I’ll never forget waking up the morning of December 4, 2015 to the news that Scott Weiland had been found dead the night before. Can’t say I was shocked, initially. The former Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver singer had a long and sordid history with substance abuse, so it felt as if Weiland had been living on borrowed time for awhile already.
Then it hit me like the simple yet powerful opening chords to “Plush” I first heard 23 years earlier; Weiland had performed what ended up being his final concert in Toronto on December 1st, playing a 16-song set that alternated between STP faves like “Bang Bang Baby” and “Vasoline” with very-good-in-hindsight stuff off of ultimate album Blaster backed by new band the Wildabouts. Here is a review with some stellar photos without the emotional baggage of knowing we’d never see him again.
The next realization made me double over worse than I’ve reacted for any celebrity’s death since – Bowie, Lemmy, Chris Cornell, short-lived STP replacement Chester Bennington, even Eddie Van Halen. Why? Because I was technically the last person to interview Scott Weiland.
Allow me to elaborate. I was scheduled to meet the man, the myth, the legend just before the show on behalf of a website called LiveInLimbo.com. Being the diligent music journo I am, I drafted ten questions I thought would generate back-and-forth dialogue should the subject be willing and opportunities arise. I made sure to stay away from anything regarding certain former bandmates as instructed, and waited the better part of the day for confirmation as to what time I needed to be at the venue. Around 8 PM from what I recollect I gave up waiting, silently cursed Weiland and his PR people and started to make my way home. As I was on the subway I received a text from Live in Limbo’s editor saying the interview was on, but by then I was already more than halfway home. I forwarded him my drafted questions and told him to get someone else to do it (may have added a “to hell with that Scott Weiland” too).
A talented photographer named Dawn Hamilton took my place, who had the forethought to video the ensuing interview which has been viewed nearly half a million times and was featured on Rolling Stone, Billboard, and more. She is understandably unprepared and doesn’t have follow-ups for Weiland at the ready like I obviously would have in the back of my mind. I have trouble watching the whole thing even though it’s only a little over five minutes. It still ends up being pretty revealing (albeit rushed) how Weiland lets the fact he was open to a Velvet Revolver reunion slip out, that David Bowie who eerily died a month would be his dream collaborator, and how he had almost recorded a version of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. I always considered The Most Wonderful Time of the Year he released in 2011 to be underrated. His take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” showed that Weiland could be smooth as Sinatra and didn’t need gimmicks such as bullhorns to bring attention to his one-of-a-kind voice.
A voice which no less of an authority as Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan ranked in an elite, too-good-for-this-world Top Three that included Layne Staley of Alice in Chains and Kurt Cobain. Yes he had more than his share of demons but on the fifth anniversary of his death, let’s remember Scott Weiland was a supreme talent that rock music is poorer for because of his absence.