Songwriter Interviews

Scott Weiland

by Greg Prato

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Scott Weiland died on December 3, 2015, a little over a year after this interview took place.
The '90s were overflowing with some truly great songwriters - Kurt Cobain, Trent Reznor, Chris Cornell, and Billy Corgan among them. But one gentleman who never seems to get the credit for his contributions during this era was former Stone Temple Pilots frontman, Scott Weiland.

Case in point, Weiland wrote all of the lyrics (and some of the music) during his time in the Stone Temple Pilots, baring his soul on tracks like "Plush," "Vasoline," "Big Bang Baby," and "Down."

In addition to his contributions to STP, Weiland was also a member of the supergroup Velvet Revolver, which included ex-G n' R members, notably Slash. He has also issued three solo albums, including a Christmas album called The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, which certainly showcases his vocal versatility.

The man himself spoke with Songfacts about some of his STP and VR classics, his favorite songwriters, and new material he was working on with his band, The Wildabouts, at the time of the chat.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): How would you say that you write your best songs?

Scott Weiland: Well, this album is different, the current one that I'm working on with the band. In the past, writing alone, I've written much more eclectic records. It's more obscure music. The two big bands that I've played in up to this point, Velvet Revolver and STP, are known for big, D-tuned power riffs, power chords, and big sound. So it's different.

When I was writing with STP and Velvet Revolver, it was kind of the same thing: One of the guys would have a song idea and we'd kind of suss it out with the band and then I'd write my melodies and then write my lyrics to the melodies. And as a solo artist, I kind of felt free to go off and explore all different styles of music that I've been interested in over my lifetime and find some sort of cosmic melting pot for it. That was fun, but it was more difficult to bring that to the stage, because it meant we had to have more players and a lot of effects.

We'd bring in loops and stuff - the loops that we created for the album, we'd bring them out live. Which was fun, but I think for a lot of the STP and Velvet Revolver fans, it was kind of a stretch for them to wrap their heads around because they were very left-of-center records, 12 Bar Blues [1998] and "Happy" in Galoshes [2008]. This is much more of an indie-sounding record, but it still is very much a rock and roll record. There's big, fuzzy riffs and it's cool. It's a whole new experience.

Songfacts: Who would you say are some of your favorite songwriters?

Scott: I'd say definitely David Bowie, and the Beatles, and Iggy Pop and The Stooges. I have so many - Grandaddy I love. The list goes on and on.

Scott has never been bashful about his admiration of David Bowie's music. Case in point, sporting a Bowie shirt in a promo photo circa his VR era, as well as covering a pair of Thin White Duke tunes on his 2011 album, A Compilation of Scott Weiland Cover Songs ("Fame" and "The Jean Genie," the latter of which he performs live with The Wildabouts).
Songfacts: A while back, I did a book about the band the Meat Puppets (Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets), and Curt Kirkwood told me a pretty funny story. He said he was once speaking to you about songwriting and you told him that you came up with the lyric "Flies in the Vasoline" because you heard your parents listening to "Life in the Fast Lane" by the Eagles, and you thought that's what they were saying.

Scott: Yeah. That's where the initial line came from and that sort of sparked the whole idea of the song. I get into a deeper kind of idea.

Songfacts: I know some artists don't like to include lyrics with their CDs or albums because they want the listener to decide what they think the lyrics are. I guess maybe that's similar - people make out the lyrics differently.

Scott: Yeah. Definitely. And also, you grow as a lyricist. A lot of what I wrote before was about stuff that I was going through at that time. And then I went through a phase where I was kind of tired of writing about myself, so I started experimenting with the idea of telling stories within the context of the song, and that was definitely a new challenge. It was a style like Bob Dylan, who's the greatest storyteller in contemporary music history.

So it's always a new thing every time. And every time I get together with a new group of guys and work stuff out, I want to feel the groove. I want to feel the riffs and the beats as the song comes together. That inspires a melody, and then this overall feeling of the melody. And then it's the song that inspires a lyrical idea. Usually, I'll have some lyrical ideas that I bring to the table and just work into the song, but it usually starts for me with the melody.

Songfacts: What was the lyrical inspiration behind the STP song, "Dead & Bloated"?

Scott: It's not really about anything. It's just stream-of-consciousness words. I mean, at the age of 21, 22, I didn't have a whole lot of life experiences. So it's more about the vibe, the angst and that kind of a thing, as opposed to actual life experiences.

Songfacts: Your style of lyric writing, I've always thought it was comparable to Kurt Cobain and also Chris Cornell, because it's phrases or words that are strung together that bring different images to your mind.

Scott: Yeah, definitely. I would agree with that.

Songfacts: And then what about the STP song "Creep," what do you remember about the lyrical writing of that song?

Scott: That's just the idea of being a young person somewhere, caught between still being a kid and becoming a young man. It's that youth apathy, that second-guessing yourself, not feeling like you fit in.

Songfacts: And what about "Slither" from Velvet Revolver?

Scott: That song, what was that song about? Just got done performing it. The lyrics are about a relationship. "When you look you see right through me, cut the rope, fell to my knees, born and broken every single time." It's just feeling not right in a situation.

Songfacts: I was able to find some live clips of some of the new songs that you've been playing lately. For fans that may not have had the opportunity yet to see the songs played live, how would you compare the new batch of material to some of your previous solo material?

Scott: Well, it's completely different. Instead of just going about it as a solo artist, I decided to make it a band. And we're a four-piece now, we're no longer a five-piece. So we don't have the extra guitar, and keyboards, and loops. We've been going about writing as a four-piece, so there's a lot more space between the notes, and there's some big riffs. But not in a sense like in the '90s, like "Dead & Bloated," or that kind of thing.

We're using different types of effects: Instead of getting amp distortion, we're using a lot of vintage fuzz boxes and stuff. And so there's cool riffs and some really good beats, and we have a great drummer in Danny [Thompson]. But the melodies are still there. It ultimately comes down to melodies. So we have some great melodies and it's a new experience. It's a new band and it feels really good as a four-piece.

Scott is joined in The Wildabouts by guitarist Jeremy Brown, bassist Tommy Black, and drummer Dan Thompson. At the time of this interview, the band's debut album will be titled Blaster.

Weiland fronted Stone Temple Pilots from 1985–2002, and again from 2008–2013; and Velvet Revolver from 2003–2008, and for a one-off reunion in 2012. In both cases, he ultimately failed to see eye-to-eye with his bandmates.
Songfacts: Cool. I was looking at some of the song titles and I like the song title "Beach Bop Rock" a lot, because that brings to mind either the title of a power pop tune from the early '80s, or maybe a surf tune.

Scott: Yeah. That's kind of what it is. It's influenced both by The Beach Boys and I'd say even like, Ween.

October 10, 2014. Photograph by Jamie Wachtel.
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Comments: 1

  • @superunknown92 from Silicon Valley(cambrian Park 95124)Cool interview.Was a link in one of SW's tweets. Just followed him moments ago on a nostalgic whim. STP has always been an all time fav.since day one. The part about the Eagles connection to "Vasoline" is hilarious. I aspire to learn something new everyday. Thx for the assistance in this endeavor. TLM
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