We hang out at home with Scott Shriner—the only tattooed member of Weezer—to talk marriage, ink, and the band’s shocking sixth album.
In a quiet neighborhood east of Hollywood, down winding tree-lined streets, sit homes belonging to Luke Wilson, Terry Gilliam, Barack Obama, and Weezer bassist Scott Shriner, who is standing in his living room in a stark white bathrobe looking a bit shocked to see INKED. The scene isn’t a wild rock star party with a hot tub full of groupies (this is Weezer after all). Quite the opposite. Shriner is simply running late. While the bassist excuses himself and disappears upstairs to get dressed, his wife, Jillian Lauren, makes homemade green tea. The cozy Craftsman home is filled with antique furniture and two hyperactive Cairn terriers, and the expansive backyard is lined with fig, lemon, orange, peach, and pomegranate trees. Soon, the household will be filled with another spirit, as the couple is in the process of adopting an infant from Ethiopia. This is home life, Weezer style.
Shriner, the third bassist for Weezer, met Lauren Big Lebowski-style at a bowling get-together in Los Angeles. It wasn’t love at first sight. “This girl who was of one of the guys brought [Lauren], who is definitely not one of the guys,” explains Shriner. “I instantly didn’t like her. She was really pretty and I suspected that she was trouble because she was so pretty. I was right.” Lauren, whose face is framed by long, raven-colored hair and Bettie Pagestyle bangs, had recently taken a break from dancing with the Velvet Hammer troupe (where her stage name was Sparkle Diamond) to finish her master’s degree and focus on writing her memoir (although she graces the cover of the Velvet Hammer’s recently released coffee table book wearing nothing but cherries and her tattoos).
When Shriner found out that Lauren was completing graduate school and had put her burlesque dancing on hold, he changed his tune. “She could have just danced, but she had chosen to go to school,” Shriner says. “I thought that was really cool and brave.”
Their connection was cemented when Lauren arrived for their second date wearing a dress emblazoned with the Chinese character for “snake.” Though she didn’t know it at the time, a tattoo of the same symbol wraps around Shriner’s right forearm and represents the year of his birth. It wasn’t their only tattoo-related coincidence. Though Lauren and Shriner’s ink was created before they met and by different artists (hers mostly by the skilled hands of Guy Aitchison and Eddy Deutsche, his by Jill Jordan, Sailor Cam, and Bob Roberts), both chose to devote each side of their body to an element, with one side for water and the other for fire. They happen to have picked the same sides. “It’s weird, we have matching tattoos. We both have the same symbols on our right arm and the same size pieces. People see us and ask if we got them together.” They didn’t, but they did plan other tattoos together: Just after their wedding in November 2005, they were each tattooed with the astrological signs for Cancer (Shriner) and Leo (Lauren).
Lauren’s most striking tattoo is her first—a large snake skeleton wrapped with brightly colored flowers done by tattoo legend Guy Aitchison that decorates her stomach and below. “I was crazy when I was 18. I would not recommend this for anyone’s first tattoo,” she remembers. “It was a great experience, just really painful.”
Since then, she has gotten numerous tattoos, including a falling Tibetan angel, the Hebrew word for “Blessed” in tribute to her late uncle, and a skull with the words “Die Pretty.” “I was always into the school of thought that tattoos are the ultimate expression of the impermanence of our corporeal being. The skull tattoo is the ultimate expression of impermanence and our short time on this world.” Shriner first went under the tattoo gun during a trip to the legendary San Francisco shop Goldfield Tattoo in 1984 while he was stationed in Alameda, CA, as a member of the Marine Corps. “I signed up because I was a skinny, scrawny, scared, sensitive kid and they were the toughest. I figured if I could get into the Marine Corps, I could learn how to be a killer and it would take careof everything.” In 1984, he and a group of his military buddies headed to San Francisco to get inked by Sailor Cam. The design, drawn by Greg Irons, was of a dragon-like serpent fashioned after a textile that hung in Shriner’s childhood home. He’s gotten plenty more since that first one, including a tribal design that wraps around his shin and a large skull from the Punisher comic. To date, the only tattooed member of Weezer has no band tattoos, but he says that might change in the near future. “I probably will get a Weezer tattoo. I might play in other bands, but Weezer’s my family now. I really like the W logo with the Van Halen wings.” Before becoming the only tattooed member of Weezer, Shriner served in the back-up band for the revamped Vanilla Ice. “I needed a gig, and two of my close friends were in the band and we just had a blast together,” Shriner explains. “At that time [Vanilla Ice] was struggling a little bit and sometimes not the coolest, but he really tried hard. He meant to be cool.”
Shriner was a Weezer fan long before he auditioned as a temporary replacement for Mikey Welsh. “I remember sitting in the gym and the ‘Hash Pipe’ video came on. I was like, oh my God, this is the best version of Weezer I’ve ever seen.” He claims he doesn’t worry about being the third bassist in the band’s history. “It just took a minute for the right guy to get in the band,” he laughs. “The first guy who played was perfect for the band at the time, and he had to go do his own thing. It just took a while for me to find them.
Of the two albums he’s released with the band, Maladroit had more of a metal edge, while Make Believe was pure power pop. And what about Weezer’s new self-titled album (already dubbed “The Red Album” by fans)? Shriner won’t divulge many details, but concedes, “There are a couple songs on this record that are really going to freak people out.” For starters, and for the first time in Weezer history, Rivers Cuomo will not be singing lead on all of the songs. Shriner, drummer Patrick Wilson, and guitarist Brian Bell each have a song on which they command the mike.
These are major shifts in the Weezer formula. In the past, Cuomo was famously disagreeable. He fined band members for playing off-key in concert and held everything close to his chest, holing himself up in his apartment while writing every note and lyric himself. But for this album, he co-wrote a song with Shriner, and each member wrote parts of songs, a first since their debut album in 1994. “[Rivers] has totally changed,” Shriner says. “He’s super into meditation still, that’s a big part of his life, but he just wants everyone to contribute, where before he was wanting to be in control of everything. But that wore thin with him. He just saw the limits of one guy doing everything on every record. And all of us clearly wrote and wanted to do other things, so he said, ‘Well I’m kind of tired of doing everything anyway.’ Rivers is one of my favorite writers, so collaborating on a song was a dream come true for me.”
Although it’s the biggest change in the Weezer formula, it isn’t the only one. The track “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” features ten different styles within it, while another song is based on a sonata. On this record, Shriner says he got “a little geeky,” playing a different bass guitar on almost every song and fiddling with a variety of effects pedals. “I dig the Miles Davis point of view: Why do the exact same thing over and over again? I never want to play a song the same way.” The album, which Shriner says leans more toward Maladroit than Make Believe, is going to be a new side of Weezer when it arrives this summer.
Until then, Shriner will be busy putting the finishing touches on the new record and rehearsing the Weezer catalog the way all modern rock stars do—on Guitar Hero with the neighborhood kids. “I walked in on a bunch of 15 and 16 year olds and they told me, ‘You’ve got to play “My Name is Jonas,” and we play it on expert.’ They gave me the guitar and I was terrible! They said, ‘Dude, I can play Weezer better than you!’ I was the laughing stock of the party.” Since then, Shriner’s been boning up on his “Say it Ain’t So” drum skills with Rock Band. It’s about time for a rematch.