Toledo City Paper interview with Scott Shriner - September 12, 2002

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A conversation with Weezer bassist (and Toledo native), Scott Shriner
by Mike Saccone

1994 – As grunge-rock was letting out its last breaths, rock radio saw the advent of a new wave of post-punk, alernative. rock bands. At the forefront of this revival was the band Weezer. The nostalgic musical style showcased on its debut disc “Weezer” drew raves (with hits like “The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly”), and Weezer established itself as one of modern rock’s most rockin’ and visually appealing bands of the ’90s.

Following the conclusion of the tour in support of its ’96 release, “Pinkerton,” Weezer went on a three-year hiatus. However, in 2000, the band signed on to the popular Warped Tour to once again test the waters of rock music. And buoyed by the fan reaction, the band returned to the studio to record its second eponymous album. When Mikey Welsh departed the band in 2001, Weezer found itself in need of a bass player. Enter Scott Shriner.

Recently, while holed up in a Phoenix hotel room, the Toledo native discussed the basics of rock stardom with the Toledo City Paper..

Toledo City Paper: To what extent did you participate in Toledo’s music scene when you lived here?

Scott: Well, when I was growing up and playing, it was all cover bands. And there wasn’t really that much original music locally, there were bands coming in from out of town, but … I played in The Movers, it was an R&B band, I played with the Exciters for a while, the old Cyprus bar band on Laskey, half punk-rock, half alternative, then I played in a band called Loved by Millions with Steve Athanas before he was doing The Homewreckers. And then The Great Barbecue Gods.

TCP: Do you think that a major-label act will ever emerge from the Toledo scene?

Scott: Yeah, I think it has to eventually. The scene is totally different than when I took part in it, where people actually see original local bands now. Toledo makes you so … nuts that someth ing good musically has to come out of it.

TCP: How old were you when you set out for L.A.?

Scott: I was 25.

TCP: What were your goals in setting out for L.A.?

Scott: My goals were to achieve great rock stardom. I felt that I had played with all the people in Toledo that I wanted to play with, and I could either move on and keep growing, or I could stay there and make a decent living and have fun. I always thought that I wanted more out of life.

TCP: What were you doing between the time you left Toledo and the time that you got the call from Rivers? (Rivers Cuomo is Weezer’s frontman.)

Scott: I played in a ton of bands in L.A. I tried to get three or four original projects off the ground, and I played in four or five hired-gun band situations, some of which I can mention and some I cannot … as incriminating evidence. I did a lot of day jobs. I actually got a job in the film industry to pay the rent, and the flexibility of that allowed me to work really hard for a couple of weeks and then not work for a couple of weeks and then concentrate on music. I went on tons of auditions. I auditioned for Ozzy and Lenny Kravitz and a bunch of other smaller artists who had new records out.

TCP: Was it hard to get by as a musician in L.A.?

Scott: Yeah, it’s really hard. There’s intense competition and it’s an expensive town to live in, and if you don’t have a car it’s difficult to get around. It’s not like New York where everyone takes cabs and you can throw a little amp in the car and go to rehearsal or the rehearsal halls have all the gear out there already.

TCP: Did you come back to Toledo much while you were in L.A.?

Scott: Yeah, I’d come back like once a year and see family.

TCP: How much work is being done on album No.5 while you’re on the road?

Scott: There’s a lot of work being done on it outside the band, as far as planning what songs will be on it — different versions of different songs, different approaches and producers and stuff — we have been concentrating mostly on the show this tour where we’re not playing a lot of songs off it [the new album] where [on] previous tours, before “Maladroit” came out, we were playing like three songs off it a night that people didn’t even know. So it was wild. We’ve just dedicated this tour to playing songs that fans want to hear.

TCP: Seeing how you’ve been playing a lot of “Pinkerton” (Weezer’s second album) [on this tour], was that quick for you to pick up?

Scott: The “Pinkerton” stuff took me a little bit because the arrangements are a little more complicated. … We were in Japan when Rivers decided that he wanted to do some of those songs, so I’d usually have like two hours before the show to learn like “Across the Sea” which is a little complicated — it changes a lot more than some of the other stuff. Learning all those songs in all those cover bands in Toledo really developed my ears to the point where I can pick stuff up pretty quick. That was an important skill that I got together. Which comes in handy.

TCP: About album No.5, how much of the material is stuff you wrote or ideas you came up with?

Scott: Rivers is the primary songwriter, [but] Pat and Brian have submitted some songs each to the pot, and Rivers has just started asking me to give him stuff. So everything is in contention right now. The songs have not been picked yet so we’re kinda [in] pre-pre-production. I would say I have a couple of ideas that I am putting in for that.

TCP: Did you see them in L.A.?

Scott: Yes, I saw them play at club Lingerie before they got signed. A friend of mine said, “There’s this band, they’re heavy and super melodic and super trippy and you have to go see them.” And I saw them and they were great. I barely remember what they look like, [but] they looked like nobody else at the time, that’s for sure. [At that time] I was all messed up in the funk-metal thing that was going on, like the Chili Peppers, Fishbone, In Living Color and 24-7 Spies, that was a big scene, and there was a big rap-rock scene too. I was not hooked up in the glam scene at that time. I’ve gone through a lot of different phases and it has ended up benefiting me in some way. Christ, in ’84 I was listening to Duran-Duran and Ultravox and I recovered from that.

TCP: No comment on that.

Scott: (Laughs)

TCP: Are there any plans for Weezer to play Toledo?

Scott: Absolutely not. I wish we would, it’d be so cool. It could happen, because we go out and do these B- or C-market kind of places [as Goat Punishment], but I think it’s so close to all of these other places that we do regularly — Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus — that I couldn’t see us doing a Toledo show. I wish we would, that would be amazing for me.

TCP: Has your dad (local jazz musician Jeff Shriner) or any of your family seen you guys play?

Scott: Actually my dad came on tour with us for a couple of days.

TCP: How was that?

Scott: It was so cool. I wish he could just keep going with us. It’s really fun having him around.

TCP: Do you think Weezer would be open to having a sax player?

Scott: [Laughs] Who knows, maybe I could get him in to do a song on a record. That would be so great. But I don’t see any saxophone coming up in any Weezer songs.

TCP: What kind of bands are you listening to now?

Scott: I was just listening to this Wayne Shorter record, “Foot Prints Live.” And I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz lately. I still listen to a lot of old Weather Report stuff, I really am a bug Jaco [Pastorius] fan. And Joe Zawinul freaks me out with some of the sounds he makes. And I just keep cranking up the Zeppelin.

TCP: Do you have a favorite Zeppelin album?

Scott: “Physical Graffiti.” That whole record just rocks me [so that] I can’t even really stand it. I’ve been listening to that since I was a kid; I listen to it all the time.

TCP: A lot of people like to ask you about how is feels to be the third bassist … is that frustrating to you?

Scott: No. It was at the very beginning but I’m so over it now.

TCP: You don’t have any fans running on stage and putting you in a headlock anymore?

Scott: No, and actually that was a friend of mine. That was not a Weezer fan. … He was on the side of the stage hanging out watching the show, and he just got a little wasted and overjoyed and had to come out and hug me. It was not an agro-event although it had been portrayed as one. He was a friend of mine, and we’ve actually played in a band together for a while, and he was happy to see me up there, and he was standing there watching us, and he just got excited and wanted to jump on me. So he wasn’t trying to hurt me — he was just hanging on me like a small monkey. We’re still friends. That was an interesting day for me — my first show … it was insane.

TCP: What kind of basses do you play? What year are those P-basses?

Scott: My main one, the one that I am absolutely the most in love with, the love of my life, is a 1960 P-bass. That’s my main No. 1 guy. My No. 2 is a 1963 P-bass, No. 3 is a ’68, and I am looking for No. 4 right now. I haven’t been able to find him yet.

TCP: Do you frequent the vintage guitar shops?

Scott: Yeah I do. I have to play about a hundred of ’em to find one that I think is speaking to me directly. It’s a very involved process.

TCP: What’s your favorite Weezer song to play with the group?

Scott: I would say right now it’s “No Other One” off “Pinkerton” — that song just kills me. That’s my first favorite, my second one is “Take Control” off “Maladroit.” I get to sing a lot of that song, and there are parts where I just get to break off.

TCP: If you could cover any song with Weezer, what song would you do?

Scott: Oh geez … That’s really difficult. I’ll say “In My Time of Dying” (a Led Zeppelin staple).

TCP: With “Maladroit” (Weezer’s latest release), Rivers had said that he looked at Weezer’s online bulletin boards a lot for feedback. Do you ever go to the bulletin boards for feedback?

Scott: I do actually look through them once in a while to see what the general vibe is. But I don’t take a whole lot of it too seriously because a lot of people on it are just having fun. I think Rivers checks it out a little more intensely than I do.

TCP: How have the fans been?

Scott: It just keeps getting better all the time. It started out good, and there were some people who were not into me at all, which I expected and understood, but it’s gotten really good lately.

TCP: What’s been your favorite city to tour in?

Scott: I guess lately is has been … Tokyo. It’s such a mind-blowing town to be in. The first time I went to Japan was with these guys. Right now I’ve had the most fun there. It’s just such a head trip. It’s like upside-down land … Happy-faced, bright-faced land. Oh and I f---n’ dig Philly. That’s my favorite U.S. city today. We had the biggest Weezer show ever there.

TCP: So you went to high school in Toledo?

Scott: I went to Start.

TCP: Did you go to college around here?

Scott: No sir, I joined the Marine Corps for two years. I went the summer after high school. It was perfect because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I was just kind of a smoked-up kid through high school, and I didn’t have a lot of direction or self-confidence. The Marine Corps showed me what I was capable of, and by taking all of my freedom away it showed me what it was that I love the most and what I wanted to do. That’s what really gave me my whole direction to focus on playing bass. That’s when I realized that that was what my heart wanted.

TCP: Has your family been supportive of you in your music?

Scott: Amazingly supportive. My mom’s response to people when they ask her if she’s proud of me or not she says that I have always been supportive of my son, Scott. It was never a situation where they frowned on my lifestyle. They’ve been concerned at times, but I’ve always had 100 percent of their support.

TCP: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Scott: I have one sister, Lori, my baby sister, who lives in New York. She writes advertising copy.

TCP: Is she into music?

Scott: She kinda took up guitar and was playing around the city last year. She’s kinda into playing guitar. I’ve always encouraged her because she can sing, and she is pretty musical. I’m her biggest fan.

TCP: Have you ever picked up the guitar?

Scott: Once in a while I’ll grab one. I do most of my writing on guitar, and I’ve thought that I would want to play one on stage. … But bass is my true love. I play a little keyboards as well, I’ve been trying to learn how to do that. I have a modeling synthesizer that I mess around with.

TCP: How much do you guys in the band hang out when you’re not on tour.

Scott: We hang out a decent amount. I hang out with Pat and Brian. We take adventures together, and I actually invited Rivers out for an adventure the other day, which he took me up on, and we had a really nice time in Dallas. We work together so much that when we have days off like today the first thing we’re not doing is calling each other up on the phone … but it happens.

TCP: What do you see in the future, for yourself and the group?

Scott: I see the band continuing to grow and becoming the band it was destined to be. It seems like every tour we go out [on] gets bigger and bigger. So I think with album five … I think album five will be absolutely devastating, and we’ll just be able to reach more and more people, which is my personal goal ... to bring as much rock to the people as possible.

TCP: Sounds like the Manifest Destiny of rock.

Scott: I love that so much. You are stoking me up so much right now.

Weezer finished its summer Enlightenment tour last month. The band was on tour with Dashboard Confessional, Sparta, Rooney, Home Town Hero, AM Radio and The Special Goodness. Weezer also played the Reading Festival, Leeds Festival and opened for Guns ‘N Roses at the London Arena in late August. Weezer is currently heading back into the studio to finish up its fifth studio album.

Mike Saccone is the TCP intern.