[Breaking news: Wildabouts guitarist Jeremy Brown has died, according to a post on Scott Weiland's Facebook page. Read more.]
“No, you know, I don’t think about STP. Actually the only time it enters my mind is when I get a check.”
That’s Scott Weiland’s answer when asked if the decidedly rock direction on his new solo album had anything to do with wanting to remind Stone Temple Pilots — the band that made him famous in the early '90s and ultimately fired him in 2013 — what they were missing.
“Whatever they do is their own business,” Weiland continues. Then, referring to his replacement, moonlighting Linkin Park throat Chester Bennington, he says, “Chester’s reason for doing it is his own reason. He must be a busy guy between Linkin Park and STP. But I wish them well and hope they do great and my focus is on The Wildabouts.”
I actually believe Weiland. Especially after listening to the new record, titled Blaster, which features his bluesy backing band of the last couple years, The Wildabouts, with guitarist Jeremy Brown, bassist Tommy Black, and drummer Danny Thompson. (Queens of the Stone Age’s Joey Castillo is behind the kit on Weiland’s current tour.) The wiry 47-year-old singer’s previous solo discs, particularly the druggy 1998 mess 12 Bar Blues, were often overtly arty and totally inaccessible to anyone who wasn’t a card-carrying Scott Weiland Fan Club member. But Blaster casts his now-trademark snarl and catchy-dirty melodies amid fuzz-guitar spit and ’70s-glam sashay, cut with producer Rick Parker, whose previous credits include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Beachwood Sparks. Wipe the vocals and you might think you're listening to Jack White tracks.
When reached for this phone interview, Weiland, who resides in the Hollywood Hills near Laurel Canyon, was in Boston aboard his tour bus. He answered every question, but often as succinctly as possible and always aloof. This is understandable for a singer who received Robin Thicke-level scorn from music journalists early on — until scribes such as Rolling Stone's David Fricke finally realized Weiland had bloomed into one of the best frontmen alive.
Judging by Weiland’s speaking tone, I’m guessing he didn’t smile once during our 20-minute conversation, parts of which are excerpted below. But he should smile. Because Blaster, out March 31, is a good rock record. Superior to both those Velvet Revolver LPs he made in the early 2000s with Guns N' Roses expatriates Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, and every STP disc since 1999's No. 4.
Scott, what’s your process like for coming up with vocal melodies these days and how has that evolved from early in your career?
Oh, it really hasn’t changed very much. In this band it’s very similar to STP or Velvet Revolver. Jeremy Brown, our guitar player, came up with a majority of the riffs, I came up with a big chunk of the riffs as well, and then melodies come second, lyrics come third. It’s usually the stuff that first kind of comes to me from scatting. Just some melodic ideas I end up working into lyrics.
The song “Circles” on the new album has a country feel to it. What appeals to you about singing in that style and what’s the chance you’d ever do an entire country album?
I thought about it before but the country market isn’t what it was when I grew up on country. Merle Haggard and Jerry Jeff Walker and Johnny Cash. There’s Americana, which is a little truer to form than Nashville country today. [“Circles”] was the first song that we wrote with the band and I just think it ties together some of the themes of the album, like Appalachia and moonshining and stuff like that. It just happens to be a love song about my wife. [The former Jamie Wachtel, a Los Angeles photographer, Weiland's third marriage.]
You’ve been covering David Bowie’s “Jean Genie” on this tour. Ever met Bowie or is it a case of not wanting to get too…
Oh no, I’d love to meet Bowie. He’s really my only major icon that I haven’t met yet. I’d love to have dinner with him, so the invitation’s out there.
Of all the cool Bowie songs to cover, why that one?
It just has a swagger that lends itself well with this band and it’s in my vocal range and it’s a sexy song.
The Blaster cover art depicts a boombox. If we were to go back in time and look in the tape deck of a young Scott Weiland’s boombox, what would we find in there?
Probably The Cars’ first album.
You’re known to be a big Notre Dame fan. Who’s the coolest Notre Dame football player of all-time?
You’ve described Blaster as a band record, and said “there’s nothing like making a record with your buddies.” When’s the last time you had that sort of experience?
Well the last time I felt this kind of excitement was actually my first album Core because it’s kind of like starting all over again. And it is like a bunch of buddies. It was a lot of fun to make.
Who was the last of any your former bandmates to call or text you for a non-business reason?
I talk to [Velvet Revolver guitarist] Dave Kushner every now and again and to [VR drummer] Matt Sorum every once in a while but that’s about it. Ever since the [dueling lawsuits] situation with STP was settled out of court I haven’t spoken to them but I wish them the best.
Your past with substances is well documented. What’s the best song you’ve ever written under the influence and what’s the best you’ve written sober?
Um, that’s hard to say. “Barbarella” [a 1998 solo cut] maybe, under the influence. And clean? It’s been 15 years since I dabbled in that shit so it’s quite some time but I would put anything on this album against anything I’ve written before.
Throughout your career, you’ve used a megaphone onstage as a vocal effect. How many of those things do you go through during a tour?
Usually a couple.
Do they blow [a speaker] like a guitar amp?
Oh no, they just break.
Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts' Blaster is out March 31 on Softdrive Records. More info at www.scottweiland.com.