Interview: Mary Forsberg Weiland
Thu, 19 Nov 2009 14:07:10
Mary Forsberg Weiland has got quite the tale to tell.
In her book, Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll & Mental Illness, she chronicles her extraordinary life with equal shades of whimsy, humor, honesty and hope. From an international modeling career and her marriage to legendary Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland to struggles with mental illness and addiction, Mary has crafted a poignant and essential portrait of growing up. It's impossible not to identify with many of the moments in this tome—some heartbreaking, some hilarious, all real. It's easily one of the most powerful books you will read this year.
Mary sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for a deep and exclusive interview about Fall to Pieces and much more….
Fall to Pieces preserves a real childlike sense of honesty, and it really draws the reader in. The sections about your childhood are particularly powerful.
Well, I don't hold back [Laughs]. A lot of people really related to that. I had a lot of close friends who said, "Wow, I had no idea, and I can't believe how many similarities we had in our childhoods." There are going to be good dinner conversations with a lot of my girlfriends that I never had before [Laughs].
What was it like to reach that far back into your life and re-live it for the book?
Well, to be honest, my memory is horrible, but the things I do remember, I remember really well. Because I have a horrible memory, I did a lot of research on myself. I talked to a lot of people and had to ask a lot of questions because I'd remember something but it'd be a little bit off. So I had to go to other people to have them fill in the blanks. That's what I did a lot. I literally interviewed people about me. I'd be like, "I need to know about four-year-old me, can you tell me that? I have this in my head, but is that right?" I learned a lot about myself.
Did you feel like you were learning about yourself through other people's filters or once they started talking did you begin remembering?
Yeah, a lot of stuff triggers memories. Music will trigger. A song can make your wheels start turning and you can go to a certain place. I use music as the soundtrack for my life, and there are different places and ages where certain music played a big role. It does help you remember.
Music can catalog a whole time too.
It totally can! Just think about the '90s for example. There's a song for every six months.
The '90s gave birth to the last rock n' roll revolution, and you got a front row seat.
My generation is just lucky! We got something amazing. I'd be bummed out to be young right now. It doesn't inspire.
The filmmakers and bands from the early '90s took risks, most artists play it too safely these days.
Yeah, and this generation is also missing out on music videos that bands actually had input on. That was a great way to connect with a band—now, not so much. I loved all of the Stone Temple Pilots videos. My favorite was "Sex Type Thing." It was the first one, and it was so exciting to see Scott on TV. I was like, "Oh my God, he's on TV!" It could've been anything, and I would've thought "Wow!" [Laughs]
Was it hard to balance some of the book's humor with a lot of the serious subject matter?
My family—especially my mom and my siblings—has this whacky sense of humor where a tragedy occurs and we're making a joke of it. It was hard for me to not make as many jokes as I did because I didn't want it to be a comic book. But, I can't take myself that seriously. You have to laugh at yourself. Also, I didn't want to write a medical dictionary. The reason I set out to do this is I wanted to get the word out on "Bipolar," try to reduce the scariness of the words "mental illness," talk about addiction and hopefully help people but I didn't want to put them in a coma. So I had to throw in little celebrity bits and make it funny, because I don't want to read a medical journey.
The book plays out like a movie. It's very visual and cinematic. Were you watching any films while writing?
Thank you! It's music! Sometimes I would write with my headphones on, and it makes for a mess. You go back and you read what you wrote and go, "Really? I'm going to fix that!" [Laughs] But music inspires. You can connect with a past memory through a certain song, and that was really helpful.
What were you primarily listening to while writing?
STP is going to be an obvious band! I was also listening to different songs from different periods of my life. If I knew there was a song out during a certain time, I'd listen to it a lot. "It's So Easy" from Appetite for Destruction was one. It still stirs up the exact same thing that it did years ago. After Noah was born, it was some Radiohead. If it was an intense moment, I needed something to be intense. There was my Metallica moment too, and I'm embarrassed to say, there was a Winger moment in there [Laughs]. There's the side of me that's a rock chick, and then there's a slow jam side to me—the whole hip hop, Lisa Lisa side [Laughs]. There's so much that doesn't belong on my iPod. It's not necessary [Laughs].
There haven't been very many books that cataloged LA during this period. You cover the club scene, the rock scene and the movie scene. Did all of these worlds blend together?
I think they are separate, but I think I have good crossover. I have this group of friends, and then I have this group of friends. Part of that comes from moving so much in Junior High and High School. I could always make new friends wherever I went, and I never had a specific crowd that I hung with. I was pretty friendly with just about everybody. That came with me to LA, and I don't want to limit myself.
You chronicle a lot of important historical moments in pop culture too. You give these events all a warm, human perspective.
It's funny to think of it that way, but in a sense, yeah! Sometimes, I can't believe what my life is. I still think of myself as the girl from San Diego. I feel like I look at whatever craziness there is from another point of view. It's not as though I'm in it, but I'm looking at it and experiencing it in a different way than the person standing next to me is. That's the way that I can express what I was going through and what I saw as opposed to what I was sitting next to.
Throughout your life you have the same excitement—from your first modeling trip to New York to the birth of your children. It's very engaging.
I've got a wide range of emotions [Laughs]. Sometimes they're too intense.
You don't change throughout the entire story though.
I feel like the same girl still. I feel like the four-year-old me. I've obviously grown and matured, but I think the four-year-old Mary and I are the same person.
You've got to hold on to that childhood passion and whimsy because that's what makes life fun. That's one powerful message in the book.
When you get to a certain age and you stop dreaming, life changes, and I don't think it's for the better. I like to try to keep what I can. I struggled for a long time in different periods in my life, but I always try to create a new dream for myself so I have something to look forward to.
This is a great coming-of-age book for girls.
I would hope so! I think there's a lot of myth in what it is to be a fabulous girl, and I'd like to try to break a lot of that because it's not what got me to where I eventually got. Some of the things that you think are going to make you…not so much. Had I read my book as a younger person, I probably would've relaxed a little bit [Laughs].
Well, it's a never ending search for self that everybody goes through. That's in your book.
I still am too. I hope that I'm always looking for more. I don't want to be content with whatever the moment is. You can be content with it for a minute, and then you've got to move on. You stay grateful and appreciate what's happening though of course.
Would you want to write another book?
I actually have two more ideas. I want to go back to school. I started school and then I started this book. I want to finish school and hopefully move into drug and alcohol counseling and see where that goes. As you know, trying to find time to write a book and do anything else is sleepless nights! I didn't sleep very much writing this. I wrote at night because you can't really write with kids running around [Laughs].
Is there anything that you want people to take away from the book on a philosophical level?
I think it would be great—and I don't know if someone is going to get this from actually reading it or if they need this information when they read it—but I put a lot of love into this book, whether it was for my family, for Scott, for my kids or somebody else that might be going through what I went through. It grew from love—trying to be authentic and hoping that somebody could connect. That was what I took with me every day when I sat down to write. I think it's a special vibe to have now when there are so many negative things out there.
It's a very special book! Everyone comes to life inside of it too.
I was trying to make people that people could see!
Are there any STP songs that you've always identified with?
I love "Kitchenware and Candybars." I love "Adhesive" too. I'm really into Shangri-LA DEE DA. There were a lot of Scott and Mary songs—it's not necessarily because of that, but I thought it was a really amazing album and they just went to a different place. I think Scott's brilliant! He's an amazing songwriter, and he's an amazing frontman. He aims to entertain and give you honesty. He's a really honest person. When he goes to do a show, he's going to give you your money's worth. Their idols were different. David Bowie would give you a show, and Scott loves Bowie. They give more.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…