Three hours before a scheduled interview with the former lead singer of ‘90s-defining band Stone Temple Pilots, supergroup Velvet Revolver and man known for his dubious, drug-addled past, this writer receives an email from Scott Weiland’s PR rep:
Please stay away from the following topics:
Short of offering spring cleaning tips with one of the musical icons of our generation, the option is to play by the rules, start in the moment with his current band, The Wildabouts and hope for something genuine. We don’t need to talk about the legal suits with STP, who expelled him from the band in 2013 and hired Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington as his replacement. We needn’t get into his decision to leave Velvet Revolver. We can start with the fact that a 35-year veteran of rock is willing to rise above pneumonia and spend his down time talking about his new music with The Wildabouts. It’s clearly a product he believes in.
Natalie North: Tell me about the sound of The Wildabouts.
Scott Weiland: It’s definitely different right now, because we’re a four-piece instead of a five-piece. The songs that we’re writing and the way that we’re playing has changed. It’s not as muddled as it was before and the writing process is different. I’m writing with the guys in the band, which is a different process from what I’ve done before on my two solo albums, where the writing was generally with myself and one other person. This is a band process. We’re sharing ideas. I still write all the melodies and all the lyrics. Someone comes up with an idea and we just kind of suss it out, do a demo and record it.
We’re recording the album with Rick Parker, who recorded a couple of the better-known Black Rebel Motorcycle Club albums, as well as some other really great records.
NN: What instruments or tools are you using to write with when you’re working solo?
SW: Basically it starts out, I listen to the rough ideas that the guys in the band have demoed in their own homes on their laptops. It usually starts with a couple of parts, like a verse, a pre-chorus, then we get together and arrange and write the rest of the song and I write my lyrics and melody to it and melodies, for me, usually come before the lyrics.
NN: Any themes or ideas you’re into right now?
SW: Every album’s different. It’s always a new challenge. Like lyrically, but this is also a new challenge sonically. It’s a very unique sound, not a sound I’ve really delved that much into before and I just think more than anything, we’re creating the sound that’s the sound of this band. It’s a lot different than it was before with two guitar players and now there’s just one who plays rhythm as well, so there’s a lot more space between the notes.
In a sense, the difference in the band is that space that exists without there being all that clutter.
NN: Do you think that’s a part of being a more mature artist and not having to show it all off, to be more comfortable having less?
SW: Yeah, I do. I think there was a time when, after being in STP for a long time, then in Velvet Revolver, when I made my first solo album, it was kind of like making an art project, a giant collage. I used to take the approach with solo albums, I wasn’t afforded being in a band like STP where everything was done in a democratic fashion, everyone sharing ideas, so when I made my solo albums before, they were more like art projects where I just layered different sounds, different strange instruments. Even though they may have had a little space here and there, it was definitely more difficult to blend it and then when we performed it live, we had to use loops, drum beats that I had programmed along with Danny, our drummer. It was a different experience. They were both artistic ones that needed to be done, but this feels like a new thing. We’re creating our own sound and we’re discovering it as we go along.
NN: Are you able to go back and listen to some of those early STP recordings – and what do you hear?
SW: I think there’s some great songwriting. I remember going back to the ideas, the memories of writing the songs, the excitement at the time. There were a lot of great times. There were difficult times, but I had some great experiences making those STP albums.
NN: How has sobriety has affected your creativity, your drive and your songwriting?
SW: It’s definitely made it a lot more easy to get to one emotional side. In the beginning with that kind of thing, you want to push the envelope, but the envelope ends up closing out under your feet. It’s definitely made it a lot easier to access feelings.
NN: I want to ask you about the release of your book (Not Dead & Not for Sale: A Memoir) and how vulnerable you were feeling prior to putting all of that personal information out there – and then if you were treated in any way post-publication that you weren’t expecting.
SW: Well, my initial reason for doing the book was because I felt like after all the hundreds of thousands of interviews that I had done, which in the end were edited down to a page here or maybe eight pages or 15 pages if you’re on the cover, but it still didn’t really tell the whole story. It’s also seen through the eye of the person who’s interviewing you, so there’s some colouration added there and I didn’t want that. I wanted to be able to tell my story up until that point and be able to put it out there and in a sense, shut the door on that chapter as well.
NN: Was it able to provide some closure for you?
SW: Yeah, in a lot of ways, definitely.
NN: What do you do for yourself to preserve your privacy and stay grounded, to stay producing your music right now?
SW: Well that’s a much more difficult question now in the information age with Facebook and Twitter and all those avenues. I don’t really engage that much. I think that’s probably the best route, really. A long time ago I used to read every interview or every review that I got and you can end up allowing yourself to get caught up in it. I don’t do that anymore. I choose to live a private life even though I’m a public person when I’m out on the road.
NN: Is there anything that you would like to add about the Victoria show or the Canadian leg of the tour in particular?
SW: The last time that I was in Victoria was quite some time ago and it was definitely a beautiful city. I’m looking forward to it very much and to seeing the town as well. Playing in Canada – we’ve always had great fans there and we’ll be seeing those fans again.
NN: Will you still play some hits along with the new music?
SW: It’s a pretty cool set. We’ve re-worked some of the older STP stuff and some of the older Velvet Revolver stuff to our own sound and the vibe and the spirit of how we’re making this new album, and we’re also playing songs from the new album, which we never could do before because we had to make sure that there were no leaks, but that doesn’t really matter anymore. The set has gotten really tight. I’m hoping that all the fans in Victoria and the rest of Canada will be diggin’ it.