Two years ago, Scott Weiland was at a low point. He had been down before — a fact of life for one of rock's most notorious junkies — but now he was a man without a band. Though he had been clean for years, Stone Temple Pilots fired him anyway, citing chronic tardiness and poor onstage performance. His other band, Velvet Revolver, had split in 2008, after a tumultuous tour in which members barely spoke to each other and sniped at one another in the press.
Rather than going solo, Weiland assembled a group of Los Angeles musicians, named them the Wildabouts (after a repeated line in Donovan's "Mellow Yellow") and hit the road playing a set of STP songs. "We got really tight as a unit," Weiland, 47, tells Rolling Stone. "It made me really want to go into the studio."
They did, and the result, Blaster, is a collection of riff-heavy originals, plus a cover of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy." At times, the album suggests a more grown-up version of STP. "I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan songs to see how he works," says Weiland. "I’ve gotten into writing story-songs. I used to just write about my own apathy, but that youthful, apathetic way of looking at things grew thin as I got older."
Blaster is a much more straight-ahead rock album than Weiland's two previous solo releases, 1998's 12 Bar Blues and 2008's "Happy" in Galoshes. "Those were exploratory art albums," he says. "I took artistic license to make those records because that's what I needed to do after being in rock bands…I have a feeling STP fans will really like this album. There's enough big riffs and songs with really cool chords and great melodies." The heavy blues-rock song "White Lightning," inspired by the 2012 Shia LaBeuouf movie Lawless, is about a group of Appalachian moonshiners during probation times, while "Hotel Rio" is lighter pop tune inspired by the Beatles.
Weiland and the Wildabouts just embarked on a U.S. club tour, mixing new tracks with a handful of STP classics. "Certain songs like 'Interstate Love Song' and 'Plush' I won’t do," he says. "Those are sort of Holy Grail songs – they don't fit the Wildabouts vibe." They occasionally play "Do It For The Kids" from the 2004 Velvet Revolver LP Contraband, but that's the sole song he's willing to revive from that short-lived supergroup. "That music is a little more blues-based, freight train going off the tracks kind of rock and roll than we are," he says.
The Wildabouts will be on the road at the same time as Stone Temple Pilots, who are now fronted by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington. "It's weird," says Weiland. "I wish him luck. The lawsuit [over the band-name rights, which they settled out of court] is behind us. I hope they do well." Can he imagine a scenario where he'd ever front STP or Velvet Revolver again? "I can’t imagine it right now," he says. "But never say never when it comes to rock & roll."
If Weiland has gotten out of the shadow of his previous bands, his junkie image may be harder to shake. "It's the same as Keith Richards," Weiland says with a sigh. "People still ask him the same questions they asked him 30 years ago, even though he’s a completely different person. And I’m a completely different person than I was 15 years ago."