Scott Weiland might be one of the more polarizing frontmen of the last 20 plus years — both to fans and his former bandmates in Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver — but there’s no denying his talent, his commanding presence in front of the mic, and his enigmatic nature, which always makes him an interesting subject.
Later this month, Weiland will release his first record backed by the Wildabouts, a band he’s had for some time. Due out March 31, Blaster is a solid effort, featuring all the hallmarks of his back catalog; heavy guitars and glammed out pop melodies evened out by wistful moments of introspection.
Not surprisingly the announcement of new material and a tour, which hits up Brighton Music Hall this Saturday, hasn’t been without controversy. Right as the promotional machine started ramping up, it was announced that a new band, Art of Anarchy, featuring Weiland along with members of Guns ‘N Roses and Disturbed was “poised to become one of the biggest new bands” of the year.
Weiland immediately distanced himself from the project, saying that it was basically something he did for fun and was categorically not a member of the band. Vanyaland caught up with the singer to talk about that issue, getting back into a band setting and his beloved Notre Dame football.
Michael Christopher: Some people are going to think Blaster is simply another Scott Weiland solo project, but you’ve been playing with these guys for quite a while.
Scott Weiland: Yeah, they’ve played with me on and off for about nine years and during my last solo album and then when we decided to make it a band and make a band album.
You’ve been in bands, you’ve been solo. What made you want to get back into the band dynamic?
I just wanted to have a certain sound on the record, and when we decided to become a four-piece instead of a five-piece, we were all on the same page as far as what kind of music we wanted to write and the kind of album we wanted to make and I thought it would be best to do a collaboration.
The styles on the record are all over the place — in a good way. You have hard charging rock like “Bleed Out,” “Hotel Rio” has a glam tint to it and then you have something really fragile like “Circles.” Was that done on purpose, as opposed to making a straight ahead rock album or whatever, as a way to spotlight the diversity the band is capable?
I think that there’s definitely a diversity in the styles that we play, but also, on every STP album there was diversity – that’s just the way that I make records. I don’t think that you can hold fast to one style of music on an album and have it be interesting; I think it would be boring. I think you have to challenge yourselves and challenge your listeners. That seems to be the best way of doing things as far as I’m concerned.
Looking at your past catalog, there’s quite the legacy to live up to. Did you feel any pressure related to that going in to record Blaster?
No, actually, it was an amazing experience. It was the most thrilled I’ve been about making an album since I made [Stone Temple Pilot’s debut] Core.
What about lyrically — where are you getting your inspiration this time around?
Everything from my wife, who’s my muse, to just telling stories and just little adventures here and there. I started looking at the way I was writing lyrics as the years go, and realized I was just writing about my just my own feelings and I started listening to more Bob Dylan and realized that he was such a great storyteller and that was another angle on how to write lyrics. So there are a lot of things that are personal and there are a lot of things that are stories as well.
Do you fancy yourself as a storyteller?
Yeah… I think I’m getting better at it all the time. I love writing lyrics and they’ve been different throughout the years, but I like where I’m at right now.
You look at how the music scene is now as opposed to when you got started; where do you see the Wildabouts fitting into today’s landscape?
I don’t know — that’s a hard question to answer. It has changed so much and it’s just not the same industry as it was, but I think we’ll do the best we can and we’ll be successful. You can’t compare that to the success of records I made in the ’90s — that just doesn’t happen anymore. But success for ourselves and just continuing to do bigger and better things, that’s where I see us.
As a musician, how did you find yourself adapting over the years? You’re coming from an era where it was no problem to sell a couple million albums if you were a top tier band —
Eight million albums [sold of Core]. I came from a time where if you had a massive record you sold six, seven or eight million records. It’s just not the way it was, it’s different. You can still have success, you just have to do it in different ways, and a lot of it is touring.
Do you still enjoy being on the road?
I still enjoy doing it, and this is a great band and we’ve never sounded better. We have [former Queens of the Stone Age member] Joey Castillo on drums now and it’s taken us to a new level and it just sounds great and feels great.
A lot of these dates, including Boston, are coming well before the album is out. Obviously you’re excited to play the new material, but you have a lot of fans who aren’t familiar with it at all. What’s the response been like?
It’s actually been going over great. We’re mixing in some STP songs as well for the STP fans, but the new music, I’m quite surprised is going over really, really well.
Tell me about your decision to cover “20th Century Boy.” It’s one of those songs that’s been covered so many times, what did you want to bring to it that hasn’t been heard before?
Just our sound; it’s a song I’ve always wanted to cover and I think we did a cool version of it.
And live you’re still doing “Jean Genie.” What draws you to that song?
That’s a song I’ve played live now for a number of years. It’s just a great song to play live, it’s a lot of fun to perform and it’s a great song when it was recorded.
Without getting too much into the Art of Anarchy thing, it seemed like the timing of the press release put out on their end had to be confusing to some people while you were trying to promote Blaster. Is that what frustrated you the most?
Yeah, that frustrated me a lot. It frustrated me that what I thought was one thing, turned out to be another. But I wish them the best of luck and hope they find a good singer and, you know, hope they do well.
When it comes to your former bands, do you ever see yourself working with Stone Temple Pilots or Velvet Revolver in any capacity in the future, whether it be in a live setting or via catalog reissues or whatever?
You know, you never know. One thing I’ve learned in rock and roll is never say never so… who knows? But right now, this is my focus and this is my focus for the time ahead as well.
I know we’re a ways out from the start of the season, but how do you think Notre Dame will do this year?
I think they’ll do well. Hopefully they’ll do as well as they started last season. It was that Florida State game that I think knocked the wind out of their sails, unfortunately.