When Atlantic Records and the Stone Temple Pilots made the decision to release album No. 4 a year ago, they did so knowing that frontman Scott Weiland was on the verge of serving a jail sentence for repeated drug offenses. Not knowing what the future held for the quartet, it was a tough decision at an even tougher time. The album, arguably the best of their career, went gold out of the gates, but stutter-stepped there, as the band weren't available to promote the release without their vocalist. Weiland served five months, spending New Year's Eve 2000 in a jail cell, and as the winter month's gave way to spring, STP was back on the map at radio, first single "Down" being eclipsed by the monsterous "Sour Girl." What was once a bittersweet situation has been transformed into a band at the height of their success. And that's no small feat, considering their remarkable list of successes that leaves them without peers in the world of modern rock, No. 4 recently became their fourth consecutive album to attain platinum status, and their eight-year past has resulted in more than 15 million albums sold and more than a dozen rock radio hits. They plan on entering the Return of the Rock tour, also featuring Godsmack and Disturbed. We sat down with Scott Weiland to talk about the whirlwind of recent activity, the rock 'n' roll myth, and what it means to the Stone Temple Pilots...
MAXIMUM INK: The Stone Temple Pilots are very much a rock band. How does it feel playing alongside the newer breed of bands? You write songs, they focus more on being heavy.
SCOTT WEILAND: Actually, we headlined the first date of the Tattoo the Earth tour with Slayer, Sevendust, Slipknot, Sepultura and some other bands. Throughout our career we have always been the heaviest band on the tours that we played, but that was definitely not the case with that bill! But we do have four albums to draw from, so we didn't go out there with "Creep" and "Sour Girl" We unleashed "Dead and Bloated" and "Piece of Pie," "Down" and "Sex Type Thing" and "Crackerman." You know, we put some of the heavy material on them. It was a pretty cool vibe. It was in Portland, and the fans were great, so it was a fun show We didn't try to win them over with cinnamon and sugar, we tried to win them over with the vinegar!
MI: Despite the criticisms over the years, you've endured. Now, the same people that called you a Pearl Jam rip-off with "Plush" are singing your praises three albums later.
SW: That bothers us. It's like 1993, and at that time, 5 million people bought the album after being out for a year. While I can honestly see the similarities between "Plush" and some of the songs on Pearl Jam's first record, that went a long way. That was one song and there were 11 songs on the record. As you listen from album to album, the similarities have ended totally.
MI: VH-1 labeled you guys "Bad-Asses" in a recent special. What were your thoughts about that tag?
SW: I had no idea what they were taping us for, they just stared asking us questions about bad-asses, so I brought up Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Keith Richards... Then I was like, "What about those guys up on the building, up there on those beams and welding those things together a couple thousand feet off the ground ? That's bad-ass, you know? They work eight hours up there, eat a sandwich on a beam, go home, then come back and do it again at six-o'clock-in-the-morning. As far as my being a "bad-ass," I think it's just sort of one of those things that comes along to further along the myth of rock 'n' roll. In all aspects of pop-culture there's a mythology associated with everything. If your passion is the stock-market, then there's mythology associated with people like Bill Gates, that's who the younger people aspire to be.
MI: Do you resent the fact that you're being labeled a "bad-ass" for an addiction?
SW: Not really, but I don't agree with it.That's just part of the myth that is subjugated by the media. I've lived with it, and there's nothing more lonely than being a heroin addict. There's not a more vulnerable period in anyone's life than when you lose all ability to make any kind of decision and have any kind of freedom about anything you do because your life revolves around trying to stay well. I know it's romanticized, and it's associated with a rock and roll tough guy image, the whole drugging and drinking thing, but I think that anybody whose been through those experiences and has had the courage to look at their faces in the mirror and look at the reality and honestly take a stand when it's a scary thing to do, and to make it to the other side... Whether you want to call it "bad-ass" or just having courage, there's something to be said for that. I tell you what, I go to stripper bars sometimes, and having strippers backstage and throwing deli tray slices on porn star's asses, that's not being a bad-ass. That's just totally having a lack of respect for those women and having a lack of respect for yourself. Sexual exploits do not fall into the category of "bad-ass." I mean, we all know how to fuck, right? We all basically know what's its all about, but I don't think that has anything to do with being "bad-ass." But on the lighter side of things, it's fun. I mean, the whole thing is just fun, not anything that is serious, and I don't feel ashamed to be on that list. I was flipping the channels when that came on, and some of them were so corny it was funny. It's all kind of tongue-in-cheek I guess, so no, it doesn't bother me. How about boxing matches between the bad-asses? Who is the ultimate fighting champion of bad-asses? I kicked Vince Neil's ass! [Laughing] I'll throw deli meat on his ass!
MI: It seems like more attention is payed to the bands, than it is to the music these days. Do you see that?
SW: I think it's always been that way, but I think people are searching for stories now because there haven't been enough bona fide, real stars in rock 'n' roll. There are a lot of filler out there, and it's gotten sort of boring. I think there are a lot of people that try to come across and appear like they have that aura about them by surrounding themselves with strippers and porn stars, but that doesn't justify or equate into making one the real thing. So there's a lot of that going around, there's nothing much in the way of true rock 'n' roll that encompasses everything from attitudes to taking chances musically. I think what initially is, and will forever be an appealing aspect of rock 'n' roll, is the element of mystery, the element of danger. Fortunately, there are enough people that truly know what's it all about. Right now, I think there are a lot more people closer to it in hip hop than in rock 'n' roll, as far as there being risks taken and having the danger that makes the whole thing sort of exciting. Whether its right or wrong, or if it's politically correct or incorrect.
MI: Speaking of, what's your role on the new Limp Bizkit record?
SW: Well I got brought in around the halfway point of the sessions. I was also the co-producer on the last one, Significant Other, and I think they had a street date set for the album that put a lot of pressure on Fred [Durst] to deliver. He's had his hands in so many different projects, directing a feature film as well as directing other people's videos, and I think that rather than rest on his laurels and just put out replicated copies of what he has put out before, they brought me in to push for new territory like before. I came in and assisted with the production and assisted with some songwriting, I think it's going to be a great record.
MI: How about the upcoming Doors tribute record?
SW: We cut a version of "Break On Through" with Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger, which was an honor that was just immeasurable to us. All of us in this band are students of rock 'n' roll, and the Doors have been a huge influence on us, especially myself. Jim Morrison is for the most part a baritone, as I am, so the range of my voice made it much easier for me to pull influences from Jim Morrison than it was from Robert Plant. There's also been similar parallels as far as what we've gone through in our chemical adventures. We just happened to have been fortunate enough to make it through to the other side at this point, without a heavily traumatic, negative finish.
MI: Despite all the problems over the years, you've been a doing this a lot longer than most of the bands that would be considered your peers. What keeps it fresh and inspired?
SW: So many things. From a positive stand point, remaining grounded and not losing sight of how grateful I feel to be playing music again at this level and with this band. How grateful I feel to be alive. I trenched a murderous path over the last few years, and it's nothing short of a miracle that we are back on course the way we were before. It's going to take some work to make people see that this isn't a fluke, what we're doing right now, but we are up to the challenge. When Dean and I went on our three week acoustic radio tour, where we would play at stations in front of small audiences, I got a sense of how grateful our fans are and we needed to show them how grateful we are that they stuck by us through the good days and the really ugly ones. We are out right now and we are working at the level that we were working on when we released our last two albums. To be honest, it's a lot of fun... I can't picture doing anything else.