Bill Murray por Presidente
I am lucky to have had two opportunities working as Scott Weiland's Personal Assistant, the first in 2007 with Velvet Revolver and again in 2008 for the Stone Temple Pilots reunion tour.
Scott Weiland is the reason I love rock n' roll and the reason I started playing the guitar and writing rock tunes.
My earliest musical memories, as for many of us, are from our parent's influences (My Dad's Yacht Rock mixed with Mom's Classical). Hey, it was the 80s. I'll freely admit my first love was always rap music, followed by R&B. The first cassette tape I purchased was a Slick Rick album in 1988 and when I graduated high school in 1997, Tupac's "All Eyez on Me" album was a fixture in my car's CD player.
Fast forward to 2007, I was working an administrative position at a highly reputable music studio in Hollywood and after five years, I yearned for a new, more challenging position. A change. Anything a step up would have been fine for me within the music industry. Working at the studio also allowed me to learn the technical sides of recording music, so I began producing my own Hip Hop recordings, quite crappy ones at that, but I absolutely loved it and still am obsessed with creating music.
Like all musicians, I became a pro at sifting through daily Craigslist ads for two things: music gear and job opportunities. If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing it, Craigslist is known for its flaky, unreliable connections, but sometimes, just sometimes, you can actually find a diamond in the rough.
In May 2007, I applied to a Craigslist job ad with the following heading: "Personal Assistant to Celebrity Musician". I thought, at the very least, it would be interesting to know who the musician would be, so I applied instantly. For some reason, I imagined the celebrity being somebody in the "Pop music" domain, maybe a Britney Spears or some Boy Band member. I just pictured a bougie-esque person (a la Mariah Carey), the type that might require masterful tasks such as picking out all of the yellow peanut M&Ms from a crystal bowl and having rare sparkling water at exactly 68 degrees as part of their tour rider. About 30 minutes after e-mailing my resume, I received a response, offering an interview with musician, "Scott Weiland of Velvet Revolver/Stone Temple Pilots". Yes, Craigslist.
Scott Weiland? No bell went off in my head. No sense of excitement, rather an investigative feeling of unknown. Let me say it clearly, I didn't know who Scott Weiland was. If you would have asked me if I had heard of Stone Temple Pilots, sure I had, but I wouldn't have been able to connect Scott's name or face to either band. So after Youtubing, Wiki-briefing, and Googling all I could, I came to realize two things: Scott was notoriously successful, and the only songs from his catalog familiar to me were "Plush" and "Creep", both off STP's 1992 debut album "Core". Remember, at the time, I was severely rock trivia deprived.
Without hesitation, I accepted the offer to interview with Scott, setting up the meeting at a swanky West Hollywood Hotel in a few days. To be honest, I was more intrigued by the possibility of meeting Slash (Lead Guitarist, Velvet Revolver/Guns N' Roses) as in my eyes, he was iconic. I remember watching the premier of the GNR "November Rain" video after an episode of the Simpsons when I was 12. I had no clue how Scott Weiland would come to influence me.
The night before the interview, Velvet Revolver appeared as the musical guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, performing "She Builds Quick Machines", the first single off the new "Libertad" album. I was impressed with the band as a whole, almost intimidated for the next day's meeting. I arrived to the Hotel early and noticed the band was also there for a press junket. In walks Scott, hands full of bags, papers, books etc. I introduced myself, offered a hand with his luggage and let him know I was there to interview for his Assistant position. The interview itself was maybe 15 minutes of casual conversation, with most of the time spent chatting about college football, to which we were both fans. Scott briefed me on what the gig entailed and basically offered me the position on the spot. I was nervous to have been hired so easily, which lead me to wonder, maybe he runs through Assistants constantly and to him it's no big deal? To me it was a huge deal as I would be leaving a solid and safe industry position for an unknown massive rock n' roll tour. I was all in. My studio gig gave me the greatest experiences of meeting just about every major or legendary artist in the business, but nothing was more exhilarating than what I was going to experience.
For obvious legal reasons and out of respect for Scott and his family, I will never and have never disclosed personal information from my short time with Scott, but I will give my subjective opinion of what I came away with and how it influenced me as a now superfan of Scott Weiland and as an aspiring musician.
I'll never forget the first show of the tour, Baltimore's "Virgin Fest", playing to 60,000 fans is where I first witnessed the energy created between performers and audience. It's a completely different experience from the vantage point of the performer versus standing in the crowd. We arrived a day early and Scott invited me to check out a few bands. That entailed Scott introducing me to both The Smashing Pumkins and The Police just before each went on stage. Incredible. Especially to read Billy Corgan's eulogy for Scott in Rolling Stone. Ironically, The Pumpkins longtime tour manager, "Gooch", would later lead us out for STP's reunion tour. I enjoyed reading Corgan's acknowledgement of being "critical" of STP at first as they were accused of being a "derivative of Pearl Jam", but later becoming a fan by STP's third album (Tiny Music...Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop), also including Scott with Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain as "the great voices of our generation".
Working for Scott motivated me to become a quick study in the 90s alternative/grunge era. STP took a lot of heat for their comparisons to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains (who would open for VR in North America), especially Scott for the closeness in sound to each aforementioned band's vocalists. I would always joke with Scott that he was a genius style-biter. In my own opinion, from time to time, Scott included certain catch phrases or styles from legends of the past. Examples of my theory: Velvet Revolver's "Let it Roll" (Jim Morrison), STP's "Big Bang Baby" ("it's a gas gas gas/Mick Jagger), "Atlanta" (Jim Morrison), Scott Weiland Solo's "Paralysis" (David Bowie), "Tangle With Your Mind" (Bob Dylan). These musical influences are so subtle, but if noticed, provide an insight into true musical genius.
While singing along to Scott's solo album rendition of The Smiths "Reel Around the Fountain", Scott once told me, "dude, you've got a great voice". I never thought so, but it was that compliment from my boss that catapulted me into this dream obsession with writing rock tunes, with Weiland being my greatest influence. Before shows, I would help tape the wire of Scott's in ear monitors to his back so it was secure when he'd peel off his shirt. About half the time Scott would say, "dude, you don't need to tape those tonight, it's not going to be a full on rock show". Full on rock show meant starting in a three piece suit and stripping down to no shirt. I would always laugh when he said this because no matter what, it was ALWAYS going to be a full on rock show because Scott Weiland only knew how to do it one way- full on rock n' roll.
Before shoving off on the 2008 STP reunion tour, I remember Rolling Stone coming to interview the band and watch them play a tune at an L.A. rehearsal spot. The tune they played that day was "Big Empty". I'll never forget the feeling I had when I realized that "Big Empty" was theirs. I had no clue. I had always fancied the tune in the early 90s but never knew who it was. This was a great moment of realization for me.
Witnessing the dynamics between Scott and both VR and STP respectively was so different, yet so very much inspiring. When each unit was dialed in for these bands, they were unstoppable and that is why I fell in love with live music. There is so much emotion that can be lost in a recording that only comes across in a live performance. Scott would often be criticized for his slithery dance moves, it reminded me of that old saying, "dance like no one is watching". He was into it, giving it his all as he would describe that energy between himself and the crowd a "give and take" effect.
My favorite Scott Weiland tune, is STP's "Wonderful", primarily for the lyrical content but also Scott's great abilities to create multi-track harmonies, which he was always proud of.
Another important experience for me was watching Scott record his second solo album, "Happy in Galoshes". A couple songs were recorded at famed Producer, Steve Albini's Electrical Audio in Chicago. Albini notable for producing Nirvana's final studio album "In Utero". Albini and his staff were the greatest around and those sessions included Adrian Young (No Doubt) on drums on "Paralysis" also produced by Tony Kanal (No Doubt).
Among others, Scott really dug Keith Richards for his swagger, so I ended up calling him "Chief Richards", which would make him laugh. Scott is the one who personally turned me onto Radiohead, The Smiths, David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, and The Rolling Stones. Scott showed me how to pull off both a quirky and dapper sense of fashion. And most importantly, Scott Weiland showed me how to not give a fuck about people's negative opinions.
I feel extremely lucky to have witnessed Scott's greatness while he was still on top of his game. As they say, the music never dies and I'm thankful for that. Let's remember Scott Weiland for all his accomplishments, and not his failures. I have enough stories to last a lifetime and wish they could be shared, but that's the nature of the gig. Besides, it's only Rock n' Roll...