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Scott Weiland on the Brink: Rolling Stone's 1997 Cover Story

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Weiland was repeatedly in and out of rehab throughout the rest of '95 and into the spring of '96. "There was a strong part of me that wanted to live," he says, "so I kept trying and trying, no matter how fruitless it was." Meanwhile, Stone Temple Pilots struggled to keep their career on the rails. They started work on Tiny Music twice in 1995 and didn't hand in the finished record to Atlantic until just a month before its March '96 release.

Purple "almost didn't get done," Robert DeLeo notes with lingering dismay. "That record ended up with Dean, Eric and myself and [producer Brendan O'Brien] sitting in a room, saying, 'Do we pack this up?' And it's really a shame, because that very conversation in that very room happened again when we were mixing Tiny Music."

"On Purple," Weiland argues, "I was still at that point with my heroin addiction that I was able to have that false courage to try certain things that I might not have tried otherwise. Because heroin has a numbing effect, it can take you away from something emotionally, where you might have been afraid to expose yourself if you were completely sober. But with the making of Tiny Music, it was a lot harder to focus. You're so numb that it's hard to know what you're feeling at all."

Weiland can hear those feelings now in his lyrics: "In 'Pretty Penny' [on Purple], it seems like an allegorical story about another character. But I think it was more about trying to find my own self. At that time, I was still trying to disguise that I was an addict.

"By the time Tiny Music came out," he says, "people already knew what was going on. It became impossible to hide the pain that I was going through and that I was causing other people. Like in 'Adhesive,' it's pretty blatant about how I felt: 'Sell more records if I'm dead/Purple flowers once again/Hope it's sooner/Hope it's near corporate records' fiscal year."

Weiland's legal status, his struggle to get clean and Stone Temple Pilots' impatience to get back on the road all came to a head last April when the band canceled free thank-you concerts for fans in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — along with a subsequent summer tour — after Weiland failed to show up for rehearsals. Dean DeLeo was so upset that he went with his checkbook to a recording studio that Weiland was building. "He had a bunch of NA [Narcotics Anonymous] guys and a bunch of his so-called friends there who were on his personal payroll," Dean says. "They obviously knew where Scott was. I offered to write 'em all a paycheck and get the fuck out and lock the doors. Let's get the guy help."

At the same time, Weiland was given an ultimatum in court: Go into inpatient treatment or face criminal proceedings. Instead of touring, Weiland spent the summer at Impact while Kretz and the DeLeos made the most of their enforced vacation by recording a side project with singer Dave Coutts, a friend of Weiland and Robert DeLeo's who had been in an '80s L.A. band called Ten Inch Men. (The record, which Robert says does not signal "any intentions of breaking up STP," will come out later this year on Atlantic under a different band name.)

Finally, on Oct. 29, after completing treatment at Impact, Weiland appeared before Los Angeles Superior Court judge Elvira Mitchell to report on his progress. Steven Cron asked that the possession charges be dismissed. The prosecution requested that Weiland be kept in diversion for another 60 days. To the surprise of Weiland and his lawyer, the judge asked Weiland for his opinion. "I had not prepped him for that," says Cron.

"I said, 'It's not anymore about the threat of going to jail; I don't want to live the way I was living,'" Weiland says with relish. "She smiled and said, 'Case dismissed.'"

(Cron says that Weiland's re-entry into rehabilitation will not affect his legal status: "The Pasadena case is over. It was dismissed because he successfully completed the diversion program. It was dismissed and can't be resurrected.")

Weiland has other damage to repair. He declines to speak about the current state of his marriage. "I'll just say I put her through a lot of pain," he says of Jannina, who was his longtime girlfriend before they were married, in September 1994. "We're just trying to make things good again."

But Weiland refuses to become trapped by either sympathy or guilt. "I don't regret drugs at all," he states firmly. "Going through the hell I went through made it possible for me to enjoy life the way I enjoy it now.

"We're only as big," he insists, "as our experiences."

Onstage at the Pepsi Coliseum, in Indianapolis, Scott Weiland introduces "Plush." "This is a song," he says with drop-dead timing, "called 'Meal Ticket.' "It's a different crack every night. In State College, Weiland slathers on the irony: "OK, this is the song you paid 20 bucks for." At the Nutter Center, in Dayton, Ohio, he goes for the abstract touch: "This song is called 'Lead Paint Factory.'"

"Plush" has been both a blessing and a pain in the ass. Stone Temple Pilots' 1993 breakthrough hit and the starting gun for the critical drubbing they've been getting ever since, the song is an enduring reminder that success doesn't mean everybody loves you. "Now I can make jokes about it," Weiland says with a playful gleam in his eyes. Once, at a show in Seattle, he told the audience, "This is the song Pearl Jam wrote for us."

Actually, Robert DeLeo wrote the music for "Plush" in 1989, two years before Pearl Jam released their debut album. "And when I played it for Scott," DeLeo recounts, "he didn't like it. He said, 'It sounds too much like Boston.'"

"You know what the funny thing is?" Weiland asks. "I was on the pro-Nirvana, anti-Pearl Jam bandwagon." He cackles, settling back into his chair and strapping on his seat belt in the private Gulfstream jet that STP rented for gig hopping on this tour. "I didn't get to the point where I respected Pearl Jam as a band until I saw them on Lollapalooza [in 1992], when they played in the middle of the day. Before that I was, 'Pearl Jam? Fakes.'

"I took the same attitude, the same thing people did to me. It's a horrible thing to have someone pretend like they know what you're about and call you a fraud," he says, illustrating his point with a dismissive wave of his hand, "when they haven't given you a fair shot."

"How do you prepare someone for that?" asks Robert DeLeo in a wounded tone that sounds only partly rhetorical. "It's really impossible to tell someone, 'This is what's gonna happen. People are gonna say, "You suck."' It's a bit of a mind fuck."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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