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 "It bloated me up like a beached whale. I looked like fat Elvis" ...

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 "Would the public demand that I perform knowing that I have pneumonia and two tumors?" ...

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 "Maybe I'll put on a Superman suit with 'God' in the front and be God-Man" ...

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MTV: Mark said that the Chicago show in 2002, the one that resulted in concertgoers suing the band for a bad performance, was the last straw in your relationship.

  "I've heard the rumors that I was whacked out on drugs, and I can tell you what I was whacked out on ... Prednisone."
Stapp: I've heard the rumors that I was whacked out on drugs, and I can tell you what I was whacked out on ... Prednisone. I was exhausted, but I sang every song. I performed as hard as I could. Basically, the people who sued just wanted the press and attention and money. Everybody didn't sue; it wasn't a class-action suit. I think what got Mark upset was that it was his hometown and two people in the newspapers were bashing his band.

MTV: It wasn't just Chicago papers that covered the story. It made headlines everywhere.

Stapp: We were the most successful band in the world for the last eight years. There wasn't even any contest. I don't mean to sound arrogant — I'm not an arrogant person, and I never thought we were better than anyone. I think I was perceived that way because of our lack of experience. I came across as this pious, holier-than-thou person.

MTV: How do you mean?

Stapp: Sometimes when you're nervous, you're quiet. Five years ago, I never would have been speaking to you like I am now. I'd be too afraid of saying the wrong thing. And I'd be so afraid of you writing something bad. We were so worried about certain things that we clenched up and got nervous. We didn't show our personalities, who we really were. That's just lack of experience and the fact that we were just four nervous guys.

MTV: Now that you said that, was it media inexperience that caused bassist Brian Marshall to lash out against Pearl Jam after he heard what had to have been the umpteenth comparison between the two bands?

Stapp: Actually, that Pearl Jam thing had absolutely nothing to do with why Brian left the band. Brian left the band because if he didn't, I don't know if Brian would be here right now on this earth. I can't elaborate, but it was for his best interest at the time that he took a break. We always loved Brian and that was the hardest thing we ever had to do. We did that because we cared for him. I'm glad that he's all right now and everything's going good for him now.

MTV: Then what's an example of the inexperience the band had with the media?

Stapp: The whole Christian [rock] thing. That was thrown on us, and we didn't even talk about it. And that kind of affected how the media looked at me. Like, "That guy thinks he's better than everyone."

Also, I don't think some people got my sense of humor. Like that whole Fred Durst thing, that was a joke. When I sent him that anger-management book [after Durst dissed Stapp onstage for not talking to any other bands at a New York radio festival in 2000], I put a note in there that said, "Just to let you know God loves you." It was supposed to be a joke. Because I didn't understand why he did what he did, I was trying to be a smart ass. People took it like I was being serious.

I didn't come out of my dressing room because I was sitting backstage next to a humidifier. I had to gear my whole day around getting onstage. I couldn't talk all day. I was made to feel like the only thing that mattered was doing the show.

Do you know how many times I wanted to let the press and public know about my health issues and I was adamantly told not to?

MTV: You had health issues even back then?

Stapp: Ever since I was a baby, I would catch everything. I was a sickly kid. I have bad allergies. When you have to travel so much and you're a singer with allergy problems, that stinks. I was put on isolation and voice restriction a lot. After really focusing on what I need to do to stay healthy these last couple years, hopefully I have that under control now.

MTV: Why didn't you just ask for some time off to get healthy? I think your fans would have understood.

Stapp: I was advised not to. I don't want to say by who, but it's whoever advises you as an artist. Here was the logic: Do you think the public would demand that I perform knowing that I have pneumonia, two tumors and a nodule on my vocal cords? Why would someone not want me to tell the public? Only if they were benefiting from me staying on the tour.

MTV: So it was the people who were making money by you staying on tour who wouldn't let you take time off?

Stapp: I didn't say that. I don't want to start any controversy. It's all been smoothed out. I take full responsibility for these issues. I'm a grown man. I could have said, "I appreciate your advice, but I'm not doing this," but I didn't. I chose to think that the world was on my shoulders.

Next: 'Maybe I'll put on a Superman suit with God in the front and be God-Man' ...
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