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2005.05.20 - Star Tribune - Velvet Revolver: Better Living Through Chemistry (Slash)

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2005.05.20 - Star Tribune - Velvet Revolver: Better Living Through Chemistry (Slash) Empty 2005.05.20 - Star Tribune - Velvet Revolver: Better Living Through Chemistry (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:53 am

Velvet Revolver: Better living through chemistry

By Jon Bream

Scott Weiland is the perfect candidate for a reality TV show.

Known for his drug-addled decadence while leading Stone Temple Pilots to the top of the grunge world in the mid-1990s, he is getting a second chance now. After multiple arrests and stints in rehab, Weiland is back as lead singer of the Grammy-winning Velvet Revolver, the hottest hard-rock band to emerge in years.

What would reality cameras discover about this rock star on the rebound?

"People would find out that I'm actually a fairly normal guy," Weiland said by phone on a recent morning from Los Angeles, with his two children audible in the background. "My wife and I, we don't have a staff of people. We take care of our kids ourselves. We don't have a nanny; we have a baby-sitter or family when we need to take care of things. I don't have a regular assistant; I have a friend who helps me out.

"I am a snob about some things when I'm on tour. I like staying in comfortable hotels, and I like nice sheets. Otherwise, I'm a pretty normal individual, and it doesn't take a lot to make me happy and pleased these days other than my wife by my side at night."

What might please him almost as much is Velvet Revolver's success in connecting with two distinct constituencies: Young rock fans, who helped push the band's 2004 debut CD, Contraband , to No. 1, and older Grammy voters, who honored the group for best hard rock performance.

The band's lead guitarist, Slash, knows a thing or two about druggy decadence from his years with Guns N' Roses, which sold more than 20 million albums before falling apart a decade ago. But he also sees something pretty normal in Velvet Revolver's success.

"We all get along," he said, no small feat for musicians whose history reads like a textbook in dysfunction.

The magic of Velvet Revolver, according to Slash, is five guys with similar goals and musical tastes, and a creative connection: "When it comes to writing or recording or performing, it's pretty seamless. We don't discuss that much about it. We just fall in line and pretty much have it."

After getting fired by mercurial GNR frontman Axl Rose and trying various projects for a few years, Slash and drummer Matt Sorum started jamming in 2002 with bassist Duff McKagan, who had quit GNR and gone to college to study finance. Adding guitarist Dave Kushner (from Dave Navarro's band), they started auditioning for a singer.

The players listened to more than 200 tapes over nearly 11 months before STP imploded and Weiland became available.

"I'd never seen Stone Temple Pilots," Slash said. "I'd never met Scott. I only knew his voice from the radio. And that was the first guy I thought of when the band first started."

McKagan, whose girlfriend knew Weiland's wife, invited him to audition. The singer, who said he was "about to back out of rock completely," and the musicians clicked immediately.

Velvet Revolver's Contraband debuted at No. 1 and has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide.

"The biggest surprise hasn't been all the critical acclaim, not the amount of records we've sold, not the awards we've been garnished with, not all the accoutrements," Weiland said. "The fan base -- our audience is mostly 16- to 25-year-olds -- is the biggest surprise."

He attributes the quintet's quick success to its Grammy-winning hit Slither being "the perfect marriage" between GNR and STP. But he's proud of the album, as well.

"The album as a whole is a vicious, streamlined, real rock 'n' roll record with lots of singles on it," he said. "... A lot of bands nowadays put out one hit single and then they're done. We won't be done touring 'til the end of summer."

For Slash, the Grammy recognition was sweet -- especially considering that GNR never got one. (STP did.)

"When we actually got the award, I was in the parking lot of the hotel, so I didn't have that `it hit you like a ton of bricks' effect," he said. "The initial call that we got nominated for three Grammys was more overwhelming. No one expected that."

Even more important, Slash said, was Grammy officials tapping Velvet Revolver to be the backup band for an all-star rendition of the Beatles' Across the Universe , featuring Weiland with U2's Bono, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Tim McGraw and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

"That was memorable," Weiland said in an understatement.

Weiland's first gig with his new band was at a June 2003 press conference to announce the group. Velvet Revolver performed one new song plus some covers and a couple of GNR and STP numbers.

Just a month before, the singer had been busted for possession of heroin and cocaine and sentenced to three years' probation. Then in October 2003, he was arrested and charged with DUI and ordered to go to detox and then a group home for six months. In fact, during last year's tour, he had to fly back to Los Angeles once a week to spend a night in the group home.

Weiland, 37, says he focuses on being clean and sober by trying to stay happy.

"It's been two years since I put a rig in my arm," he said, "and a year and a half since I've been clean. The incentive for being clean is just being happy and liking my life a hell of a lot more than I liked it in the past. I was just ... miserable ... for so many years.

"Being in control of every aspect -- musically, financially, emotionally, just in every way -- that's my incentive to never go back to that style of living. After having so much time away from it, there's nothing enticing about it anymore."

Weiland is doing so well that his three-year probation will be over in a couple of months -- "a year and a half early for good behavior," he boasted.

He talks slowly and haltingly, as if he's spaced out, or just measuring his words. His publicist warned that Weiland gives long-winded but thoughtful answers. By contrast, Slash, calling three hours later, talks fast, with more animation and the kind of energy that reflects the band's music.

A former heroin addict, Slash confirms that Weiland has been on his best behavior.

"We don't help him do anything; he does it on his own," he said. "He's doing great."

Pointing out that he and two other Velvets had cleaned up their acts, Slash said, "We just rallied around Scott, and he made up his own mind what he wanted to do.

"I was 37 when I stopped screwing around with real heavy stuff. [He's 39 now.] I had these moments where I'd fall into the abyss and come back up, and it just got boring. It becomes so self-destructive."

After having to deal with Axl Rose -- who has been working on a new GNR album for more than 10 years -- Slash was willing to put up with Weiland.

What's the difference?

"One guy [Weiland] wants to work and go onstage, and one person doesn't want to do anything," the guitarist said. "There's really no similarities except that they're both great frontmen."

The chameleonlike Weiland feels that Velvet Revolver is a different experience for him.

"With STP, we played together so long it got to the point where you could anticipate what every individual was going to do at every time. It was like telepathy, which is kind of a nice thing," Weiland said. "With Velvet Revolver, it's explosive; it's very sexual; it's pure rock 'n' roll for what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be."

Sounds like a reality that could keep Weiland happy.
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