Charismatic singer-songwriter who fronted Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.
Scott Weiland, the charismatic singer-songwriter who fronted Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, died Thursday, according to statements released by his wife and his manager. He was 48.
A statement on Weiland’s Facebook page offered scant detail, simply noting that he “passed away in his sleep while on a tour stop in Bloomington, Minnesota, with his band The Wildabouts.” The statement went on to request respect for the privacy of Weiland’s family.
Weiland formed Stone Temple Pilots in 1989, though the band was then named Mighty Joe Young and wouldn’t release its debut album until 1992. The band was renamed, inspired by the iconic STP Motor Oil logo, and the 1992 album “Core” became a massive success for a rock band in a year when grunge was still finding a foothold among the bouncy pop and smooth R&B that ruled the late 1980s. “Core” soared to No. 3 on the Billboard album chart and yielded four hit singles: “Sex Type Thing,” “Plush,” “Creep” and “Wicked Garden.” The album eventually sold more than 8 million copies, achieving multiplatinum status.
Stone Temple Pilots’ 1994 follow-up album, “Purple,” saw their rise in popularity continue as it debuted at No. 1. “Vasoline” and “Interstate Love Song” were consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and “Big Empty” also charted, as well as finding a place on the hit soundtrack to the 1994 Brandon Lee film “The Crow.”
A third album, “Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop,” also performed well, with hit singles including “Lady Picture Show” and “Big Bang Baby” and a substantially different sound from the grungy rock of the band’s previous two outings. The lighter, jangly retro sound harked back to the music of the 1960s and ’70s that inspired Weiland and his bandmates in their youth – the young Weiland’s favorite bands from childhood on included David Bowie, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Fans might have seen the new direction of “Tiny Music” as a sign of musical growth to come, but instead it was an ending. Weiland was floundering, and his issues with substance abuse and run-ins with the law were taking their toll on the band.
Weiland’s struggles with addiction were no secret, as he was arrested repeatedly for drug possession and was sent to prison more than once. In a 1999 court appearance that resulted in jail time, Weiland’s attorney, Michael Nasatir, described him as “an enormously talented, personable, terrific guy who’s got an enormous problem.” It was a combination that continued to drive him to write and perform fantastic music even as he was in and out of jail.
With Stone Temple Pilots on hiatus in the wake of Weiland’s troubles, the singer recorded the 1998 solo album “12 Bar Blues.” Critically acclaimed but not a strong performer on the charts or in stores, its lone single was “Barbarella.” But it was just a year and a half later that Stone Temple Pilots regrouped and released the 1999 album “No. 4,” a platinum-selling chart-topper that included the singles “Down,” which received a Grammy Award nomination, and “Sour Girl.” The album took listeners back to the harder sound of early STP while retaining some of the psychedelia of “Tiny Music.” A fifth album followed in 2001, “Shangri-La Dee Da,” before the band separated again.
Weiland wasn’t looking to form a new band, and when members of Guns N’ Roses and Wasted Youth began courting him in 2002 to front a band they were looking to put together, he initially declined. He was still officially with Stone Temple Pilots at the time, and he didn’t particularly like the early demos they sent him. But when STP broke up again in 2003 and additional demos had a sound he was starting to like, he signed on, and Velvet Revolver was born.
The supergroup achieved major success, with their first album, 2004’s “Contraband,” debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard chart on the strength of the star power in the band as well as hard-rocking singles including “Fall to Pieces” and the Grammy-winning “Slither.” 2007 follow-up “Libertad” didn’t perform as well, and the band began experiencing discord as Weiland’s personal life got in the way: a rehab stint, a DUI-fueled car accident, repeated difficulty staying clean. During a fraught U.K. tour in 2008, Weiland voluntarily left the band just ahead of the other members’ impending decision to fire him.
The post-Velvet Revolver years included a handful of solo albums, a second STP revival that yielded a single self-titled album in 2010, and a new band, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, formed in 2012. In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, Weiland called the music of the Wildabouts “really lean and raw, sort of like garage rock.” Weiland was touring with the Wildabouts at the time of his death.
Weiland’s hallmarks as a singer included a flexible voice that could range from a baritone growl to a higher, raspier sound depending on the demands of the music. Early recordings drew comparisons to both Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, though he shed these comparisons as he matured as a musician and explored new sounds. Onstage, he often sang through a megaphone into the microphone for a distorted vocal effect.
As a songwriter, Weiland evolved over the years as he wrote the lyrics, as well as some of the music, for the songs of Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver and his solo efforts. In an interview with ArtistDirect.com, he noted, “… In the ’90s I was so overwhelmed with my heroin addiction, and so a lot of the stuff was just from my point of view. Now, I tend to look at some of the greats like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. I look at their storytelling. I try to tell stories. Every song doesn’t have to be narcissistically written about how I feel on that day.” He called his newer technique a cinematic approach, one in which he told the stories of others rather than exploring his own inner life. “I’ve chosen some interesting characters to write about.”
In June 2015, just months before his death, Weiland told Loudwire.com that the rumors of his continued drug use were untrue: In fact, he said, he had been clean for 13 years at that point.
Scott Weiland was a great guy super talented..I played on shows with STP & Velvet Revolver & he owned the stage! RIP
— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) December 4, 2015
In the wake of his death, Weiland was remembered by the musicians who were his friends, his influences and his followers. Joe Perry of Aerosmith – another of the bands that informed Weiland’s musical style – tweeted, “Extremely saddened to have read Scott Weiland passed. Such a gifted performer.” Alice Cooper’s memorial tweet included the praise, “What a voice we’ve lost.” Billy Idol enthused, “Scott Weiland was a great guy super talented..I played on shows with STP & Velvet Revolver & he owned the stage!” while Velvet Revolver bandmate Slash shared an image and commented, “Sad day. RIP Scott Weiland.”
Weiland was married three times. His first marriage, to Janina Castenada, ended in divorce, as did his second, to model Mary Forsberg. Weiland and Forsberg had two children, Noah and Lucy. Weiland’s children survive him, as does his third wife, photographer Jamie Weiland.
We invite you to share condolences for Scott Weiland in our Guest Book.