Two days after Scott Weiland, the former singer of Stone Temple Pilots, was found dead in his bunk on a tour bus in Bloomington, Minnesota, the band’s guitarist Dean DeLeo was in his car when the radio started blasting “Creep,” from STP’s 1992 debut album, Core. “It really hit me hard,” DeLeo says of the song, a grinding ballad of bitter surrender on which Weiland delivers the devastating hook – “I’m half the man I used to be” – with a visceral conviction.
“It took me right back to when we cut the track,” the guitarist goes on, recalling how STP – Dean, Weiland, drummer Eric Kretz and bassist Robert DeLeo, Dean’s younger brother – nailed “Creep” in one evening at Rumbo Recorders in Los Angeles. “We started after dinner and listened back to it around 11:30. We had all these candles lit in the control room. The five of us” – the band and producer Brendan O’Brien – “all looked at each other just as the song finished. We knew we had captured something.”
Dean also notes something O’Brien told him after Weiland’s death, as they reminisced about the Core sessions: “Brendan said, ‘When that cat walked up to the mic, I knew we had a hit record.'”
Core sold more than 8 million copies in the U.S., establishing Weiland as one of the most popular and commanding voices of the Nineties grunge uprising. It also marked the start of Weiland’s ricochet between rock-superstar glory and abject crisis, including severe heroin addiction, repeated trips to rehab, jail time, two failed marriages and broken musical relationships. Over two spells with STP, the singer made six albums that sold more than 20 million copies worldwide; he also had a Number One album in 2004 with Velvet Revolver, a liaison with members of Guns n’ Roses.
But Velvet Revolver fired Weiland in 2008, citing “increasingly erratic” behavior. In 2013, after a tumultuous reunion, the other members of STP issued a statement in which they “officially terminated” Weiland. “It wasn’t spontaneous by any means,” Kretz insists, defending that action. “He was making choices, and they were all going bad.” The three toured and recorded with Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington until November 9th, when Bennington announced he was returning to his other band.
Weiland’s death on December 3rd at age 48 came far from the limelight – as he struggled to promote a recent album, Blaster, with his latest band, the Wildabouts, in clubs and small halls. Authorities in Minnesota had not issued a cause of death by press time. But Bloomington police reported finding several prescription medications on Weiland’s bus as well as two bags of a substance later identified as cocaine.
Jamie Weiland, Scott’s third wife, says her husband was drinking heavily “before he left on this tour. He did tell me, ‘I’m going to get it together.'” She joined him on the road for a week in November and says Scott was “just killing it” onstage, “every night taking it up a notch.”