'Stone Temple Pilots Back On Course'

by Allison Stewart
Typed by Jason Rutherford (Courtesy of http://www.placidminds.com)

Every night in Los Angeles' Men's Central Jail, the inmates vote on what program to watch on the communal TV set. "I would always try to get all the other inmates to vote for the programs I wanted to watch because I'm manipulative like that," Scott Weiland says. "Sunday, it had to be the X-Files. Monday, I had to watch Ally McBeal. Tuesday it was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It had to be Buffy."

Weekends brought shows like Caliente and Soul Train, which Weiland didn't mind so much - after a few months without women, Caliente started looking pretty good. But Thursday night was WWF night, which even Weiland with his considerable powers of persuasion was helpless to prevent. "Thursday nights were the worst," he remembers with a grimace. "Wrestling was, like, fucking three hours long."

Weiland Is telling this as part of a longer story, about how he got Buffy's Sarah Michelle Gellar to appear in the Stone Temple Pilots video for "Sour Girl." Gellar was a fan and was happy to do it, but Weiland's then fiancée, Mary (whom he married this past May), made him promise not to kiss Gellar, which is why the finished video looks a little awkward. Not only was Mary on the set watching, but Gellar's boyfriend was there, too, and Weiland just felt weird about the whole thing, although it got him thinking a little about maybe doing some acting.

Why doesn't the just call up Gellar and ask her to put him on Buffy? "I don't think so," says Weiland politely. "I wouldn't want to start out on TV, you know?" Weiland who is fresh out of jail and has never really acted in his life, thinks he might like to start with the movies. This is typical.

Some things you might not know about Scott Weiland:
1) One time he heard "a certain Christian rock band" on the radio and thought it was Stone Temple Pilots, "Which song is that?" he wondered. It turned out to be Creed. "That hurt."
2) He jogs five miles a day and gets cranky if he doesn't. "Exercise is addictive," he figures. "But for me, everything pretty much is."
3) No one calls him Weiland anymore.

On the Pilots' tour bus, parked outside the Mesa Amphitheatre in Mesa, Arizona, things are almost eerily quiet. There are car magazines and cases of Budweiser and books of Mad Libs, and someone from the crew has decorated the bus in late-period Urban Outfitters kitsch.

Everyone in the band is very proud of their bus, which is free of the usual rock-star clutter (porno magazines, drugs, groupies, etc.). "You're on the wrong bus for that," advises bassist Robert DeLeo. "You need to be on the roadies' bus. We all live vicariously through them."

These days, the Pilots are as close to cleaned up as they're likely to get: Robert says he doesn't eve drink, and Weiland has been known to travel with a friend who helps him stay clean. Only guitarist Dean DeLeo, who battled drug addiction himself back in the day, occasionally escapes to the other bus to do something unspecified that "Scott shouldn't see."

Everyone who works for the band openly adores them, and the band members seem to genuinely like each other, even though they travel in two different buses and, offstage, appear to socialize more with their road crew than each other. The tour for their latest album, No. 4 (Atlantic), will keep them on the road until the end of the year at least, which is a lot to ask of someone who only recently sobered up. Do the band members worry about where Weiland is going every time he walks out the door?

"If someone wants to get high, they're gonna get high," says Dean. "As each day goes by, there's more trust. You don't want to build a shell around someone who's in recovery, because they have to live in the real world. Someone has to be able to sit in front of him and have a glass of wine with dinner."

There is a distinct division between the other band members - the DeLeos and drummer Eric Kretz - who are big and lively and outgoing, and Weiland, who is thin, talks softly, and wears lots of eyeliner. Alone on the bus at two in the morning, he looks pale and unusual, like he's been beamed down from space. He doesn't have much of a sense of humor, but he's unfailingly nice and surprisingly well-spoken. He is unquestionably the brains of the outfit. The other band members, to their credit, seem to know this, too.

This tour will be the first - or at least, the first in many years - for which Weiland is clean. "The success thing happened so fast for us that I don't think we got a chance to really appreciate it, "Weiland says. "It was impossible for us to stay in the moment. We never got a chance to land, and when we did, I wasn't landing on Earth, I was landing on Mars. "After a seven-year downward spiral of rehab and prison, the average rock-star indignities (the obligatory autographs, hours cooped up on buses) don't seem so bad. " I appreciate completely the freedom I have now," Weiland says. "I've been blessed with this amazing life, and I don't take it for granted, although every once in a while I guess I do. I don't mind doing meet-and-greets and signing autographs. I don't think I'm too good."

The story of STP's rise, fall, and long climb back up has been told a thousand times. Growing up in New Jersey, Dean and Robert, formed countless bands, however, the bond the DeLeos shared was far from the epitome of brotherly love. "We weren't really close growing up," Robert remembers. "Dean made fun of me a lot. He thought I was retarded until I was about 14."

Dean was the family breadwinner after his father died. "I worked life 60 hours a week when I was in high school to support my family while everyone else was at the beach having fun," he says. "I think that was one of the reasons I indulged in so many drugs on the weekend. I would go to Harlem and buy all the drugs I could."

After moving to Southern California in 1984, the brothers hooked up with drummer Eric Kretz, and put a band together. They had another singer at the time, but once Weiland started coming around, everyone knew he was the one. "Scott had the look and the attitude and the vibe, and that's when we all started to think we should change the lineup," says Kretz. But the band didn't have the heart to tell the first singer he was fired. "I think we told him the band was breaking up," Kretz remembers.

After years of paying dues in L.A. area clubs, STP signed a big label deal during the grunge feeding frenzy of the early 1990s. The band's debut, Core(Atlantic), sold 7 million copies. "Core was bliss," Weiland says wistfully. "It was a blissful time." His lengthy tussle with heroin and alcohol came a short time after the Pilots achieved multi-platinum fame. For Weiland, the mid-to-late '90s could have come from the How To Be a Rock Star playbook: rehab, prison, divorce, tattoos, solo albums, models. While finding success with subsequent albums Purple (1994) and Tiny Music... Songs >From the Vatican Gift Shop (1996), Weiland became a fixture on Hard Copy as the band imploded. Every day that found him still alive was a nice surprise.

Tired of waiting for their singer to either get clean or die, the other band members made a record without him in 1997. They imported singer Dave Coutts, whom they didn't know very well and had never played a gig with, and called themselves Talk Show. "It was a scary time," says Robert. "The best way I can explain it is, it's like when the love of your life breaks up with you, and you rebound with the first thing that comes along."

Weiland has fonder memories of his own solo record, 12 Bar Blues (Atlantic), which he co-produced, played almost every instrument on, and which also tanked. "That was my art record. I didn't expect it would sell 10 million copies, I just needed to prove to myself that I could do everything [on it]. It reminds me of some dark times, though."

Weiland actually came to one of Talk Show's gigs, but the band remembers being too angry to have much to do with him. "We were so pissed off because he was always so fucked up that it got to the point where it was like, 'You know what? Fuck you,'" Deans says. "Not, 'Oh Scott, I hope you get better.' It was like, 'Thanks for fucking up our career for the 15th time.'"

The band eventually regrouped to record No. 4, and although rifts between the members were healing, the wheels came off in spectacular fashion. "When we started making 4, it was fun," says Weiland. "I was kind of on and off the wagon at that time. But I couldn't keep it together, sobriety-wise." After recording was finished, Weiland went to jail for violation an earlier probation. (Although much has been made of Weiland's time in the big house, most of his sentence was spent in a locked-down rehab facility.)

Weiland's incarceration pushed back touring and promotion plans for No. 4, which didn't help the singer's strained relationships with his bandmates. "It always felt like we were pulling against each other instead of pushing forward, and it was tiring," says Kretz. "But the way it is now, you've got four guys charging straight ahead, saying, "We've gotta get back to where we were. The music scene has changed, everything's changed. We've gotta get back what we lost."

Bands only have a small window of time in which to make their mark, and Weiland's habit ate away many of STP's prime hit-making years. This is something that comes up often in conversation with the DeLeos and Kretz, yet not, interestingly enough, with Weiland though he knows just as well that STP's brand of uber-grunge has been supplanted by the Limp Biskits of the world. "I spent three months in the studio with Limp Bizkit, and I saw that whole thing percolating," says Weiland, who along with Fred Durst and Korn's Jonathan Davis collaborated on the track "Nobody Like You" on Limp's Significant Other. Korn's success, in particular, made him nervous. "Korn came out and sold a jillion copies, and I was kind of worried. I was like, 'Is that what young kids like? Is that their interpretation of what rock and roll is now?'"

The Pilots will soon take to the road with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Weiland's wife is set to give birth shortly after they get off the road. And after the holidays, the band will likely re-convene to record a follow-up to No.4. Right now, though, after years off the road, the Pilots are trying to get used to each other again, and to remember how they ever got any sleep on their huge, rumbling bus. "That's probaly why we did so much drinking and drugs on tour, because we couldn't sleep," says Dean. "That's One excuse, right?"

SMUG Magazine: September/October 2000
Issue # 38