Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart
The first 20 years of my career were spent in radio; programming, music, marketing, promotions, building teams, overseeing events, building new stations, and I had the unique privilege of meeting and interviewing over a thousand alternative rock artists and bands. Most were fantastic, some were terrible, many were fun, and a couple of them were haunting. One of them was Scott Weiland.
The news of his death has been met with mixed reactions. Grief, of course; but much of the feelings being shared are sprinkled with comments about the lack of surprise. He battled drug addition his entire adult life, so many aren’t surprised he died young. We often call them demons, as if they aren’t to be given the same care and respect we give a physical injury or chronic illness and that’s wrong!
I first heard Scott’s band Stone Temple Pilots in 1993. It was thick and melodic; the lyrics haunting and later telling of a tortured soul searching for peace. It was a time when grunge had slid into a rebirth of bombastic arena rock drenched in glam and escape. It was a release from the angst of Nirvana and Alice in Chains while borrowing some of their tones and feeling.
Scott was the showman, the clown, the sad man, a riveting force on stage with his lizard dance. He was an artistic man who couldn’t quench his never ending thirst for harmony in the pit of his soul and much of it was right out there for the world to watch. I saw him perform five times. He was mesmerizing.
I met Scott in 1999 when I was at The Edge in Toronto. The band came into our street-level studio for an interview and to perform acoustically. The original plan was three songs. Between the fourth and fifth, Scott came over to me and said; “Sorry for hoggin’ your studio, man.” I said; “You guys are welcome to play all night.”
The studio was about 600 square feet. We were crammed in there; it was as if the biggest band on the planet was performing in our living room.
Interstate Love Song
Meeting him afterward, he was exactly what you’d expect; arrogant and dismissive, he could hardly make eye contact yet screaming for attention. He was the star of the show shrouded in a cloak of debilitating self-doubt. As we were gathering for dinner, he turned and looked right at me and said; “Do you like the new album?” I said; “Yes I do.”
He paused like the kid waiting for mom to approve his latest finger painting. Not to be over dramatic, but I felt like I saw a glimmer of Scott rather than the lead singer of a band. A second later, the rock star reappeared and he said; “Cool, thanks dude” and he got into the van. At dinner, he was the life of the party. I suspect sitting quietly wasn’t his strong suit.
A while later, STP band mates Eric Kretz and Robert & Dean DeLeo were in town with their side project Talk Show. Scott was serving time in prison. The pain his brothers felt for him was palpable. After dinner, we talked for hours. It was a human moment, not a radio programmer hanging with rock stars’ moment.
During that period, it was funny that I seem to run into Dean and Robert in the oddest places; at a video shoot in LA, a festival in Atlanta, and a show in NYC. They are lovely people certainly missing their family member.
During and after STP, Scott had Velvet Revolver, Camp Freddy, The Magnificent Bastards, The Wondergirls, and Art of Anarchy. He was found just before his band The Wildabouts were to hit the stage at a show in Bloomington, Minnesota; still on the road, still chasing and running, while the adoring fans cheered on.
We know Scott Weilland because he was famous but his struggle was far too common.
Like millions, I loved his music; still do. We didn’t know how to have the right conversation of the struggle he and far too many others are facing. This is not a story of yet another drug induced rock star found on a tour bus. This is a lesson that what we see in front of us is often not what is there at all.
Scott Richard Weiland–Rest in peace. Oct 27, 1967 – Dec 3, 2015
Originally published on knealemann.com
Photo from author