You wouldn’t think there would be an excessive amount of drama in a band like Smash Mouth. After all, their songs, especially their singles, are mostly catchy pop songs so addictive they’re seemingly covered in sugar. That turns out not to be the case. Things are fine now, but as the band closed the chapter on working with their original lineup, they faced a large amount of inner turmoil. Most of the tension was between founding members; with vocalist Steve Harwell and bassist Paul De Lisle on one side and guitarist Greg Camp on the other. Recently talking with Alternative Addiction, Harwell talked about life in Smash Mouth without Camp and the band’s new record, Magic.
“For a long time the band was on pins and needles because not all of us got along,” said Harwell about the band’s current state. “You put one bad apple in the bunch and it can spoil everything. We had to make changes. We did, and at the end of the day I can say I wish this would have happened six or seven years ago because it’s been phenomenal. But everything happens for a reason. We’ve had a wonderful run with the original guys but there comes a point in time when as a band we can’t be held captive anymore. We need to make new music and not sit around and talk about it. The talking about it was getting really old.”
You might sense some hostility with Harwell. There’s the brash cockiness that’s always been there, something that’s served him well at different points in Smash Mouth’s tenure, but there’s also some bitterness pertaining to what the band has endured after the release of Summer Girl. It turns out that bitterness stems off from the band’s final days playing with Greg Camp. Harwell, teased at his problem with Camp before completely letting everything loose.
“Paul and I put our heads down and decided no one was going to take this from us. Paul would remind me of that every day. Our keyboard player said something the other day, he was talking about Greg and when he was talking to him. He said something like, ‘Greg this is bigger than all of us.’ I think that’s to the point and I think that’s what Greg missed and forgot. This is bigger than all of us and there’s no way we’re going to let this fizzle out. We’ve done too much; we’ve created too much great music. We’ve been able to change peoples’ lives. There’s no reason why this band can’t keep making records and touring the world. We’re going to stop when we want to stop.”
Now for the onslaught… when asked if Harwell enjoyed making Magic without Greg Camp, Harwell replied in a fairly blunt manner and dove into his side of the story regarding the band’s problems with their former guitarist.
“As soon as he left I started enjoying my life again because he literally had our hands tied behind our backs. We had a process since the day we started and that’s that we all knew our roles and we were all good with it. We all had a partnership agreement and one day he decided that he was changing everything. Once that happens it puts a sour taste in your mouth, and it was pill for me that was a little too big to swallow and it got worse and worse. I got to the point to where I couldn’t deal with the guy. Paul was at that point too. And Paul and Greg had been best friends since they were in their late teens basically. They were in bands together, cover bands and everything. That’s what kind of hurt me the most; I’m like ‘how do you do this to your so-called best friend? How do you f___ him so bad by saying I’m taking all this and all that?’ There was no bargaining. I just recently started voicing myself on this because I’d always bit my tongue. We’re at the point now to where Paul and I don’t need to. We’ve made a great record and we’ve got great guys around us. Greg can sit at home and soak in his bottle of wine.”
Following up on Harwell’s problems with Camp, he said that it was the people around the guitarist that were putting ideas into his head, and he felt that Greg was buying into them. He eventually finished his part on the topic discussing the band moving away from Camp as their guitarist.
“Once you remove the cancer the machine starts running good again. And that’s what happened, I had to remove it. I’ll tell you right now, I could never be in a band with him again. I have no ill-will towards him personally; we’ve done a lot together. I do love him, and I’ve always said I’d take a bullet for him, but I just can’t be in a band with him anymore. He was just that sour apple and he f_____ with too much, he can’t take that back. I’m tired of biting my tongue. I didn’t do this, Paul and I didn’t do this. We didn’t cause the problem; we solved the problem, that’s what we did. We fixed it.”
The current lineup of Smash Mouth features Harwell and De Lisle, as well as Michael Klooster and Randy Cooke. The band also features Michael Krompass, a well-regarded producer who also produced the band’s new record.
“He’s an incredible producer and musician,” said Harwell on the band’s new guitarist and producer. “He kind of reminds me of Eric Valentine, who did all of our big hits, they have really similar styles of producing. But when Mike came on board, Paul and I were elated. That was our biggest fear of finding ‘the guy’ who could take it to another level. When Mike came on board there was instant chemistry. Making the record was really fun, we all co-wrote it, Mike produced, and it was much more hands-on than it’s ever been. We’re all doing all of it ourselves, we’ve got a lot more invested in this. The record wrote itself. I can’t even put it into words. It’s been so much fun making it.”
The band wrote and recorded the album extremely fast, especially based on their standards. Although the band’s last release was six years ago, this new record was put together in just under a year. It was written quickly and recording with Krompass made Harwell and De Lisle enjoy being in a band again. Harwell is especially proud of this record and feels that the group still has plenty in the tank.
“I personally feel that right now we’re going to hit our stride,” noted Harwell. “This time around we’re finally going to get the respect that I feel Smash Mouth has always deserved. I don’t think a lot of people gave us the credit that was due, not that I’m looking for it, but at the same time I’d read things and feel that people just didn’t get it. This time around, we haven’t had one negative comment since this new stuff has been going on. It makes me feel like we did it again this time.”
Smash Mouth’s Magic is available now and the group will be on tour in the U.S. and internationally through the next year.