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Spin Control

After struggling with addiction, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots tries to fly straight with a solo album that could throw fans a few curves.

March 15, 1998|Jerry Crowe | Jerry Crowe is a Times staff writer

Scott Weiland, the Stone Temple Pilots singer who is embarking on a solo career, is cranky. He's eight hours into a 17-hour video shoot near downtown Los Angeles and is losing patience.

Sitting on a black leather couch in a spacious dressing room between takes, a pack of cigarettes and a basketful of candy and cookies on a table in front of him, the man who has sold 13 million albums with STP bristles when it is suggested that the drudgery he is experiencing must be par for the course in video-making.

"This is not like any other shoot," he snaps dismissively. "This is a mini-epic."

Weiland, 30, is obviously a man prone to overstatement. In fact, he seems cocky enough to believe it when he says that his music will "save rock 'n' roll."

It's a pretty audacious comment, especially coming from a singer whose band has been largely dismissed by critics as a shameless clone of such grunge leaders as Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden.

The real question, some pop insiders believe, is whether Weiland is even capable of saving his own career.

"This is a crucial time for him, personally and professionally, because those things seem to be so intertwined with him," says Scott Frampton, editor in chief of the CMJ New Music Monthly trade publication. "I think it's almost make or break as far as him remaining a star."

As recently as last summer, Weiland's life seemed to be spinning out of control.

Three years into a heroin addiction that had badly strained his relationship with his bandmates, he appeared to be hellbent on derailing all that he'd worked for since he formed his first rock band at age 16. His partners in STP had seemingly given up on him, recruiting another singer and starting a second band, Talk Show.

Meanwhile, Weiland was back in rehab for the third time in less than a year.

Weiland's new solo album, titled "12 Bar Blues" and due March 31 from Atlantic Records, may surprise critics of his work with Stone Temple Pilots. It's a remarkably eclectic collection in which Weiland seems to explore all his musical influences--from David Bowie and the Beatles to the Doors and Brian Wilson.

Many rock fans will also be surprised to see who is in Weiland's corner musically: Daniel Lanois, the Grammy-winning producer whose credits include such acclaimed works as Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind" and U2's "The Joshua Tree."

Lanois, who was brought in to remix five tracks on "12 Bar Blues" and will tour with the singer as a guitarist, calls Weiland's music challenging and adventurous. Of Weiland, he says: "He has that drive, that obsession that I have and others I've worked with have . . . who are in the limelight and are successful and smart."

The album has been preceded by a single, "Barbarella," in which Weiland addresses his addiction--"Can't you see it's a disease?"--and pleads with the futuristic superbabe of the title to "save me from my misery."

Weiland, whose grueling day is devoted to the video for the single, realizes his career is at a crucial point, and he seems grateful for the second chance.

"I feel lucky to be alive," he says, lighting up a cigarette. "Life doesn't make any sense unless you can enjoy the journey, and sometimes I take that for granted. But I try not to do that now. I try to learn from my mistakes."

Weiland's life these days is a far cry from his many times in rehab. On the video shoot, he relaxes in his dressing room as a publicist and a personal assistant cater to his every whim.

They bring him lunch and later apologize for him as he keeps an interviewer and a photographer waiting while he sits alone and watches the climactic scenes of "Devil's Advocate" on videotape.

Flash back two years and things were dramatically different for the Santa Clara, Calif., native, who spent most of his teen years in Huntington Beach.

Weiland has been in and out of rehab programs about a dozen times since he was arrested in Pasadena in 1995 and charged with possession of cocaine and heroin.

That led to a court-ordered stay in a rehab center that forced Stone Temple Pilots to postpone a tour timed to the band's 1996 album, "Tiny Music . . . Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop," which turned out to be the least successful commercially of STP's three albums, with an estimated 1.5 million copies sold.

Weiland's life in a Pasadena drug treatment center at the time included early-morning wake-up calls, military-style room inspections, sharing a tiny space with one or more roommates and working menial jobs such as washing dishes or raking leaves.

He and the rest of STP (guitarist Dean DeLeo, his bassist brother Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz) returned to the road in the fall of 1996, but the tour ended with the band canceling its last few shows when Weiland relapsed. The singer entered rehab at the time and then again after another tour with STP last spring.

Weiland's bandmates declined to comment for this article, but Robert DeLeo said last year that dealing with the singer's addiction became a nightmare.

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