My successes and failures seem larger than life,” says Scott Weiland. “But it’s the same for every person, whether you harvest corn or pick oranges or whatever — there’s the same sort of internal conflicts that everybody deals with. And you learn from them.” Though the Stone Temple Pilots frontman acknowledges that he still battles depression, he is no longer the man whose struggles with drug addiction nearly ended his career and his life. Today, Weiland — now two years sober — is a family man, the married father of an eight-month-old son, Noah, who squeals delightedly in the background while we talk.
Weiland describes Stone Temple Pilots’ new CD, Shangri-La Dee Da, as the record the band has always wanted to make — one that is both sonically and emotionally complex, with lush Beatlesque songs alongside folksy pop tunes and some trademark STP stompers. In August, the band embarks on a European tour, returning to the U.S. in the fall, when it is tentatively scheduled to headline this year’s Family Values Tour with Staind.
Did you feel like you had more to prove this time around?
Part of the thing that allowed us to remain passionate about what we do is that for the majority of our career we were underdogs. And then, right as we began to capture respect and people’s imaginations, we sort of disappeared into our own self-induced, or narcotics-induced, exile. We had very high standards for this album; we knew we really needed to go deep, diving for a pearl. On this album, I really feel like we have a lot left to contribute to music. We’re not in it for the pussy — all those things were fun and enjoyable in their place and time. But you become filled with a greater sense of purpose when you’re doing things for the right reasons. Whatever makes someone impassioned about their cause — whether it’s political, social or artistic — is a great thing. That’s why I don’t take medicine for my bipolar disorder. Great things happen in moments of passion — when you’re flat-lined, you’re unable to connect with whatever your muse is.
So you have bipolar disorder?
Yeah, I’ve had it my whole life, but it wasn’t diagnosed correctly until about three years ago. I finally had a bunch of tests taken — hours and hours of tests. And the medication I was prescribed worked. The thing was, I didn’t like the effects of it, so I don’t take it. I don’t have fear of writing songs without being under the influence of narcotics or alcohol, but I have an incredible fear of writing songs without being able to feel my full range of emotions.
Do you worry about whether you’re in step with what newer bands are doing?
At times. At times I really feel unaffected by all that, by what’s going on in the rock community around me. There’s almost this sense of feeling above it all. We’re really making records and writing songs for ourselves. Then again, I’m also a human being, and I’m very competitive, and it is frustrating to see bands basically aping what we did on our first two records and having a bigger impact with the Tattooed Nation. Some of those bands definitely stand on their own. And we beg, borrow and steal all the time. I’ll tell you this, though: For the sake of success, never, ever will we entertain the idea of having somebody write for us. That’s a sellout. I’d sell one of my songs for any car commercial in the world that paid enough money — it doesn’t change what I created. But to stay in the Top Ten for weeks on end when I’m in my forties, and to do that by letting Glen Ballard write songs for me? Fuck that. I don’t want any part of that.
Was it especially gratifying for you just to be able to be in the studio and to be completely lucid and participating?
It was. One of the greatest things about it was not having to be called in by my probation officer and wondering if I would give a dirty test. Still, I’ve learned that fixing one area of your life does not fix all the problems.
What songs or sounds on the new record are you most proud of?
The song that comes to mind is “Hello It’s Late.” The original composition, [bassist] Robert [DeLeo] wrote and showed the rest of us while we were recording Purple. And we actually took a stab at it, but it just didn’t come together. When we dived into it on this record, I think we approached it with brand-new eyes, as we did the whole album. Every time I’m running and I listen to that song in the morning, I let my mind wander, and I can’t help but be really curious what Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson would think of that song. Because both of those guys have been really key inspirations to us. Especially on this record. I did a lot of different vocal layering and revisited the Pet Sounds album again — you listen to that stuff and it puts you in a very humble place.
Well, there’s a bar that could not possibly be raised. Don’t torture yourself with that sort of thing.
Then again, Brian Wilson doesn’t look quite as good as I do in women’s lingerie.