Photo credit: Jamie Weiland
“Why did you become such a douche to me?”
I knew it was coming.
As I walked into Scott Weiland’s room on his tour bus outside of the House of Blues Anaheim in Downtown Disney, I had a feeling that the former Stone Temple Pilots frontman may be aware of Alternative Nation’s critical coverage of him over the last couple of years. When Weiland posed that question to me immediately after I shook his hand, I told him I’m a huge fan and I don’t enjoy writing negative stories about him, but that many of them come directly from his most die hard fans on Stone Temple Pilots’ number one fansite: BelowEmpty.com. Weiland had never heard of it.
I mentioned that I get a lot of my Stone Temple Pilots news and reviews from that forum, just like I do with other fansites like PearlJamOnline. Weiland didn’t understand why’d I’d listen to those types of people, the types who will get upset when they don’t get an autograph. I then told Scott that there is an emphasis on the negative stories and those are the ones that get picked up from other sites, and that we actually did more to pay tribute to his late guitarist Jeremy Brown than any other site on the internet, and cover him more extensively than anyone. Weiland’s Wildabouts bassist Tommy Black, who was also in the room for the interview, agreed that the internet tends to focus on the negative these days.
I also told Scott many stories I do on him are based on other interviews he does with shitty generic questions, or ones that sensationalize his issues, which leads to me having to do stories on those poor interviews that have unflattering headlines since that’s the news out there on him. I told him that this interview is his chance to actually get his side of the story out there to his fans. At this point, we seemed to come to an understanding, as the questions on my coverage of him stopped. It was a conversation that I was glad we had, as there have been many misconceptions on how we cover Scott Weiland on Alternative Nation, and it really helped clear the air and move us in a positive direction to start the interview.
Alternative Nation: I’ve got on an Aladdin Sane David Bowie shirt, so I was wondering what some of your favorite David Bowie songs are?
Scott Weiland: Most of my favorite David Bowie songs were from Low, Lodger, and Heroes.
AN: I’d love to see you cover “Panic in Detroit,” that’s one of my favorite Bowie songs.
SW: Yeah, I’d love to do that as well.
AN: Or how about a Bowie covers album? I think that would be really cool.
SW: Yeah, that would be cool, but it seems a little too obvious, though.
AN: Now I want to get back to the very beginning, something that’s always interested me. I’ve read your book, I’ve interviewed your original manager Steve Stewart, I’ve talked to the other STP guys [Dean DeLeo, Eric Kretz] about the early days of the band. There’s so much vague and contradictory information out there about the Mighty Joe Young and the Swing years. When it comes to you and Robert [DeLeo], it’s been said that you first saw him play at a UCI frat house then saw him again a year later.
SW: No, not a UCI frat house, he used to come and watch us play at a place called Kiss the Club. When we were teenagers, we’d play there three times a week, and he would come and watch us play, and he would come up and play on a song or two. When I decided with my best friend and guitar player Corey Hickok, when we decided we needed to make a change with the band, we got a hold of Robert and started writing songs with him.
AN: What types of songs were you and Robert writing initially? I’ve heard the title “Drop That Funk,” which I’d love to hear, that got a rise out of Robert DeLeo when I met him a couple of years ago. So what types of songs were you initially writing with Robert and Swing, and do you remember any other titles?
SW: It was more Chili Peppers oriented, like early Chili Peppers oriented. A punk funk kind of vibe.
AN: Do you remember anything else besides “Drop That Funk” from your book?
SW: “Get Up With That Funky Feeling”.
AN: [Laughs] I’d love to hear these by the way, I don’t know why you don’t put these out. Speaking of that, Dean came into the band in 1990 or 1989.
SW: It was ’89.
AN: Finally a definitive answer on that. The band then morphed into Mighty Joe Young. It kind of confused me, there’s a picture in your book though that says it’s from 1990 when you opened for Henry Rollins, with Corey playing.
SW: No, that was Dean. Because we were both upstairs after we got done playing, when Henry was getting ready to walk down the stairway. Dean said, ‘How you doing out there?’ And he said, ‘Why? Is someone going to shoot me?’
AN: [Laughs] That’s why it’s great to get to talk to you, to get to hear about this kind of stuff. So when Dean came into the band, one story that I’ve heard is the first song that you guys wrote is “Where The River Goes.” There’s a demo out there that has stuff like “Dirty Dog” and the really funky stuff, some people say Corey played on some of that.
SW: Yeah, Corey played on some of that.
AN: Those are technically Swing songs then?
SW: They were still Mighty Joe Young songs, we had just changed the name. When Dean came into the band, the name was still Mighty Joe Young, and it was when we got signed, as well. We had to change the name because of the Chicago blues guy Mighty Joe Young.
AN: Yeah, luckily you didn’t go with Shirley Temple’s Pussy. That might not have worked out so well.
SW: It was there for a laugh for a few minutes.
Tommy Black: Really?
SW: [turns to bassist Tommy Black] STP, Shirley Temple’s Pussy.
TB: Oh, really? I didn’t know that. Wow, Shirley Black now.
AN: Yeah, I don’t think that would have worked in the politically correct times of today.
SW: Yeah, that’s unfortunate, [deadpans] that everything has to be Disneyland.
AN: [Laughs] That’s where we are right now.
TB: As we sit here.
AN: I always bring this up when people bring up, ‘Oh, they ripped other people off.’ But “Wicked Garden” and “Only Dying” are on that Mighty Joe Young demo, songs like that. How did you move into songs like that?
SW: Yeah, it started with “Where The River Goes“. Dean came in at our first rehearsal, and brought that song in. At first it was clean guitar, then we made it distorted guitar, and it went from a Cure sounding riff into a Zeppelin sounding riff.
AN: What about “Only Dying”? Why didn’t you guys ever re-record that? I know the story about Brandon Lee dying so it couldn’t be in The Crow, but why didn’t you guys ever do a studio version of that?
SW: It was written way before Brandon Lee died.
AN: When was it written?
SW: It was written in 1990.
AN: It’s good to get a definitive answer on that. The STP Wikipedia article is never going to be the same after tonight! So when did you first become familiar with some of the bigger Grunge era bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins? I heard something about you discovering Soundgarden when they were on SST, is that true?
SW: Actually on Sub Pop. I was a member of Sub Pop, and used to get singles every month. I saw Nirvana in 1989 I believe it was, at Raji’s [editor’s note: it was February 15, 1990].
AN: Wow, so you saw Nirvana. Did you get to meet Kurt or Krist?
SW: No, no. I was not a well known artist at the time. [Looks at Tommy Black and deadpans] Were you?
TB: No, I was not either.
SW: Did you ever get to see them?
TB: Back then, no.
SW: We used to play Raji’s all the time.
TB: Yeah, I used to go to Raji’s a lot.
AN: I don’t think I was alive back then.
TB: I saw Redd Kross at Raji’s.
AN: So now, talking about the Grunge bands, this always pisses me off when I read it, what were your thoughts on being compared to some of them later?
SW: In the early days, it didn’t matter to me so much, because I felt it was the first real movement in rock and roll since punk rock. It tapped into sociopolitical connotations, and pop culture. It just had a vibe. It influenced fashion, I mean it was a huge, huge movement. But after that, I wanted us to be a band that changed, and we were, we changed from Core to Purple, then Tiny Music especially, we made a garage sounding album.
AN: Shangri LA DEE DA is the most experimental.
SW: Oh yeah.
AN: I play songs sometimes like a “A Song For Sleeping” and “Hello It’s Late” for people after “Dead and Bloated” and they don’t even think it’s the same band, so that proves your staying power.
SW: Or “Bi-Polar Bear.”
AN: You know, I was actually going to jump to that later because it’s kind of different subject matter.
SW: Well it’s not really, because I am bi-polar.
AN: I’ll ask you about that now then. I was just with my friend whose mother is bi-polar, and we were talking about that, and I was saying I’m going to interview Scott Weiland tonight, so I really should ask him about it. In “Bi-Polar Bear” there are lines in it like ‘Left my meds on the sink today, my head will be racing by lunchtime.’ It’s one of the most underrated STP songs to me. I love that you guys played it a few years ago when you were still together, but not at my show unfortunately. But how do you deal with bipolar disorder, how have you dealt with it over the years? Has it ever been better, or worse at certain times?
SW: There were certain groups of medicines that I took that worked for a long time, until they stopped working. Then I started taking a different regiment of medicines. I was on too high of a dose, and it affected some of the shows that I played, but I’m on the right dosage now.
AN: You hear the stories from the fans and stuff, and I want to get your side on this, how does it affect your personality when you are talking to people, and meeting strangers like fans?
SW: I don’t like meeting strangers anyway. I’m just not that kind of guy.
AN: Same here. My anxiety was through the roof in the last few hours before coming here. So right now you’re in a better place when it comes to dealing with it?
SW: Oh yeah, definitely.
AN: That’s really good to hear. Moving back to the early 90’s, when you were in STP you played with Jerry Cantrell a few times, and you played with Alice In Chains in 2007, you did “Angry Chair” when they first did the reunion. Are there any other collaborations you’d like to do with your contemporaries?
SW: I’d love to play with Jack White.
AN: That’d be great, especially with the style you’re going for now with Blaster and the garage rock. Or maybe Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.
SW: Yeah, The Black Keys would be great. Dan’s awesome.
AN: He’s producing the new Cage The Elephant album.
SW: Oh really?
AN: Yeah. You mentioned Cage The Elephant in your book, are you a fan of them?
SW: Yeah, I am a fan of them. They opened up for STP for awhile.
AN: Yeah, I mentioned to Matt Shultz a few years ago that you thanked Cage The Elephant in your book, and he was really honored, he thought it was really cool. Now going into your relationship with the STP guys, this is where I really want to get your side of the story. I spoke to Eric Kretz a couple of years ago and he talked about what a great friend you were during the early days of STP, and how you two co-writing the lyrics to “Plush” together in a hot tub was a perfect example of that friendship. When did that friendship with the STP members start to go downhill, and when did it become more of just a business relationship? I’m really interested in your take on that.
SW: It was really when I was asked to be on the cover of the magazines, and it wasn’t the band, and the band got really jealous about it. So things kind of changed from that point on, slowly, but surely.
AN: One thing you mentioned on Howard Stern was in 1996 some Tiny Music shows were canceled, and the band held a press conference announcing: “Our singer can’t show up.” Do you think that was a turning point at all in the relationship?
SW: I think so, especially because Dean was a fuckin’ junkie as well, and not admitting to it.
AN: Now you kept going back to STP. After that hiatus where you made 12 Bar Blues, which I love. I wish you would play more of that live.
SW: Different band.
AN: Right. Then you went back to STP for No. 4., but that fell apart a few years later.
Tommy takes a picture of the interview.
AN: [To Tommy] Are you taking a picture? Cool. Say: ‘Scott Weiland and the douchebag.’ [laughs]
AN: So you went back to STP a few times, especially for the reunion in 2008, that was a huge tour. You were going through a lot at the time, Velvet Revolver was just ending, there was just so much going on. Do you think you guys should have reunited in hindsight, or do you think the relationship wasn’t healed at that point?
SW: I think we should have reunited. I just don’t think that we should have tried to produce our own album, especially when Don Was was asking to produce the album. He was so frustrated because no one in the rest of the band would listen to any of his ideas, so he finally went back to the Stones and did that Exile on Main St. reissue.
AN: Yeah, I was going to mention that actually, you just keep going into the things I want to talk about. No matter what went into it, I loved the self-titled STP album. I think “Take a Load Off” could have been a hit, some other songs too. I love “Maver”, that is one of my favorite songs you’ve ever written.
SW: I think “Maver” is a great song.
AN: Yeah, and it’s never been played live unfortunately. “Between The Lines” too, it’s just a really catchy album. For a lot of these veteran bands that come out, the songs don’t have the hooks, but for that album you guys did, and I loved it. But when I talked to the other guys a couple years ago, they mentioned you were working on your vocals separately from the band, and the DeLeos were producing the album.
SW: Everyone was producing the album.
AN: At Eric’s studio, Bombshelter.
SW: Yeah. Those guys were doing their part of the production, doing the instrumentation, and I was at my studio Lavish with Don Was producing my vocals.
AN: So where did you guys get crossed up there? That you wanted Don Was to be the producer and the DeLeos wanted to produce it themselves?
SW: Yeah, they were insistent on producing themselves, and I didn’t feel that was a good idea, there’s too many producers in the band. We had Don Was at our disposal, and we should have let him be the leader.
AN: Do you think that did a lot to hurt the relations of the band at the time?
SW: Yeah, I think so.
AN: That’s very interesting. Do you think if Brendan O’Brien had produced it [Editor’s note: He produced the original five STP records before their 2003 separation], it would have turned out better? Why didn’t you guys go with Brendan?
SW: That was the idea of the rest of the guys. It was always something that we voted on, and they didn’t want to work with Brendan.
AN: Do you think in hindsight obviously, you had your point of view, it does sound like having an intermediary producer would have probably worked better with what was going on with the band at the time, but do you have any regrets in hindsight? Do you think you guys could have worked it out better when it came to the decision of making that album?
SW: If we would have gone with a producer, just like we did with all of the rest of our records with Brendan, where he was the guy where if it came to it, he had the last word.
AN: Another point of contention about STP during that era was the setlist, it was the greatest hits setlist especially as we went into the last couple of years of the reunion. I read that you wanted to work in more deep cuts, and freshen it up.
SW: Yep. I also wanted to do the 20th anniversary of Core, and do that album in its entirety, but they didn’t want to do that.
AN: Why didn’t they want to do it?
SW: I don’t know. I have no idea.
AN: Did you guys have conversations about that? Because I know there was a meeting at somebody’s house.
SW: Yeah, there was a conversation, but they didn’t want to do it. They said: ‘Let’s do Purple.’ Or let’s do the 21st reunion of fuckin’ Core. It’s like 20th works, 21st doesn’t.
AN: So they wanted to combine the tours then?
AN: Then you ended up doing that tour. I don’t know if you can talk about that.
SW: I can.
AN: What led to you doing that?
SW: Because we didn’t have an album yet, so we decided to do a combination of the two albums.
AN: Now I’ve got to ask you, I like Blaster, but that Purple at the Core Tour, some fans weren’t big on it. What do you think went on with that tour that led to criticism of it?
SW: I think because we had a five piece band, and that five piece band had two guitar players, and the main guitar player who really was the most impressive, was Jeremy Brown, and he was only the rhythm guitar player in that band.
AN: I recognized the faces in the Wildabouts before it was even the Wildabouts, like Jeremy and Tommy, but after Doug [Grean] left it seemed like it got a lot better, at least musically.
SW: Yeah, it became a lot cleaner.
AN: Because there was a lot of noodling before that.
SW: There was a lot more space between the notes. What do you have to say about that Tommy?
TB: The space was good. The space opened things up. It got heavier.
AN: Just coming from a fan’s perspective, that’s really improved the show. You never really know if someone’s going to be ‘tired’ or something, but everything always sounds great musically. When it comes to playing live, do you wish you could tour less? Does it burn you out having to tour so much?
SW: Not really. It burns me out missing my wife, that burns me out, but she comes out every now and again on the road.
TB: She’s the band Mom.
SW: Yeah, she is the band Mom.
AN: You mentioned on Howard Stern a few years ago, I don’t know if circumstances have changed, but you have to tour a certain amount to make a certain amount of money.
SW: Well you have to, because rock bands don’t sell. STP and fuckin’ Velvet Revolver sold 6, 7, 8 million records at a time, and that just doesn’t happen in rock and roll any more. Taylor Swift might sell, might smell, a million records.
AN: You should have pushed “The Man I Didn’t Know” [from Happy in Galoshes] to the country crowd [laughs], that’d be a big crossover, another song I love. You do a ridiculous amount of shows. I look at your contemporaries like Chris Cornell, and sure they tour, but it’s not crazy like you when you look at the amount of dates. Do you think there’s a way you could do less shows and maybe monetize them more so you could tour less? Maybe an acoustic tour, where the fans help out with the setlist?
SW: These songs aren’t really acoustic in nature. The only thing we could really do is license more songs to film and TV to come up with a financially better situation, but other than that, the only way to make money is to tour, [sarcastically] is to be a road dog.
AN: [Laughs] Now I’ve got to ask a little bit about Velvet Revolver. Somebody told a reporter of mine this, I think it was 10 years ago, your bandmates in Velvet Revolver who were in Guns N’ Roses were offered hundreds of millions for a reunion, and there were rumors at the time. I think you wrote a letter to Axl [Rose] at the time, it was pretty funny, calling him a wig wearing fuck or something. It was pretty amusing, I don’t know if you’d remember it.
SW: I remember a little bit about it. There was a little going back and forth between the two of us at the time, but I think that Guns N’ Roses are getting back together.
AN: Why do you think they’re getting back together?
SW: I just heard that.
TB: We’ve heard rumors.
SW: Oh, so there’s a scoop. My next question was going to be who is more likely to play with Slash at this point, you or Axl Rose. So do you think it’s Axl at this point?
SW: I think Slash is actually a bigger star right now than Axl.
TB: Slash is a brand.
SW: He’s the hat.
AN: Now I’ve got to ask you too about the Velvet Revolver thing, you said the band was reuniting a couple of years ago.
SW: Because we did a show together, and there was talk about us getting back together, but Perla, Slash’s ex-wife, kind of put the kibosh on everything.
AN: Oh wow, really? That’s surprising. But you did an interview at the time, I even remember the outlet, ABC News Radio, you said the band was getting back together and writing a new album.
SW: Not writing a new album, but as far as getting back together, I thought at the time we would get back together and do a tour.
AN: Dave Kushner said there was a little miscommunication at the time when I talked to him. Moving onto Blaster, there’s some pretty emotional stuff lyrically… “Circles” and “Amethyst” especially, those are two of my favorites. I feel like with the right push those could do well on radio.
SW: I think “Circles” would be great for a film, for an indie film.
AN: I love the song, but why did you choose to use autotune on that? Or was it autotune?
SW: It’s usually a harmonizer. It’s a harmonizer, not autotune.
AN: Then that will dispel that myth, because that’s what a lot of fans say.
SW: No, no autotune.
AN: So what was your inspiration lyrically behind those songs? I listened to those songs, and they still have the emotional resonance your older stuff does, because sometimes I’ll listen to other 90’s artists as they age, and it doesn’t really have that, but how are you still able to get that emotion down lyrically, especially this late into your career?
SW: A lot of it had to do with my relationship with my wife, and the producer Rick Parker that we had, who was a huge friend, and played in bands with Blacky Onassis here.
TB: Yeah. I was a band called Sparklier with Rick. We brought Rick in, I’ve always worked with him, and he had such a good vibe, I knew they would be a perfect match, and his bedside manner in the studio would work perfectly.
SW: Yeah, and he brought Jeremy to really advance –
TB: He helped him bloom.
SW: He helped him bloom, exactly.
AN: Another thing about Blaster that I don’t think anybody has asked you about, is James Iha played on “Blue Eyes,” how did that work out?
SW: Yeah, he wrote part of the song, then we finished writing the song, and then he wanted to play on it, so he came in and played on it.
TB: He’s a cool guy.
SW: He’s a cool guy, very nice. A gentleman.
AN: I’ve interviewed him and Corgan, very different personalities. It’s hard to see how they played together. Now where do you see yourself going in the next 5 to 10 years musically? Is your goal to get back to an arena level, maybe with the right amount of hits with the Wildabouts?
SW: Hell yeah!
AN: Or with another STP or Velvet Revolver run, or another supergroup? Is it your goal to get back to that level?
SW: I’m not interested in another supergroup. If there was a tour for STP or Velvet Revolver, I would do that, but this is my band, this is where I want to be in arenas. I think we write great enough songs to be able to put us back in that place. We want to follow the path of, like, Queens of the Stone Age.
AN: You’ve always had the passion for your solo career, even when you were still with Velvet Revolver or STP. You love your solo career so much, do you think that might have affected what was going on with STP? Do you think if you got back together with STP or Velvet Revolver, it’d be for the right reasons at this point since your heart is in the Wildabouts?
SW: I can’t say about Velvet Revolver, but I can say about STP, they had three bands besides the band that I was in with them. I had Magnificent Bastards, then I had my own two solo albums.
AN: And Art of Anarchy.
SW: Well no, that wasn’t a band of mine though. I wish those guys the best of luck, I hope they do great, but I was told by my management at the time, Carl Stubner, that all I had to do for the money was write the melodies, write the lyrics, and sing the songs. I was lied to by him.
AN: When it comes to STP at this point, do you think about the legacy at all? Because Chester is in the band –
AN: Chester’s not?
AN: What do you mean?
SW: I’ve heard he’s not in the band any more.
TB: They played recently with him I think.
AN: It was a couple of weeks ago, they only did one show. They had canceled a show before that. So you don’t think he’s in the band any more?
SW: He’s got a band where he gets paid $700,000 a night with, and with STP, the brand is kind of falling apart, which is a shame.
AN: I wanted to ask you about that, do you think the legacy can be repaired, at least during your guys lifetimes? No matter what, people are going to love those songs 100 years from now, they’re just timeless. But do you think the legacy can be repaired during your lifetime?
SW: Yeah, if we did a reunion tour, it could be.
AN: But what do you think you’d have to do to make it different from the previous run, to really make it end on a strong note? Do you think there’s a way to do that, and repair the relationship with the guys?
SW: I don’t know, that depends on them.
Overall, the interview was a very positive experience. It was a dream come true to get to interview one of my favorite singers of all time. We can be critical of Weiland on Alternative Nation, but at the end of the day it’s because we care, and we’re always rooting for him. Weiland was right on time for the interview, we cleared up the issues he had with our coverage of him, and he was able to share his side of the story on what led to the rise and fall of Stone Temple Pilots’ original lineup.
Weiland’s entire crew, and bandmates, were class acts. Wildabouts bassist Tommy Black definitely helped Scott feel more comfortable during the interview, and I had a quick conversation with drummer Joey Castillo (formerly of Queens of the Stone Age) about Pearl Jam’s early days as Mookie Blaylock. Scott’s new manager Tom Vitorino is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in the music business. We talked a bit about David Bowie, and he even hugged me following the interview! I can’t thank him enough for making this happen.
When it comes to the concert, The Icarus Line and Slater Slums were solid openers for Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, and Weiland’s headlining set was a vast improvement over the 2011 Christmas album tour I saw. Weiland’s backing band is much tighter now with Joey Castillo on drums, the lineup seems primed to record some solid material in the near future.
Weiland recently released an app featuring a new song called “Back to the City.” He is currently touring the United States with his band the Wildabouts.
Co-edited by Doug McCausland.