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Weiland enjoys his clean start

Scott Weiland is lucky to be alive. He's the first to admit that. Wracked by self-destructiveness and a monstrous drug habit that led him from one rehab center and jail cell to another for years, the longtime outlaw singer could easily have become this generation's latest rock casualty. Weiland made some great music with Stone Temple Pilots before getting into a dressing-room fistfight with one member and going his own way. But he has changed his life and been reborn in Velvet Revolver, a band featuring hard-living, ex-Guns N' Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum. They've had one of the breakout records of the year in ''Contraband," yielding hits, ''Set Me Free," ''Slither," and ''Fall to Pieces." After making its Boston debut at Avalon a few months ago, the band has risen rapidly to the arenas and will play the Worcester Centrum Centre on Tuesday and the Verizon Wireless Arena next Friday. Weiland consented to a rare interview that follows:Q: Your guitarist, Slash, said they wanted you in the band because they look at you as the ''Last of the Mohicans" of rock singers. Do you feel that way?

A: Well, I can only say that all of my musical icons are legends -- from David Bowie and Iggy Pop to Mick Jagger and James Brown, who is the greatest performer of them all. Those are the people I draw from.

Q: How do you see yourself as a performer? You've always been very visual. At Avalon, you wore aviator glasses and a military cap and carried a bullhorn.

A: The stage allows me to be someone different, because I'm not a people person. I've never had a lot of friends in my life. And it's been that way since probably grade school. So, not being a very gregarious person, the only way I can do what I do is to become that sort of dark clown. As a kid, I always used to dress up in costume -- and that enabled me to become somebody else. And it's interesting, because my son does the same thing.

Q: How is the new album different from your work with Stone Temple Pilots?

A: A lot of the STP records that I wrote with Dean and Robert [the DeLeo brothers] came when I was definitely very depressed and struggling. I was at a loss to know who I was. And in not knowing who I was, a lot of the thematic elements were very dark and self-effacing. However, there was a lot of anger on the Velvet Revolver record, which was different. . . . My wife and I were separated, and, leading just up to the recording, we were starting a divorce. And I had just gotten arrested and was getting my chain yanked around. There was anger toward the system. It wasn't that sort of ''poor me" emotion.

Q: You're back with your wife and two children and you're back on the road. Have things really turned around?

A: This has been the most happy time of my entire life. I figured out the only way to get my wife back was to stop focusing on getting my wife back and try to figure out who I was -- and that's when the process really began. I had been trying to follow the same footsteps of everybody who had gotten their [act] together through traditional mediums. And I don't need to name that process because everybody knows what I'm talking about. But in trying to do that, I was continuously banging my head against the wall. . . . The thing with me is that I am an individual -- I'm a square peg who can't fit into a round hole. I was allowed by the courts to get into [a program] where I was turned onto this dude who was a lifetime junkie, and he happened to have a completely different philosophy than anyone I had ever met. He took little bits from every different philosophy to make his own. For me, that made sense. That was a new place to start from. . . . And for whatever reason, I got to a point in my life where [heroin] is just something I can't conceive of doing again. I made a decision that that's not who I am anymore.

Q: Is that what the hit song ''Fall to Pieces" is all about?

A: Yes, that was the real turning point -- and the lowest point. I thought that all the years of potential arrests were behind me, but to all of a sudden have that happen again was a slap in the face. I guess in a sense that it was God driving that police car. But when I got bailed out of jail, I showed up at the studio the next day. I had actually heard the music to that song about a month earlier, but it didn't have any significance to me. But the day that I got out of jail . . . I immediately started working on new lyrics.

Q: How important has the band been in your recovery?

A: The band came along at a perfect time. It came at a time when I was sick of living the way I was. The nine months prior to joining the band was the worst nine months of my life. I was completely alone. My wife and I had separated and I was living in my LA apartment and my wife and kids were living down in our house on Coronado Island. . . . I was suicidal and would wake up every morning sick.

Q: I heard that [Velvet Revolver bassist] Duff McKagan encouraged you to get into martial arts and that has helped.

A: Yes, I practice and train when I'm home and train when I'm on the road. That has helped me in such a profound way. I now look at myself as not just a man, but as a father and a husband. And it's helped how I communicate with people and deal with people who have less than positive intentions toward me.

Q: How does this all translate to the music?

A: Onstage and even in the dressing room, there's tension. There's a lot of energy and a lot of testosterone. And because of the fact we're artists, there's a lot of female energy as well under the surface. So there are a lot of feelings that get masked over with testosterone. And you have to figure in the fact that we're all ex-dope fiends, too. So, if we're not talking through certain issues and they get masked over or covered up, then by the time we hit the stage it's like a marble ball with 100 megatons of energy inside of it. It's almost as if it drops in slow motion and then when it hits the floor of the stage, it just explodes.

Velvet Revolver will play the Worcester Centrum Centre on Tuesday (tickets $29.50-$40) and the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H., next Friday ($30.50). Tickets to both shows are available through Ticketmaster at 617-931-2000 or via the Web at

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