Scott Weiland: 'Now My Lyrics Are Not All About Me and My Apathetic Views of Life'

artist: Scott Weiland date: 02/12/2015 category: interviews
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Scott Weiland: 'Now My Lyrics Are Not All About Me and My Apathetic Views of Life'
Scott Weiland has had more than his share of battling demons but along the way he has made some of the best rock records of the past 30 years. The six albums he made with Stone Temple Pilots and the pair of records he recorded with Velvet Revolver still stand up today. His solo career has taken him down musical roads that included blues, jazz, indie rock and even an album of Christmas ballads. But he's now back with an album called "Blaster" that can stand up against any of those earlier classic rock releases.

Backed by the Wildabouts - guitarist Jeremy Brown, bassist Tommy Black and drummer Danny Thompson - "Blaster" invokes the strange and beautiful rock riffs he pioneered with STP and at the same time brings in modern-sounding guitar tones and song arrangements. The music here covers everything from stampeding rock riffs on "Bleed Out" to acoustic country elements on "Circles." Weiland was justifiably pumped about the new album and said he hasn't felt this way about working on music in a long time. "Yeah, it was so exciting making this record," he says. "These guys are my closest friends and we got together and really worked hard and were diligent about the songwriting and the recording. I haven't been this excited about making a record since I first made "Core." Yeah, it just felt like a new beginning."

UG: The "Blaster" album has much more of a band feel to it than your earlier solo records. Was that a direction you specifically wanted to go in?

SW: Yeah. I got with the guys that backed me up on "'Happy' in Galoshes" [solo album from 2008]. We were a five-piece and decided to make it a four-piece and make it leaner and meaner. Then we started writing songs and coming up with interesting guitar sounds that would help us in our approach to writing and I think we achieved that. We have a lot of guitar tones that keep a certain congruity with the entire album.

You are very aware of the guitar sounds that become part of the music? Do guitar sounds inspire your writing?

Yeah, yeah. We didn't want to just come up with the typical Marshall distortion. We wanted to come up with something that was different. A lot fuzzier and a lot more interesting. That helped once we came up with those sounds in the writing process for sure. Jeremy [Brown] is a great guitar player. He stands up with any of the guitar players I've ever played with.

You said you wanted to make "Blaster" leaner and meaner so you got rid of one of your guitar players. You like the idea being a singer fronting a three-piece band with just one guitarist?

I do. It leaves more space between the notes as well.

Were you a fan of bands with those lineups like the Who and Zeppelin?

Yeah, I definitely listened to those bands. And even with modern guitar records, it was more alternative rock bands. I just thought it would enhance our sound having a three-piece behind me than having two guitar players, which can tend to muddle up the sound a little bit.

Photo courtesy of Tibrina Hobson

Was working with producer Rick Parker [Black Rebel Motorcycle Club] different than working with Brendan O'Brien on the STP albums?

Um, yeah. Every producer that I've worked with whether it be Chris Goss or Daniel Lanois or Brendan, they all have their own strengths and their own approach to making music. Rick definitely has his and he just gets in the trenches with us and helps to inspire us to come up with songs with interesting ideas and interesting sounds in layers. He doesn't tell you what to play but just sort of helps you find your own part that you want to add to the song.

You've described the music on the album as being both retro and modern. How did you achieve that?

Yeah, it's like retro modern.

Was it difficult bring classic and new elements together without the album sounding forced?

Not really. Everybody had the same vision and we went about it with the same vision. There wasn't many discrepancies as far as which direction we should go. The songs we would pick to work on in pre-production, Jeremy or Blackie [Tommy Black, bass] would demo something at home like a rough idea and bring it to rehearsal and then we'd suss it out. We'd turn it into a song and I'd write my lyrics and my melodies and usually demo it first and then get with Rick and record it at my studio, Lavish.

Was that the process you've always used?

Yeah. It seems to be something that kinda works. Back in the day, it wasn't really possible to do a home demo that really justifies the song. But now you can record Pro Tools on your laptop so you can do demos at home and program drums and it sounds pretty well. Then we'd start going over the songs and coming up with sounds that fit those songs.

"Circles" is one of the standout songs on the album. It's this ballad with acoustic guitar and banjo. Is that how the song was presented to you as a demo?

No, from the first time we started working on "Circles," I envisioned those layers going on on the song. Rick Parker knew a friend that played pedal steel and he had him come down and Rick laid down the banjo part. It just turned out really cool.

Your vocal on "Circles" was remarkable. How did you get that performance?

That song came together pretty naturally. I sang a few takes and we just picked the best verse and the best chorus from each take. It came together really pretty naturally. I only had to sing it maybe three times.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Winter

Rick Parker was there as producer but ultimately do you have the final word on your vocal performance?

Yeah, I can tell whether it's something I can do better or if I nailed it.

On the other side of "Circles" stylistically is a song like "Bleed Out," which has a bit of an STP vibe. Is that a fair statement to make?

Yeah, I can see STP or even a little bit of a Nirvana influence on that song.

When you were writing lyrics and melodies for "Blaster," would you ever sort of subconsciously think about how you might have approached these songs with STP?

Not really. My approach to lyrics has changed now. They're not all about me and my apathetic views of life. I look at things differently. There's a lot of songs that are fictional, little mini-adventures where I'm just telling a story. So I've branched out as far as what I write about lyrically.

"Way She Moves" had a bit of a T. Rex vibe to it, right?

Yeah, and "Love and Rockets" too.

What did you love about T. Rex?

Just the groove really. That slinky groove and the way the melody rolls around the riffs. It just kinda came together. I think it sounds very original but there is an homage to T. Rex.

Did you ever see T. Rex perform?

No, I never did.

So you never met Marc Bolan?


Then you really captured the T. Rex vibe in the cover of "20th Century Boy."

Thank you.

You also covered David Bowie's "The Jean Genie." He's been a big influence on you?

Yeah, definitely. He has been since the beginning.

You toured with the Wildabouts in 2013 on the "Purple at the Core" Tour where you performed songs from those two STP albums. What did it feel like playing those songs with this group of musicians?

I've played those songs so many times with STP, that when we decided to do certain songs by STP, we tried to do versions that were our own. Find our own sound within those riffs and try to attach our own sound and identity to those STP songs. So it feels like when we're playing them that we're playing our own versions of them and our own interpretations.

Because you were in a band like STP that had so much success, you were inevitably going to be compared with them when you pursued other projects. What has that been like?

Yeah, I mean that'll always happen to a certain extent. But this is a new beginning and it's like rebranding over again. I'm trying to please my old audience that were fans of STP and Velvet Revolver and also get a new audience.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Weiland

Do you think the "Blaster" album has done that?

I think we can do that because it has a new sound to it.

Talking about old fans and new fans, what are your feelings about Chester Bennington replacing you in STP?

Umm, I really don't think about it that much. It's like our legal suits we had going are way behind us now. They're doing what they're doing and I'm doing what I'm doing and I wish them luck.

"Parachute" was a great example of a beautiful Scott Weiland melody. How do you know when you've found the perfect melody for a song?

Well, first of all some melodies come right away while you're sussing out the song. And some melodies I have to sit with the song a little bit and think about what fits the best. Usually you know when you lock onto something and you just get that feeling that you're in the right direction and on course with that and you continue. When you feel that feeling of being inspired, you kinda know you're on the right path.

What was it like putting "Parachute" together?

That song was a great song. It was initially brought instrumentally as a demo from Jeremy and we worked on it in pre-production rehearsal at my studio. Then I just started working on a melody as we were going over the music. I came up with a melody first and then wrote the lyrics to it.

Just a few words on Art of Anarchy?

Uh, yeah. It's just something I kinda got into when I wasn't doing anything else and just wrote some melodies and lyrics to. I sang over these stereo tracks and then sent it back. But I'm not in the band. It will be cool once they find a lead singer so check 'em out when they play live. But it's not something I'm a part of.

For our last question: the aliens have landed and find the Scott Weiland time capsule with three of your songs it. Which three songs do they find?

Umm, hmm. I don't know. I'd probably say off the top of my head "Plush," "Interstate Love Song" and "Circles."

I wish you all the best success and sing all the good notes.

Thank you so much.

Interview by Steven Rosen (C) 2015

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