“You can’t sum up somebody like this,” Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke says of rock legend Scott Weiland, who died on Thursday at age 48. “Because, fact is, they weren’t done.” In the above video interview, Fricke reflects on Weiland’s resiliency – through drug battles, harsh media criticism and personal demons – and his musical legacy as the dynamic frontman for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.
Fricke wasn’t always an STP fan. In his 1993 Rolling Stone review of Nirvana’s In Utero, he snuck in a jab at Weiland’s band, who’d been derided by many critics as “Pearl Jam wannabes.” But Fricke changed his mind after watching the band open for the Butthole Surfers – and, later, meeting them backstage after a show at Madison Square Garden.
“I realized there was a lot more there than a lot of people were willing to take the time to hear,” he says, recalling his first encounter with the quartet. “They were totally cool; they were totally up for it. But they were also rightly suspicious. It was like, ‘OK, Rolling Stone, you’ve taken a lot of shots at us.’ … And I said, ‘Man, I fucked up!’ [The STP insult] is the only thing I’ve ever written that I wish I could take back. They said, ‘OK. You’re the first guy who’s actually admitted that you screwed up and you didn’t listen.'”
Fricke had many conversations with Weiland over the years, and the rock star was equally frank about his problems and musical aspirations. During a plane trip on the band’s first tour, Weiland opened up about his true hero, David Bowie: “He’s the guy I aspire to be,” Fricke says, channeling the rock star. “Someone who’s a great actor, who could act through his songs, who wrote songs that had stories in them, who could be a chameleon and change, who could make art that was more than a just couple of hooks and some power chords.
“That’s what he aspired to,” Fricke continues. “Maybe he didn’t hit it every time. Maybe if you look at the bulk of his work, there are records that are just nutty. But at the same time, he never quit trying … And that’s what great artists do.”