“I’m sick of talking about heroin and cocaine,” Scott Weiland told Rolling Stone in 2004. “I’m sick of talking about what it’s like to be in the back of a cop car.” Rolling Stone had been riding through the Midwest on the tour bus of Velvet Revolver, who had just earned Number One on the Billboard 200 with their debut album.
Weiland was skinny and nervous, but he relaxed when we talked about Dungeons and Dragons. He remembered how when he was growing up in suburban Ohio, a snow day meant an all-day session of the role-playing game. But the conversation, like his life, kept returning to drugs and addiction.
The following are unpublished excerpts from that interview.
Stone Temple Pilots didn’t get good reviews until you released “Interstate Love Song” off Purple.
Yeah, that single was received really well. The funny thing is, the better our reviews got, the less records we sold. We were a people’s band initially, but we started experimenting more. We got bored with basic rock — we started listening to more obscure pop music and trying different things. There was a period of time where I really hated rock music.
Our tastes changed and our palette expanded and we alienated some of our middle American, meat-and-potatoes audience. Eventually you realize that most of the people who buy records aren’t the music fans who live in major cosmopolitan cities. We became a little too sophisticated for our own good.
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If you were doing those records again would you have—
I wouldn’t have changed anything at all. But a lot of it had to do with my experimentation with drugs, which later became my dependency on drugs. Drugs are good for a while, as far as creativity and adding a spark. What it does is give you objectivity.
Any time you’re stepping out on a limb as an artist, it’s scary, especially when you have a lot of success. When you’re reaching a lot of people, the masses, it’s easy to stay in that niche, you know? Especially when you’re making a lot of money and you know there’s a formula, it’s easy to stay in that rut. But when I started experimenting with heroin, I found I had this sense of objectivity. I could intellectualize the way I looked at my music and distance myself. It took away the fear aspect, so I could take more risks and explore. You know, go on a sonic adventure.
But there must have been a downside.
When we started experimenting with drugs is when we started breaking a lot of ground as a band. And I took it really far on my solo record. But what ended up happening is the more I indulged in drugs, the more it became a dependency and a crutch. I became overwhelmed and I lost the ability to feel. I started feeling like there was a blanket over my heart.
There was a period when STP and I weren’t making music — we weren’t getting along very good at all. But I had my studio, so I was writing and recording a lot of music. But something told me not to put it out. It was all stream of consciousness; it was clever, but it didn’t really have substance.
We made No. 4 — that wasn’t our best record, but there were some really beautiful moments. “Sour Girl” was on that record, and probably the most emotional one was “Atlanta.” There were like 11, 12 songs on that record, and at least five that I think were really strong. And then, of course, that’s when I went to jail.
What did you learn from going to jail?
That led to two-plus years of completely clean living. That’s when I first learned how to stick to it and get my life together. A lot of artists who are drug addicts have this fear of not being able to write if they’re not using. I don’t have that fear — it’s a lot easier for me to access my emotions now.
I have bipolar disorder and I have a lot of mood swings already — I have to deal with that on an everyday basis anyway. As far as performing goes, performing when you’re strung out is not a good place to be. But heroin is probably the worst thing for your voice — it dries your throat out. Every time I would get strung out on the road, I would lose my voice within two weeks of the tour.
Where does the anger in your lyrics come from?
I just don’t want to be pushed into a corner. Anytime I feel squeezed into a box, I just lash out. My gut reaction is to strike. It’s a different character onstage: there’s a whole dark sexuality that’s completely different from me. You know, I don’t let anybody know who I really am.
How will you define success with Velvet Revolver?
Two answers: how big my next house is, and how happy I am every day that I wake up. If I hadn’t had to work so hard to change, I wouldn’t be the man I am right now. I love my wife, I love my children, I love my life today.