Scott Weiland, the former frontman of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver who died Thursday at the age of 48, had a rollercoaster of a career. He arrived in 1993 as the sinewy and mononymous (he was known only as “Weiland” then) frontman for STP, giving life to the smash single “Plush,” a song that mined the grunge sound so well that it simultaneously made them a huge commercial juggernaut and an even bigger target for scorn.
Over time, his critical success grew as his personal life unraveled. Weiland struggled to maintain relationships with band members, primarily because of his struggles with drugs and alcohol. He left and came back to STP several times in between success as both a solo artist and as the singer for Velvet Revolver, but as he explained in his revealing memoir Not Dead and Not For Sale, he always walked a fine line between rock and roll heroics and the disaster-inducing pull of heroin.
When he died, Weiland was on tour with his band the Wildabouts in support of their album Blaster, which arrived back in March of this year. In his last conversation with EW, he talked about how much his new group inspired him and how Blaster got him back into loving pure rock music again. Below is that complete conversation.
Entertainment Weekly: Even though your name is up front, you’ve really been talking about the Wildabouts as a real band. Why form a new band at this point in your life?
Scott Weiland: When I formed the band and created the Wildabouts with my friends, we decided we wanted to make a band-sounding album, a rock-sounding album. I made two solo albums before that were more experimental albums, and I think that they didn’t really resonate with my fan base because they were too out-there, too artsy. I wanted to make an album that would resonate with the fans and still make myself happy on an artistic level as well.
Do you have any regrets about those solo projects? Or were they necessary to get to where you are?
Oh yeah, I needed to make those kind of records. After being in two huge rock bands in a band situation, I needed to explore that artistic side and kind of push the envelope. I’m totally happy with how those records came out. I wanted to do something different this time, I wanted to form a band and have a band sounding album and have there be collaboration in the songwriting. I’m really happy with how it came out.
Was there a formal collaboration process when it came to the songwriting?
Not really. We just came to the table with stuff we had written at home. We brought pieces of songs to the table and collaborated and finished them all together. It really was a seamless process.
I think “Hotel Rio” is among the best songs you’ve ever done. How did that one come together in this new band situation?
“Hotel Rio” was a set of chords and a riff that [guitarist] Jeremy [Brown] brought to rehearsal, and he showed us the riff and we started jamming on it and I came up with the melody and the lyrics. We did a demo at my studio, and worked on a couple of other songs and went and recorded that group of three. The process was the same on most of the songs—Jeremy bringing in these great pieces and all of us really collaborating.
RELATED: Stars We Lost in 2015
There’s a lot more narrative storytelling on this album than we’ve heard from your lyrics in the past.
Lyrically, there’s a lot of songs that are influenced by my wife. They’re about my wife and I. [“Hotel Rio”] is about my wife and I, but it’s also sort of a fictitious sort of story. As I’ve gotten older and my life is a lot more stable, I’ve gotten more into storytelling. I’ve listened to a lot of Dylan and listened to how he wrote stories. So I took a lot of influence from that and applied it to my own process of writing and my own style of writing. I’ve gotten more into storytelling. On my earlier albums, the lyrics were about my feelings of being down or my apathy, and I don’t feel that way any more. It’s been a long time. So I am more into storytelling. Being off of heroin for almost 15 years, it definitely changes things. It’s opened up my writing a lot.
You’ve been playing STP songs on the road with the Wildabouts. Is there a particular logic to which songs you pick?
I pick songs that would fit with this band’s style of playing music, and with our own music. We’ve done little changes to modify them to make them our own style. So I pick songs that would fit that mold the best.
You’re a huge fan of David Bowie, as am I. Is there a particular thing about Bowie that resonates with you and you feel has influenced your work?
One thing that has really influenced me with Bowie where I’ve taken an approach from him is how he changes from album to album and has always modified his sound and his appearance. I think that’s an important thing. I think if an artist stays stagnant in one style, you end up becoming stagnant artistically in your songwriting. You get bored, and that’s one thing I don’t want to get is bored when making albums. I always feel like I have to change styles and keep on evolving. I would definitely become less inspired if I had to stay in one format. That was always the approach, especially from my perspective. I was always trying to influence the albums to change and to evolve, and I’ve taken that approach with my solo stuff and with the Wildabouts.
What song of yours are you most proud out?
Probably “Barbarella,” that’s one of them. I think that song stands out as one of the best songs that I’ve written.
When you talk to fans these days, what do you hear from them?
Usually they’ll just say that my music has helped them through a certain period of their life. That kind of thing. That’s usually what I hear from fans.