Scott Weiland, the singer of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver who spent much of his life battling substance abuse, is dead at 48.
Weiland, on tour with his group Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, was found dead on his tour bus in Minnesota, as TMZ first reported and the Los Angeles Times confirmed with his wife. The cause of his death was not immediately known.
Much of the world learned of Weiland’s demise from Dave Navarro, famed guitar player of Jane’s Addiction, who tweeted the news. A message confirming his death also appeared on his Instagram account.
Just learned our friend Scott Weiland has died. So gutted, I am thinking of his family tonight.
— Dave Navarro (@DaveNavarro) December 4, 2015
Weiland was to play a show in Rochester, Minn., Friday evening. His show outside of Minneapolis on Thursday was canceled “due to slow ticket sales,” as Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Scott Weiland @MedinaBuzz on Dec. 3 has been canceled. Due to slow ticket sales. Western exurbs of Mpls is not where u'd expect to see Scott
— Jon Bream (@jonbream) November 25, 2015
Weiland came at fame sideways: His most renowned group, Stone Temple Pilots, was at first a Pearl Jam soundalike that many thought eventually transcended tribute-band status. But once the singer found fame on his own terms, his personal demons always made it seem he could squander it at any time. As, indeed, he sometimes did.
“We were written off as the band of disastrous dysfunction with too many personal problems to survive,” Weiland wrote in his 2011 memoir, “Not Dead & Not For Sale.” “Or rather, I was written off as the guy whose hopeless addictions had – and would always – ruin everything for everyone.”
Weiland was born in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1967. His name at birth was Scott Kline; when his parents divorced when he was 2 and his mother remarried, he took his stepfather’s surname. Weiland wrote that his “new dad was a good guy whose middle name was discipline” while his biological one was “a cool dude who drove a Pepsi truck for a living but smoked dope at night and listened to the Doors.”
The singer chose to emulate the latter. Living with his dad during the summer, he chugged his first beers in the sixth grade.
“I liked the feeling of entering an alternate energy field,” he wrote. “I liked the psychological and chemical rearrangement brought on by the alcohol.” By seventh grade, he was drinking alone.
Childhood and adolescence brought further troubles. Weiland was diagnosed with ADD. His mother turned out to be an alcoholic. And at 12, he was raped by a high-school senior.
“This was a memory I suppressed until only a few years ago when, in rehab, it came flooding back,” he wrote in 2011. “… The dude raped me. It was quick, not pleasant. I was too scared to tell anyone.”
Weiland’s mother and stepfather also checked him into a mental hospital for a three-month stay at 16 — without telling him ahead of time. Two policemen and two paramedics showed up at his high school, and whisked him away without explanation.
“Just say what they want you to say, I thought to myself, and get the hell out of here,” he wrote. “‘I am a substance abuser,’ I said. I got out.”
All was not despair, however. A promising quarterback, Weiland was sidelined by an injury when he discovered rock-and-roll. Inspired by the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Echo and the Bunnymen and Queen, he started his own postpunk band that made waves in Orange County before he relocated to Los Angeles.
There and in San Diego, Stone Temple Pilots — or STP, as they came to be known — coalesced. And, as grunge swept the nation — and A&R men swept the nation looking for more of it — the band signed to Atlantic Records in 1992.
“We were ecstatic, but we were also dead serious about crafting and playing the kind of self-reflective rock that we respected,” Weiland wrote. “We weren’t going to do crap; and we weren’t going to be imitators.”
Yet “Core,” STP’s debut, was widely viewed as nothing but imitation. Weiland, with a growl that came very close to that of Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, was the biggest target.
“Yet another ’70s-revival grunge-rock act, the Stone Temple Pilots sound like such Seattleites as Nirvana and Soundgarden, but like Pearl Jam they throw in a little R.E.M. just to be safe,” Mark Jenkins wrote in The Washington Post in 1992. “… Vaguely angry, the Pilots denounce religion, authority and apathy in their lyrics; in the album’s liner notes, the band also attacks mass-media entertainment (hmmm . . .) and the ‘dead and bloated nation of sleepwalkers.’ Their own worldview isn’t much of an alternative, though, and as a musical platform ‘Core’ could hardly be called progressive.”
The band also found itself in a bit of a controversy over the hit single “Sex Type Thing.” Were the song’s lyrics — “I said I wanna get next to you/I said I gonna get close to you/You wouldn’t want me have to hurt you too” — an endorsement of rape?
“Some actually said that we were promoting date rape,” Weiland wrote. “Because the song was written in the voice of the deranged character, there were critics who presumed I was that character. That’s like saying that there’s no difference between a first-person character created by a writer and the writer himself.” To counter criticisms that he was a macho idiot, Weiland would sometimes perform the song in drag, wearing lipstick.
“Core” was not held back by critical slams or concerns about its content, however. The record went on to sell 8 million copies as the band toured and Weiland indulged regularly in alcohol, cocaine, barbiturates and, eventually, heroin.
“I couldn’t imagine my life, especially now that I was an entering into the major leagues of alternative rock, without at least dabbling with the King of Drugs,” he wrote.
His drug use only seemed to spur STP to greater things. Their sophomore effort, “Purple,” became a critical darling.
“Purple, released 20 years ago tomorrow, is the beginning of the rest of this band’s life,” Chris DeVille of Stereogum wrote last year. “They stopped trying to fit in and instead became their truest selves.”
The allure: The record was sort of fun.
“STP didn’t pretend to be meaningful,” DeVille wrote. “Pearl Jam carried themselves like the whole of rock history was on their shoulders — with predictably dour results. In contrast, STP knew they were clowns, and the further they plunged into classic-rock camp, the more their true talents blossomed.”
But things soon went south. Weiland was first arrested in 1995, carrying crack and heroin; STP canceled a summer tour the following year when he was ordered into treatment. After Kurt Cobain’s suicide and the drug-related deaths of many other rockers known for their substance habits, Weiland’s name one of many mentioned as the industry contemplated some kind of official response. His demons also complicated recording sessions for the STP’s next record.
“I was at the height — or depth — of my addiction,” he wrote. “Shooting coke. Shooting heroin, Running down the 101 every third day to L.A. to score and running back.”
The record came out, but the band, sidelined by Weiland’s addiction, couldn’t tour. By his own account, he did 13 stints in rehab between 1995 and 1997. A pattern set in that continued for the rest of the singer’s life: Weiland would enjoy success with STP or Velvet Revolver, his well-received supergroup formed with members of Guns N’ Roses in 2002, then retreat into himself to enter rehab and/or make a solo record. While his bands often went or hiatus or officially split, a reunion always seemed around the corner, and Weiland garnered some praise for his own work.
“The teaming was unexpected but inspired — 12 Bar Blues is an unpredictable, carnivalesque record confirming that Weiland was the visionary behind STP’s sound,” AllMusic wrote of “12 Bar Blues,” Weiland’s 1998 solo debut.
In recent years, Weiland appeared to be moving away from the band that made him famous. After a reunion in 2008, he was fired by STP in 2013. No explanation was given — the band had been arguing on and off for years. Indeed, Weiland said he had not been fired at all.
“There were some hurt egos,” he said at the time. “But that’s the way it is. No one has ever fired anybody in STP. We’re like a family. It’s also a partnership. I started the band. We’ve always kept things going. We’ve taken time off before. They’ve done their own projects and I fully support that. No one has been fired and I haven’t quit. That’s all hearsay.”
At the time of his death, Weiland was on tour to promote “Blaster,” what would prove to be his final album, released earlier this year. Rolling Stone’s headline summed-up critics’ view: “A once-great rock frontman gets reduced to tiring self-parody.”
Weiland, who once very sincerely made a Christmas album, likely would have rejected that notion.
“In the end, I’m happy … stomping through the rainy mud of my childhood,” he wrote. “Happy to remember the crazy chaos of a life dedicated to music and nearly destroyed by drugs. Happy to stop and put pencil to paper and, as best I can, mark my journey to this point.”
Susan Hogan contributed to this report, which was updated through the night.