In remembrance of Scott Weiland
SCOTT RICHARD WEILAND
10/27/67 – 12/3/15
I woke up today to 17 missed calls and 43 text messages.
It’s cliché to say that bad news is like a punch to the gut, but that’s exactly what it felt like. Scott Weiland was more than the deeply talented frontman for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver; more than the poster child for ‘90s rock ‘n’ roll excess; more than a rock star – the man was a bona-fide, once-in-a-generation ICON.
In the coming days, there will be formulaic recaps of his career, tasteless Twitter jokes about his lifestyle, weepy elegies to the lost promise of ‘90s rock, brainy think pieces and a lot of “I told you so”. All of that is okay. It’s human nature. It’s what people do when someone famous dies young.
But for some of us, it’s much deeper. Scott’s music touched us the way only the best art can. It resonated with us and helped form who we are. I’m firmly in this camp.
I’m in the latter camp not only because I loved his music, but because I was his guitarist and friend in the ‘90s.
I met Scott shortly after STP had their first really big hit with “Plush”. At the time, all of us oh-so-cool rock ‘n’ rollers dismissed him as a weak Eddie Vedder clone. People forget that this was a common attitude about STP at the time (of course, he went on to make us jealous haters eat our words). Scott came to see a band I was in at a small club in Los Angeles. After the set, I was hanging out with a bandmate in the parking lot and we see Scott approaching. “Ugh, that’s the dude from that Stone Temple band – what the hell does he want?” Scott came up to us gushing about our set and being so charming, so funny and so intelligent that we felt like asses for our stupid, uninformed opinion of him. I liked him immediately.
A few months later he invited me to join his side project, The Magnificent Bastards.
Working with Scott was a revelatory experience. The man was so effortlessly talented it seemed supernatural. Scott could take the most boneheaded, 2-note riff and put a vocal on it that turned it into an instant classic. That’s the mark of the truly gifted. Creating unbelievably powerful rock music was like breathing for him. Make no mistake – as a frontman, Scott Weiland is in the same league as Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop and David Bowie. The man was simply that good.
We did some recordings for various albums, jammed a lot, wrote some songs – but mostly we had a great time. He’d laugh about the dumbest stuff and had a lust for life that was absolutely infectious.
He also had a drug problem. A serious one.
Scott Weiland’s struggles with drugs are well-documented and I’m not going to recap them here. Suffice to say that he could be surrounded by a drug-induced wall that prevented him from connecting with those around him. If I was annoyed by it as one of his musician buddies, it must have been absolute hell for his family and those who were truly close to him.
Even with this crippling addiction to contend with, Scott’s kindness was always evident. He was an extremely big-hearted, generous guy who would show up unannounced and take you to a restaurant you could never afford or surprise you with a gift of incredible vintage clothing that just happened to fit perfectly (I found out later that Scott had my girlfriend send him all my sizes).
When my grandfather died, the first visitor to show up at my house was Scott Weiland. He didn’t simply call to say “sorry man” – he drove to my house to give me a hug. This was at the height of his fame. That’s the sort of person he was.
I’ll never forget when he showed up to rehearsal in a pristine, cherry red 1965 Mustang convertible. He had just bought it as a surprise gift for his first wife. Scott was in drag that day, but that’s a tale for another time…
I lost touch with Scott in the ‘90s. Our lives were on very different paths, but I followed his career with special interest. I was so happy for him when Velvet Revolver formed, but by then it was apparent that he was still unable to kick his demons. That thought is almost too depressing to contemplate. Mostly, I hoped that the fun-loving, music-obsessed guy I knew was still inside him. I’m positive it was.
As I write this, Scott’s cause of death has yet to be publicly disclosed. It really doesn’t matter what killed him. Will his loss be more or less meaningful if he overdosed? He’s gone and we’re left with his music as his permanent legacy.
All I know is that when I knew him, he desperately wanted out from under his drug addiction. It’s crazy the way we lionize drug use among the creative class and especially rock stars. It’s a passé attitude for the 21st century. Let’s leave the image of the “elegantly wasted” rock star in the dustbin of history with leisure suits and 8-track tapes.
If you want to honor the legacy of Scott Weiland, commit to a deeper understanding about the nature of addiction. If you need help, seek it. If you don’t, help someone who does. But don’t forget to crank up some classic Stone Temple Pilots jams while you’re doing so.
Farewell, Scott. The world is much less interesting without you in it.
JEFF NOLAN – HARD ROCK INTERNATIONAL 12/4/15