Watch the video version of this interview with Scott Weiland.
The inside of Scott Weiland’s personal rehearsal and recording space, Lavish Studio, is exactly as its name suggests: Past the entryway, you walk through a hallway lined with gold and platinum Stone Temple Pilots records and into the main room, lit mostly by candlelight and oriental lamps that cast a red hue over myriad instruments — and several Samurai swords — which fill the space. The floor is layered with patterned rugs, all richly colored. The hand-scrawled notes on the walls suggest late nights of fevered songwriting. It is a sanctuary of sorts — a den of creativity that Weiland refers to as a “church” — hidden in an narrow alleyway alongside an otherwise nondescript Los Angeles street, quiet and removed from the city outside its walls.
When I arrive for our on-camera interview, Weiland and his band are rehearsing songs off his upcoming solo album, the curiously titled “Happy” in Galoshes, out on Nov. 25 on Weiland’s own Softdrive Records. Electricity crackles through the room as the musicians discuss each song, then knock them out, one after another. The excitement is to be expected; Galoshes is Weiland’s first solo album in a decade (since the release of 12 Bar Blues in 1998) and his first collection of new material since his highly publicized falling-out with his former band, Velvet Revolver, this past spring.
As rehearsal draws to an end, the assortment of Lavish employees, engineers and publicists in the building hustle to transform the studio’s lounge into something resembling a camera-friendly living room for our sit-down interview. Workers hustle through open and closed doors, move gear, rearrange couches. Weiland’s stylist stands ready, makeup brush in hand. The clock is ticking; already several other journalists have arrived and pace outside in the parking lot for their 10 minutes with the rock star.
Weiland and I barely have time for small talk before we’re miked and rolling. It takes only a quick handshake and a once-over glance from Weiland to realize this will not be the conversation I expected. Years of watching him perform wildly onstage and what I’ve read about him have led me to expect an eccentric. Instead, the man is shy, a bit distant, tired and very human. There is little eye contact. His cigarette remains unlit during our conversation, as he flips it through his fingers and across his knuckles like a magician with a coin.
We discuss the emotional turmoil that went into making this album, strongly influenced by the death of his brother in 2007, his mother’s recent battle with cancer and the legalities of separating from his wife, Mary Forsberg, with whom he has two kids. During one of the more poignant moments in our conversation, Weiland — lost in thought, his eyes far away — speaks of his children and how hard it is to miss any of their growing up because of touring demands. It’s readily apparent that he misses his family more than he does any band or platinum record.
L.A. Weekly: It’s been 10 years since your first solo album, 12 Bar Blues. With the decade-long span, how did things change for you approaching “Happy” in Galoshes?
Scott Weiland: Well, see, I own my own studio so I’m always writing songs, my own songs, personal stuff.
In a recent interview with MTV News you talked about how several of the songs were inspired by what you were going through with the loss of your brother and the separation from your wife.
It’s been a year and a half where my brother passed away, my mother had cancer but survived and beat [it] and my wife and I, those issues, so it’s, you know. ... That’s always, as an artist, I guess, there’s the bonus.
You’ve described this studio as, in a sense, a church for you.
Yeah, it is. It really is. There would be times when I’d come here and Doug [Grean, songwriting-producing partner] and I would start. ... I’d get here around 11, and we’d write until 5 in the morning and we’d complete two songs ... like write, record and mix. We weren’t writing songs to write hits. We looked at [Lavish Studio] as a place to create. It was kind of a getaway. It was a place to have solitude and, really, for me to write music that was true to me. This music is much more about the creative aspect of it. I’m just trying to create a little mini-empire so I can do what I want to do creatively and not have to be a slave to the road so I can spend more time with my kids. I don’t want to miss out on the things they’re doing. It pains me when I am gone for a month, even, and I come back and there’s differences – big, positive amazing differences, beautiful differences — that I haven’t been a part of because I’ve been working ... to make the money, out there on the road.
Looking back, what would you say some of the biggest public misconceptions are about you or your career and your art.
[Shakes his head and smiles.] Uh, I don’t know. I’d say, let that be open to the critics to decide.