Initially dismissed as a grunge carpetbagger, the slithering, snake-hipped rock icon spent as much time throwing verbal punches at his bandmates, sorting out personal drama and battling his demons as he did stalking the stage with his bug-eyed, intense performance style.
And for nearly a decade in the late '90s and early 2000s I spent almost as much time cataloging his various arrests, rehab visits and spats with current and former bandmates and romantic partners as I did writing about his hypnotic live presence or STP's metal-edge pop genius.
Through it all, I found a man who was intensely passionate about music and creativity and who seemed fated to live exactly as he did, burning fast and unpredictably.
Every time we'd speak on the phone, or at one of his shows, Weiland would sound upbeat, focused and, he'd say, finally free of the chemical demons that defined so much of his time in the spotlight. But there was a darkness that hung over his head like a black cloud, that fear in the back of your mind that each time you got him on the line to talk about his latest project it might be the last chance you would have to hear his ragged voice enthuse about how this band was the tightest, hardest one he'd ever put together.
Weiland reportedly died in his sleep on his tour bus on the way to a Thursday night gig in Minnesota with his latest band, the Wildabouts.
The Rocket Ride To Fame And The Aftermath
Born Scott Kline in Santa Cruz, California, on Oct. 27, 1967, Weiland was a child of divorce who played football and baseball as a kid in Cleveland, where he lived with his mother after his parents split. But it was back in California where he met the man who would become his musical compadre, Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo. They formed a band with Robert's brother, guitarist Dean DeLeo and and drummer Eric Kretz in the late 1980s. Though they'd gigged around for years, when STP's Sept. 1992 debut, Core, was released, it was slammed by some as a kind of grunge rip-off.
The powerful, dark songs on the album, though, propelled the group to instant fame, thanks to Weiland's moody, affecting singing on hits like "Plush" and "Creep" and the band's signature mix of pop hooks and brooding hard rock. It was the perfect sound at a time when Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were taking over the world with their own angst anthems, but STP definitely had their own lane. And, as a bonus, with his bleach blonde head of hair and magnetic, sultry persona, Weiland looked and acted the part of a born rock star.
STP shows were sweaty, intense affairs, with Scott often shouting his conflicted lyrics through his signature megaphone, bringing the packed crowds in clubs, then larger theaters (and eventually arenas) to their feet thanks to soaring, emotional anthems like "Vasoline" and "Interstate Love Song" from their mega-platinum second album, 1994's Purple. The latter won them a Grammy in 1994 for Best Hard Rock Performance.
But almost as soon as the fame poured in, Weiland's demons began to overtake the musical headlines. He was arrested a number of times during the peak of the band's late 1990s fame and ended up in rehab several times. By 2001, the rest of the group had had enough and they decide to go on hiatus, which lasted until a brief, messy reunion in 2010.
A Rebirth, And Then The Same Old Song And Dance
After releasing the underrated, Bowie-esque solo album 12 Bar Blues in 1998, Weiland landed as the lead singer of the all-star band Velvet Revolver in 2002, where he joined former Guns N' Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum and former Wasted Youth member Dave Kushner.
The group produced two albums, 2003's Contraband and 2007's Libertad, which both fused the crunch of GNR with STP's melodic hard-rock attack, but the chemistry between Weiland and the rest of the group never seemed quite right and he split (or was fired) in 2008. He went back on the road with STP in 2010 and they released their self-titled sixth album, but it would prove to be the last hurrah, as Weiland's erratic behavior doomed the project again and he was dismissed in 2013 in a messy split that involved dueling lawsuits.
STP carried on with Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington and Weiland formed the Wildabouts, whose lower profile had them playing some of the same clubs STP had haunted more than 20 years before.
The last time I saw Weiland was in 2013 on a tour with the Wildabouts where he was playing some of STP's classic hits. I had measured expectations about the show given Scott's troubled past, but I was hoping for the best. He seemed a bit unsteady at times on his feet and his voice had definitely lost some of the sandpaper and silk edge that it had during STP and Velvet Revolver's heyday, but the megaphone was there and Weiland still commanded the stage with a hypnotic thousand-yard stare.
We spoke briefly just after the show and he said he was feeling good about things now, he'd sorted out his private life and was psyched to do some more recording with the Wildabouts. Before I left we shook hands and he perked up for a sec and half-mumbled, "See you next time."