Danny Goldberg is the President of Gold Village Entertainment and is the author of the book Bumping Into Geniuses.
In the beginning there were many punk purists who thought that Scott Weiland was inauthentic. The solution was always to have people meet him. Scott might be loud or quiet, sober or stoned, angry or sweet but he was always painfully earnest. He was driven by deep convictions about rock and roll and art.
In late 1991, Jason Flom, A&R head of Atlantic Records, asked me to meet the band then called Mighty Joe Young the week before I was to start as the label’s senior vice president in Los Angeles. Atlantic’s Tom Carolan had fallen in love with them and had gotten his childhood friend Don Muller, the agent for Nirvana and Pearl Jam, to book them. Another label was interested and Jason hoped I could close the deal.
My first impression was that Scott looked more like a movie star playing a rock singer than the real thing. But when he talked about his vision for the band, wild eyes flashing with pain and promise, I knew he was for real. I must have done something right cause we closed the deal the next day.
Mighty Joe Young had been the name of a B-movie from the 1940s and was legally unavailable. When the band re-named themselves Stone Temple Pilots there were high-fives at Atlantic. Much cooler.
They had a rookie manager, Steve Stewart, and a first time producer, Brendon O’Brien who had been an engineer for the Chili Peppers and Slayer. STP came along when there was a huge audience that had bought Nirvana and Pearl Jam albums, and alternative rock radio stations suddenly had big ratings and needed another record. STP became successful very fast without having gone through the gauntlet of indie punk labels or fanzines. That Scott had one of the great rock voices of his generation and wrote compelling, dark rock lyrics was lost on many tastemakers. In 1994 Rolling Stone would announce that Stone Temple Pilots had won both the readers poll for best new artist and the critics poll for worst new artist.
L.A. publicist Kim Kaiman had worked with Soundgarden and was skeptical at first, but when she met Scott she too was smitten: “Scott had swagger. He acted like a rock star long before he was one. And he didn’t give a shit.“ She got STP the cover of Spin but they only put Scott on the cover — a drag, because the rest of the band were great. But rock stars, not rock music, is what drives magazine sales.
Scott knew Tom Bunch, the manager of the Butthole Surfers. Tom concocted the perfect tour to counteract doubters: Firehouse, Flaming Lips, STP and the Butthole Surfers. Alas, Gibby Haynes — the singer of the Butthole Surfers — badmouthed STP in the media and Scott got pissed. Tom and he convinced Gibby to fly to L.A. and the almost-enemies become instant friends and the tour launched STPs live career.
Core eventually was certified as selling eight million copies. Pearl Jam, who STP had been accused of imitating, was so impressed that they used Brendon O’Brien to produce their next record Vs.
In some ways Scott adapted to superstardom easily but the combination of an unfathomable inner pain and the easy availability of drugs that success brings set Scott on a path of addiction, rehab, and relapse that would last the rest of his life.
Scott did more for my career than I did for his. I do not think I would have been made President of Atlantic if not for him. Whatever he was going through over the years he was always the same gracious earnest guy when I saw him.
And he remained committed to rock and roll as an art form. In 1997 he played demos for his first solo album 12 Bar Blues for Atlantic’s Tim Sommer who recalled “bright, amazing, silvery, slutty, psychedelic music. The sound and the songs were extraordinary… clumsy and precise high-pop.. like Neil Innes channeling the Move via Suicide, … a strange space-age buzzing version of Beatles via Bowie. Let us not speak of potential unrealized but just remember that he achieved so much.”