Scott Weiland is a legend on 2 levels: as the multi-million selling, grammy winning front man of Stone Temple Pilots (STP) and Velvet Revolver, and equally for his drug addled Rock & Roll tabloid worthy antics. A rough history with substances have ended 2 hugely successful bands but the heights he has reached have granted him the freedom to continue pursuing music in the way he wants, when he wants. With a new solo album backed by a new ensemble, The Wildabouts, he is touring internationally with the U.S. next on queue to catch him up-close-and-personal.
The Grammy Museum in Downtown Los Angeles hosted “an evening with Scott Weiland”, an intimate Q&A followed by a performance of new and old material. Die hard fans spanning 3 generations of Rockers packed in to hear tales of debauchery and to dig into the creative mind of a misunderstood survivor of the 90’s Grunge era. It’s easy to make light of his past, but when you think about Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Shannon Hoon (Blind Mellon), Layne Stayley (Alice & Chains) and countless others lost to drugs you have to respect him as a survivor. Stepping on stage and sitting with the gingerly care of an old man it was difficult to tell if he was in good health. Similarly, his answers came at a careful and easy pace but with a blunt, yet sincere, honesty that often had the crowd laughing even when it felt that humor was not the intended goal. Was this an eccentric and odd creative or a man who has suffered the ware and tare from years of addiction?
The new album, Blaster, began with finding the right guitar sound. The tedious task was performed by Weiland and his collaborator, guitarist Jeremy Brown, experimenting with pedals and amplifier combinations until they found the right tone. Once found, the song writing began. When asked about the importance of writing about what’s happening now in life and society he replied, “it’s very important when you’re young and don’t give a fuck,” but it is a process that he says, “[has changed] now that I have kids.” Pushing to be a “real rock band”, the Wildabouts’ sound blends T-Rex fuzz, Iggy & Stooges Proto-Punk and influences from newer artists in Weiland’s playlist from Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys to Queens Of The Stone Age. When asked about his biggest song writing touchstones he sites Bob Dylan for his storytelling but “Bowie is everything.” When reviewing old Stone Temple songs the Bowie influence becomes more apparent, especially in his vocal evolution since his 1992 debut, Core, and his penchant for androgyny in the early years.
In a music industry that barely resembles the one that hoisted him to mega-star status in the 90s his strategy is, “writing it the best you can, recording it the best you can and then performing it.” Bringing it to the people in a DIY fashion has become the rule of thumb for all budding bands, and for an established star to change with the times, not resting on his laurels, is admirable. His touring band differs from the crew that recorded the album. On the day before Blaster was released, guitarist Jeremy Brown passed away. Rather than letting the album drop without a supporting tour, Weiland regrouped and now tours with Nick Mayberry on guitar, Tommy Black on bass (the only member who also recorded the album) and Queens Of The Stone Age drummer Joey Castillo.
“It’s about to get loud,” Scott warns through one of his megaphones as the stage techs clear the chairs from the Q&A session and the Wildabouts pick up their instruments. In a modest auditorium built more for discussions and acoustic sets, the true to form Rock & Roll ensemble blasted into action with the new single “Modzilla”, a Marc Bolan-esque Garage track layered with STP aggression. Not one to ignore why the seats are filled, they immediately followed with his classic “Vasoline” from STP’s 1994 album Purple. Showing the same ginger movement as when he walked on stage, Weiland’s voice exhibited an equally fragile tone. As he signaled for ear monitors to be adjusted and mic levels to be raised the fans gave him the benefit of the doubt. Upon the opening line of Velvet Revolver’s “Do It For The Kids” he screams, “went to fast I’m out of luck and I don’t even give a fuck!” seemingly shaking all the dust off his vocal chords, bringing him to life as he danced awkwardly with trademark movement around the tiny stage. From that point on he knocked out one more new song, “Hotel Rio”, plus STP classics “Unglued” and crowd favorite “Big Empty” to the satisfaction of those waiting to re-experience the man they’ve followed for 20 plus years.
In spite of what age and decades of wild nights have done to the man, he and The Grammy Museum curated a night most will not forget. A night that provided incite to an icon of the Gen-X era who stayed true to classic Rock & Roll when others have deviated in their search for mainstream relevance. Time will tell if he possesses the Keith Richards gene of immortality but one can only hope Scott Weiland stays clean and keeps bringing us those classics live for decades to come.
– Dominic Painter
Photo Credit: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com