Scott Weiland, the troubled and gifted lead singer of alt-rock icons Stone Temple Pilots passed away last night at the age of 48. Here is a look back at a tumultuous lifetime of hits, arrests, restarts and indelible music.
The future alt-rock chart-topper was born Scott Richard Kline in San Jose, California. His parents, Sharon and Kent, divorced two years later, and Weiland took his stepfather Dave’s last name when he was five.
According to a 1993 SPIN article, Scott Weiland had been playing in bands since he was 15 and met bassist Robert DeLeo at a Black Flag concert in Long Beach. After recruiting DeLeo's brother Dean on guitar and Eric Kretz on drums, the group recorded a demo as Mighty Joe Young. The name, however, already belonged to a blues musician, so the band chose Shirley Temple's Pussy as an alternative. After signing with Atlantic Records in 1989, the band was pressured to rename again, settling on Stone Temple Pilots to maintain the STP initials.
Powered by two huge singles, "Plush" and "Creep," the band's debut, produced by Brendan O'Brien, shot to Number Three. It eventually went 8 times platinum and remains the band's best selling album. During the time, the band would endure comparisons to another brooding West Coast band — but not the one they expected. "It's funny, when we were recording the record, I was listening to a lot of Doors, and I was worried about the fact that people would say I was trying to sounds like Jim Morrison," Weiland told Rolling Stone in 1994. "I never thought there was going to be this Pearl Jam Thing. I never thought it would blow up the way it has."
Again working with O'Brien, the band quickly recorded their follow-up, which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and stayed there for three weeks — the longest run of any any alt-rock album that year. As the singles "Vasoline" and "Interstate Love Song" dominated mainstream and alternative rock radio, Purple seemed to indicate that STP was here to stay.
At the peak of his band's success, Weiland married his longtime girlfriend Janina Castenada, who already was the inspiration for more than one STP song: the love song "Still Remains" and the the apology song "Lounge Fly." "I love my wife more than anything in the world — I love being married," Weiland told Rolling Stone in 1995. "Marriage used to scare the shit out of me. Now it doesn't."
Weiland's drug problems became public when he was charged with possession of cocaine and heroin after a California drug bust. He avoided jail time after agreeing to a counseling program. "I am in the process of getting sober," he told Rolling Stone's Erin Culley in June of 1995. "I want to be happy again, and I'm going to do something about it before it kills me or fucks up everything in my life." He was optimistic about the future: "I took the time that I felt I needed to chill and become a human being again, and now I need to do something musical. … Musically, right now, I feel like I'm in a birth period, and I don't want to just let it slip by. Songs come in a wave, and right now I'm on a nice, big, long board. I'm not going to let them pass me by."
On their third album, the band's sound evolved in a glammier, poppier direction. Tiny Music was in step with the brighter mood of mid-Nineties alt-rock and demonstrated STP's stylistic range, eventually winning over critics who'd originally been dismissive.
Weiland's drug problem and legal run-ins made touring difficult for the band. By the end of '96 they made it pretty much impossible. STP was forced to turn down an opening slot on the much-ballyhooed Kiss reunion tour, and then canceled their own headlining tour dates. "Scott called and said, 'I'm fucking up — I need help,'" STP guitarist Dean DeLeo toldRolling Stone in 1997. "When I talked to him, I could hear his condition. He said, 'I'm going into treatment.' I said, 'I'd love to believe that.' And on Monday, he checked himself in."
Stone Temple Pilots' hiatus led to no shortage of musical output: The Weiland-less musicians, alongside Ten Inch Men lead singer Dave Coutts, put out a record as Talk Show in 1997, and Weiland soon followed with his first solo LP. The Daniel Lanois-assisted 12 Bar Blues was expansive and winding, veering far beyond the constraints of alt-rock radio. "12 Bar Blues isn't really a rock album, or even a pop album," David Fricke wrote in a 3.5-star review for Rolling Stone."Weiland, out on his own, has simply made an honest album – honest in its confusion, ambition and indulgence." "I feel lucky to be alive," Weiland told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that year. "Life doesn't make any sense unless you can enjoy the journey, and sometimes I take that for granted. But I try not to do that now. I try to learn from my mistakes."
This OD served as the third probation violation on Weiland's 1997 conviction for heroin possession. Under California's "three strikes" law, this meant a mandatory prison stint. On August 13, a day after STP performed a concert in Las Vegas, a Los Angeles County judge sentenced Weiland to a year in prison. He served a little over four months, spending most of the term in the L.A. Sheriff's Department's Biscaluz Recovery Center, and was paroled on December 30. In an early 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, Weiland described his experience in Biscaluz as an ultimately positive one. "I felt I was achieving something after I had been there a month and a half," he said. "They say that in order for [sobriety] to work, you have to surrender. It happened over a period of time, being locked down, dealing with fear of the unknown. But once I surrendered, stopped trying to control everything, I started getting peace of mind."
After the tumultuous hiatus, the band reunited for 1999's No. 4. The effort was something of a back-to-basics move; many of its tracks, most notably piledriving first single, "Down," would have fit much more comfortably on Core than Tiny Music. But the album also featured the gentle, largely acoustic "Sour Girl," which Weiland wrote about the collapse of his marriage to first wife, Janina Castaneda. The song, fueled by Weiland's straightforward, emotive vocal, went on to be their only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
Weiland got married for the second time, tying the knot with model Mary Forsberg. Their son Noah was born that November and their daughter Lucy followed in July 2002. The couple split up in 2007. Forsberg recounted their tumultuous marriage, marked by drug and physical abuse, in her 2009 book, Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll and Mental Illness.
In the early hours of November 20, 2001, Weiland was arrested at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas — where Stone Temple Pilots was performing — on domestic violence charges, following an incident in which the singer repeatedly pushed his wife Mary into a wall in their hotel room during an argument over a prescription medication. Weiland spent 12 hours in jail, then returned to the stage that night after posting $3,000 bail. On December 19, Weiland pleaded guilty in a Las Vegas justice court to domestic battery charges. In exchange for the guilty plea, Weiland was fined, sentenced to six months’ probation and directed to attend 26 counseling sessions with his wife.
Stone Temple Pilots' fifth album, Shangri-La Dee Da, came out of sessions where the band hung out at a Malibu mansion, bouncing ideas off one another in a lower-pressure environment than the ones surrounding their previous records. Weiland, who was clean, was particularly energized by the reboot: "There was that innocence there again," he told the Toronto Star in the summer of 2001. "And that's one thing I've always really missed, with all the success we've had, and longed for, the days in the beginning, when we were making our first record and touring our first album. The innocence that was there when everything was just so beautiful and exciting and every experience was new, and even the fears and the pains were new." The brisk, poppy "Days of the Week," which undercut its catchiness with self-lacerating lyrics about addiction, was a minor hit on modern rock radio.
After being pulled over in Burbank on May 17th for driving without headlights on, police noticed drug paraphernalia in a car in which Weiland was a passenger. He and the driver, a 29-year-old woman, were arrested and later charged with cocaine and heroin possession. At his court appearance Weiland pleaded innocent and said he would enter a rehab program to seek treatment.
At 6:37 a.m. on his 36th birthday, Weiland was taken in by Los Angeles police after his BMW struck a parked van. He was promptly arrested for driving under the influence and released on bail later in the day.
Following the commercial underperformance of Shangri-La Dee Da and a difficult 2002 tour which saw Stone Temple Pilots management demand that the backstage areas of the venues the band played be kept alcohol- and drug-free by security (and which was reportedly capped by an altercation between Weiland and Dean DeLeo during the final show of the tour), STP fell apart. While no official breakup announcement was made at the time, the Atlantic’s release of the greatest hits package Thank You made it pretty clear that the band was over, at least for the time being.
Weiland rebounded by forming a supergroup with three former members of Guns N' Roses: guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. Dave Kushner, who had played in Dave Navarro's band, rounded out the lineup as rhythm guitarist. "Everyone in this band has been strung out," Slash told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We've all managed to function one way or another, although it's been difficult. [Weiland is] an amazing singer, an amazing lyricist. He shows up every day and wants to work." Weiland later recounted in his memoir, Not Dead and Not For Sale, that he was initially reluctant to join the supergroup — "Sounds like a lot of egos," he told his wife at the time — but that the money involved made him put his reservations aside. Ultimately, he said, he "was blown away by the powerful chemistry between us."
Velvet Revolver's first album made a big splash, debuting at Number One on the Billboard 200 and spinning off a sizeable rock hit with "Slither." Critics were kind: "The bulk of Contraband (skip the power ballads) is vicious, unapologetic Sunset Strip glam-metal classicism – the kind of dynamite deja vu that almost makes you believe in the word 'supergroup' again," RS wrote in its year-end list of 2004's best albums. The LP was released during a relatively calm time in Weiland's life, which found him living in a group home in California with an 11:30 P.M. curfew as part of court-ordered rehab. "I'm tired of being a good boy," he told Rolling Stone's Gavin Edwards. "If it were up to me, I wouldn't be living in a sober fraternity house." Nonetheless, he said that he'd stayed completely clean for the past six months, and had used heroin "only…three or four times in the last year." "I'm sick of talking about heroin and cocaine," he said. "I'm sick of talking about what it's like to be in the back of a cop car."
Libertad's highlights included "For a Brother," Weiland's sorrowful tribute to the sibling he lost to a drug overdose between Contraband and this album. In his RS review, David Fricke said that Velvet Revolver's "rocket-guitar racket" was "more compelling than most current woe-is-me punk and emo," and noted their cover of ELO's "Can't Get It Out of My Head," suggesting that it might be "Weiland's way of describing the daily battles he still fights with his own dark impulses."
After crashing his car and refusing to take a mandatory sobriety test to determine if he was driving under the influence with a prior conviction, Weiland was arrested and later sentenced to eight days in jail. By now, his bandmates in Velvet Revolver had had enough: A few months later, in April 2008, they kicked him out of the supergroup, citing "increasingly erratic on-stage behavior and personal problems."
Weiland's second album, "Happy" In Galoshes, took on the tumult going on in his life — the split with his wife Mary Forsberg, the 2007 death of his brother Michael (who had played percussion on Weiland's 1998 solo album 12 Bar Blues) and his mother's cancer diagnosis. "I need adversity to write," he told the New York Post around the album's release. "Rock guys can't look sensitive," he added. "You have to look tough, but it's really a myth, a mask. Maybe that's why all the real emotion ends up in my songs." Rolling Stone gave the album 3.5 stars, with David Fricke citing "Weiland's passion for another chameleon, David Bowie" as the driving force behind tracks like the spindly "She Sold Her System."
STP kicked off a 75-date comeback tour in 2008 with a private show outside Harry Houdini's estate in Los Angeles. In a few early shows, several of Weiland's early performances were erratic, with the singer missing lyrics and stumbling around onstage, leading to rumors of his continued drug and alcohol use. Overall, however, the tour was well-reviewed, well-received and financially successful.
"I always felt it would happen," Weiland said of the band's first album in nine years. "We left things incomplete." He insisted on recording all his vocals at his own Lavish Studios, miles away from his old bandmates – but the album's poppy hooks and Bowie echoes received positive reviews. "The sunshine is overdue, but it suits them," David Fricke wrote in his RS review, in which he called the album STP's "most focused record since 1992's critically abused Core." In an unsettling sign, Weiland told RS' Austin Scaggs that he wasn't fully on the wagon: "I drink sometimes, yeah. Whiskey. But I don't do any other drugs."
Drawing from the classic holiday songbook, Weiland recorded crooning takes on "White Christmas," "Silent Night" and more. His lounge-y version of Bing Crosby's "I'll Be Home for Christmas" featured him wearing vintage military garb in a surreal accompanying video. He told Rolling Stone: "These songs, however they are stylized, have been done and redone by so many different people — yet people love to listen to them every holiday season. It's something that I want to just be part of."
One year after his ex-wife Mary Forsberg recounted their tumultuous marriage in her memoir Fall to Pieces, Weiland teamed up with David Ritz to share his side of the story. Not Dead & Not for Sale: A Memoir is an unflinching look at the rise of Stone Temple Pilots along with the horrific drug addiction that lead to the band's premature demise. "I've relived pains as well as the highest of heights," Weiland wrote in the preface. "I've felt deflated and elated to dig through the cobwebs to expire the why's and why not's."
The book seethes with frustration. "Every time I try to catch up with my life, something stops me," he writes in the book's opening sentence. "Different people making claims on my life. Old friends telling me new friends aren't true friends. All friends trying to convince me that I can't survive without them." The book received mixed reviews, with some critics feeling he glossed over key parts of his life.