As Stone Temple Pilots return with their first album in nine years, Scott Weiland explains the difficulty of hauling himself out from under history's bootheels
It’s been a well-documented life of excess for Scott Weiland in his 42 years so far: having endured addiction, jail, bereavement and divorce, the kind of tragedy that has historically claimed so many of his contemporaries has often tested the resolve of the Stone Temple Pilots frontman.
As his recently reformed band gears up to return with their first album in almost a decade, Weiland’s ready for the critics who’ll throw rocks. “People always like to use great headlines,” he observes of the press-led sensationalism which has notoriously dogged him, relating it to the cuttings for his most recent solo album (2009’s lo-fi wonder “Happy” In Galoshes). “I’ve seen one which read ‘Mr Self Destruction,’ that could easily have come out in 1997. My life hasn’t been that way since the early 2000s.”
“We still take the same approach to how we play live; we sweat and bleed" - Scott Weiland
Despite his pursuit of a cleaner lifestyle than that which he became infamous for during those formative years with STP – one of the most divisive bands thrust forth by the alt rock wave of the early 90s – Weiland’s clearly still breaking away from the shackles of that past. “I’ve been off heroin for seven years now,” he affirms. “I never went back but that was my bane for so long; for 13 years that kept me locked and I could never really overcome it. But there’s still this misconception that I’m this junkie. I think people like to paint me as this Pete Doherty kinda guy.”
Identifying the popular media’s need for a whipping boy rather than rubbishing Doherty’s creative output, Weiland is quick to champion the troubled Libertine. “I think he’s talented, he’s a really good poet and musician. What he and Carl did with Libertines is quite amazing – they had a real Clash sensibility going on.”
Weiland, however, hasn’t been entirely impervious to the odd relapse; derailed by the loss of his brother Michael to a drug overdose in 2007, he found solace in alcohol. “I definitely found myself going to the bottle a bit for comfort,” he admits. “I’ve never been a big drinker… never saw that as something that could become a problem.”
Although the ill-fated Velvet Revolver provided a distraction for five and a half of the intervening years since Stone Temple Pilots’ initial parting of ways in 2003, a subsequent stint in rehab and announcement of an STP reunion on the eve of an Australian tour brought about the eventual collapse of his union with Axl Rose’s former compatriots in 2008, which the singer unceremoniously announced onstage in Glasgow during their last tour.
Today, Weiland is tactful and reticent in discussing the acrimonious – and very public – fallout. “I look back on it fondly and it’s a shame that it ended the way it did,” he recalls. “STP wasn’t meant to get in the way of another Velvet Revolver record. Slash and I were always straight with each other, and if it looked like there was going to be a reunion with Guns N’ Roses to do festivals that summer, it wouldn’t have bothered me. I always thought that would have been a good idea.”
With Velvet Revolver now firmly in the rear view, reconvening with the brothers DeLeo and Eric Kretz was “like having a family reunion,” says Weiland. “Everyone’s grown up and matured a lot. There was definitely unfinished business, especially because there are so many fans and the legacy just continued.”
And how did it feel, trying on that old fedora? “It felt great; those songs endured and I think everybody realised that after being away for a while. We probably toured a couple of months too long, just playing the hits set. Making a new record was the natural course to take and there was good material to be excited about. It’s much more fun – much more satisfying, now – to be going out there with a new album.” Offering a rich crossbreed of arena-ready hard rock with snarling punk attitude, their self-titled return is no shrinking violet up against their canon.
So how does STP 2010 ultimately differ from the first go-round – a period Weiland affectionately refers to as “rock-and-roll hell on wheels”? “We still take the same approach to how we play live; we sweat and bleed – whatever happens, 100% goes into it. It’s our personal side of life which has changed and made things mellower; we aren’t as self-seeking as we used to be.”
Keen to preserve the legacy while keeping an eye on the future, Weiland suggests chapter two of the STP story will be about considered longevity, following the examples of their peers. “I’d like to think we have a lot of music to make. I don’t really have the aspiration to be that touring act like, say, Aerosmith – they’re on the road constantly. I’ve done so much of that, I feel like it’s more about pacing. I think there’s something admirable about the way that, say, the Chili Peppers tour, where they take time off, pace their tours and repeat that cycle. You don’t burn out that way.”
From Core to Stone Temple Pilots, Scott Weiland discusses the STP back catalogue
Stone Temple Pilots play Download Festival, Donington Park on 13 June.
Their self-titled album is released via Atlantic on 24 Mayhttp://stonetemplepilots.com