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Scott Weiland: Memories of a Rock Star

Early 2016 has seen the release of the 18th book overall by yours truly, Greg Prato, which is about the life and career of Scott Weiland, entitled Scott Weiland: Memories of a Rock Star. Below is an exclusive excerpt from the book, as well as additional info about the book...

From late 1992 and throughout the remainder of the decade, if you spent any amount of time watching MTV or listening to rock radio, you were bound to come in contact with a tune by Stone Temple Pilots. With such classic releases as Core, Purple, and Tiny Music... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop selling millions and spawning countless hits ("Sex Type Thing," "Plush," "Creep," "Vasoline," "Interstate Love Song," "Big Empty," "Big Bang Baby," etc.), STP is now widely considered one of rock's all-time great acts.

And during this time, there were few rock frontmen who commanded an audience and generated as many headlines as Scott Weiland. Despite fronting another successful band, Velvet Revolver, and issuing his own critically acclaimed solo albums, Weiland could not overcome his demons - passing away in 2015 at the age of 48.

Scott Weiland: Memories of a Rock Star features nearly 30 all-new interviews conducted exclusively for this book, including members of bands that toured with STP (Megadeth, Meat Puppets, Blind Melon, etc.), worked with Scott (Scott's autobiography co-author David Ritz, video directors Kevin Kerslake and Josh Taft, producer/engineer Chris Goss, etc.), or were friends and/or admirers of Scott's music (Richard Patrick, Bob Forrest, Matt Pinfield, Eddie Trunk, etc.). Get ready for an honest and accurate portrayal of Scott Weiland!

Chapter 4: The Singer

What made Scott unique as a singer?

Matt Pinfield (Radio host, former MTV VJ): Scott had an incredible way with words and his phrasing. But standing out as a singer, he had a great voice. He could adapt musically to different styles that Dean, Robert, and Eric played. And also, as far as I'm concerned, he had that swagger - the thing that made Bowie special, and Jagger, and Steven Tyler, just to name three. He had that thing that made him an individual. It was very sexual, but it was pure rock. So I thought the thing that made him stand out was that he was not afraid to be a showman. And again, my word for him was "swagger." He had an incredible amount of swagger and style - that's why I loved him.

Chris Goss (Masters of Reality singer/guitarist, producer/engineer, Magnificent Bastards producer, 12 Bar Blues engineer, Tiny Music vocal engineer): His ability to sponge up an influence and then turn it around and make it his own. I remember thinking there was a certain lyrical twist in the early '90s grunge thing. Singers and lyricists at the time wanted to wear their sensitivity on their arm a little bit more than the previous ten years of rock. And it would kind of show things sometimes in a really cool way. I loved Alice in Chains and the "dark pop" that was coming out. Some of pop's darkest moments were in the first half of the '90s. And I think of when Nirvana, STP, and Alice in Chains had some of those moments, where a pop song would be in the top ten, and it was pretty fuckin' gloomy sounding. And I really liked that. It was like Black Sabbath having a hit in the early '70s.

Brett Buchanan (Alternative Nation website founder/editor/reporter): Scott was a great lyricist, but I think his best quality was he was a "melody guy" - and being able to be a chameleon, with how he sang. But I think a lot of the time, he would do... I think he called it "word soup" - sometimes, he would just throw these words out there. I think "Between the Lines" is a good example of that. He would have these abstract lyrics for a lot of songs like that. But then, he would have his really personal songs, like "Sour Girl," "Atlanta," "Silvergun Superman," and "Kitchenware & Candybars."

And some of them, he would even move between his sense of abstract sarcasm and also darkness and self-awareness. Like, "Adhesive," he sings, "Sell more records if I'm dead, Purple flowers once again, Hope it's sooner, Hope it's near, Corporate records' fiscal year." He was singing about his problems with drugs, knowing that he can die. But then he was still throwing in the sarcasm of, "The record company probably thought they'd sell more records if I die." That was just sort of Scott.

He had this sense of sarcastic and dark humor, and then he had the really personal songs, like "Hello It's Late," "A Song for Sleeping," "Fall to Pieces"... the list goes on. And he could be a great storyteller, too, on songs like "Maver." It seems like something he probably would have moved into doing as he went on. He did a little bit of that on 'Libertad,' too - "Just Sixteen" was a bit more lighthearted, but it was a storytellers-type song. I know Scott said he was influenced by Bob Dylan, as well, when it came to songs like that. But Scott was a really diverse lyricist - he could write a really funny song, he could write a dark song, he could write a heart-breaking song. That was Scott.

Robert Roth (Truly singer/guitarist): Early on, he was singing in what I think is called the "yarl" sound - the thing that Eddie Vedder gets tagged with, but he doesn't even really sing that way anymore. But then on Tiny Music, just a few years later, he's singing in a higher register. He doesn't sound like John Lennon, but it's more of that "Liam Gallagher take on Lennon" - a little more nasally/throaty kind of vibe. To me, it ends up where he doesn't sound like anybody. And that's a good place to be. For any music I like, I don't like the singer to sound like somebody else. It's strong and it's very melodic and catchy, and that's not easy to do. I have a lot of respect for that. There was a melodic quality there that was his own thing, and it seemed to be in abundance, because it's throughout the Tiny Music record and it appears on the rest of the records.

Kevin Martin (Candlebox singer): The thing that was amazing about him was he's got such a distinct approach - and I keep saying "He has it," because obviously, it's going to live on in his music - but there was something about his phrasing. The way that he would put syllables together in a one-bar phrase. The timbre of his voice. The gravel that was in there. It was instantaneous that you had to listen to it. I know a lot of people that don't like his voice and never liked Stone Temple Pilots, and my question to them is always, "Why?" And they're like, "Well, there's something about his voice." And I'm like, "What don't you like?" And they can't pinpoint it.

I think it's more so that they do like it, but they think that it's his voice they don't like, and maybe it was the ego and the arrogance that he had that maybe turned them off. But I think as a singer, not a great singer... but a great singer - does that make sense? It's like Eddie Vedder - not the greatest singer. Chris Cornell - not the greatest singer. They're definitely not Michael Bublé or Andrea Bocelli or any of those cats. But there's something really magical about their voices, that you can't turn away from. And Scott had that... and still does.

Scott Lucas (Local H singer/guitarist): He was definitely doing that kind of "Eddie Vedder thing." And a lot of singers were doing it - that kind of baritone type of thing. Everybody right down to Hootie & the Blowfish. So you'd listen to the radio, and everybody had that thing. I think he tried to get away from that later. But I think that Eddie Vedder tried to get away from that, too. It's not like you get to a point where you confuse them, but they just had that voice that sounds great - it's terrific. And they sound like men - that kind of voice. I do like lower voices, but I was more into like, Mark Lanegan - really low voices. But I didn't have anything like that. I sounded like a twelve-year-old kid, which always made me feel inferior.

David Ellefson (Megadeth bassist): First of all, he had a very unique sound. As much as a lot of people drew the comparisons to grunge music, I didn't really get that as much. And again, we were deep in "Seattle world" at that time - all flannels, Doc Martens, and that whole look. And STP to me had a more organic, California sound about them. But also, certainly had the outer layers of grunge music. With that said, it's always been said if your singer is not a star, your band won't be a star, either. And I think that's one of the things that made STP thrive. They were great musicians, wrote really great songs, and of course, Scott was definitely a star.

Tim Williams (Vision of Disorder singer): It did feel that he was lumped into that grunge thing, and he did sound a lot like them. And as the second record came around, it was very apparent to me that this guy was his own beast. He really came into his own on that second record.

Charlie Benante (Anthrax drummer): I liked the way he sang. I liked the way he used melody. Little hooks in songs, like "Vasoline" - there are so many hooks in that song. The guitars are just doing the same thing back and forth, and it's really the melody in that song that makes it so good.

Mina Caputo (Life of Agony singer): I think Scott naturally possessed sex. And he fumigated that sexuality. I think Scott was also a culmination and combination of all of his influences - which was Bowie and so many more. I think what set him apart was really his way of applying melody to lyrics. And of course his fashion and his physical, snake-like slithering. He was like another Morrison to me, in a way. He possessed sex, ghosts, all different kinds of spirits. Scott definitely had that "bourbon/cigarette vocal," that I love. And so did Eddie Vedder. But two completely different entities. You can't even compare. It's a shame that back in the day, Rip and all these losers were comparing them too, because it's the easy thing to do. But I think Stone Temple Pilots were that "new chameleon" on the block - but they were better than everybody. The songwriting was better than everybody, their look was better than everybody, they were everything that everybody was trying to be, but they were a combination of everything, I think. And that's what set them apart for me. As well as their songs were brilliant. It's the soundtrack to my life.

Eddie Trunk (That Metal Show co-host, Eddie Trunk Rocks radio host): I think he had a great conviction in his voice. He really sold what he was singing. He was able to convey great emotion in his vocals.

Carla Harvey (Butcher Babies singer): I loved his lyrics. As a vocalist myself, I connected very well with his lyrics and vocal melodies, and the tone of voice that he used. He had almost a Jim Morrison-type feel. I guess I didn't think about it when I was younger, but I had always loved the Doors, so naturally, I loved him when I heard his voice. Because he is very "Jim Morrison" - even in his body language on stage. I absolutely loved the vocal melodies he wrote, and the tone that he used. He had this beautiful voice.

Richard Patrick (Filter singer/guitarist, Army of Anyone singer/guitarist, former Nine Inch Nails guitarist): Scott was a great lyricist. He painted incredible pictures with his lyrics. His melodies were incredibly hooky. He had those two things down, solid. And his performance - he was a total, absolute, complete rock star. The crème de la crème, the top guy. Perry Farrell... I'd put him way up there with those guys. Everything he did, whether it was chill behind the mic or his moves, he exuded attraction. You wanted to hang out with him. You were drawn to him.

Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets singer/guitarist): He was a good singer. He had a unique voice - you could tell that right away. I think there were some defining singers in that whole era there, and they were the ones that kind of "rose to the top." Scott was really charismatic and I saw him as somebody that could sing anything. He would come out and just sing "Gypsy Davy" by Woody Guthrie some nights [in 1994], and that would do it. He had a lot of charisma - a natural thing where people would focus their attention there. And that's the undefinable thing - whatever it is. But he definitely had it. And he could hold the big crowd like that effortlessly.

Cris Kirkwood (Meat Puppets bassist): It's a certain kind of person. He felt comfortable enough with himself... and yet uncomfortable enough with himself. Maybe something in there that made him a captivating artist - beyond just being a lead singer/showboat. Something very real about the guy's shtick. I mean, it's shtick - we're just playing fuckin' music. But he managed to handle it really, really well. There's just a few people that have done that, like Anthony Kiedis from the Chili Peppers, Shannon was good at it - people who can be amusing. Axl Rose or something, you know what I mean? And part of it I think is... good dancers is part of it! They groove along while the band is playing, and yet manage to not be too creepy about it. Scott had his own cool "stage slither." A good looking guy, a good singer. They were a badass band all the way around, and he was a big part of it.

Shandon Sahm (Meat Puppets drummer): When he first came out, it took me a while to warm up to it, but like I told Dean, each album just got better, and I started listening and going, "Oh man!" Scott started coming into his own more as a singer. He was very charismatic, and now, when you hear it - now that it's been a while and time has filtered through that stuff - it still sounds as good as it did in the '90s. And he's got a recognizable voice. I guess what I'm trying to say is a lot of singers back then were all singing like that. [Impersonates Layne Staley-type vocals] It was kind of hard to decipher. But once they started growing after the first record, and the second, third, and fourth, you could tell he started coming into his own and singing a little bit differently than the thing he did on the first record. His voice got a little more distinctive.

Christopher Thorn (Blind Melon guitarist): Like a lot of those guys from that generation, there's something so fucking authentic, which maybe went missing from rock n' roll at some point. I don't mean that for all bands, I just mean that there was something special about that period of time in music, and I think it's the reason why that music is sticking around - there's an authenticity about those songs, about those lyrics. When you read his lyrics, I thought he wrote great lyrics. He was a great singer. And you could hear there was some pain in there, and I think everybody feels that. So I think people relate to that pain, when they hear it in music. And I think that's the reason why people are still listening to the Blind Melon songs, as well, quite honestly. Everybody feels that way. Nobody lives a happy/go lucky life. So I think those songs that have that feeling and feel authentic, I think those are the records that stick around the longest. And I think that's why people will be listening to Stone Temple Pilots' records forever - they're the next version of classic rock, really. Those songs are timeless.

Brett Buchanan: I think he was the best melodic singer of that generation. A lot of people try and pinpoint, "Oh, this is the best singer, this is the best frontman," and they say, "Kurt Cobain was the voice of his generation." But to me, Scott was by far the best melody creator in the last 25 years. And that's a big thing about Scott - every single one of his songs was catchy. And I can't say that about a lot of other '90s artists... or artists, period. So that's one of the basic things that drew me to him.

Chris Goss: I'm really proud I knew the guy and got to work with him. I think maybe someday people will look at his lyrics and his work a little closer, and see it wasn't this "messed up junkie." There's a poet there. Even the title, Tiny Music...Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop - that's great shit.

You can find ordering info for the paperback and Kindle versions here, iBook version here, and the Nook version here.

February 29, 2016.
All photos by Steven J. Messina.

    About the Author:

    Greg PratoA journalist from Long Island, New York, Greg's books include A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, and MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years of Music Video. Get more info about Greg's books here. You can also follow Greg on Twitter.More from Greg Prato
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Comments: 2

As the most defining rock n roll band on earth, Stone Temple Pilots and Scott, will ALWAYS be timeless.Thank you all for such an honest and kind critique of Scott, the artist. R.I.P. Weiland.Carlos from Willow Glen
Oh this is great brings tears to my eye. Scott is getting the recognition he deserves. RIP Scott...Miss youBonnie from Ofallon, Mo.
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