On Thursday night, when I heard that former Stone Temple Pilots front man Scott Weiland has passed away at the age of 48 in Minnesota, I was not surprised. I was briefly shocked by the news, in that when you hear of someone passing away, it does hit certain emotions that shocks the system. I was also saddened that such a force from my formative years in discovering music had died.
Stone Temple Pilots were an important step in my journey in discovering music. It was around the early-to-mid-90s (and the start of my teenage years) that I decided to branch out on my own with finding new music. It was here that I started listening to Beck, Butthole Surfers, Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and others I had discovered via MTV and alternative rock radio stations, as well as suggestions from friends and pompous record store employees (that I would one day join the ranks of and become one myself).
Stone Temple Pilots had been around long before I got into them. It was in 1996 (I was 15) when I started paying attention to the band when the group was making videos and promoting the album “Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop.” I really liked what I was hearing, so through the magic of being a minor and ordering music through the BMG Music Service (when I probably was not supposed to, but they never age-checked anything) I got all three of the band’s albums (at that point) and a lot of other CDs that I ordered just to round out the “12 CDs for the price of 1” deal.
And I really enjoyed them. The band was changing and evolving each album. I’m sure I heard people bashing Stone Temple Pilots as grunge rip-off artists, but I have never listened to critics much in life, so this had no impact in what I thought of the band. I was really into how Scott Weiland delivered his vocals, and complimented the riffs and music of the band. He had a great knack for catchy, poppy hooks and melodies.
I’m not saying this was my favorite band by any measure, but I enjoyed the group enough to keep its CDs in fairly constant rotation for a while. And over the years, I have gone back and listened to those albums again here and there. I am still of the mind that “Core” was perhaps one of the greatest debut albums for a rock band. And “Purple” was a fantastic follow-up.
What I think was important about my discovering this band for myself and getting into its music was that this was a band that changed from one disc to the next. To me, it was refreshing that a band would change it up (especially during this time when staying with the “grunge” vibe paid off for many other acts). I would read interviews with Weiland where he was talking up Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd’s founder) as an inspiration, which kept me interested in what he was up to musically, because I too found Barrett’s solo music interesting. I bought Weiland’s first solo album, “12 Bar Blues” and from what I recall, it was quite a leap musically and tonally from what he was doing with Stone Temple Pilots.
I was reminded again how cool this album was by my friend who posted this gem after it was announced Weiland had passed away.
Like many bands from that period of my life, I soon moved on to other acts and different genres which meant I didn’t pay much attention to what STP was up to. With Stone Temple Pilots and Weiland, that shift away also probably had something to do with the band’s very public fighting and Weiland’s erratic behavior and battles with substance abuse. With no new music, the band kind of floated out of my view.
I remember really enjoying the band’s fourth album, “No. 4” when it came out and I had finally become that pompous record store employee. At this time, Stone Temple Pilots was not the big seller it once was. And the album was not as popular as what came before, but I really enjoyed listening to it while I worked. It had the energy of “Core,” but was not a repeat. But by then, I was into a lot of different music, and didn’t give it the justice it probably deserved.
After that, the band and Weiland fell out of my musical world. Weiland joined members of Guns N roses to form Velvet Revolver, a band I just never got into, while Stone Temple Pilots moved on without Weiland and had the guy from Linkin Park take over on vocals (and I hate Linkin Park, so I never had any interest in that).
It sucks that Weiland’s demons and inner turmoil made his life at times very, very dark. It sucks that such a talented person died way too young. But I still have my CDs of his music, and I will continue to listen to them. They made up part of the soundtrack of my life.