Q & A With Scott Weiland
Don’t plan on seeing Scott Weiland any time soon. With his days in platinum supergroup Velvet Revolver behind him and no plans to record again with ’90s sensation Stone Temple Pilots, Weiland is moving on as a solo artist—and on his own terms. He scheduled only a dozen or so solo shows this year and says he has no plans for a lengthy solo tour—this at a time when spending endless months on the road is more important to an artist’s success than ever. While his unwillingness to bend to the demands of the music industry might earn him a few integrity points, it’s not likely to keep him in the center spotlight for too much longer. And that’s a shame, because Weiland makes one hell of a good rock star.
His weathered but boyish face, spiky hair, and designer suits have endeared him to a league of fashion junkies. His sonorous voice and captivating stage presence have helped him win over audiences from grunge kids to mainstream rock fans. And his appetite for self-destruction has been more compelling than a season of Intervention.
When we last left Weiland, he had just quit Velvet Revolver because of irreconcilable ego struggles with his bandmates and was playing reunion shows with Stone Temple Pilots, the band that made him a celebrity before his descent into drugs, jail, and the court system. After the STP dates, Weiland returned to his home studio with friend and producer Doug Green and No Doubt members Adrian Young, Tony Kanal, and Tom Dumont to finish up his second solo album, “Happy” in Galoshes.The multihued effort bursts like a piñata filled with ’70s glam, classy altrock, and psychedelic pop, revealing multiple references to David Bowie, The Beatles, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, The Doors, and Pink Floyd. Yet “Happy” in Galoshes is neither schizophrenic nor particularly derivative. And though it’s surely melancholy, it belies the pain Weiland experienced during the year and a half in which it was written. In that time, Weiland’s younger brother, Michael, died of a drug overdose, and his second wife, Mary Forsberg, left him and filed for divorce, leaving him less time to spend with his kids, Noah, 8, and Lucy, 6—who, he says, are the most important people in his life.
Now that Weiland seems determined to spend more time in his basement writing new songs about his sad life, and less on the road promoting them, we may be seeing less of him than ever—especially if he’s as sober as he claims to be.
When we were first invited to talk to Weiland, we were prepared to settle into a lengthy discussion about his recent losses and triumphs, and the music he’s created as a result of both. But Weiland is a notoriously hard guy to nail down. After blowing off the interview no fewer than six times, he finally rang us up in a limo on his way to the Los Angeles airport. As the vehicle twisted through the Hollywood Hills, Weiland spoke in a tone most people reserve for telemarketers. And when the rock star arrived at LAX, we were promised that we would finish the interview at a later date. Then the line went dead. Hey, Scott, we’re still waiting.
INKED: When did you get your last tattoo?
SCOTT WEILAND: My last tattoo was of my wife. It was when we got back together after she filed for divorce for the last time.
Ouch, that’s kind of a bittersweet thing. Are you going to have it removed?
No, no. I’ll keep it ’cause she’s the mother of my children.
Tell us about your first tattoo.
When I was 19 I went down to Long Beach to Bert Grimm’s and got a tattoo by a guy named Joe Vegas, who’s a pretty infamous rockabilly kind of dude. He gave me a tattoo of a cross with a rose going through it on my upper deltoid, and it was about as unoriginal and basic as you can get. Since then it’s been covered up by a three-quarter sleeve, which is almost complete. It’s a Japanese dragon with fire, water, air swirls, and
flowers. And then, I’m a Scorpio, so I have two scorpions on my left arm that are more tribal. I kind of regret that because it was such a trendy thing at the time. So I might have those modified.
What’s your worst experience involving tattoos?
Probably getting tattooed by Bob Roberts, because he was the grouchiest guy in the world. He actually started out the dragon. Ten years have passed since your debut solo album, 12 Bar Blues. When did you decide to do a second solo album? Well, I record all the time because I have my own studio. People ask if I have a hobby and I usually say, “Yeah, going into the studio and writing songs for myself,” because there are no boundaries. I don’t have to worry about being too abstract or the pressure of something being so inear or having to be a hit. That’s not the purpose. We’re having a lot of success right now with the first single, “Missing Cleveland,” but that’s just a bonus.
What is there to “Missing Cleveland”?
After I had my first son and my wife and I split up the first time, she wanted to move away and move down to our house in Coronado and wanted me to stay at the apartment in L.A. Anyway, the song is inspired by the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the idea of this guy having this dream to make it up in space as a scientist, and the relationship between him and his wife after they had a baby. The chemistry between the family—between [him] and her—changed completely, and no longer was there that support of what it was with his creativity as an artist. Basically, that’s what it’s really about. And I’m using that as a metaphor for what I was doing at the time. I was working on my own solo material and I was really trying to push ahead and break new ground, and instead of it being looked at as work, it was looked at as going to the studio, hanging out with the guys, playing pool. That kind of thing.The album is very diverse. It almost sounds like a stream of consciousness flow of ideas, and the points of influence are almost boundless.
That’s always going to be my mission statement, my goal. That was what I was going after on my first record and it was just a much more low-fi record. The first half of the first song on my first record, “Desperation #5,” was recorded on a four-track cassette recorder. And we liked the way it sounded so much that we took those cassette tapes and took them over to Ocean Way studios and transferred them down to two-inch tape and finished the song over there. So that song was a combination of four-track cassette and two-inch 24-track reel-to-reel over at Ocean Way with this massive Neve board. And then I started realizing, “Wow, Imight be on to something.” So I started buying some equipment.
Does anyone think the album title “Happy” in Galoshes implies you were happy when you made this record?
Yeah, and they’re the ones who aren’t really paying attention. It’s not really a happy record. Really, the title is a metaphor. In Cleveland, this little town in Chagrin Falls that I lived in, we wore these disgusting black rubber boots over our shoes when it was raining or sleeting, and so it’s sort of about trying to be happy when it’s raining.
Between the death of your brother and your split with your wife, it seems like it was raining a lot while you worked on this record.
Yeah, my personal relationship and the death of my brother had a lot to do with these songs. I also had some
family issues with my parents and, you know, just a lot of stuff that came up and happened. But I’d prefer not to say specifically what the songs are about. I’d rather that people read into the lyrics and come up with their own answers. It always kind of ruins songs for me when someone says, “This song is about this,” because it takes away a little bit of the magic. Songs mean different things to different people and that’s what makes them special.Was it cleansing to deal with your losses through music?
Yes, it was. Music is something that’s very therapeutic for me. It’s also something I can lose myself in. I don’t know what I’d do without it.
How much stuff did you write for this album?
I had close to 40 song ideas that were not completed. We’d start one and then I’d have to get home to the kids, and then one day we would hit on something that we would fall in love with and we’d pretty much finish it that day and forget about everything else for a minute.
Did you work on this album in the studio on a regular basis, like someone with a nine-to-five job?
I did that in the beginning, and then other times I heard a song in my head and I’d call over there and say, “I’m gonna call right back and hum this melody on the answering machine.” Then I’d go over in about 20 minutes and work out the melody, the beat, and the rest of it.
How does having children change your perspective as a musician?
It’s the most important thing to me, and that’s why I’m in the phase of making solo records and not touring with a band all the time. For 17 years I’ve played in big rock bands, and now you have to be a slave to the road to maintain that same level. I kind of want to do things the way I want to do ’em, and with my label and the people I’ve put the label together with. We’ve created our own marketing ideas and everything. … So, listen, we’re pulling into the airport right now. Okay, thank you. [Click.]