Scott Weiland, rocker, lyricist and self-described ‘tenacious drug addict,’ dead at 48

Scott Weiland, singer for the rock band Stone Temple Pilots, right, and bass player Robert DeLeo perform during their concert as part of Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio. Weiland, the former frontman for the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, has died. He was 48. (Paul Vernon / Associated Press file photo/2008) Source: AP
Scott Weiland, singer for the rock band Stone Temple Pilots, right, and bass player Robert DeLeo perform during their concert as part of Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio. Weiland, the former frontman for the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, has died. He was 48. (Paul Vernon / Associated Press file photo, 2008)

By Randall Roberts
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
Scott Weiland, the charismatic rock vocalist who first gained fame with the multi-platinum 1990s Los Angeles rock band Stone Temple Pilots, has died. The singer, who rose as part of the grunge-rock scene that also spawned Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, was found unresponsive in a parked RV in Minnesota while on tour.

Weiland and his band, the Wildabouts, were scheduled to perform a concert at the Medina Entertainment Center in Hamel, Minn. The cause of death is unknown.

Jamie Weiland, the singer’s wife, confirmed the news of his death to The Times in a brief conversation Thursday.

“I can’t deal with this right now,” she said, sobbing. “It’s true.”

A statement on Weiland’s Facebook page posted Thursday night said Weiland had “passed away in his sleep while on a tour stop in Bloomington, Minnesota.”

“At this time we ask that the privacy of Scott’s family be respected,” the statement said.

Reports of Weiland’s death began to circulate after fellow rocker Dave Navarro tweeted: “Just learned our friend Scott Weiland has died. So gutted, I am thinking of his family tonight.” That tweet later appeared to have been removed.

Late Thursday, the Bloomington Police Department issued a news release confirming a death: “Bloomington police officers responded to a hotel in the 2200 block of Killebrew Drive on a report of an unresponsive adult male in a recreational motor vehicle. Officers arrived and determined the adult male was deceased.” The department declined to identify the victim pending further investigation.

The Grammy-winning singer, 48, had a strikingly long career considering his struggles with addiction. He earned continued success after leaving Stone Temple Pilots in 2002, when he helmed the multi-platinum supergroup Velvet Revolver.

As the news spread across social media, musicians lined up to pay their respects on Twitter.

“Extremely saddened to have read Scott Weiland passed. Such a gifted performer. My thoughts are with your loved ones, friends & fans,” wrote Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.

Singer and songwriter Ryan Adams honored Weiland with a YouTube clip of Stone Temple Pilots’ video for “Sour Girl.” Wrote Adams, “Universe, please take care of him.”

Weiland’s death is the second to hit his band this year.

Guitarist Jeremy Brown died of multiple-drug intoxication March 30, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. Brown’s death came the day before the band released its debut album. He was 34.

In “Not Dead & Not For Sale,” his 2011 autobiography (with David Ritz), Weiland wrote at great length about the allure of the wild life when he was a rising artist: “I associated heroin with romance, glamour, danger, and rock ‘n roll excess.”

“The opiate took me to where I’d always dreamed of going,” he told Spin magazine in 2011. “I can’t name the place, but I can say that I was undisturbed and unafraid, a free-floating man in a space without demons and doubts.”

Those flights took their toll throughout Stone Temple Pilots’ first run, though. In 1995, he was arrested in Pasadena when police caught him with cocaine and heroin. He checked in to rehab soon thereafter. That would prove a pattern.

Weiland got his start as a rocker in Southern California — and met future Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo at a Black Flag show in Long Beach. Though known for harnessing hardened energy to create commercially palatable rock, Stone Temple Pilots gigged early shows at underground Hollywood spots such as Club Lingerie and the Whisky a Go-Go.

Released by Atlantic Records, Stone Temple Pilots’ 1992 debut album, Core, came out a year after Nirvana’s Nevermind had rewritten the rules for commercial rock music. Where once Los Angeles was teeming with pop metal bands, a darker sound had hit, and Stone Temple Pilots entered with heavy chords and grim themes.

Like kindred spirits Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots preferred slow-tempoed incantations to the quick, hook-heavy hair metal of Motley Crue or the more structurally gymnastic Metallica.

Weiland didn’t flinch in his lyrics to “Interstate Love Song,” from the chart-topping album “Purple”: “Breathing is the hardest thing to do/ With all I’ve said and all that’s dead for you/ you lied — good bye.”

Wrote the singer of the band’s early success in “Not Dead … ”: “We were ecstatic, but we were also dead serious about crafting and playing the kind of self-reflective rock that we respected. We weren’t going to do crap; and we weren’t going to be imitators. We thought we had an original voice, original stories, and an original sound.”

Core has sold more than 8 million copies.

“I was shell-shocked when the first album took off,” Weiland told the Times’ Lorraine Ali in 1994. “It was pompous to assume we were gonna be big stars, but I must have known something would happen because I didn’t have a plan B.”

Turns out he did have another plan. The band made four more albums and toured arenas. But Weiland couldn’t outrun the rumors. With each landmark came questions about his sobriety.

After acrimoniously splitting with Stone Temple Pilots in 2002, former Guns N’ Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum invited him to join them on a post-Axl Rose project they were working on. Weiland said he was skeptical when he heard the demos — he thought they sounded too much like Bad Company. But playing onstage with them at an industry event, he said, he had second thoughts.

“These guys attacked rock and roll like a street gang,” he wrote of the band that became Velvet Revolver. “I liked their ferocity and balls-out commitment.”

Weiland joined the band, and the result was the multi-platinum Contraband. Velvet Revolver disbanded after their second album failed to make a commercial mark, a fact that Weiland seemed to acknowledge.

By the end of the run, he wrote, “Velvet Revolver was a manufactured product. For all our hits — ‘Fall to Pieces,’ ‘Slither,’ ‘Set Me Free’ — we came together out of necessity, not artistic purpose.”

As a creator, Weiland never truly recovered from that split. He reunited with his Stone Temple Pilot bandmates for a tour and album, but the second act didn’t go over as well. His solo material drew hard-core fans; his 2011 Christmas album is, well, certainly unique.

But by the end, Weiland was better known for his disease than for his art. A much-shared video of him and his band performing earlier in the year was notable for Weiland’s demeanor: barely present, foggy-eyed, lost. It’s tough to watch.

“I’m a tenacious drug addict,” he wrote with devastating clarity in “Not Dead …” “I give it up and I don’t give it up. I put it down and I pick it up. But I’m also a tenacious recoverer. I never quit trying to quit. That counts for something.”

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