The last few years have been pretty tumultuous for Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell. There have been line-up changes – including the departure of chief songwriter Greg Camp – he had to cancel his tour to Australia last year and was forced into eating an obscene amount of eggs by a titan of Twitter who goes by the handle @fart. Now with a new record, Magic, and resceduled Australian tour, the all star is ready to get his game on again – hey!
So you guys are finally coming to Australia!
I’ve been waiting to come there for so long and pushing and pushing and pushing but I knew it wasn’t right for us to come until we had a new record and now we do so we’re on our way. We’ve got a pretty good amount of shows and I cannot wait to get there.
You’ve had a few line-up changes in recent years; how has this changed your approach to song writing, particularly with Greg Camp’s departure?
A lot of people were like “Oh wow, Greg’s gone”, but you’ve got to understand, Greg stopped writing music a long time ago and he turned into somebody that I didn’t know. He did a lot of shady shit years and years ago that I never talked about and we kept it under wraps. I recently spoke about it but I’m at the point now where I don’t even think he’s worthy of it. When you form a band with somebody you want it to go on forever but people change. I had to tell him to take a hike. I said, “Dude I can’t be in a band with you anymore. I know you don’t even want to be here and you’re wasting my time and this band’s got tonnes of life in it and we’re moving on and I can’t move on with you, it’s impossible. You tell me one thing and do another.” That’s his famous thing, that’s how he works, and I wish the best for him, I really do – I mean I do love the guy – but it’s a love/hate thing in our case, and that’s that.
Was it tough to find a replacement?
It took a while to find the right guy and our new guitar player Michael Krompass, we hit it off and he’s like my little brother. He’s got the fire, he’s got the songwriting talent, and it’s finally got to the point where I’ve been able to climb in there and start co-writing all these songs. Greg’s approach was that he didn’t like to co-write with anybody so we’d come up with an idea and he’d go into his little batcave and do his thing, but it got old. I love co-writing. I love getting in a room with a couple of people and bouncing ideas around and getting that energy going and that’s what makes a great record. This record wrote itself and it was so much fun making it because it just hasn’t been fun for a long time. Mike brought a lady in named Shelly Peiken who’s written a tonne of stuff for Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Meredith Brooks, N*Sync, all this great stuff, and she’s just an awesome lady and when I met her the first day we wrote two incredible songs, the next day we wrote one and we hadn’t written that many songs in four years so the record didn’t take that long at all. We’re rocking and rolling baby, that’s all I can say.
How do you think this new collaborative approach makes this record differ from the others?
It sounds a little bit fresher, a little more mature I think; more current, basically. We did one track called ‘Live to Love Another Day’ that’s very kind of old-school Smash Mouth, it kind of reminds me of the Smithereens. Otherwise I just wanted to write hit songs, I was just like “Man, let’s make a record full of fuckin’ hits, I don’t want to play games.”
Yeah, it sounded like you had a whole lot of fun writing it.
Oh yeah, it was a blast brother. Climbing in the vocal booth was so much fun, singing those songs and watching the record grow. The record wasn’t originally Magic, that was the last song pretty much that we wrote. We were in the middle of tracking one of the songs at Mike’s house in Nashville and my manager called and said “I need you to do me a favour, I need a song with magic in it; the word magic. I get so many requests from movie companies, TV, whatever, everybody’s looking for that word magic.” And I said “OK, you got it,” and literally within an hour later we finished the song.
You’ve let some guest stars in on all the fun too…
We have a guest appearance from a new rapper kid named J-Dash from Miami, Florida. He’s a YouTube sensation and Mike had produced some of his stuff and I’ve really wanted to get a rapper on a Smash Mouth record forever so he flew in and wrote the bridge for ‘Magic’ in about 20 minutes and jumped in the booth and it came out fantastic so we ended up putting him on another song called ‘Flippin’ Out’.
One of the more bizarre things to happen to you recently was the push on Twitter from a comedy writer with the handle Fart for you to eat 24 eggs. Um, how did that go down?
When he offered me the challenge I was like, well I’m not just going to do it to do it, then it started growing and growing and becoming a little trend so my manager came to me and was like “Well why don’t we make it a charity event for [St. Jude’s] Children’s Hospital?” and I said that’s the only way I’ll do it. If we can raise money I’ll do it. So I reached out to my buddy [celebrity chef] Guy Fieri and he goes: “Done deal, let’s do it at my restaurant,” and of course him being a chef, he’s got 20,000 different eggs up there so we’re making a little skit out of it and the people are going nuts and he whips up these eggs and I love hot food but he put everything on it, onions, peppers, mushrooms, it was basically just a pile of pig shit and I had to eat it. I got halfway through it and I was about to throw up so I offered a challenge and said if anybody wants to volunteer to eat it I’ll donate $1000 out of my pocket and Guy said he’d match it so a gentleman came up and he finished it off and we raised about $10,000 which was a really cool thing and it made it all worth it. But the kid that was there that posted it and started it all [Something Awful writer Jon Hendren], I said “Why did you do it?” and he goes ‘I was bored.’ And I just started laughing.”
Magic is available Fri Oct 5.