. We kind of knew we were going to start the record but I didn't get the call until the night before that it was definitely happening.
How long did it take to track your drum parts?
It didn’t take very long — maybe three full days. We basically worked through them as we went along. It wasn't like we did pre-pro and went in with the exact parts planned. Wes doesn’t like doing demos. When I was younger I liked to have everything planned out. Making a record can be frustrating and hard to make it good or great fast. But now I kind of like going with your instinct and cleaning it up a little. As soon as I hear something back I know if it works or doesn't, so within a take or two after hearing the arrangements right, I like to track fast.
Do you use the same setup on stage and in the studio?
I use different sized drums and cymbals but the same general set up. Everything is a little bigger live than the studio. I also sit lower live so I can hit harder.
Do you play to a click or samples on stage?
Yes, we have songs with backing tracks, a few with a click, and a few with neither. I like it like that — little bit of everything. I do often find myself doing tempo checks live though when were not using the click. I will often reach down, turn the click on, and make sure it's in the ballpark.
Describe your favorite aspect of touring.
I love the moments on stage when I look up and we're all up there giving it everything we have and the crowd’s going crazy screaming and singing along. I also like getting on the bus after a great show and just relaxing, knowing that we just did the best we could do.
How do you stay healthy while you're on the road?
I don't drink, smoke, or do drugs anymore. I try to eat right and work out. If I don't take care of myself I’d pay for it every night behind the kit. It’s awesome because I have to stay in shape or my job becomes twice as hard.
What techniques have you learned by listening to or watching other drummers?
Alot. Whenever I watch other drummers I always like when they do less, more of a Phil Rudd approach. Right now I’m really into balance behind the kit, watching where the drummer sits and how he moves around the kit. It’s a must!