After the success of the article on Black Sabbath’s Born Again, we decided to immediately work on the next installment of Infamous Albums. For this second episode we will be looking at Black Flag’s 2013 album What The…
The brain child of guitarist, Greg Ginn and most known for former vocalist Henry Rollins, Black Flag along with D.R.I, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and many other helped formed the U.S hardcore punk sound. Starting with their second album My War, the band would become more experimental, something that followed the band on every release until their 1986 break up.
Post break up, the members would remain in the music business with Rollins forming Rollin’s Band and Ginn continued in his other projects most notably The Descendants. In 2003 the band played three reunion shows in their home state of California. These shows would include My War being played in its entirety with skateboarder Mike Valley doing guest vocals. In 2010, to celebrate the 50th birthday of then ex-vocalist, Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn along with Reyes himself, played a set of three Black Flag songs in addition, to a regular set from The Ron Reyes Band. On December 8th, 2011 ex-members, Keith Morris,Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson, and Descendants guitarist Stephen Egerton played the entire Nervous Breakdown EP. This was a surprise appearance during a Vandals/Descendants show. This line up would continue to tour and be known as Flag. In 2013, Ron Reyes, and Greg Ginn announced wanting to bring Black Flag back. They were joined by newcomers Gregory Moore on drums and Dave Klein on bass. This caused two versions of the same band to exist, neither which featured Henry Rollins. In 2013, Black Flag released their first album since 1985 titled What The… . Neither fans nor critics were impressed as they saw it as nothing but a cash grab. This is the first full length to not feature Henry Rollins and the first release since their second ep, Jealous Again to feature Ron Reyes.
First off the production on this album is really poor. Sure lo-fi production is one of the charms of Black Flag and punk in general, but here it doesn’t work. The rhythm section is impossible to hear and the mixing is extremely sloppy. Ron Reyes’s vocals on here just sound horrible. While he sounded just fine on Jealous Again, here he just sounds like a washed up version of Mark Arm from Mudhoney. The lyrics are corny especially coming from a band that’s known for thought provoking lyrics. The album art looks very lazy and more fitting for a 90’s Nicktoon. The guitar work is the closest thing to a redeeming quality. The record has many cool leads and Ginn’s trademark shrieking solos are still there, however the riffs on this album are very generic and get boring fast. The drumming is also very generic. These problems are present on every track, making it a chore to get through in one sitting.
The first half of this album tries to be the in your face, aggressive, punk band we all know and love. Sadly Reyes’s bored sounding vocals combined with the lazy riffs fail to create any sort of energy and a Black Flag album without energy is a big fail. The second half of the album is where we start getting more varied. This is very similar to how My War transitioned from fast, experimental hardcore on side A, to a slow and heavy doom metal inspired style on side B. While that album was great and it’s experimentation inspired many others, What The…, found a way to make even it’s experimental side sound stale. The slow and mid tempo parts sound very mediocre and chances are the listener is already starting to zone out at this part. The album also doesn’t blur together very well at all. If you were to have this on in the background and not pay attention to the lyrics, you would have no idea which track you are on. This record is so poorly structured that you could cut and paste random sections from random tracks and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. This is a huge step down for Black Flag as their later albums, such as Family Man, were full of variety and risk taking.
In conclusion, What The… , is a sloppy, rushed, mess of an album. Not a single track is worth listening to, as they all sound lazy and are near impossible to tell apart. The mixing and songwriting are bottom of the barrel, which is sad since everyone (when you can actually hear them) in this band is talented. This is nothing more then an effortless cash grab that puts a stain on the band’s amazing past legacy.
In 1986, the metal sub-genre known as thrash metal exploded. Mostly a reaction against hair metal, thrash took the traditional metal sound and mixed it with the intensity of hardcore punk. So many thrash metal albums were released in 1986, many of which are by major players and legends in the genre. Here we will take a look at the best thrash albums from that year.
Vulcano – Bloody Vengeance
We start the list off with a nice underground gem from Brazil. This album contains elements that would influence death metal and the second wave of black metal.
Destruction – Eternal Devastation
One of the scenes that really exploded was Germany’s thrash scene and one of the most iconic bands from that scene was Destruction. On this sophomore effort, the band strips away its early black metal elements for a more traditional thrash sound. This album is really fast and intense and feels like you are listening to a tornado of riffs.
Cryptic Slaughter – Convicted
The punk crossover style of thrash also had some greats in ’86, including Cryptic Slaughter’s Convicted. Playing a fast, in your face style of crossover, this album helped influence the powerviolence genre. Highly recommended for those looking to get into this style.
Metallica – Master Of Puppets
For those who live under a rock, Master of Puppets is one of metal’s most well known albums. This record was the first thrash release to ever go platinum. The politically charged lyrics and complex songwriting helped the album please critics outside of the metal scene.
Dark Angel – Darkness Descends
For the most part, the heaviest and most extreme thrash bands tend to come from Europe and South America. A big exception to this is L.A.’s Dark Angel. Their sophomore record displays the band’s ultra fast style they call “caffeine metal” at its finest. This is also the first studio album to feature drumming icon Gene Holgan.
Voivod – Rrroooaaarrr
Hailing from Canada comes one of Dave Grohl’s all time favorite bands. On this album, the band would add experimental elements to their thrash sound, something they would continue to expand upon on later releases. This release still remains one of Voivod’s finest hours.
Nuclear Assault – Game Over
Wanting to play a more aggressive style, Nuclear Assault was formed by ex-Anthrax members John Connolly and Danny Lilker. Here on their debut, the band blends old school speed metal with crossover. The distinct vocals and political lyrics make this release a favorite among thrashers everywhere.
Slayer – Reign in Blood
Reign in Blood is the third album by Slayer and the band’s most popular release. The album is also their fastest release to date and the first one to be produced by Rick Rubin, who would produce most of the band’s albums. The album spawned Slayer’s two most popular songs “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death“.
Kreator – Pleasure To Kill
Kreator’s best album is also the greatest and most well known release from the German thrash scene. The record’s cover is very accurate, as you will be crushed by it’s riffs and intensity. This album is now seen as a huge influence on death metal.
Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying
Containing the same exact line up as Killing is Business, Peace Sells is Megadeth’s breakthrough album. The band got signed to Capitol Records and the production values went up. This is also the first Megadeth album to have politically charged lyrics, something that would become a staple of the band, though also had songs with satanic lyrics such as “The Conjuring“.
Click here to read Alternative Nation’s in-depth Scott Weiland: A High School To Core retrospective from yesterday, where Scott’s best friend and Mighty Joe Young/Swing bandmate Corey Hickok shares his memories and unreleased photos of Scott from his formative years in music. Thanks to Dustin Halter for touching up the photos and watermarking them.
As I parted ways with Mighty Joe Young, it wasn’t long before I was starving artistically. Automatically I just grabbed a camera, and started shooting. I was still their biggest fan, so I decided to photograph Mighty Joe Young as they morphed into Stone Temple Pilots and started recording their debut album Core. I got some great shots out of the gate, and I tried to be there with them and help out as much as I could.
I was in the studio when they were recording “Creep.” I knew that it would be a major success for them, it definitely felt like witnessing history in the making. Every time I would watch them rehearse and record the Core songs, everyone knew something special was going on. There was a feeling of electricity in the air, and a sense of excitement that was just contagious.
Atlantic Records gave them complete creative control when they signed them. When you got signed back in the day, generally there would be stipulations in the contract where the label would have a lot of control, but STP had a great rapport with Atlantic. They told them, ‘We want to give you guys free reign on what you want to do. We’re not going to be in the studio harassing you, just do what you do.’ Everything was in place for them to create a masterpiece, and they did.
I took a rare photo of Scott with producer Brendan O’Brien during STP’s early days, which is actually the first photo you can see below. The band was very happy with Brendan, because not only was he a producer, but he was also a musician. A lot of musicians struggle with producers because they don’t know how to play an instrument, but Brendan knew how to play, and they could definitely relate to him.
The picture backstage of Scott with the bullhorn actually connects to how he started using it. Scott took his first bullhorn from the garage of our friend Gary Menke’s Dad Dale, and Gary is actually to the left of Scott in that photo.
One of the early Core shows was a side stage performance at Irvine Meadows, which I believe was at Lollapalooza 1992. After that performance, they did a secret show at a little tiny dive bar in Costa Mesa called the Tiki Bar. It was at 11:30 or 12 at night, and it was packed. They killed it, it was such a special show.
Enjoy my collection of photos from Stone Temple Pilots’ Core days below, in memory of Scott.
Brendan O’Brien and Scott Weiland.
Dean and Robert DeLeo on the side stage at Irvine Meadows for Lollapalooza 1992.
This is the first installment in Alternative Nation’s ‘Deep Cuts’ series, from Scott Weiland’s best friend and Mighty Joe Young/Swing/Soi-Disant bandmate Corey Hickok. Alternative Nation will be launching a new section soon featuring more articles like this. Check back tomorrow for an exclusive behind the scenes look at the recording of ‘Core’ and Stone Temple Pilots’ early shows touring the album. Thanks to David Allin for many of the high school photos.
The year was 1984. We sat outside of Scott’s parents brand new house in downtown Huntington Beach. Scott’s mom had a very special gift in the kitchen, and could cook as good as any gourmet chef. Our stomachs were content from a healthy portion of her famous beef brisket. We sipped on hot tea and sat across from each other, discussing our future. We weren’t just talking, but mapping out our future as rock stars. I know it sounds trite, but we had decided our dedication and passion would lead us to a life of waking up every morning with music as our livelihood. We exchanged thoughts on what luxuries life would allow us as we rocked the world with our music. But at this moment, the love we had for our musical endeavors seemed to minor in a love for food.
I vividly remember Paris coming up as a place we’d go to dine at the finest France had to offer. The luxury of being able to order anything off the menu regardless of price excited us. We chuckled, and Scott had a way of shaking his leg in a back and forth motion whenever he was overly stimulated. It was a surefire sign that he was in the best of moods. Back in those days, that occurred on a regular basis.
Scott and his family moved to Huntington Beach, CA from Chagrin Falls, OH in 1983. He went to Edison High School as a freshman, playing football and singing in the choir. Scott would come to watch my brother Ross and I play in our band Awkward Positions, and he was intrigued by the whole idea of creating music. As that band came to an end, I asked Scott if he would like to sing for a new band I was forming. He jumped at the opportunity, and we went to play together for the first time at a drummer named David Allin’s house. There was immediate chemistry, and we started looking for a bass player, who initially ended up being Dave Stokes. When it came to picking out a name, Scott settled on Soi-Disant. It was a French name, meaning style of oneself.
Soi-Disant perform live.
In choir, Scott was in ensemble, which was the best of the best, so he had total knowledge of how to sing professionally. He had perfect pitch, but as far as finding himself and who he was as a singer in a band, it was a process to find his voice. He had been sheltered from a lot of music in Ohio, which had a vastly different scene to southern California. I brought a lot of post punk influences into the band, and I shared them with Scott. Early Cure, the Psychadelic Furs, The Jam, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, bands with a punk energy, but with great melodies and hooks.
The Cure’s “Killing An Arab” was one of the early songs we covered. I also remember turning him onto David Bowie, and he really liked Duran Duran. Scott started teaching me how to sing harmonies, and we synced perfectly. We could sing just acapaella, and it would sound almost like a chorus pedal. I was progressing as a singer, and he starting to find out who he wanted to be musically.
Soi-Disant: (back, left to right) David Allin, Corey Hickok, Scott Weiland, (front) Britt Willits, and Scott Tubbs.
I was just getting to know Scott, but at the time I had a tight knit group of close friends, and on weekends I’d always go hang out with them. Scott was eager to spend more time with me, ‘Hey, why can’t I hang out with you?’ He wanted to hang out with me more because of what we were doing musically, but I only had so many friends, and it took a little time for me to consider someone a best friend.
During sophomore year, Scott’s parents found a very small amount of cocaine in his room, and they had paramedics come to our school and put him on a gurney, in front of everybody. He was put on lockdown in Orange at a place called Care Unit. They told him, ‘You have to partake in this program. You’ve got problems, so you better admit it!’ He told them he didn’t have any problems, and at the time, he didn’t. He was a kid dabbling recreationally, and he made a mistake, but it led to rumors at school. Everyone at school thought Scott had a drug problem, so I had to go around and tell everyone that he didn’t.
Scott called me from Care Unit, ‘Hey Corey man, can you come here?’ I went up there, and it was very emotional. I asked him what I could do for him, and he said, ‘I just need a good friend.’ I committed to him, ‘I’ll be your best friend.’ After that, not only were we partners in music, but we were best friends. I alienated a lot of other friends I had, and I was with Scott always for the rest of high school. We looked after each other through thick and thin, and always had each other’s backs.
Our band became complete when we added a new bass player and keyboardist. There was a really talented band when I was in junior high called Tubbs and Company: Shawn, Lonnie, and Scott Tubbs. Scott would become our bass player after Dave, and Britt Willits became our keyboardist. Shawn and Lonnie would also play with us from time to time. Once Scott joined Soi-Disant, we got serious. As we started to play live, most people said it sounded like Duran Duran, but I was trying to infuse some more angst into our sound. Early songs titles included “Forever Four” and “In The Moonlight.”
Our school had banned bands from playing at lunch in 1980 after this one punk band played and the kids just screwed up the whole school. We were the first band they allowed to come back and play. At lunch when the kids would come out, we’d be playing the middle of the quad. We were definitely the high school band.
Eventually we started playing at all of the different parties, the ‘jock’ parties. We got pretty popular, as a lot of the women started liking what we were doing (and the way we looked). A lot of the jocks started getting really jealous. We’d play these parties, and we were taking away the attention of all the girls. We got in some fights with the jocks, and Scott was a really good fighter. These jocks were messing with the wrong guy. He was one of those guys who would take you down no matter what, it didn’t matter how big you were.
There was one occasion where a few guys ganged up on Scott, and Scott didn’t forget it. Years later, when Stone Temple Pilots played on the main stage at Irvine Meadows for the first time in 1993, Scott said on stage something along the lines of, ‘It’s funny, here I am back in my hometown, and some of you guys who used to want to start fights with me now are now watching me play here. How do you like that?’
We knew we had to take Soi-Disant to the next level, and we had to get out of the party scene in Orange County and play in Los Angeles. We played at ‘pay to play’ venues like The Roxy and the Whiskey, where you had to sell tickets in order to play. We got clever, figuring out that we could rent tour buses and then factor that into the ticket prices.
We’d have two tour buses show up in front of our high school, and mostly pack them with girls. Up to 200 kids would be driven up to LA, and the shows would be sold out. We were 17 years old and selling out The Roxy. Music industry people were shocked that a teenage band from Orange County could manage to sell out a club in LA.
We also would play at a 21 and over dance club in Orange County called Déjà Vu, so we all had to get fake ID’s. The guy who ran the club, Tom, let us play once a week and jam in between the DJ, and it took off. We got a whole different type of following, and it did a lot for us. Tom was such a big supporter that he paid for us to do a demo called “Divine Right.”
While we were playing at Déjà Vu, at the end of our sets we’d close with “Louie Louie.” One night, we asked if anybody in the audience knew how to play bass, and a guy rose his hand, so we invited him on stage, and he absolutely killed it. His name was Robert DeLeo. The next time we played, he was there again, and it became a regular occurrence.
We graduated in 1986, celebrating with a trip to Hawaii. As we looked towards the future, Scott and I were determined that we were going to make it in the music industry, and Britt was on board as well. We were maturing, and wanted a new sound to take us to the next level. We had heard that Robert had a studio at his apartment in Long Beach, so we went up there to record some stuff. We also asked him if he would lay the bass down on some songs after we’d recorded our parts. We came back the next day, and our jaws dropped. It sounded incredible.
Scott and I looked at each other, and we’re like: ‘Hey Robert, would you like to be in our band?’ He said, ‘Look guys, I’m so serious about music, if I get in a band, it has to be 100% dedication.’ We responded, ‘That’s what we’re looking for.’ And we did it. We started writing songs that were in the same vein as Parliament P Funk and Sly Stone, going in a 70’s funk direction, and Swing was born.
Robert DeLeo and Scott Weiland perform live.
We now needed a drummer, so we put out an ad in Bam magazine. We had a lot of interest, and a lot of them just weren’t any good, so we started requesting videos. We met this one guy who played great, but he had a girlfriend who was a nightmare. We played a few times, and it was always a hassle with the girlfriend, and we called him out on it. We told him that we didn’t want any outside distractions, and he was out. After that, we went back to the drawing board.
Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland, and Corey Hickok perform live.
One day we were sitting in downtown Long Beach, and we had just heard a drummer play over the phone, and he was going to bring us a tape. We saw him pull up in his car downstairs, and up comes a man by the name of Eric Kretz. He put on a video tape of himself playing, and he was incredible. Bruford, Bonham, that’s what we wanted, so we set up an audition at a rehearsal studio in Long Beach. Eric set up his drums, we were so excited, we’d been looking for a drummer for months.
I go up to check my mic, I have my fingers on my strings, and I started getting shocked. I literally flew at least 10 feet, almost behind the stage on the riser. Saliva was coming out of my mouth, I thought I was going to die. Eric tried to free me from my guitar, but he got jolted when he touched me. Considering we had just met, I thought that was really brave of him and showed his character.
Everyone in the building could hear me shrieking. Scott came up behind me and shouted, ‘Turn the power off!’ I jumped up in the air, in shock, freaking out. An ambulance came and took me to the hospital, and the band followed me. The doctor told me if I hadn’t been wearing shoes, or I’d been older, I would have died. It really changed my outlook on life.
After that, Eric joined Swing. We played a lot of dance clubs, and we could get away with it, because people would dance to our music. We started to get a following, but we knew we had to go up to LA. I dropped out of school at Long Beach State, and Robert, Eric, Britt, and I moved into an apartment in Culver City, while Scott moved in with his girlfriend Mary Ann.
Britt Willits, Corey Hickok, Scott Weiland, and Erik Kretz on Scott’s 21st birthday in 1988. Scott’s birthday was on October 27th, close to Halloween, so typically we would always try to get a limo, it was kind of a tradition. We would dress up as clowns, sometimes like A Clockwork Orange characters.
We just started playing every club we could, with the Coconut Teaszer being a mainstay. We played with No Doubt early on, and Tom Morello’s band Lock Up. Bam Magazine also started to give us some media attention. When you were Bam’s pick of the week, you knew you were going to get signed. Jane’s Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you name it. We ended up being the pick of the week.
When we played live, somewhere in the set we would do solos, and Eric would do a drum solo where he would get up from his drum set with his drumsticks and literally tap everything in the venue. He would go tap the side of the mic stand, he’d even go into the audience. People were like, ‘What the hell is this guy doing!?’ He’d then make his way back on stage, and slowly start to play, and then he would just go nuts. He was so animated, the crowd loved it.
Robert would do a bass solo, and this is back when he would slap. Everyone’s jaws would just drop, he could slap on that bass like nobody’s business. It was incredible, and it completely captivated the audience. Scott was really coming into his own as a frontman with Swing. He started doing his James Brown and Mick Jagger moves, incorporating that into his stage presence. So many times after we would finish playing we would have people go up to us, ‘You guys are going to make it. Not only do you sound incredible, but you have the greatest stage presence. You guys are going to be huge.’ That was a standard for us, and we felt it too, we had a chemistry on stage where we just fed off each other. There was never a moment where people just sat there and watched us, people would be dancing, jumping up and down, they were always participating in some way. It really helped fire us up on stage.
Our songwriting evolved as well. When we started playing together, it was all my stuff, with Robert adding his licks to what I was writing. Very quickly, it evolved to where Robert was bringing in ideas himself. Robert had a great way of bringing in really catchy riffs, and my talent was to take those riffs and structure them in a song format. As time went on, Robert wrote more and more, while I wrote less and less, but I was always helping a lot with the arrangements. Robert is such a brilliant musician, he had so much music in his head, and just a plethora of licks.
“Ole Dixie” was a fun little country song we did, completely different from anything we ever did. Scott’s biological father Kent and stepmom Martha listened to old school country music, so he was a fan growing up, as was I. We were really into Dwight Yoakam as well at the time. One time we were goofing around in the studio, and we decided to slap it on the end of a demo. We also did two really funky songs called “Dirty Dog” and “Love Machine.” For “Love Machine,” we hired a woman to do backing vocals to get that 70’s soul sound, and we actually all did backing vocals on that song.
We really loved funk, but there was only so much we could do in that genre. Our sound slowly moved in the 70’s rock direction, rather than our funk and 60’s soul influences. Scott really started getting into The Doors and Jim Morrison. When Scott would really get passionate about an artist he admired, it somehow became a part of him, and his own unique voice.
As we transitioned into a more rock sound, we didn’t have any more keyboard parts for Britt to play, so we let him go. We then changed our name to Mighty Joe Young as part of this transformation of our sound. This is when there started to be some tension in the band, as there became a desire to have an anthem type lead guitar sound with what was going on with MTV at the time, with big solos. That type of playing just wasn’t in my musical makeup, and I didn’t see why I should change my style.
Scott Weiland, Eric Kretz, and Corey Hickok perform live.
Two songs we worked on that were in our new rock direction were “Piece of Pie” and “Fast As I Can” (completely different songs from the tracks that later appeared on Core and Stone Temple Pilots). “Piece of Pie” called for a lead, so Robert said: ‘Corey, we’ve got to do a lead for this song. I’ll tell you what, let’s get my brother Dean up here to just play the lead on it.’ Dean was this monster guitar player, but he was a foreman at a construction company, making great money. I’d met Dean, we’d had fun with him riding jet skis down in San Diego, and he’d come to a few shows. He ended up coming in and playing the solo, and it was brilliant. After that, there was talk of Dean joining the band and making it a 5 piece, with me doing rhythm guitar and backing vocals. I said no.
I felt what we had been doing up to that point was great, and that we didn’t need anything else. Looking back now in hindsight, I see that what Dean brought to the band is everything they needed to get to the next level. But at the time, I felt a little differently.
Scott said, “Corey, we need this.” At the same time, Robert was progressing as a a bass player and musician at an incredible pace, Eric was so on the money, with the best chops, and then you had me, and I wasn’t progressing nearly as fast as them as a musician. There was some tension there, and I understand that. I also had a great job opportunity back home in Huntington Beach at the time too, so I was really at a crossroads. They could sense I wasn’t as dedicated as I once was.
Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland, and Corey Hickok perform live.
It was a difficult decision, but I told Scott that I was leaving Mighty Joe Young. We both cried. Since the beginning of high school, he had never played in a band without me. He felt like a part of his whole experience as a musician was gone, but he was definitely in great hands. Dean’s a monster musician, with the synergy between he and his brother, and Eric, they were a force to be reckoned with.
I told Scott, ‘My Dad’s offering me a business, I understand the pressure, bring Dean in. I’m done, but I’ll always be your best friend.’ Scott looked me in the eyes and told me, ‘Corey, I want you to know this. If I don’t make it in music, I don’t know anything else I’ll be able to do. You might have to support me someday.’ He was 100% serious. This was all he ever wanted. Since we began this journey, I saw something change in him, his whole demeanor changed as soon as he sang in a band situation. He never looked back. It’s what he was meant to do.
Mighty Joe Young after Dean joined the band.
After I quit, Dean joined Mighty Joe Young on a temporary basis, but was hesitant to join full time because of the great job he had in San Diego, so they put out ads looking for a new guitar player. They started auditioning guitarists and were just laughing, the same thing that happened when we were looking for drummers a few years prior.
As Dean was beginning to play with the band though, the chemistry was undeniable. Just as I was leaving the band, “Wicked Garden” was being written. “Where The River Goes,” “Only Dying,” and “Naked Sunday” were also early songs they did with Dean. After a month or so, Dean finally agreed to join on a full time basis. He was the icing on the cake for the band, and I became their biggest fan. I was there for their early shows, the day they were signed by Atlantic Records, when they were writing and recording the songs from Core, and as the Grunge scene exploded.
Mighty Joe Young’s original 1989 logo.
When it came to contemporaries, Scott had never heard of a band called Pearl Jam when he was writing Core. We were fans though of Alice In Chains when they came out, and Scott had great admiration for Perry Farrell, he thought he was mesmerizing and an amazing frontman. He loved Jane’s Addiction.
One thing that Scott became iconic for was his use of the bullhorn on stage, and there is a great story behind that. We were over at our buddy Gary Menke’s house one day, and Scott goes into the garage and sees a bullhorn. He says, ‘I want to start playing with this!’ Some time after that, I’m hanging out at Gary’s house, and Scott is on MTV. Gary says, ‘Hey Dad, you were asking where you megaphone was, there it is!’ His Dad Dale goes, ‘What the hell? I want my megaphone back!’ Word got back to Scott, so he wrote: ‘I heart Dale Menke’ on it. Dale let him keep it.
Scott with his trademark bullhorn at a July 1993 concert in Berkley, CA
As Mighty Joe Young became Stone Temple Pilots, I remember feeling that everything I knew we were going to be, was going to be. With any type of career that takes drive and ambition to achieve, there will be naysayers. Whether you want to be a fireman or a doctor, then you get older and you find out it’s ‘1 in 10,000.’ When we were young, we had these people saying: ‘Do you know that 1 in 10,000 people make it in the music industry? Grow up! How are you going to make it?’
We said, ‘We’re the 1 in 10,000.’ Nothing ever penetrated Scott’s mind, he was laser focused. The chills I get remembering being at our 20 year high school reunion when they put the class of 1986 video on, and all of a sudden it shows me and Scott. We’re saying: ‘In 10 years, we’re going to be dominating the world, the biggest band in the music industry.’ Scott did it.
Scott’s 1986 high school graduation photo, with his note to Corey.
When STP released Core in 1992, our local metal station KNAC picked up “Sex Type Thing,” but KROQ said it was ‘too heavy’ for the station. It became the number 1 song on KNAC. “Plush” was the next single, at the time STP were touring in an RV, and that song became a smash hit on rock radio. KROQ think they’re always the ‘hottest’ on alternative, but they had to swallow their pride and play STP after every station across the country had picked up “Plush.”
Once Scott became famous, and I was just a normal guy, every time I would see him, my goal was to try to take him out of that realm, because he called me so many times on the road and we had some very heartfelt conversations. Scott started to go into restaurants, and guys would come up with their shoes, and they’d put them on the table: ‘Hey, will you sign my shoes?’ For awhile he’d be like, ‘Okay, but that’s kind of odd.’ Then it got to a point where he couldn’t be seen in public.
He called me on the road, ‘Corey, I’m coming home, I want you to be at my house.’ Scott had just bought a home with his wife Janina, who is a great woman. She was there for Swing, Mighty Joe Young, and everything. So I meet Scott, we’re sitting at his beautiful house, and Scott tells me, ‘Corey, this is what I always wanted, but I feel like a puppet. I’m being torn. At 8 o’clock I do an interview, 8:30 pictures, then 9 another interview, then 10 I’m going to MTV.’ It was just a lot, and it was times like that that I would help ground him, and help him understand that this is what we were working for, and to just roll with the punches.
Scott during STP’s early days.
We would see each other off and on because of Scott’s touring schedule, but when he would be in town, we would get together. I was over at his house one day in 1998 in Pasadena, and he told me he had a solo record coming out, 12 Bar Blues. He played “Barbarella” over his great sound system, and gave me an acoustic guitar and asked me to play along. He said, ‘I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you come and play with me? I’m going out to play David Letterman in New York, do you want to play?’ I said sure, and he invited me to rehearse with his solo band. Daniel Lanois was there, Martyn LeNoble, and Victor Indrizzo. The guitar tech gave me Dave Navarro’s 12 string to play, it was a lot nicer than the guitar I brought. We started playing “Barbarella,” and Scott stops the song halfway through and tells Daniel than I am going to be singing backups, like I used to in the olden days.
The next thing I know I’m flying to New York with Scott. When we get to David Letterman’s studio we were told we had to cut the song down, which complicated the arrangement and the beginning of the song. A person who worked for Letterman told me, “We’ve decided we’re going to put a click track in your ear, not the drummer’s ear, and when David says ’12 Bar Blues,’ on ‘blues’ you’re going to have to hit the first note to a click track.” So I hit the first note and it starts the drum track for him, and if I make a mistake, I butcher the whole song on live TV. We do it, and I pull it off, but it was quite the experience.
Scott and his brother Michael before Scott’s interview on Howard Stern to promote 12 Bar Blues.
While we were in New York, we got wined and dined by Atlantic Records. At the restaurant, I go to the bathroom, and a guy walks up and asks me: ‘Hey, you’re here with Scott? Could you introduce me to him?’ It was Ben Stiller. So I introduced them, and Ben asked Scott to do a song for ‘There’s Something About Mary.’
Scott then asked me to join his band and come out on tour for 12 Bar Blues with him. This was my dream, but when I got to New York and I saw the schedule, getting up at 7AM, then going to Howard Stern at 7:30, and just being there for 3 days, it was so rigorous. For the first time I saw first hand what it does entail to be a rock star like Scott, and there really is a part to it that can definitely take a toll on you. You really need to have a foundation of some sort, because it can be very cold.
Corey and Scott backstage at a June 2010 Stone Temple Pilots show in Irvine, CA.
After that, I would still see Scott off and on depending on his schedule. In 2009, he called me and said, “Corey, I need you to come up to LA, I’ve got the guys from VH1 Behind The Music here to do an interview with you.” I spent 2 hours with VH1, and the director thanked me for filling in the gaps from when Scott moved to Huntington Beach. It never came out. Apparently there’s so much red tape legally because of the many different musicians Scott worked with, that these guys all have their own publishing deals. They definitely have enough though to release the Behind The Music special.
Later that same year, Scott and I had one of our most memorable experiences as friends when we went to a Notre Dame football game. Scott’s dad David played football at Notre Dame, so Scott was a lifelong fan of Notre Dame’s football team. Every Saturday, no matter what, he was going to watch the game. In 2009, the coach Charlie Weiss heard that Scott had defended him on the internet, when a lot of people were calling for him to be fired. Charlie called Scott and asked him to come to the alumni game, and Scott asked me to go with him.
Corey, Notre Dame’s athletic director, Scott, and Derek Mayes at a Notre Dame football game in 2009.
We stayed at the university hotel, and when we went into our room, and Scott was like a kid in a candy store, shaking his leg with excitement like he did when we were young. We’re talking about a rock star, where nothing surprised him any more. We met Charlie, who told us he wanted us to come on the field, and even let us park in his personal parking space. At the game, Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown came up asked for pictures with Scott.
At one point, Scott decided he wanted to go up to the college section and hang out with the kids. After the game, we ended up playing beer pong with some kids at a bar, and it wasn’t about drinking, Scott drank less than me, it was about Scott’s love for the school. We were invited to a house by seniors, and Scott was so appreciative of everyone we met. He loved the campus, and he wanted to be a part of it. We had the most amazing weekend. He was the old Scott. Scott left such an impression on everybody there, that the alumni director texted me the night Scott passed, 6 years after we’d met him.
Scott and Tim Brown at the Notre Dame game in 2009.
As the years went on and I would see Scott in between tours, and in a beautiful way, I almost felt like a rock for Scott. He got to the point where he was around so many different people. As you become famous, you become this magnet that everyone attracts to. Everyone wants to cling to you, and they all start to become your best friend, and you don’t know their true motifs.
All of a sudden I’d see these new people, and I would be the same old Corey. I would see some uncomfortable stuff, and things I didn’t approve of, and I would be the first one to say something. They would be shocked: ‘Do you know who you’re talking to?’ I’d respond, ‘Yeah, I’m looking out for my best friend.’ It was a back and forth thing, where Scott would want to be around certain people, and then times where he would spend more time with me.
Corey with one of his favorite photographs of Scott in January 2016.
I want to conclude by saying I’m truly blessed to have had a part in Scott’s musical journey, and will hold it close to my heart for the rest of my life. Scott was a slice of the rock and roll revolutionary pie. He is a prominent voice for more than a generation, and his music has become the soundtrack of many of his fans lives. His ability to constantly reinvent himself and his voice inflections catapulted him to a level few have reached in rock and roll. How many musicians can you think of off the top your head that have been making music and remained relevant after 25 years? Scott will always be remembered as the “miraculous melody maker,” with his ability to write songs that stand the test of time.
Figuratively speaking, it was as if Scott was able to tap into a sacred realm of music, and it was the fans who got to reap the rewards of his rare findings. In time, I believe more of Scott’s contributions to music will be recognized as a major footprint for this generation. As a great friend, I’m terribly saddened he’s gone, but rest assured, he’s up in Heaven and playing among the best of them in peace. As his loyal fans pay their respects, I know Scott is looking down and proud of all of you for your heartfelt sentiments. On behalf of his close friends, we thank you for the love and support of a one of a kind, beautiful soul who will forever be remembered.
Scott performing with Soi-Disant.
From left: Scott, his high school sweetheart Heather Chapman, Geneva (David Allin’s girlfriend), David Allin, Ron Kaufman, and Corey Hickok.
Scott with Ron Kaufman, our other great friend. At one time people called us the Three Musty Queers. All in fun of course. The three of us spent a lot of time together throughout high school and beyond.
Ann Wilkens, Heather Chapman, Ron Kaufman, Corey Hickok, Claudia Stange, Geneva, and Scott. Ann Wilkens is now the executive producer for KROQ’s Loveline.
Scott, Heather Chapman, Robin Campbell, David Allin, Geneva, Corey Hickok, Ron Kaufman, and Liana on our 1986 high school graduation trip to Hawaii.
Scott on the high school graduation trip to Hawaii.
Scott and his first love Heather Chapman.
We all went to a ‘Dynasty’ party in high school. This is Scott with Robin Campbell, David Allin’s cousin.
The passing of David Bowie, in the succession of the deaths of Scott Weiland and Lemmy, continue to devastate the hearts of millions if not billions of fans. These three figures, who in total have contributed thousands of songs to the human discography, are sorely missed not only on their creative output but they were massive figures bursting with integrity.
David Bowie, who stepped into the world of alternative rock to prop up and support acts who became some of alternative rock’s most popular acts, like Placebo, had an unprecedented influence on the genre’s development. His work in general, with albums like Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs inspired figures like Cobain, Corgan and Farrell, but this all goes without saying. Bowie’s influence bleeds through culture in a blatant and now tragic way.
One thing not always brought up, however, is one of the greatest gatherings of popular musicians, I dare say, of all time. On January 9th, 1997 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, David Bowie hosted a concert for his fiftieth birthday with a surreal lineup. What’s very admirable about Bowie is that he often reached out to people directly influenced by him first, instead of the other way around.
As seen in our featured photo, you can make Bowie surrounded by figures such as Robert Smith of the Cure, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters (as well as Pat Smear), Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal of Placebo and more. To celebrate his birthday, Bowie invited many of his friends and admirers.
The European alternative rock band Placebo opened for the show. They were touring for their self titled album and were discovered by Bowie and in the late ’90s and became his opening act for several months. He would sing on their sophomore album Without You I’m Nothing on the eponymous track. After opening with some songs from his then recently released album, Earthlings, like “Little Wonder,” he brought out his first guest: Frank Black of the Pixies. Together they performed “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) from the selfsame titled album. They also performed “Fashion” together, from the same album.
In 1997, the Foo Fighters were flying high on the scene after Nirvana’s demise. No doubt, Bowie was aware of Nirvana’s cover of his song “The Man Who Sold the World.” He even performed at this show with his backing band. One would wonder though, if Cobain had lived if he would have been invited to perform with him. However, the Foo Fighters were invited to play “Hallo Spaceboy,” a song from the 1995 Outside album, with Bowie. They offered a thunderous rendition of the song. Bowie (vocals as well as guitar) and Grohl afterwards would perform the electronic tinged “Seven Years in Tibet” together. “Under Pressure” in later years, would become a staple of the Foo Fighters’ live set.
Sonic Youth, the noise rock band which also had a tremendous air within alternative rock circles, were present to perform and celebrate with Bowie, playing his newest single “I’m Afraid of Americans,” which featured production stylings from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Bowie, never afraid to move forward. Below is also included Nine Inch Nails with David Bowie re-orchestrating “Hurt” in 1995, later covered famously by Johnny Cash.
After these performances, David Bowie delivered his hits “Heroes” and “The Man Who Sold the World” with his backing band. Robert Smith from the Cure, emerged from the darkness of backstage to share two songs with Bowie: “The Last Thing You Should Do” and “Quicksand,” though he wanted to do “Young Americans.”
One of the most prominent figures from Bowie’s past, another one of rock’s figures who favored collaboration with admirers, his friend and creative partner Lou Reed joined him on stage for four songs. The two worked on Reed’s album “Transformer” together, which swept the world in storm. The songs they did together that night were “Queen Bitch”, a Lou Reed song “Dirty Blvd” and two songs from Lou Reed’s first major band, the Velvet Underground: “White Light/White Heat” and “Waiting for the Man.” Those latter two songs were frequently covered by Bowie in his past. “Waiting for the Man” was particularly marvelous, with alternating lead vocals from the two. This performance has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It’s nice to revisit and sad to see these figures leave this world.
In 1997, the following song would already have a sentimental and memorial connotation associated with it, Freddie Mercury having passed away a few years before. The duet is shared with his bassist at the time, American bassist Gail Ann Dorsey.
He closed his set with the Ziggy Stardust track, “Moonage Daydream” and seemingly ended the concert with band introductions. The backing band consisted of Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Mike Garson on keyboards (who also worked with the Pumpkins in later years), Zach Alford on drums and Gail Ann Dorsey on bass.
However, as with most great things there is an encore. After an aptly deserved “Happy Birthday!” from Dorsey, some more music emerged. For the encore, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, a huge Bowie fan, joined Bowie on stage for “The Jean Genie” and Mott the Hopple’s “All the Young Dudes,” written by Bowie in the early ’70s. In introducing Corgan, Bowie uttered his famous quote, “I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.” The encore was ended with “Space Oddity” which would be covered by the Smashing Pumpkins during their Oceania tour.
Bowie’s death is as sudden as it is grave. I found out coming out of the Primus and Tool concert in San Diego on their latest tour. It hit me the next day and it hit me very hard and at once. While listening to “Teenage Wildlife,” I became incredibly upset and my eyes followed suit. I felt an embrace and goodbye. What I wrote on my band’s page is the only thing that I can really manage to say about his passing:
David Bowie has died and reborn for the last time, as he did hundreds of times during his lifetime. From the Thin White Duke to Ziggy Stardust to Blackstar – Bowie has always been reborn and died, we tend to forget. This time, it just hits us a bit harder because his consistently ever-changing body and essence has gone to its biggest rebirth, a union with the universe. As he ever was, Bowie exists in all of us. He exists in our courage and our engendered ability to face ourselves, to be ourselves no matter what people tell us. And people do change. His music encompasses a lot, but one thing that has always stood out to me is the spirit of bravery – encouraging people to experience the most of life to better themselves and to grow. To dance, to wander in space, to live as teenage wildlife, to be heroes and in the indefinite final acts and climaxes: to be reborn as Lazarus when Jesus gave life back to him in Lazarus’ miraculous resurrection, the utmost compassionate act we can accept to give ourselves as life continues to shape and challenge us. In embracing his deep lessons, Bowie will be continue to be reborn thousands and thousands of times more.
“Hey Mr. Lovedog You will always be The one back home that could’ve had it all Hey Mr. Lovedog You never really knew me God bless your velvet gifted soul Makes no sense at all Now you’re the Holy Roller With the hub cap diamond star halo This is goodbye to Captain Hi-top Hope your Pearl jam Can keep it strong”
Today marks the fiftieth birthday of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone singer and lyricist, Andrew Patrick Wood. Known by so many names, L’Andrew, The Love Child, the “Man of Golden Words,” the mythology that envelopes his character is larger than life. Born in Columbus, Mississippi on January 8th, 1966, he would find his voice and legacy in the budding music scene in Seattle and the surrounding areas from the early ’80’s until March 19th, 1990. Wood died from complications regarding a hemorrhage aneurysm, after falling into a coma from a heroin overdose on March 16th, 1990. Wood was let off of life support three days later. At the time, Mother Love Bone, his current project that was attracting all kinds of label attention, was to drop their first album, Apple, on Mercury Records. Due to Wood’s passing, the remaining bandmates opted to postpone the album release until four months after his death, on July 19th, 1990. Tragically, it gained extremely positive feedback from major press outlets.
It’s a strange thing that happens with music sometimes. It was only through the death of founding member and guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hillel Slovak, that the band made their connection with guitarist and songwriter John Frusciante that changed the faces of multiple genres with albums like Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication. One in 1988 at the news of Slovak’s death might think the Chili Peppers are just over for sure – because their music was intertwined with the friendship and camaraderie between the band members. But the destiny of art seems to propel vision beyond death – in the wake up of Andrew Wood’s death, both Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam were founded. Those two groups, but especially the latter, continued to have a masterful impact on music in a way not unlike Andrew Wood’s artistry, especially with the inclusion of his friends Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron, and his bandmates Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament.
Wood’s music was very radically different in terms of instrumentation than some of the other bands in the “Seattle scene” at the time. Compare a song like “This is Shangrila” to Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” or Soundgarden’s “Flower.” But the common line is the burst of integrity these bands possessed. These “grunge” bands started purely out of a love for music they admired and rarely much less, because there was not very much opportunity for Northwest artists at the time to see any real fame or success with music, outside of cover bands who played twangy rock at bars. Jimi Hendrix before grunge was the only exception to the rule, only because he moved to the other side of the world, England, to finally achieve his fortune and legacy as, well, Jimi Hendrix.
Wood entered the music scene officially Easter Sunday 1980, when him and his brother Kevin started their first band, Malfunkshun, with Dave Rees and Dave Hunt. Eventually Regan Hagar, a drummer from a band named Maggot Brains, was eventually recruited as the other members cycled out and Malfunkshun became the legendary backyard power trio of the desolate quasi-suburbs of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Drawing influence primarily from glam rock and KISS, they stood out from many of their contemporaries who drew from punk or Black Sabbath. They managed to find a spot on the C/Z Records compilation, Deep Six, featuring bands like the Melvins, the U-Men and Soundgarden, the other original members of the Seattle music scene of the 1980’s. Sub Pop, who was more focused on more “indie and edgy” music, never approached the band on the grounds of their influences.
Malfunkshun regularly played shows from 1980 through about 1987, though Andrew Wood’s rehab visit in 1985 led to a hiatus for Malfunkshun. While never really breaking up, Wood and Hagar starting jamming with the guitarist and bassist from Green River, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. Though Wood conceded that their respective bands represented a different kind of ethos, Malfunkshun being a “T-Rex” band and Green River being a “Stooges” band, the “melting pot,” as Wood put it, ended up working very well. Disinterest and subsequent inactivity with their former bands, with new projects in the Seattle scene emerging, both led to the permanent freezing of Green River and Malfunkshun. Mother Love Bone was formed from out of the impromptu cover band Lords of the Wasteland consisting of Wood, Hagar, Gossard and Ament. Somewhere between 1987 and 1988, Hagar was replaced by Greg Gilmore, the drummer from Skin Yard, which featured famed Seattle producer Jack Endino on guitar. Green River’s other guitarist, Bruce Fairweather, was also added as an additional guitarist.
Generally speaking, Mother Love Bone became Seattle’s first supergroup. Malfunkshun, Green River and Skin Yard were all very locally established acts with dedicated fanbases. When they hit the scene, whether people were elated, sad at the break ups of former bands, angry or confused – they were garnering some form of attention. Within a year, the band was signed to the Stardog subsidiary of Mercury Records (owned by PolyGram) and put out their first effort, the Shine EP. Record sales shot up and the band went on tour around the United States, covering territory like Texas, California and the furthest reaches of Massachusetts, opening for English rock band Dogs D’Amour at certain dates. In 1989 they also released their first single, a cover of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up,” separate from the 2014 Record Store Day re-release.
At the time, Andrew Wood was dating Xana La Fuente, the muse of such songs like “Stargazer”, off of their debut and final album Apple. No one was truly able to stop Wood from doing what he would do, but Xana tried to steer his creative efforts away from inspirations like drugs and discouraged their use. But Wood, La Fuente and their immediate friends like Demri Parrott, the on and off girlfriend of Layne Staley, all explored and dabbled with hard drugs like heroin at one point or another. Their arguments became slump but the help was always there. Wood allegedly went through rehab again during Mother Love Bone’s inception and was clean off of heroin for some time.
“She’d have to tie me to the ceiling A bad moon’s a comin’ better say your prayers child I wanna tell that I love you but does it really matter you? I just can’t stand to see you dragging down again Again my baby I’m here, oh yeah, so I’m singing”
– “Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone
Andy Wood, a My Little Pony figurine and Xana La Fuente circa 1987/1988
One persistent theme of Wood’s life was stardom. He always, always wanted to be a big star. He built his stage personality from his first days in Malfunkshun and continued to build it as he fronted Mother Love Bone through the end of the eighties. To him, it was everything. When digging deep into archives and interviews regarding his character, that seems to be the one universal characteristic of Wood by everyone who knew him. Call it silly, a pipe dream, whatever – but he took whatever he got with it and ran as fast as he could. We was the culmination of all his idols – KISS, Marc Bolan of T-Rex and the hardest of ’70s rock. Hell, he even maintained a “KISS shrine” in his youth. He was about to pave a new road for hard rock, for his beloved term “love rock,” but it wasn’t meant to be.
Wood spent three days in the hospital and was doing well progressively in the first 24 hours, but his condition got worse with time. Evidently, 10 hours of nurse notes are missing. When the notes resume, he was braindead. Indeed, they are certain speculations on how certain medicines affected his body. Chris Cornell flew in from New York to wish Andy goodbye, with family and Xana at the hospital bed. His funeral was held at the legendary Paramount Theatre in Seattle, of which family, friends and fans sat in. Cornell recalls a story after the funeral:
“Sitting in Kelly Curtis’ living room with about 30 people, all sobbing. We had just come from Andy Wood’s extra weird funeral-wake thing at the Paramount Theatre. It had these new age overtones that didn’t fit Andy’s life at all. There was an amazing film of Andy with Mother Love Bone band mates. All of Andy’s friends and family were there, mixed with a bunch of fans who I didn’t like but knew Andy would have loved. The fans went home. His friends went to Kelly’s.
We were crammed in a smallish living room with people sitting on every available surface. Couch arms, end tables, the floor. I was leaning on the back of one of the couches that face away from the rest of the room and toward the front door. I remember Andy’s girlfriend looking at everyone and saying “This is just like La Bamba” then suddenly I heard slapping footsteps growing louder and louder as they reached the front door and Layne flew in, completely breaking down and crying so deeply that he looked truly frightened and lost. Very child like. He looked up at everyone at once and I had this sudden urge to run over and grab him and give him a big hug and tell him everything was going to be OK. Kelly has always had a way of making everyone feel like everything will turn out great. That the world isn’t ending. That’s why we were at his place. I wanted to be that person for Layne, maybe just because he needed it so bad. I wasn’t. I didn’t get up in front of the room and offer that and I still regret it. No one else did either. I don’t know why.”
While on tour in Europe with his band Soundgarden, Cornell, depressed over Wood’s death, wrote the songs that would become “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Reach Down.” Not Soundgarden-esque material, he presented it to Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament and they expressed interest in recording the songs as a tribute to Andy. Initially planned as a single and b-side, the jam sessions brought forth a full album worth of material. Mike McCready, a childhood friend of Gossard was brought into the sessions and Eddie Vedder, who had just moved from San Diego, California, sat in on the sessions and eventually found his way as backing vocals. Matt Cameron sat in for drums and Temple of the Dog was born, the namesake from a lyric of Mother Love Bone’s song “Man of Golden Words.” From the sessions, Pearl Jam began their career with each other as they auditioned Vedder around the time of Temple of the Dog’s recording. Alice in Chain’s famous single “Would?”, was also given to his legacy, as the band was friends with Wood and played several shows with Mother Love Bone. Alice in Chain’s debut album Facelift was also dedicated to Andrew Wood and Jerry’s Cantrell’s mother. Ironically, both Vedder and Wood are Capricorns. Wood’s Moon is in Leo and Vedder’s is in Virgo, in exact astrological succession. Neat huh?
Candlebox’s “Far Behind” was also penned in Wood’s memory
Wood’s music and artistry is forever connected to so many memories for me. I’m incredibly grateful for the time he spent here down from Olympus. My friend actually was almost named Chloe by her father, after “Chloe Dancer.” Love rock will always have a special place in my life. Somewhere from Mount Olympus, Andy Wood is looking down and the legacy and music he spawned from beyond the grave. He wrote, “Dreams like this must die,” but they would not.
PS: Slipknot’s Corey Taylor recently covered “Chloe Dancer” in concert recently and made a medley of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” Completely unexpected…but lovely.
Scott Weiland and Alternative Nation owner Brett Buchanan
2015 has been the most eventful year in the 6 and a half year history of Alternative Nation, and unfortunately not all for positive reasons. Scott Weiland has been one of the flagship artists on the site since I launched it under the name GrungeReport.net in May 2009. His face was the first thing seen next to the logo on this website until we changed our name and layout in June 2013, as seen on the site’s original banner below.
It was depressing to have to write about Scott’s struggles with alcohol and drug use this year. I know many labeled me a ‘hater’ (after calling me a kiss ass for my review of Stone Temple Pilots’ 2010 album and much of STP and Weiland’s works in the first few years of this site) but the truth is I didn’t want to see the guy die, and it saddened and angered me to see one of my musical heroes slowly killing himself in front of all of our eyes.
I’ve spoken to many people who knew Scott, and people with behind the scenes knowledge, and it breaks my heart even more knowing about the passionate man he was when he was just breaking into the music business, and then the terrible things that were happening in the last couple of years of his life. I’m not sure when I will really write about the last couple of years, but we do have an exciting feature coming up soon with one of Scott’s earliest musical partners, who was also one of his best friends.
When it comes to Alternative Nation, this year we had our best year ever. I interviewed two of my favorite musicians, Scott Weiland and Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready. Interviewing Weiland and a member of Pearl Jam (McCready specifically) had been long time goals of mine, and it was great to finally accomplish them. Especially with what happened to Scott, it was an honor to get to interview him and help out with his social media accounts. The interview really felt like the culmination of 6 and a half years of hard work.
Mike Mazzarone booked us two huge interviews with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and former Smiths frontman Morrissey. Doug McCausland, Elias Fulmer, and Charles Peralo did a great job with the interview, getting the site some crossover political coverage for the first time with a controversial statement Morrissey made.
When it came to the news, one story that really touched me this year was when a friend of Pierre-Antoine Henry, a man who was killed by ISIS in the terrorist attack on Eagles of Death Metal’s concert in Paris last month, contacted me. He had seen my article on Eddie Vedder’s tribute to Pierre-Antoine at a Pearl Jam concert, and wanted audio of it for his funeral. I contacted Pearl Jam’s people, and they quickly sent the audio to Pierre-Antoine’s friend. I get cynical about a lot of the dumb stuff I have to write about, and a lot of the dumb criticism I get, but a story like that made it all worth it. It’s terrible to have to write about tragedies like what happened there, but it was touching to see the way Eagles of Death Metal fans united after what happened.
When it came to music released this year, I’ll be quite honest with you, I didn’t like much of it. There were some songs here and there, but there’s a reason the top 10 rock albums of 2015 list was fan voted. Any list I would have put together would have been contrived. There are still songs that came out this year that I really liked, but like I said, they’re few and far between. There’s a lack of exciting new bands coming out that really write incredible hits with lyrical substance, and our heroes of the 90’s are obviously hitting a point where their best days creatively are behind them, and the excitement is more based around great live shows.
But when it comes to original music, I’ll take Adele’s 25 over anything that came out in rock. I still do discover music I haven’t heard, but I find more in artists I dig deeper into from the 80’s that I hadn’t before like Phil Collins and The Cure than I do from much in modern rock or legacy acts putting out new material. I do think there are more great songs to be written though.
Live wise, like I mentioned, many of the 90’s rock acts can still bring it live. The Smashing Pumpkins were totally re-energized this year by the return of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin to the band, turning the band back into a true powerhouse. Dave Grohl kicked off the year playing a birthday show with an all star lineup featuring everybody from David Lee Roth, to Slash, to the late great Lemmy. He later broke his leg at a Foo Fighters show, and somehow managed to push through and have a huge North American tour, and make the dreams of 1,000 fans in Cesena come true. Dave Grohl’s year was truly tailor made for clickbait headlines. While I do not ever create outright lies with my headlines on here, I pick the most interesting thing in the story (if I didn’t the site wouldn’t exist, Facebook only give impressions to appealing headlines), the Grohl headlines were just easy to write.
2016 will seemingly get off to an exciting start with the Guns N’ Roses reunion. We have a lot planned here tentatively on Alternative Nation as well, including some new sections that should broaden the appeal of the site, but in a way that doesn’t interfere with the flow of the content we already have. I don’t want to reveal specific dates as I’ve learned before from doing that, you can have Chinese Democracy situations. I’ve learned from the successes and mistakes, and I think the way we’ll broaden the site now will help compliment what we already have without current coverage being affected at all. The last few months have been our most successful traffic wise ever, and we hope to keep that going in 2016 with some great content. Thank you for the support, and have a happy new year!
The passing of Scott Weiland has sent ripples throughout the rock music industry. Many artists have paid tribute of his passing with their own covers of their favorite tracks featuring Weiland, with Chris Cornell also dedicating the Temple Of The Dog classic “Say Hello 2 Heaven” to Weiland.
With Scott Weiland’s last in-depth interview being with Alternative Nation owner Brett Buchanan, and with the simple fact that his music has had a profound impact on the reporters here at Alternative Nation, we decided to do a look back on the influence Weiland’s music had over his 25-year career on each reporter, all the way back from the 1989/1990 Mighty Joe Young demos to 2015’s Blaster.
Purple is overall my favorite STP album. It’s just one of those timeless albums you can play front to back on repeat. When it comes to my favorite songs from Scott, there are so many from throughout his career. The 1990 “Only Dying” demo from STP’s Mighty Joe Young days is a really underrated gem, and the lyrics feel even more tragic now with what has happened 25 years later.
I have a real affinity for the final songs on STP albums. “Maver” off of their last record was a beautiful track, it showed the evolution of his songwriting over the years. “Atlanta” and “Kitchenware and Candybars” are epic. From his solo career, the standouts to me are “Barbarella,” “The Man I Didn’t Know,” and “Amethyst.” From Velvet Revolver, you can’t go wrong with the hits “Fall to Pieces” and “Slither.”
Scott changed his style not just from album to album, but from song to song. He could have easily rested on his laurels and written Core lite music after 1992, but all the way up until Blaster he kept pushing himself artistically. Regardless of what else he was going through in his life, Scott Weiland always had a great melody in him. Like Fred Durst said, he was the melody man. Rest in peace Scott.
I would say a 2-way tie between Purple and Tiny Music From The Vatican Gift Shop STP reminded me of the great ’70s rock bands (Aerosmith, Kiss, Queen, etc.), as they seemed to get better and better with each album, and each album spawned several classics. Top fav song is “Interstate Love Song,” which is one of the best ’90s rockers – which is no small feat considering how many classics came out between ’91-’94. I also fancy “Pretty Penny,” “Vasoline,” “Big Bang Baby” (my fav STP video!!), “Sour Girl,” and “Days of the Week.” Thank you Mr. Weiland for all the great music.
Songs: “Interstate Love Song” is so melodic and catchy, it’s the first song I ever played live with a band. “Wonderful” is also an underrated beautiful ballad and “Tripping On A Hole In A Paper Heart” is just such a cool & unique song, along with “Last Fight” from Velvet Revolver.
Album: Purple, it’s ridiculous how many good songs are on that record. I can listen to that all the way thru, front to back, back to front.
You know, I could go with what everyone else has been saying, how Core, Purple…etc have been the most impactful albums that I’ve ever heard from Scott, how they have the greatest songs in the history of his career…etc. And while there is some truth to that, let me tell a little quickie about how I coped after Scott’s death.
I was privileged enough to see his last ever show in the United States. As everyone is aware, that show was in promotion of Blaster, Scott’s now final album. I know people have said they don’t want to listen to Scott’s music, or they reach for the old standbys like Tiny Music or Core, but for me? I have listened to Blaster twice a day, every day. I mention this the “album of the year” write up, if Blaster makes the top ten but for me, the album serves a pivotal footnote in the musical history of Scott Weiland. It showed that he really still had it, but you could also hear the pain. The pain in his voice for a lot of these tracks, mostly polished up by studio magic – listen to the Rolling Stone live version of “Way She Moves”, you’ll see what I mean. It is a pure tragedy, Scott Weiland’s death had to happen the way he did. Our addictions, our vices are one of the hardest things to over come. That much is true, when I ran into him with fellow AN reporter, Doug McCausland, you could see that Scott was really out of it. Yet, he managed to give the best show that I’ve seen from him since 2010.
In a way, Blaster now has a more special meaning than the albums I grew up with. I think we will always look at it as more underrated than it really is.
Core made me a fan. I’m a fan of a lot of the more underrated STP works like Atlanta, Dare If You Dare, Art School Girl, Kitchenware and Candybars, Where The River Goes, Pretty Penny, Bi-Polar Bear, Maver, Naked Sunday, Where The River Goes…etc. But I can say with confidence that Scott Weiland/Stone Temple Pilots are one of a handful of acts that I can listen to over and over again without skipping a single song. Without my rediscovery of STP in 2009 and the self titled album that came out shortly after, I would probably be still on my country music kick and writing for some Garth Brooks fansite.
What a shame that would be.
Scott without a doubt made me the rock fan I am today, he will remain as one of my favorite acts of all time but it just pains me that the lasting memory I have of him, was his final states show where there was a guy shouting next to us “WAY TO GO SCOTTY! WE LOVE YOU SCOTTY” and he didn’t even give it a single thought.
We do love you though Scotty. We always will. Rest in peace.
I was born in July of 1993, precisely at the time “Plush” was making its waves topping the Billboard rock charts. I didn’t give a shit about the rock music trends of the Generation X era; I was too busy trying to collect all 120 stars in Super Mario 64.
My only knowledge of Stone Temple Pilots was a conversation I overheard my father having with my mother, spinning a copy of The Doors’ Waiting for the Sun, something or another about Stone Temple Pilots performing with The Doors and somehow taking up Jim Morrison’s mantle. It wasn’t until years later I realized he was referring to Scott’s performance with the surviving members of The Doors on VH1 Storytellers, delivering an awesome cover of “Five to One”.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2006 that I had really delved into rock music; Chris Cornell’s powerful vocals in the Casino Royale theme piqued my interest in soulful rock music, Guns N’ Roses’ Greatest Hits (specifically, “Live And Let Die”) exposed me to the dark yet majestic stride of hard rock. My interest in the latter would lead to an introduction to Velvet Revolver’s and its’ engimatic frontman, Scott Richard Weiland, around the release of Libertad.
“Who is this guy?” My boggled middle school mind asked itself, comparing the Weiland slithering around on stage dressed like a leather fetish Nazi to images images liner notes of Libertad (dressed like Clint Eastwood or Roland Deschain) and images on Google search. “He’s like a million different people.” My intrigue with the chameleon Weiland led me to bum my dad’s copy of STP’s Thank You, and, as it has it, while others my age obsessed over Soulja Boy and Good Charlotte, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop was on constant repeat.
Other than Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland was the last great voice in recent memory from the Grunge era to continue making music. At first, critics called him an Eddie Vedder clone, and then later, his Jim Morrison persona took over and never left. But It sometimes had a dash of Johhny Rotten and sometimes a bit of 60’s Psychedelia looking over your shoulder. He finally won over critics with his unusual lyrics and videos, creating his own sound from California, very different than his adoptive Seattle Grunge brothers, but yet the comparison remained.
And when Weiland joined Velvet Revolver, it was a true super group which our generation had not seen since the debut of a new singer with Van Halen. When we lost Weiland on Dec 3, 2015, we lost musical creativity in an age where bands of today must not only record old songs to get attention; they sometimes have to actually sample the song as well just to get a hit. Maybe his legacy will be studied so that future rock stars can learn from a master. Below are my top picks for a fine Scott Weiland listening experience. Enjoy.
(1992) Stone Temple Pilots: Core
Recommended: “Creep”, “Plush” , “Sex Type Thing”, “Wicked Garden”
(1994) Stone Temple Pilots: Purple
Recommended: “Big Empty”, “Interstate Love Song”, “Vasoline”
(1995) Various Artists: Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin
Recommended: “Dancing Days” – Stone Temple Pilots
(1996) Stone Temple Pilots: Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop
Recommended: “Big Bang Baby”, “Lady Picture Show”, “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart”
(1998) Scott Weiland: 12 Bar Blues
Recommended: “Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down”
(1999) Stone Temple Pilots: No. 4
Recommended: “Sour Girl”
(2000) Various Artists: Stoned Immaculate: The Music of the Doors
Recommended: “Break On Through” – Stone Temple Pilots
(2004) Velvet Revolver: Contraband
Recommended: “Fall to Pieces”, “Slither”
I’ve been an active reader of AlternativeNation.net for about 4 years now and a writer/reporter here for nearly half that time. I’ve noticed the site’s strong connection to Weiland – and even if we published articles about him not showing him at his best, I know many of the writers here were rooting for him. They deeply cared and were worried about him. I haven’t explored Scott Weiland’s discography as heavily as others, but there are several key highlights for me.
Earlier in life, let’s say I was just going through a hard time and ended up in a 72 hour psychiatric hold. In the ambulance, one of the EMTs offered to put on Pandora Radio and I said sure, “alternative rock, please.” The three songs that played to my memory were “Disarm” by the Smashing Pumpkins, “Come As You Are” by Nirvana and “Creep” by Stone Temple Pilots. I’ve always loved “Creep” (more than Radiohead song of the same title) and have found myself listening to the Unplugged version many a lonely nights.
The first two Stone Temple Pilots albums made a bigger impression on me. One summer, my friends and I carried around a large dufflebag full of sixty-some cassettes and one of the most frequently played cassettes was Stone Temple Pilots’ 1994 Purple. I hazily recall a conversation between my friend Cade and I fondly discussing the record shortly after I became a writer here at AlternativeNation. I never dug into the Velvet Revolver stuff too much, but recently I found their cover of Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” and discovered I may enjoy it more than the original.
But I think what speaks to me most about Weiland was his cover of the Smiths’ “Reel Around the Fountain.” It is one of my most cherished works by the Smiths and deals with very sensitive, delicate and introspective matters concerning sexuality. I think it would take anyone a bit guts to speak about those sorts of things.I understand Scott dealt with a great deal of suffering in the realms of love, sex and addictions of that kind, separate but not unrelated to vices like alcohol or other intoxicants. It’s sad to see Scott go – I really was enjoying Blaster and I was planning on going to his LA show later this month. I almost met him when Brett interviewed him – but I had just bought tickets to Texas by the time Brett invited me. Some things aren’t meant to be…Wherever he lies, I hope he has found peace and serenity at last.
I’ve always admired your sense of artistry and integrity. Thanks for the memories and rest easy, Scott.
“I’m half the man I used to be. This I feel as the dawn, it fades to gray.”
I guess I’d go with Purple being my favorite album Scott Weiland did. It evolved from the Grunge sound of the debut and added more variety to the song writing which in turn showed us even more of Scott’s vocal range.
I’d say the two albums that I play the most (still), are Core & Purple. It’s quite hard to pick a favorite song, but the one that always comes to the forefront of my mind is “Vasoline”.
The song is fun, and I’ve always loved the video they put out for it, especially the insect in the vasoline in the very opening of it. I never get tired of listening to it. I’ve always loved “Slither” from Velvet Revolver as well.
I have loved Stone Temple Pilots Core ever since I first heard it. There isn’t one bad song on that album. I love the heavy and powerful music, but most of all its Scott Weiland’s voice. His deep, booming, forceful voice fills up the room even without his megaphone. It’s unique and matched by very few other singers. For me, STP is all about Scott Weiland and they are just not interesting without him.
Another album I often listen to is Velvet Revolver’s Libertad. I don’t feel as strongly about it as Core, but it’s a really good rock album. And you just can’t go wrong with Scott Weiland’s voice and Slash’s guitar.
It’s very sad that the world has lost such a unique voice way too soon, but Scott Weiland will always remain one of my favorite singers.
It’s always crazy to me that people rediscover great music after an artist passes on and all the while their music was just there waiting for someone to give it a listen again and it takes their life ending for people to listen to it, which I am now guilty of. The past couple days I’ve been rediscovering Purple.
After a Scott Weiland tribute on AN Radio and listening to much of it, I have come to the conclusion that Purple is quite possibly a top 5 album of the 90’s. I now recall that in my teen years I once said ‘Interstate Love Song” was my favorite song and along with “Big Empty”, “Vasoline”, “Unglued”, and “Pretty Penny” it made some of the best singles from a single rock album during the period, but its the deeper cuts that set this album apart, which is the same with most great albums. “Meatplow”, “Lounge Fly”, “Still Remains”, “Silvergun Superman”, “Army Ants” are all just as strong as the singles. I just rediscovered this wonderful album again and it is the definition of a classic. Scott Weiland, like with many of the other rock greats, was a troubled genius, passing on way too young.
Hear all the best from Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver and Scott Weiland at www.rockshowradio.net and www.alternativenation.net/radio
As the holidays approach, I feel the overwhelming need to write this after the recent passing of Scott Weiland. We take for granted that our favorite musicians will always be there, but the truth is, life happens, and circumstances in their own lives change, and they are gone.
We’ve lost so many people from the 90’s grunge/alternative rock music scene, and we should not forget them as 2015 concludes, or ever for that matter. The gifts we’ve received from them will last forever, and I am grateful for that. My thoughts go out to their friends, families, and significant others as well, hoping they know the fans are still with them.
Drug addiction is such a hard thing to talk about, so I won’t, but I know all too well the impact it leaves on the living, as I lost my husband in 2010 to a prescription narcotic drug overdose. I then lost my father from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease just 4 days later. The sadness subsides, but never really goes away.
I’d like to take this time to remember those that I often think of and had a huge impact on my ‘alternative music days’ years ago, which I still listen to and love. I’d like to note that not all the artists listed below died of a drug overdose from addiction.
In memory of:
Andrew Wood, Vocals, Piano, Guitar-Malfunkshun, Mother Love Bone
Stefanie Sargent, Guitar – 7 Year Bitch
Mia Zapata, Vocals, Piano, Guitar – The Gits
Kurt Cobain, Lead vocals, Guitar – Nirvana
Shannon Hoon, Lead vocals, Guitar, Various instruments – Blind Melon
John Baker Saunders, Bass – Mad Season, The Walkabouts
Ben McMillan, Lead vocals, Guitar – Gruntruck
Layne Staley, Lead vocals, Guitar – Alice in Chains, Mad Season
Michael Starr, Bass – Alice in Chains, Red Sun Red
Scott Weiland, Lead vocals – Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver
The biggest losses for me personally were Layne Staley and Mike Starr. Both were such talented musicians, and part of a musical phenomenon that still continues to this day, Alice In Chains. I previously wrote about the sound that Layne and Jerry Cantrell created when singing together, an unparalleled duo to date. Mike Starr played his bass guitar with unmatched aggressiveness.
Unfortunately, thinking about their deaths puts me into a depression, something I cannot explain. But I knew it was time to pull out the music again as I wrote this article, so I started playing Facelift, SAP, Dirt, Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains. I’m sure many of you have done the same when missing Layne, as for me the music is healing. Although the lyrics state something of despair, I find the opposite in their music, and it gets me back to living my life again rather being stuck in a state of depression.
This past August, I brought candles to the Layne Staley and Mike Starr annual vigil at the Seattle Center fountain. Every single person listed above (except for Scott Weiland) had a candle. We even had a candle for Layne Staley’s beautiful ex-fiance Demri Parrott, because the impact she had on so many people.
There have obviously been others that we’ve lost, but the ones listed above I either met in person, or saw live in Seattle. However, I can honestly say that I never got to see Scott Weiland live, but I have always loved the music of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.
If you have a musician that you have loved and lost, and you haven’t listened to their music for a while, I urge all of you to find the albums, or CD’s, and dust them off and play them. I bet you will feel a sense of happiness in what they left behind, as I did with Layne and Mike.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and wish you joy and happiness into the next year. I also hope you remember the great music these artists have left behind.
All photos by Jamie Weiland, outside of second photo in story.
“She was my muse for [Blaster]. She’s an artist as well. She’s a multi-media artist. She’s a photographer, she’s a painter, she’s just an amazing artist overall and so our relationship really influenced me.” – Scott Weiland (April 2015)
Former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland passed away on Thursday night, leaving behind his wife Jamie Weiland. Scott met Jamie, then known as Jamie Wachtel, in late 2011 when filming a music video for his Christmas album, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Wachtel, who was photographing the shoot, helped calm his nerves according to a 2012 Rolling Stone article. “I was kind of nervous because one of the songs [“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”] was a tribute to war veterans from World War II on to today. So I’m in this vintage World War II dress outfit, and she was taking stills of me,” Weiland recalled. “I was leaning against this fireplace, and she’s like, ‘You might want to tuck in your belly a little bit.’ It was around the holidays – it was after Thanksgiving, and you know how that tends to be. I was kind of caught off guard, and I started laughing and she started laughing. And I don’t know . . . something magical happened.”
The two kept talking for the rest of the day, and Wachtel gave Weiland a ride home. “I just thought, ‘I have a feeling that I am going to fall in love with this woman,'” he remembered. Scott and Jamie got married in 2013, and Scott became a stepfather to her son. Jamie inspired many of the best tracks on Weiland’s final album Blaster, released in March. In the one of the album’s most powerful songs, “Parachute,” Weiland sang about seeing through the eyes of love: ‘Catch you when you’re fallin’/Even when you’re not/I’ll see you through the eyes of love/Even when you’re crawlin’/Even when you’re fallin’/I’ll be your parachute, hold you up.’
Weiland kept seeking with the spirit of love on the bookend to his discography, the tragic “Circles.” “Circles” is a very romantic, but dark song. It is a song about all hope being lost, yet love somehow reviving that hope. ‘I’d die for you most any day/And surely every night/There’s no angels/There’s no servants to save me/Save me/Ain’t no heavens, no masters protect you/I’ll care for you.’
Jamie also served as Scott’s primary photographer from 2012-2015. I began running Scott Weiland’s social media just a month ago and was sharing some great photos from throughout Scott’s career, fan photos, quotes from Scott, and photos Jamie had released to keep fans up to date on his current tour and promote upcoming shows. There was such an outpouring of love for Scott on his social media, that it breaks my heart I never got the chance to do things like fan Q&A’s that I had planned to connect Scott with the fans that loved him so much.
Just a couple of days before Scott passed, Jamie sent me several photos of Scott that she had taken. Many of these have been seen before, but others have not. Below are the rarest photos from the beautiful collection Jamie sent me of some of the final professionally taken photographs of Scott in the final year of his life. The photos capture Scott’s essence, with his eyes being the entryway into his soul. Rest in peace Scott, and may Jamie know that fans’ thoughts and prayers are with her.
Stone Temple Pilots’ original manager Steve Stewart has provided Alternative Nation exclusively with his tribute to his friend Scott Weiland. Stewart managed STP from 1990 to 2000:
I’ve known Scott since the mid-80s, when my band and his band played gigs together in Orange County, CA. As we grew up, his path took him to further iterations of the band, from Soi Disant to Might Joe Young, while I went to school, and went on to work in the business side of music. Our paths crossed again in 1990, when he and Robert DeLeo asked me to lunch, and asked me if I could help get them a record deal. I was working for Ice T’s manager, and had made some contacts in the industry. Almost two years later, we had a deal from Atlantic Records on the table. I worked with Scott and the band through their next four records, and had a ringside seat for what became one of the most unique stories in modern rock, and the end of an era in the music industry.
What always struck me most about Scott was how alone he really was. For all the people and things he had around, I always felt he was somehow separated from people. Sometimes, all he wanted was someone to sit with him – I remember one late night a long time ago, when we were facing a long night on a bus, after a gig. The bus was filled with maybe 12 people, all of them asleep after working all night. Scott was in the front lounge, behind the driver, and I was sitting up front, watching the road. As I got up and started toward my bunk to grab some sleep, he looked up from the video game he was playing and said, “Will you stay with me? I don’t want to be here alone.” I thought that was an odd thing to say, as there were a dozen souls within 15 feet of him. This has always stayed with me, and I saw other examples of this through the years of how much he needed someone to share the journey with. Even though no one could ever really satisfy that need, I think it was something that he always yearned for, and maybe, never found.
I could always see the little boy in him, looking for his dad’s approval. Though the years and the trappings of fame often obscured it, every once in a while, I’d catch a glimpse of it through that momentary little smile he’d shoot me after he nailed something. Those were the instants when he was truly proud of himself, and that was the Scott I’ll always remember.
I thought he’d always beat his demons, and maybe in the end, he finally did. My prayers are with his family and children.
All photos taken by Brett Buchanan, outside of second to last photo by Jamie Weiland
‘I wanna know what the rents like in heaven
I wanna know where the river goes.’
For Scott’s kids Noah and Lucy. For the entire Weiland family.
This is an article I always feared I’d have to write. It absolutely gutted me to have to write about Scott Weiland’s downfall the last few years. I wanted him to live and be happy, clean and sober. Fuck the music, fuck the tours, fuck the drugs, fuck the alcohol, I wanted this guy to be there for his kids: Noah and Lucy. For all the great music this man has given me to get me through my darkest times, I wanted to see him be happy with his kids. My heart broke for them first and foremost when I heard the news that Scott had died on his tour bus last night. I can’t get the image out of my head of them on stage at one of Stone Temple Pilots’ final shows with Scott Weiland in September 2012 in Irvine, CA (as seen above). Scott seemed so proud of his kids, the biggest smiles I ever saw from him at the 10+ concerts of his I attended were when his kids joined him on stage.
Scott, Lucy, and Noah Weiland at STP’s show in Irvine, CA on September 22, 2012.
I was also at a Stone Temple Pilots concert at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles in October 2010 where Noah joined his father on stage for the intro to “Dead and Bloated.” It is one of my fondest concert memories, just watching the love between a father and son expressed through music. I exchanged e-mails with Scott’s ex-wife Mary both times when I posted stories with my photos (I interviewed her in 2009), and she said that Noah was so proud to be featured on a site with his favorite musicians. To think that Noah and Lucy will now have to grow up through their teenage years without a father is just devastating.
Scott, Lucy, and Noah Weiland at STP’s show in Los Angeles, CA on October 29, 2010.
Scott’s cause of death is not out yet, and I will not speculate on how he died, but we all know Scott fought a long battle with drugs and alcohol regardless of what caused him to pass away. My stepfather died two years ago from drinking, he had cirrhosis of the liver. He knew he was dying, and he would not quit drinking. Constantly lying that he was drinking less, hiding liquor in his golf bag, until he was no longer physically capable of golfing. Near the end, he was broken, a complete shell of himself, and his death was tragic and completely devastated my family. Addiction leads a path of destruction. Scott Weiland had a quote in his 2011 memoir Not Dead & Not For Sale that he wrote during a sober period that related to me a lot personally.
“For years I’ve known goddamn well that I’m a drunk, but who wants to admit that? After kicking the strong stuff, why couldn’t I have a little drink now and then? What harm was there in a small indulgence? The answer was serious harm – potentially fatal harm. For me, putting a drink in my mouth is something like putting a lead blanket over my heart. There’s been so much pain in the past few years that I’m afraid to feel, or commit. I pray that this will end. I don’t want to be alone anymore. I want to be able to love again.
The dream of every drunk – to be able to manage their drinking – is one that has died hard for me. My prayer is that, once and for all, that dream is dead. So I’m back to counting days. It’s nearly been two months since I’ve had a drink. By the time you read this book, my hope is that it will be six months.”
Stone Temple Pilots performing at the Hollywood Bowl on June 24, 2008
When I met Scott Weiland one month ago today to conduct his final in-depth interview for Alternative Nation, it was a dream come true to finally speak to one of my favorite singers. Scott was candid with his answers, and we were able to come to an understanding over his issues with my reporting on him, but there was something about him that night that saddened me. I didn’t know the guy personally, but after reporting on him for 6 and a half years and being a devoted fan, I no longer saw the vibrant charisma and passion that was beaming through his eyes when I saw him with STP at the Hollywood Bowl in 2008 (the greatest concert I have ever been to). After seeing him, I wanted to help the guy any way I could, so I mentioned to Scott’s manager that I noticed he had a lack of a social media presence, and said that if he needed any help to let me know. Scott’s manager quickly gave me access to his social media accounts, and the next thing I knew I was his social media manager. This wasn’t about money, it was about trying to show one of my favorite singers how much love there was out there for him still. I was still rooting for him.
I shared photos that the tour manager was sending in, photos from fans, posted quotes from Scott, shared vintage photos, and the outpouring of love for him was still there after everything he had been through the last few years. I had looked forward to sharing this love from fans with Scott at his show in Los Angeles later this month, but unfortunately it never came to be. Instead, last night as my body was trembling from shock, I had to choose the photo for his official death announcement.
While Scott’s death was obviously not the same as the death of a family member, I’m sure other fans felt the same emotions I did, especially the ones who have made it through crippling depression with the help of Scott’s music. Despite the fame, at heart he was one of us. A troubled soul just trying to find peace, who felt love, pain, and heartbreak the same way we do. When we heard him sing, he was our voice, and made us feel like we weren’t alone. To know that voice has been silenced and and he didn’t find the happiness that eludes many of us is heartbreaking.
Despite this, we will always have the music, much like with Scott’s contemporaries Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain. His music will be here for generations after we are gone, without all of the heartbreak and tragedy we had to deal with. Rest in peace to one of the greatest singers of our time, Scott Richard Weiland, and God bless the entire Weiland family.
‘If you should die before me ask if you can bring a friend
With Foo Fighters’ recent surprise free Saint Cecilia EP release, Alternative Nation has decided to take a look back at the top 10 greatest alternative rock EP’s.
10. Smashing Pumpkins – American Gothic (2008)
American Gothic was an under the radar release, featuring acoustic based songs written during the Zeitgeist era. The EP features “The Rose March,” one of the best songs Billy Corgan has written in the last decade. The EP gives just a taste of Billy Corgan recording acoustic songs, which was also teased with Djali Zwan.
9. Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia (2015)
Foo Fighters’ Saint Cecilia was spontaneously recorded in Austin just a few months, and while it doesn’t feature any songs that stack up with the band’s all time great hits, there is a laid back feeling to the EP that you can hear. It sounds like friends just sitting around the campfire writing music, without any pressure from record labels for commercial success.
8. Green River- Dry As A Bone (1987)
Green River is a fascinating listen for Grunge fans who discovered the band after Pearl Jam and Mudhoney’s formation. The band merges the sound of the two bands with Mark Arm bringing his punk rock sensibilities to Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament’s arena ready sound.
7. Soundgarden – Fopp (1988)
Fopp largely consists of covers, including a cover of Green River’s “Swallow My Pride.”
6. Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)
Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff may be the band’s most famous release, featuring their signature song “Touch Me I’m Sick.” Superfuzz Bigmuff strips down the Grunge sound to its barest bones, and is one of the greatest examples of the eras punk influence.
5. Tool – Opiate (1992)
Opiate was Tool’s first ever release and immediately showcased the band’s brooding sound, despite the raw recording quality. Maynard James Keenan’s lyrics are some of the darkest and angriest of his career, singing about his frustration with God, murder, among other subjects.
4. Soundgarden – Screaming Life (1987)
Soundgarden’s Screaming Life features one of the band’s most underrated songs, “Nothing to Say.” Despite the production quality, the soaring riff and Cornell’s wailing vocals show that the band were destined to headline arenas.
3. Alice In Chains – Sap (1992)
Sap was an important EP for Alice In Chains, with the band exploring their more melodic stripped down side for the first time after their heavy metal leaning debut album Facelift. The EP features ‘Alice Mudgarden’ on standout “Right Turn,” with Chris Cornell and Mark Arm lending guest vocals. “Am I Inside,” featuring Ann Wilson from Heart, is one of Alice In Chains’ best songs. “Got Me Wrong” had incredible staying power, becoming a hit two years later when it was featured on the Clerks soundtrack, and finding new life again when Alice In Chains performed a stellar version of the song on MTV Unplugged in 1996.
2. Nine Inch Nails – Broken (1992)
Broken is the bridge between Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral, and sees Trent Reznor’s songwriting reach a whole new level, further developing the heavy industrial sound that would come to define Nine Inch Nails. Grammy winner “Wish” remains a fan favorite to this day.
1. Alice In Chains – Jar of Flies (1994)
Despite being an EP, Jar of Flies is regarded by many fans as their favorite Alice In Chains’ record, and also as one of the greatest releases of the 90’s. Alice In Chains came into the recording sessions for Jar of Flies with no material at all ready to go, and within a week they had a classic EP featuring some of their greatest songs. Layne Staley’s vocal performance and melody on “I Stay Away” are some of the most inventive and impressive of the 90’s, as well as his vocal part of “Don’t Follow.”
If you try and describe Faith No More’s blend of music, it’s beyond certain that lead singer Mike Patton will go and screw up your theory with their next release. FNM have been tearing up the rock n’ roll rule book ever since they formed over 30 years ago. They have a guy on drums, Mike Bordin to you, The Puff to band members, who thrashes his sticks every night like it’s his final show. And on guitar Jon Hudson has riffs that make his guitar literally bleed. On bass Billy Gould always seems like he’s having the most fun out of everyone, and on keyboards is the ever lovable Roddy Bottum. Vocals are managed by the one and only Mike Patton. He has to have one of the greatest vocal ranges in music history. He can go from death metal, to funk, jump to rap and then 70’s soul without missing a beat.
The band continued to inspire with each new record, and after they split in 1998 it seemed that we had witnessed the last of their crazy antics. However, a decade later they reformed without promising us too much, and certainly with no commitment to the immediate future. But all that changed after the band released their new album this year, Sol Invictus. It was warmly met and meshed well with some of their great past records into one without giving up the individuality of what Sol Invictus was all about. The record was followed by a European festival tour and a U.S. tour, amongst other shows, and everything was deemed a huge success. Faith No More still have the gift that has been embedded in them since the 1980’s.
The Sol Invictus tour looks like a wrap for this year, and with FNM you never know what will happen next. Hopefully they will stick together and manage their solo careers at the same time. Next year offers no plans of more shows, but you never know. However, to celebrate what may be the end of their latest tour, here is a list of the 10 greatest Faith No More songs ever recorded. Now there are a couple of rules. The first is that no songs have been included that are on movie soundtracks or B-sides, just studio releases. Trust me, putting together a top 10 list of their songs has been a difficult task, without the added problems of some of their glorious non studio tracks. The second rule is that all songs must have been originally recorded by Mike Patton. Sure Chuck Mosley is well loved and for good reason, but we have to remember that Mike has really shaped this band and has been the lead singer now for 26 years.
10. SEPARATION ANXIETY (Sol Invictus)
Arguably the best song on the band’s latest record, “Separation Anxiety” is in your face and is a real throwback to the Angel Dust days of Faith No More. Bottums’ ghostly keyboards, Patton’s high voice and Hudson’s guitar, which feels for the most part like a spinning wheel into a downward spiral, is spot on. The song has featured in almost all of their 2015 live shows.
9. HELPLESS (Album of the Year)
Album of the Year, which would be Faith No More’s final studio recording up until this year’s Sol Invictus, was recorded at bassist Billy Gould’s home studio. The album received mixed reviews when released, but it has slowly garnered acclaim through the years. “Helpless” is arguably the stand out track, however even though it was suggested as a single release, that never came to fruition as the band would break up in 1998, the following year.
Helpless tells of somebody that feels utterly alone in the world and just wants someone to notice them. Patton sings” “I even tried to get arrested today, but everyone looked the other way.” Helpless was never going to be radio friendly with a whistle as a chorus and a scream from Patton of ‘HELP’ repeatedly which ends the song. However it is an outstanding song that unlike some of the other tracks on the album has stood the test of time.
8. THE GENTLE ART OF MAKING ENEMIES (King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime)
This song is all about two moments: The opening guitar riff change, with due credit to then guitarist Trey Spruance, who never toured with the band for this record, but was part of the recording process. Then of course there are the many changes in Patton’s voice. The softly spoken deep laconic tone at the songs beginning, followed by the demon like possessed Patton half way through the song. Then another shift in tone when we get to the fourth verse where Patton sounds more recognizable. This song live is one of the band’s many highlights and usually creates a pit of some kind. The very first lyrics are open to interpretation of course, but the following: “The words are so familiar all the same greats, the same mistakes it doesn’t have to be like this”, seem very relevant to Kurt Cobain who of course committed suicide just a year before this record came out in 1995.
7. THE REAL THING (The Real Thing)
Considered a classic song and played hundreds of times, usually as a show opener, “The Real Thing” is a monster. Starting off incredibly slowly and silent, the song grows and grows until it builds into a frenzy, but never gets completely going and isn’t meant to. It is what you want it to be but could well be described as a personal achievement or finding something in your life that is pure and authentic. However the most surprising aspect of “The Real Thing” is its lyrics. Deep, meaning and poetic may sound cliché, but when you consider that Patton was just 21 years of age it is a surprise because it feels as if it has been written by a person twice his age.
6. JUST A MAN (King for a Day, Fool; for a Lifetime)
The final track to be heard on King for a Day, “Fool for a Lifetime” would throw fans a little, with a slow beginning and Patton almost singing us a lullaby. But just when the verse repeats and we aren’t expecting a chorus, the song goes through one of the mighty middle 8’s and gives us one. “And every night I shut my eyes so I don’t have to see the light shining so bright I’ll dream about a cloudy sky, a cloudy sky.” The song at that point turns into one of FNM’s most special, perhaps most accessible songs for newcomers in their back catalogue. The song finished off complete with a backed choir as it finally just fades out. “Just a Man” has proved to be a crowd favorite for many years and still, after 20 years is played.
5. EPIC (The Real Thing)
The song that launched the Patton era of Faith No More, and spearheaded the band into everyone’s living rooms via MTV. The video seen today looks goofy, and the band have moved a million miles away from the tune that is “Epic.” However, the song has remained a rock classic. It’s like a huge piece of bubblegum and energy that resists to be stopped. “Epic” is the one staple song that is always played during live shows. And it’s particularly interesting to see how Patton changes up the vocals on the song, but with Hudson replicating that Jim Martin riff so well, it is a song that cannot be turned into anything else. It will always be “Epic.” A head banger’s wet dream, but this song sums up the band perfectly when the end comes by way of Roddy Bottom’s dreamy piano outro.
4. CRACK HITLER (Angel Dust)
Crack Hitler starts off like the opening to a 1970’s cop show and then hits us with that familiar keyboard, Bordin then kicks in with the sticks and Patton sounds almost inaudible until the chorus. “He’s the one no doubt walking on a tightrope.” The song is based on a drug dealer that the band knew. Billy Gould once said, “Crack Hitler is about this drug baron who takes Crack and compares himself with Hitler, because he commands enough depended people. So he thinks he’s the biggest one…you know what’s funny about all this? His skin is not even white! He’s colored and he thinks he’s Hitler? We all laughed a lot about him, so we had to dedicate him a song.”
3. MIDLIFE CRISIS (Angel Dust)
The Puff’s drums in the intro are one of the most recognizable moments in rock music from the 1990’s. Quickly followed by Gould’s bass, “Midlife Crisis,” which appeared on Angel Dust, is perhaps the most radio friendly song on the album. So it was no surprise that this song was given a single release and a video to boot. Arguably “Midlife Crisis” contains the band’s most catchy chorus and is always a crowd favorite and thus a staple of the bands setlists each night.
2. CAFFEINE (Angel Dust)
One of the heaviest songs on the Faith No More back catalogue, Jim Martin’s guitar, which was held back for much of Angel Dust, gets to rip here, and he doesn’t let this opportunity go to waste. Patton screams, and Gould, Bordin and Bottum hold the groove together. “Caffeine” was written during Patton’s sleep deprivation experiment whilst writing lyrics for this album. A firm non believer in hard drugs, a route that Patton could have easily chosen, the only drug choice for him was, and is, Caffeine.
1. EVERYTHING’S RUINED (Angel Dust)
The highlight of a superb album, “Everything’s Ruined” can be interpreted to mean a number of things. One theory is that the song is about capitalism and families in particular who push their young kids on to the career ladder before they can experience their youth. Patton’s soul destroying lyrics at the end don’t have a happy ending either: “But he made us proud, he made us rich but how were we to know, he’s counterfeit now everything’s ruined.” The video to the song couldn’t be any more different to the lyrical content, with the band messing around in front of a screen showing random pictures. That is until you stop and think that videos back in the day cost around $250,000 to make. Capitalism? The band went the other way and made the cheapest looking video in their career.
Formed and pretty much run by ex-Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine, Megadeth has always been a household name among metal die-hards and casual listeners alike. Though the band has had ups and downs, they have always been hailed as the most consistent of the Big Four. To celebrate the upcoming album and rumored 2016 tour with Suicidal Tendencies we have decided to make this current installment of Alternative Nation’s “Ranked Up” series on Megadeth.
Super Collider (2013)
After an awkward commercial rock phase, Megadeth started coming back strong with albums such as The System has Failed and Endgame. Somehow it led to this. Here Megadeth combine elements of post-grunge and glam metal. Funny considering Dave Mustaine always called glam “Gay Los Angelos Metal”. Some tracks, such as “Burn“, start out with good intros, but then turn for the worst within seconds. Even the most open-minded fans will have a hard time finding merits to this train-wreck.
Risk is one of the most infamous releases from the Big Four and Megadeth’s second most infamous album. Like the title implies the album was a big risk for the band as it was a pretty experimental release. The song “Crush’Em” sounds like an attempt at industrial, “Breadline” sounds like something 3 Doors Down would make while, “Insomnia” sounds like a failed attempt at atmosphere. The closest this album has to a good song is “Prince of Darkness“, which starts out decent but goes downhill fast. Fans blamed the contemporary nu-metal trend for this album, but Dave Ellefson claimed Risk was a reaction against it.
2011 was a strange year for metal albums; many bands released albums of unbelievably bad quality, such as Morbid Angel’s llud Divinium Insanus and Metallica and Lou Reed’s Lulu. While those albums were weird experiments gone wrong, Th1rteen is the exact opposite, pretty much being Megadeth by numbers. The album is just filled with generic song writing and recycled riffs, making it completely forgettable.
The World Needs a Hero (2001)
After the negative reactions to Risk, Megadeth decided to go back to their roots. Guitarist Marty Friedman would leave the band, move to Japan, release a J-pop album (not making this up) and be replaced by Al Pitrelli. While the album was a return to form, it was very bland and forgettable. Some tracks, such as “Promises” sound like they could have come from Risk.
Cryptic Writings (1997)
Continuing the path of their previous album, Cryptic Writings is more of a rock release then a thrash one. The album sold very well even getting it a platinum status and the song “Trust” still appears in the band’s set lists. However musically, Cryptic Writings is only okay and sort of was an omen of what was to come next.
After Countdown to Extinction gave the band more mainstream attention, their next album, Youthanasia gave them a more mainstream sound. This album is most known for the hit song “Train of Consequences” and the ballad ‘A Tout le Monde“. While far from their best release, Youthanasia is still an alright record.
Megadeth’s third album is also their most underrated. Originally panned for its bad production and “Anarchy in the U.K.” cover, this release is usually considered to one of the band’s worst. However, if one gives the album a chance they shall find some great tracks such as “Liar” and “In My Darkest Hour”.
The System Has Failed (2004)
After ten years of okay to bad albums, Megadeth finally gave fans the comeback they had been waiting for. Guitarist Chris Poland who played on the band’s first two albums came back and gave this record an old school Megadeth feel. This was also the first album not to feature long time member Dave Ellefson who would not return till 2010. While the album has some cheesy tracks like “Of Mice and Men” it also has plenty great ones such as “Black Mail the Universe” and “Die Dead Enough“.
United Abominations (2007)
In 2004 the band showed they were coming back strong. Three years later they show it even more with United Abominations. Chris Poland was swapped out for Glen Drover and his brother Shawn Drover joined on drums. Some of the best tracks from this album include “A Call to Arms”, “Washington is next” and the Japanese bonus track “Black Swan“.
Continuing the path the band was on in the 2000’s, Endgame is the best post-Rust in Peace album. Glen Dover was replaced by Chris Broderick who brought with him amazing guitar work. This album is filled with awesome energy and technicality. Tracks like “This Day We Fight” and “Headcrusher” showed the world that Megadeth were still at the top of their game. Sadly this moment didn’t last forever…
Killing is Business… and Business is Good (1985)
Megadeth’s debut is still one of their best. Self produced by the original line up of Dave Mustaine on guitar and vocals, Chris Poland on guitar, Dave Ellefson on bass and Gar Samuelson on drums, this debut is their rawest effort to date. Some of this album’s gems include “Rattlehead“, “The Mechanix” and the cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic “These Boots“.
Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying (1986)
Containing the same exact line up as Killing is Business, Peace Sells is the band’s breakthrough album. The band got signed to Capitol Records and the production values went up. This is also the first Megadeth album to have politically charged lyrics something that would become a stable of the band, though also had songs with satanic lyrics such as “The Conjuring“. Other great tracks include “Peace Sells“, “Wake up Dead” and “Devil’s Island“.
Rust In Peace (1990)
Megadeth’s best album is also one of the best metal albums of all time. Added to the band was guitar master Marty Friedman who would stay with the band throughout the 90’s. Marty’s technical guitar playing brought some of the best riffs and solos ever created to the table. “Holy Wars“, “Tornado of Souls“, “Hangar 18“, “and “Poison was the Cure” and just about every track on this album is a classic. The band would celebrate this album with a tour that consisted of them Slayer, Anthrax and Alice in Chains. In 2010 the band would do an anniversary tour for the same album with Slayer and rotating openers Anthrax and Testament.
It is my firm opinion that Stone Temple Pilots’ discography is the most underappreciated mainstream rock catalog of the past 25 years of music; the band always managed to keep things fresh and shook up their formula every single album. Here, for your clickbait pleasure, is Alternative Nation’s ranking of STP’s records, from Core to High Rise.
In addition to STP’s six studio albums and E.P. with Chester Bennington, I’ve included Scott Weiland’s solo material and the various side projects of the Deleo bros (plus or minus Eric Kretz). Not included is Delta Deep, Robert Deleo’s newest project with Phil Collen of Def Leppard, or Art of Anarchy, which Weiland claims he was never truly part of in the first place.
14. Talk Show (1997)
The first attempt at replacing Weiland in the classic STP lineup, Talk Show saw Dave Coutts, whose vocals sort of combined the alternative sound of the mid-90’s with 80’s pop rock. As one who thinks none of the STP members have ever been involved with an awful record, Talk Show starts off strong before spiraling off into filler territory and does not really leave a lasting impression on the listener. Dave Coutts is an underrated vocalist, however, and he recently resurfaced after disappearing for many years, interacting with STP fans on Below Empty under the name “Cave Doutts” and performing some Talk Show material live in California.
13. Happy in Galoshes (2008)
There’s a solid album buried within the sprawling double-disc Happy in Galoshes, a cathartic concept album dealing with Weiland’s failing marriage with Mary Forsberg and his relationship with his brother Michael. However, like most double albums, the project collapses under its own weight. “She Sold Her System”, “Killing Me Sweetly”, and a very emotional rendition of “Be Not Afraid” are the highlights here, while the album lost a huge opportunity for a collaboration with pop icon Pharrell Williams: the original version of the singer’s seminal hit “Happy”, which leaked earlier this year, was conceived for Happy in Galoshes.
12. Army of Anyone (2006)
The DeLeo brothers’ collaboration with Filter frontman Richard Patrick and future Korn drummer Ray Luzier was a solid effort with masterful production and some great songwriting, but, like Talk Show, the songs lacked the extra “punch” and chemistry that Weiland and even Chester Bennington possess with their STP bandmates. Key tracks include “Non Stop”, “Goodbye”, and “A Better Place”. Note: Army of Anyone’s tourmates, Hurt, are a vastly underrated band to check out. Frontman J. Loren at one point joined Dean DeLeo on stage for a rendition of an original song, “Used To Know Her“.
11. High Rise (2013)
Chester Bennington always wore the Weiland influence on his sleeve and is doing a solid job thus far at STP’s live shows, but the High Rise EP was a bit too rushed and underwhelming as a mission statement by the new lineup. “Out of Time” and “Tomorrow” are the standout tracks here while the rest of the EP more or less goes through the motions. The new incarnation of STP desperately need to release a follow up with at least one heavy-hitting hit to really convince everyone they mean business in studio.
10. Libertad (2007)
The second and final Velvet Revolver album before Weiland’s departure from the band in March 2008, Libertad takes a poppier turn from Contraband. “She Builds Quick Machines” and “The Last Fight” represented the record on rock radio, though Libertad failed to have the same impact as its predecessor in 2004. The record continues the weird Weiland trend of keeping the strongest songs off of the retail release of the record; the rarity track “Gas And A Dollar Laugh” appears on the Japanese import of Libertad, while “Messages” appears on the iTunes edition.
9. Stone Temple Pilots (2010)
The last album to feature Scott Weiland on vocals, 2010’s self-titled “Peace” record was the only set of recorded material released by the classic STP lineup following their 2008 reunion. Stone Temple Pilots opted to push forward with their pop-rock style found on the band’s later records rather than appeal to grungeheads looking for Core 2.0. That’s not to say the record doesn’t have solid tunes: “Between The Lines”, “Take A Load Off”, “First Kiss On Mars”, & “Maver”, but the record doesn’t possess the longevity of the classic five albums and is ultimately an epilogue to the classic STP’s legacy.
8. Blaster (2015)
A solid comeback for frontman Scott Weiland with his new backing band, The Wildabouts, marred by the tragic death of guituarist Jeremy Brown at the age of 34. Blaster sort of represents a back-to-basics rock and roll record for Weiland after the divisive and experimental Happy in Galoshes. The record is front to back rock music with a focus on, as Weiland touted in many interviews, “filling the space between the notes” for a compact and fuzzy sound. The highlight of the record is the surreal Dylanesque rabble of “Parachute”.
7. Contraband (2004)
The debut album from Velvet Revolver, featuring Weiland on vocals and Slash, Duff Mckagan, Matt Sorum, and Dave Kushner supplying the music. The music is tight and the production on Weiland’s vocals is as strong as ever. It’s a shame the band never truly followed up on the success of “Slither” and “Fall to Pieces”.
6. No. 4 (1999)
Producer Brendan O’Brien’s work on No. 4 was admittingly his weakest in the band’s catalog with its “wet towel” production, but the record is at its strongest during its more sentimental moments: the Billboard pop hit “Sour Girl”, the psychedelic-country love (or drug?) ballad “I Got You”, and the epic and soaring “Glide”, and the acoustic “Atlanta”, where Weiland completely channels his inner Morrison. Te latter two are two of the greatest songs in STP’s catalog of deep cuts. The other pole of the record is that of heavy-hitting rock tunes like “Down”, “Heaven & Hot Rods”, and “No Way Out.
5. Core (1992)
Core was the record that effectively started it all, blending contemporary alternative rock music with record-oriented mindset and classic rock riffs. The record blasted the bar band known as Mighty Joe Young to worldwide fame with tunes that are still relevant on rock radio to this day like “Plush”, “Wicked Garden”, & “Sex Type Thing”. While Core arguably has the strongest string of radio heavyweights, it’s still the band’s most generic outing as far as guitar-rock goes, and their sonic heights were not truly achieved until records like Tiny Music and Shangri-La Dee Da were released.
4. Shangri-La Dee Da (2001)
Choosing the slightly hokey “Days of the Week”, originally written for Sheryl Crow, as the lead single of STP’s fifth studio album sort of misrepresented the final product: Shangri-La Dee Da is easily STP’s most experimental album. After plowing through rockers “Dumb Love”, “Coma”, and “Hollywood Bitch”, the record descends into moody weirdness, from the manic melody of “Bi-Polar Bear” to “Transmissions from a Lonely Room”. The band found themselves at a junction when Dean Deleo and Scott Weiland reportedly got into a fist fight during their tour in support of Shangri-La Dee Da and scrapped their pending sixth album, reportedly a return to the sound of Core.
3. 12 Bar Blues (1998)
Easily Weiland’s strongest solo record and one of this writer’s personal favorites of all time, 12 Bar Blues is the work of a creative genius in the deepest throes of addiction, and every inch of the album drips with the paradoxical desperation and manic highs Weiland was experiencing at this point in his career and personal life. From the slinky salsa-influenced “Desperation No. 5” to the ethereal closer “Opposite Octave Reaction”, 12BB is saturated with dark yet joyful melodies and psychedelic textures. Sadly, the album was too experimental to effectively kickstart a solo career, as if Scott skipped the Major Tom/Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars phase and went straight for the Berlin trilogy.
2. Purple (1994)
Purple is inherently the band’s most “listenable” album; it contains the crunchy riffs and baritone vocals that earned STP the grunge fanbase of the early 90’s while also pushing the band towards psych/pop-oriented songwriting. “Interstate Love Song”, “Big Empty”, & “Vasoline” were the two mega hits of the record. Songs like “Unglued” and “Silvergun Superman” are fan favorites. “Still Remains” is one of the best love ballads of the alternative nation era: “…take a bath I’ll drink the water that you leave, if you should die before me ask if you could bring a friend.”
1. Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop (1996)
Casual listeners often dismiss 1996’s Tiny Music as the point where STP fell off the wayward path and became something too different from their flannel and testosterone fueled early days. However, many hardcore fans and music lovers recognize Tiny Music as the group’s opus, a swirling vortex of psychedelia laden with Beatle-esque hooks. From the surreal elevator music intro of “Press Play” to the fan favorite album closer and heroin ballad “Seven Caged Tigers”, you’ll find an eclectic mix of styles stamped with STP’s brand of rock and roll: the bossa nova of “And So I Know”, the jazz-tinged ode to the music industry “Adhesive”, & the Zeppelin-meets Beatles frenzy of “Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart”. As far as “divisive but acclaimed” mainstream rock records of the 90’s go, Tiny Music deserves to be in the same pantheon as Weezer’s Pinkerton, Nirvana’s In Utero, & Pearl Jam’s No Code.
Honorable Mention: Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (2011)
A masterpiece firing on all cylinders. Forget whatever inferior album you have in mind. Scott Weiland’s cover album of traditional Christmas classics (plus the original tune “Happy Christmas (And Many More)”) is the greatest piece of recorded material of the past century.
Breakdowns are the most reoccurring complaint metalheads have about metalcore, alongside the genre’s vocals. As far as I’m concerned, I’m with most metalheads when it comes to bands that pride themselves on that 4/4 hi-hat, same lowest note on the guitar chug over and over again BS on every song. However, I’m not one to let a breakdown ruin an entire song for me, as long as the rest of the song contains well-written sections. I thought I’d take some time to share with you all some of my favorite metalcore songs. These all have that breakdown BS, but with a lot of extra badass.
“It Starts Today” – Obey The Brave
This 5-piece band from Montreal has lyrical content similar to that of Hatebreed. However, Obey The Brave put more emphasis on lead guitar tracks. Right from the beginning this song displays actual riffs rather than grooves. After the lyrics “Here we go” we hear the first breakdown, then right afterwards is a hypnotic lead with reverb and delay. There’s an even slower breakdown after the second “Here we go”. Afterwards, the riffs resume and we’re treated to the same hypnotic lead again before the song ends.
“Nightmares” – I Killed The Prom Queen
From their recent comeback album “Beloved”. The breakdown in this song is relatively short, but occurs multiple times. The intro hooks you in with it’s melodic riff in hi-pass mode, then in regular mode. It is one of the faster songs on the album, which I usually prefer. If you don’t like clean vocals in metal, then I’d suggest giving this song a chance since the cleans in the chorus are overshadowed by that melodic riff.
“District Of Misery” – Oceano
The most embarrassing breakdown of the song occurs at the beginning. Luckily afterwards, the one-note chug here is complemented with either drumming that is more complex than usual, or a keyboard track that sounds like you’re sinking deeper into the ocean’s depths. This is a deathcore song that builds and builds, climaxing at 2:07 into the song.
“The Failsafe” – Misery Signals
I really enjoy it when a metal band lets the notes ring. There’s a lot of that in this song. It begins in a somber key signature, then builds to a more hopeful key of G. What really did it for me though was the clean pre-chorus. The embarrassing breakdown enters after vocalist Karl Schubach screams “Give us a sign”. Not exactly the sign I was hoping for. Luckily, the listener is treated to that amazing clean pre-chorus a second time as the song’s outro. Another song with the pre-chorus and breakdown elements called “Luminary” was present on the band’s latest album “Absent Light”.
“It’s Not Safe To Swim Today” – Veil Of Maya
Expect some frantic splashing in the pit during the breakdowns if you hear this song played live. Rather than splash (though I’m guilty of it myself once), I would focus on Marc Okubo’s relentless riffage. He begins the song with a descending scale, then goes into his signature playing style of diverse and technical riffs. Not to mention the last two notes in the song are pretty unusual.
“Abducted” – Rings Of Saturn
A song like this reminds me why the classification “Aliencore” makes total sense. The scale used in the dueling arpeggios is an Anhemitonic scale, which is particularly creepy (used also in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). On this band’s records there are multiple guitar tracks, but since they’re limited to 2 guitars when playing live, you cannot expect as many duel arpeggios. In fact you can expect at least one guitar performing a rhythm track or breakdown. In the case of this song, it occurs in the later half of the song.
“Make It Bleed” – Whitechapel
You can really feel the brutality oozing out of your pores on this track. Sick riffs after the piano intro. The six-piece deathcore act tuned even lower on their eponymous album. The breakdown occurs about 90 seconds in. Then there’s some lyrics and riffs over the breakdown and then a clean section that takes you to the middle-east, then a pretty advanced solo, more cleans, then back to the insane riffage and lyrics to make you vomit razor blades. Fuckin’ brutal.
“Brain Death” – The Acacia Strain
I really didn’t like this band when I first saw them open for Hatebreed in 2009. I couldn’t take the excessive breakdowns, or beatdowns as their fans like to refer to them. Then when they opened for Lamb Of God in 2012, I walked into the House of Blues in Atlantic City thinking “this intrigues me”. This song was emulating the Meshuggah trend and placing atmosphere in the chorus. I also enjoy the dueling leads after the second chorus. Their signature slower breakdown comes shortly after those leads. After that show, I did some exploring and realized that this band will occasionally throw guys like me a bone, and include a song or two per album with a great atmosphere to make up for the breakdowns. In the case of their newest album Coma Witch, that would be the song “Holy Walls Of The Vatican”.
“Edge Of The Earth” – Volumes
Here’s a band with two vocalists per song. This song has a nice instrumental intro as well. From the beginning of the actual song, it has a great lead section to complement the low-tuned rhythm. The singing in the chorus is impressive as well. After the second verse the breakdown occurs. Then you’re treated to the pre-chorus and chorus once again before the song closes ever so softly. Just like the Acacia Strain, this band will throw me a song like this, or “Vahle” an emotional tribute to a friend who tragically died in an automobile accident, in the midst of their djenty breakdowns or Backstreet Boys-style singing (found in “Erased”).
“Romance Is Dead” – Parkway Drive
And so I end with the first metal band I ever saw in concert. This is usually their closer. Produced by Adam D. of Killswitch Engage, the song has a sick metal tone despite the band’s larger connection to hardcore. The metal elements of the band are from the more technical guitarist Jeff Ling. The song has a wide variety of riffs before and after the breakdown minutes into the song, complemented with emo lyrics “So cry me a fucking river, bitch!”. Ultimately what makes this song after it just builds and builds, is the two-handed tapping technique at the end complemented by other guitarist Luke Kilpatrick, as well as a closing atmosphere to calm one down from the excitement of the tapping.
Tom Morello is one of the most unique guitar players in the history of music. With Morello being the lead guitarist in two of the best-selling bands of the past two decades and plenty of solo albums and side projects to boot, it’s time to rank up the top ten albums featuring Tom Morello on guitar.
10. Nightwatchman Worldwide Rebel Songs
As many Morello fans know, The Nightwatchman tracks are not exactly for fans of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Morello’s Nightwatchman is in singer/songwriter style and includes mostly acoustic tracks. However, there are hints of classic Morello such as the track “It Begins Tonight” and “Union Town”, where he actually plugs in in an Audioslave/RATM esque track. The music is very politically and lyrically driven, and it’s best to be a fan of Neil Young or Bob Dylan when you give The Nightwatchman a try. However, of all Nightwatchman releases, Worldwide Rebel Songs is the Morello’s best album as The Nightwatchman.
9. Audioslave Revelations
With Revelations, Audioslave took what was done with Out Of Exile and made it more mainstream and made it more radio friendly (yes, it was possible to do so), unfortunately radio and other promotion outlets were over the supergroup by this point. Revelations was overproduced and seemingly lacking passion and sounding like a band at their end, which is exactly where Audioslave was. The best track on the album is “Shape Of Things To Come” which Morello and company should have put at the end of a greatest hits album and ended Audioslave there.
https://youtu.be/ioD1wmI_hpY 8. Street Sweeper Social Club (Self Titled)
After releasing two albums under his acoustic Nightwatchman nom de guerre, Morello goes back to his roots in 2009 with Street Sweeper Social Club, though they’re debut album features classic style Morello guitar lines and effects, he plays as more of a rhythm guitarist for the majority of the album. This album seems to be more of a rap album, with vocals from Boots Riley being the main focus of the band. Morello rarely takes you on a journey like with Rage Against the Machine or early Audioslave. However, those who are in dire need of classic Morello there are some that fit the profile, tracks such as “Fight! Smash! Win!”, “100 Little Curses”, “The Squeeze”, “Somewhere In The World”, and “Megablast” are high points.
7. Lock Up Something Bitchin’ This Way Comes
Lock Up features a guitar legend in training as the first major label release featuring Morello. Lock Up is reminiscent of early Red Hot Chili Peppers or Janes Addiction simply for the fact Morello’s style was similar to Hillel Slovak and at times even Dave Navarro. However, there are hints here of Morello coming into his own, such as with the tracks “Nothing New”, “24 Hour Man”, “Maniac” and “Peacekeeper”. All things considered, this album is a bit underrated, and though the elements may not work well together as a whole, the elements themselves are actually very good, Morello in particular.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHWKCOTJJeBTB8QXdX66q620h5UxwyK3_ 6. Audioslave Out of Exile
With Out of Exile, Morello expands what was done with Audioslave’s debut album; however it suffers from what many bands go through with a sophomore album, with the idea of doing something different but ending up not being as spectacular. There are some high-points however, the opening track “Your Time Has Come” is essential Morello, the quasi-ballad “Be Yourself” is one of the best examples of latter Morello, and “Drown Me Slowly” is probably one of the most underrated Morello/Audioslave tracks which features the best guitar work from Morello on either of the last two Audioslave albums.
https://youtu.be/VZ_jSpoLA5I 5. Rage Against the Machine Evil Empire Evil Empire, Morello’s second album with RATM is mostly known for the tracks “People Of The Sun”, “Bulls On Parade”, and “Down Rodeo” however it’s the tracks where he experimented with his already unique sound that gives this album some validation. The album as a whole is more unique and a bit less radio friendly than RATM previous debut self-titled release, however, with Morello experimenting with space and tempo changes on tracks such as “Revolver” and “Year Of The Boomerang” it demonstrates how Morello and the band didn’t want to do the same thing twice, and rightfully so, it didn’t hit on quite as high of level.
4. Rage Against the Machine Renegades
A collection of covers that ended up becoming the last full length album from Rage Against the Machine. The album is solid from start to finish, with Morello giving his signature twist to tracks from legendary artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Minor Threat, The Rolling Stones, Devo, and many others. A covers album from one of the most unique sounding bands in rock history was a must, and Morello and RATM hit a home run with Renegades.
3. Audioslave (Self-Titled)
This album, including Chris Cornell and excluding Zach De La Rocha on vocals, is the first from Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk as Audioslave. The new lead singer seemingly gave Morello the opportunity to create something he has never had a chance to do, a ballad. Tracks like “Like A Stone” and “I Am The Highway” gave Morello another dynamic in his already great resume. Additionally, “Show Me How To Live”, “Cochise”, and “What You Are” give the listener what they have always liked from Morello; great, heavy, and unique riffs.
https://youtu.be/JpZlnEd1IEE 2. Rage Against The Machine Battle of Los Angeles Battle Of Los Angeles is RATM final album of originals, and along with Evil Empire, Battle Of Los Angeles showcased some of Morello’s most unique guitar work, however, the experimentation with space and tempo changes seem to come to fruition on Battle Of Los Angeles, tracks like “Calm Like A Bomb”, “Ashes In The Fall”, and “War Within A Breath” are high on the list of standouts in the Morello catalog. RATM combined the dynamics of Evil Empire with the consistency of their self-titled album and the end result was Battle Of Los Angeles. RATM left on a high note with their final album of originals.
1. Rage Against The Machine (Self-Titled)
Where the signature Morello guitar style came to prominence. From start to finish, Rage Against The Machine (Self-Titled) is 53 minutes of heavy hitting riffs. Tracks like “Bullet In The Head” and “Fistful of Steel” showcase Morello’s unique style and ability for the first time. This album is nothing short of a classic.
Hear all the best from Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave at www.rockshowradio.net and www.alternativenation.net/radio. How would you rank your favorite Tom Morello albums? Feel free to comment below.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Melvoin
“Music can be the most wonderful thing in the world, it personally has inspired me to make great changes in my life and my way of thinking, but it is only music. Remember that those who ‘make it’ are not above you in any way. Don’t give credence to anyone person’s opinion than your very own, including my own and certainly don’t give more credenceto one person’s opinion because he or she has sold more records than another. Many people have asked me how far I want the band to go, and I always say as far and to as many people as it can because that means people are doing the thing that means the most to us, and that is listening to the music.”
– William “Billy” Corgan, “A Newsletter From The Smashing Pumpkins to Their Fans”, 1993
This is a very, very long article. It brings up certain events that aren’t pleasant to remember and at the same time, incredible art. As a disclaimer, people grow up. People make mistakes growing up.
If you like what you read, view a much shorter retrospective on Machinahere.
Prelude to Sadness
Well into their tour in promotion for their sophomore album Siamese Dream, the Smashing Pumpkins were traveling across the Gulf of Mexico’s edge early April 1994, commuting between tour dates from Alabama to Mississippi. After sleeping in a motel room that reeked of “of mildew” and only “just big enough for that same sought after bed”, Corgan begins to recalls an important date. This day would arguably become the most pivotal date in alternative rock’s history. That April 8th, 1994, the news was broke to the world that Kurt Cobain was dead and an entry from the Confessions of Billy Corgan gives insight into Corgan’s initial reaction:
“The phone rings way too early, jarring me out of a sweet, humid sleep…the window is open and the sun pours in as the ocean air sweeps through the room…it looks like a beautiful day…”Did you hear the news? He’s gone and killed himself”…my first twilight thought is that it can’t be true, because even I have been reported dead two separate times in the last year (driving down the road, my father had recently heard a report that I was dead, so it must be a rumor or a bad joke)…the TV. in the room is one of those standard pieces of shit where you need a remote to turn it on, cause they hardwire the front controls off so you can’t jack the channels around to get the movies for free…I flip on CNN with the sound off, figuring if there’s any truth to it that they would have it…there is nothing on at this moment except a general news report, so it must just be a mistake…then I start to think that maybe they won’t care at all and that this might not be the source for information…about 20 seconds in they flash his picture…the talking head is talking away, and my stomach drops about 1,000 feet…I mumble to whoever is on the line for a minute or so, but I don’t remember what I said…they remind me that they are very glad I am still here…I put down the phone, and all is really quiet now…his picture is still up on the screen, frozen…it is one of those rare moments in life where the entire world seems to be stopped, waiting for the next breath…my mind races around to “where is she? I hope she is alright”…I sit on the edge of the bed and just stare at the screen…I cannot believe my eyes, it is just all so sad…I don’t pray, but I do now…I pull myself down to the floor, my back pressed up against the bed, the TV. screen just a foot away from my eyes…I say a prayer for his soul, thanking him for all the good he has done…I pray a lot for his child, who is now without a father…and I start to cry and I don’t stop until there are no more tears to cry…”
The death of Kurt Cobain signaled a significant loss – for his family, for his friends, and for the world. But the end of Cobain’s life and career brought on what might be known as “the death of guitar.” Since Nirvana’s demise, guitar derivative music has never been held as high as it had been during its glory days through the late ’50s up until Cobain’s death in 1994. The death of guitar was neither a good or bad thing – but it set the course of music in a different direction. Guitar driven bands were not exactly forced to change per se but with a reasonable artistic consideration in mind, many bands looked to different means to convey music or at least re-invent and re-structure how they would play guitar. This process had already begun with the electronic movements from the late 70’s through the 80’s, though these movements stayed closely aligned with rock or R&B movements until the ’90s began to approach. The Smashing Pumpkins became one of the first “rock bands” to acknowledge guitar’s death and the course of where music might go. Instead of doing away with it entirely though, Corgan and his former band mates took the initiative to re-invent the role of guitar and influence of rock in their band. As James Iha towards the end of 1996 in Guitar World, “Seeing the way rock music has changed over the last couple of years, it seems kind of dull to be playing guitars…The future is in electronic music. It really seems boring just to play rock music.”
The band, circa 1994. Left to right: Jimmy Chamberlin, D’arcy Wretzky, William “Billy” Corgan and James Iha
A grueling 13 month tour for Siamese Dream was followed by hitting the studio soon afterwards for pre-production and writing. A big element of the album’s direction came out of a shift of producers – long time producer Butch Vig was replaced by electronic producer Flood, who engineered and/or produced several albums by U2, New Order and Nick Cave. In a 1995 interview with Guitar World, Corgan stated that, “I think we’d become so close with Butch that it started to work to our disadvantage. You get to the point where you don’t even say anything, ’cause you know all the body language. So the communication starts to diminish. We’d worked with Butch from the time we did our Sub Pop single [Tristessa, December 1990]. So it wasn’t really a decision about him as a producer. I just felt we had to force the situation, sonically, and take ourselves out of normal Pumpkin recording mode. I didn’t want to repeat past Pumpkin work.” Flood’s collaborator, engineer/producer Alan Moulder was also brought into the mix. The grass is always greener on the other side as they say, and the band was looking to see how far they could push their horizon.
The 666 Tapes – an obscure documentary produced by MTV during the initial recording sessions for the album.
Writing for most of the album’s material formally began in March of 1995, though it has been noted by Corgan that the single “Thirty-Three” was the first song written for the album, shortly after the tour for Siamese Dream was finished around late 1994. Ironically, it became the last single released for the album’s promotion. Thirty-Three is one of the more poignant songs on the album, very soft spoken vocals playing off of deep yet light guitar tones and ethereal keys in the background. Towards the end of the original Smashing Pumpkins’ tenure in 2000, the band played the song during a VH1 Storytellers performance and Corgan spoke about its background and context:
“This song embodies the spirit of that time – I’d just gotten married, I’d just moved into a new house, the band was achieving the kind of success that people only dream of, and I was really hopeful with the idea that I was eventually, that someday and it looked like it was going to happen actually have a happy life. Didn’t quite work out that way. But I don’t think that’s what I want to emphasize about this particular song. Hope is the key component in life, because one must have hope to do anything in this world… I had a friend read my tarot cards, and the person said that, ‘when you’re 33 years old (this is when I was 27), your life is going to completely change.’ So as I sit here today at 33 years old, my life is going to completely change at 33 [In 2000, The Pumpkins announced their last tour when Corgan was 33].”
Thirty-Three performed at VH1 Storytellers, 2000
No sooner than he had covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, the line “Even children get older/And I’m getting older too” rang true for Corgan. He was finally growing up, “I know I can’t be late, supper’s waiting on the table”. But with the price of growing up comes leaving behind many things, like the identities of your past and the friends who helped form it:
“And for a moment I lose myself Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world I’ve journeyed here and there and back again But in the same old haunts I still find my friends Mysteries not ready to reveal
Sympathies I’m ready to return”
It is the sweetest lament. “The graceful swans of never”, the lovely people you leave behind as you grow up. “Thirty-Three” encompasses many of the album’s themes, including all the victories, remorse, and aspirations in the summation of one’s life. These issues have by no means been solved with simple step-by-step solutions for Corgan and the result of a lifetime of frustrations became a beautiful double album. When asked about the double album’s ambitiousness by Addicted to Noise in 1995, Corgan stated, “The first reaction that people have is it’s such a preposterous ’70s kind of thing to do, why would you do that in 1995? That’s exactly the point. It kind of knocks people upside the head to at least reexamine their perception of what an album is. Things like that.” In the same interview he also conceded “a lot” was riding on the album’s success, which would determine if the band would fade out of the public spotlight or reach success unparalleled in their career before. Virgin Records had felt at first that the whole double record concept was a career suicide and a project too large and early for the Pumpkins.
Corgan on stage during the Mellon Collie tour, pre-tonsure
Initial rehearsal through much of the early recording and production process happened at the aptly named Pumpkinland, their rehearsal studio, beginning around November of 1994. Earlier sessions took place at “Sadlands” (Corgan’s home) during the fall of 1994. Demos for the November 1994 sessions were kept at D’arcy’s house for some time and were stolen by her sister’s boyfriend and sold online during the album’s recording and production. Music for the video release Vieuphoria was likely produced and/or written at James Iha’s house, Bugg Studios (named after his dog); around the same time where it is speculated the band may have jammed on new material there as well. Much of lighter instrumental music featured in the video acts as a slight foreshadow and nod to the softer parts of the forthcoming album.
Although Corgan wrote the vast bulk of material on the album, it was a far collaborative process according to most sources. James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and D’arcy Wretzky’s separate contributions to the music Corgan wrote out had the album sound wholly different than their previous records. The introduction of keyboards, piano and strings also had the record stand out from the rest of the discography beforehand. Gish and Siamese Dream, were generally very guitar driven. With Mellon Collie, the “death of guitar” brought out another side of music for the Pumpkins to write with, though the album has incredible guitar feature. What Rolling Stone had to say gave me a very “a-ha” moment – “Accused of not being punk enough, Corgan showed on ‘Mellon Collie’ what punk might be if Steven Spielberg got hold of it.” And it’s true in a sense – the album is well orchestrated in the same vein of which Spielberg has made so many countless great and iconic films. Strings are involved on the album of course, but the album’s orchestration is in the sense of being well-crafted and delicately put together in an intense period of artistic creativity and is in debatable contest as the peak of the Pumpkins. In the closing from the earlier mentioned Addicted to Noise interview, the difference between intuitive and “well-crafted” song writing was explained by Corgan:
“Neil Young, for example, writes so intuitively that it almost comes through him. It’s there. He doesn’t even know while he’s writing what it’s about and later, he may see something. But it sounds to me like you work a little differently.
Corgan: No, I work both ways. I’m a very multi-brain person. I don’t know if it’s my Piscean nature but I sit in a lot of different chairs. For example, a song like “Disarm” was completely intuitive. There’s nothing conscious about that song. It, like, wrote itself. “Today” was an intuitive song. There’s other songs where I really have to spend time to make it all glue together.
Where it’s more crafting.
Corgan: Oh, “Tonight, Tonight” was probably a more crafted song. You’re looking for something specific. You know what you’re trying to say but you’ve got to find the right words to say it with the right sentiments. It’s obviously a well-crafted song. That took time to put all the pieces together. Stuff like that. I move back and forth.”
The formal recording process took place from March to August of 1995 at the Chicago Recording Company. It was overdubbed and mixed at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles. At this point, the band was working harder than a full time 9 to 5 job. Oftentimes, production was divided between teams of people, like Flood and Corgan, Moulder, D’arcy and James, etc. in an effort to get the tracks done. They had to reach the deadline as the year’s end drew nearer, and this could mean spending 10 to 20 hours in the studio in a single day. Another factor to keep in mind was that determining the track listing was a large trial and error process. Approximately 50 songs were recorded during these sessions and 28 were used for most editions of the album. The original vinyl pressing, however, included 30 tracks in 6 sides featuring two additional tracks, “Tonite Reprise” and “Infinite Sadness.” There was much material written or at least jammed on before the formal recording process from both Iha and Corgan. They wanted a double album, a concept they had thrown around for awhile, but 50+ tracks constitutes a triple, if not quadruple, album. By that point there had been plenty of Pumpkins’ material shelved, as documented by first numerous bootlegs and now the official album re-issues. Instead of shelving the material entirely, many of these songs became b-sides to Mellon Collie‘s singles: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “1979”, “Tonight, Tonight”, “Zero” and “Thirty-Three”. Each of these singles were released throughout 1995-1996 with 4 to 5 b-sides from the album outtakes and including tracks recorded after the album at Bugg Studios, “The Bells” for example. These singles/EPs were given a life of their own and compiled into a box set released in 1996 known as The Aeroplane Flies High, named after a b-side from the “Thirty-Three” single: “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right).” But that is another story for another time. The guitars they played on the album were also tuned a half step down to D# to achieve the lower and perhaps emotional tone they were looking for.
Radio Plays My Favorite Song
The singles for Mellon Collie have an interesting history behind them and it all could have gone a very different direction in terms of artistic focus. The dates used in this section refer to US release dates. Originally, “Jellybelly” was going to be released as the first single. Corgan reasoned that, “‘Bullet’ was the absolute obvious choice…which is kind of why I didn’t want it to be the first single. You know, in Pumpkinland, we don’t really like to do the obvious thing. I felt really close to Jellybelly, because it sounds to me like a classic Pumpkins song from a third album. It sounds to me like the manifestation of everything we’ve ever done on a third album, whereas Cherub Rock sounded to me like a second album single.”
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
In the end, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was chosen as the first single. Depending on whom you ask, it is the most well known Pumpkins song to date. “The world is a vampire” became a battle cry heard throughout every lonely teenage bedroom of the world since October 24th, 1995 and even still in 2015. Towards of the album’s release, Corgan when asked about the song’s title reveals its origins in a radio interview with Rock 103.5 Chicago, “Freud had this concept that each of us has a psychic bullet, that if it can be removed we can be psychically healed.” Religion, angst, betrayal or whatever else. It is easier to simply listen to the raw emotional performance than trying to decipher what it means. If you can’t understand it, it’s not worth asking about. Corgan also covered the song’s subject matter after being asked what it meant in the 1995 Addicted to Noise interview, “I don’t really explain the specific things because I think if it’s not apparent, I’m not doing my job. To explain it further is to demystify it and to take away from the power of what it is. It’s taken me awhile to come to this conclusion, but the music is its own interpretive force and everyone’s going to apply their own experiences to the interpretation of it. Me explaining it demystifies it, narrows the ability for people to enjoy it and then becomes the click phrase by which everyone says, ‘Well, okay, with that song ‘Bullet,’ you were trying to say such and such.'” James Iha, in an interview with Paul Berstein, commented on the guitar work and more minimal production (in Pumpkins terms) of the album when the instrumentation of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was addressed:
“I think Flood helped the band…to not repeat the way we recorded before. In comparison, the last record was a lot more produced, there’s less of a live feel – I mean, it’s really good, just more produced I suppose. The thing about the new record is that on a lot of songs we went for more of a live feel. Like on “Bullet”…it’s a lot more stripped down than how we would’ve approached it before. I mean, there’s a lot of guitars on there, but, they weren’t done just for the sake of it, like we can overdub twenty-four guitars or whatever. It’s just two rhythm guitars.
At some point there are one or two other guitars that come in…there’s a lot of drop in sort of stuff. In the second verse there’s this wah-wah sort of thing. It was just this mistake I made on the guitar and we ended up sampling it. We degraded the sound with distortion and I ended up playing it on the keyboard in time with the music. So there’s neat things like that on the record. There’s more space to do stuff like that because there isn’t 24 rhythm guitars.
A lot of that is because we used a lot of Marshall amplifier distortion. It’s a cleaner sound, but more powerful. It has a lot more “throw” to the sound. The fuzz pedals sound so washy, you can’t tell what you’re playing. You could just be fucking off and it would sound good. I think that’s what a lot of bands do now. The Big Muff distortion pedals are like the DX-7 keyboard of the 90’s – everybody uses it. It’s like Nirvana, clean during the verse, step on it for the chorus. I mean, Nirvana were awesome, totally amazing rock band, but everyone’s just stealing their formula. It’s kinda lame.”
“Bullet with Butterfly Wings” was released as a single the same day as the album’s release, October 24th, 1995. It peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Top 100 and captured number 1 on the Canadian RPM Alternative charts, staying at number 1 from November 6th through the 27th of 1995. The single was released with a James Iha composition, “…Said Sadly” and 5 cover songs from the discographies of Blondie, The Cure, Alice Cooper, Missing Persons and the Cars. The music video was directly by Samuel Bayer, who also directed Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” iconic music video.
MTV News on the set of the music video for “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”
The next single, released the following year on January 23rd, 1996, was the song that crossed the Pumpkins’ exposure beyond the world of alternative rock. Utilizing the advent of this “death of guitar”, “1979” became the first song of the direction the Pumpkins were to follow for the albums Adore and both Machina albums, using drum machines and samples against the swirly guitar tracks for an electronic atmosphere. “1979” reached number twelve on the Billboards, and became the highest charting single from the band ever since and has become a staple of rock, and sometimes pop, radio. An excellent example of storytelling, it is not directly a personal song. As Corgan addressed during the commentary for the ‘1979’ music video on the Greatest Hits Video Collection, “Teenage angst, the idealized version. Almost the sort of ‘teenagehood’ I never had, that I wished I had,” was supposed to be the driving theme behind the music video, the so-called “emptiness of youth” that everyone comes to idealize with age. Corgan’s youth was not exactly as carefree as the song’s lyrics are, as he had to take care of his two younger brothers as they moved from home to home. He, however, like many others found his solace in music. The music video, centered on hooligan antics of suburban teenagers, featured cameos from Iha and Wretzky. The original tapes for the music video were left on the roof of a car and lost, so the video had to be re-shot. The b-sides were a mixed bunch, the ones written by Corgan like “Ugly” and “Set the Ray to Jerry” were harder, darker rock, but the two Iha compositions, “The Boy” and “Believe”, were much lighter in nature.
To understand the true nature of the next single, it’s best to watch this:
Clips featuring the Smashing Pumpkins from the Simpsons’ episode “Homerpalooza”
“Zero” was released as a single on April 23rd, 1996. This song was very influential in the iconography of the band, with the advent of the “Zero” t-shirt which became a pop culture staple associated with this part of the ’90s. The shirt, in different forms, is still often found at Smashing Pumpkins’ merchandise booths on tours today. Short and more direct, its lyrics are approachable and yet unattainable. The Zero EP is the longest in length of any of the single EPs from the album, ending with the 23 minute track “Pistachio Medley”, a collection of about 50+ riffs collected over the years from the Pumpkins’ history. The music video for “Zero” was directed by Billy Corgan’s girlfriend at the time, Yelena Yemchuk (he had separated from his wife). The video featured the band and touring keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. In studying the song, I found a similarity in the refrain and lines from the Heart Sutra, a classic text from Mahayana and Zen Buddhism in which the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, or Kuan Yin, expounds on the nature of emptiness, rebirth and attachment. Let us compare:
“Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness, And cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty just like me”
“Listen Sariputra, this Body itself is Emptiness and Emptiness itself is this Body This Body is not other than Emptiness and Emptiness is not other than this Body The same is true of Feelings,Perceptions, Mental Formations, and Consciousness”
– “The Heart Sutra, aka the Insight That Brings Us to the Other Shore” (Translation by Thich Nhat Hanh, found here)
Both songs reflect on ’emptiness’, but both might have at least slightly different definitions of the word. Śūnyatā is the Sanskrit word which is normally translated into emptiness, but alternative translations that can help understand the Buddhist view of emptiness would be openness or voidness. It is related to the concept of impermanence, that nothing is permanent. Emptiness is the true and impermanent nature of things, as in a state without any kind of established personal views, prejudices or attachments which might treat a mood, like anger or depression as a permanent state of mind which we won’t come out of, like our minds might convince us at times. In English, emptiness is perceived negatively, often a synonym for sad or depressed. But in Buddhism, there is a certain richness in emptiness, when outside of the suffering innate in holding particular views or attachments which would get in the way in any kind of insight. Indeed, “There’s no connection to myself.” Corgan confesses, and Buddhism could point to that the concept of “me” is entirely a construct of the impermanent ego. It doesn’t help that Corgan shares a haircut with nearly every Buddhist monk and nun on the planet. Corgan, like Flea and Kurt Cobain, would study Buddhism later in life. We are one and all, but I digress.
There are certain music videos which go to live a life of their own. The music video for “Tonight, Tonight” would be considered one of those. Already a song alive and kicking with a full string section from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the video topped it off with a tribute to turn-of-the-century film and particularly the French silent film A Trip to the Moon. It stars SpongeBob SquarePants stars Tom Kenny and Jill Talley, who play the voices of SpongeBob and Karen respectively. It took three days to film and extensive preparation beforehand, as director James Cameron had rented out the vast majority of turn-of-the-century props to use for his blockbuster film Titanic. As a result, much of the props and costumes were made and not rented. The video’s eccentric cinematography would end up serving the band well, after it won six awards at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996. These awards included Video of the Year, Best Direction, Best Special Effects, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and the Breakthrough Video award. Additionally, it won a Grammy in 1997 for Best Short Form Music Video. It is continuously held as one of the great music videos of all time and “Tonight, Tonight” becomes of the most uplifting and inspiring songs on the album, instilling the conviction to believe in yourself.
Originally, the band had an entirely different idea. So for the wonderful music video for “Tonight, Tonight”, we have the Red Hot Chili Peppers to thank. The music video for their 1995 single, “Aeroplane”, had showcased the idea the Pumpkins wanted to portray: a Bubsy Berkeley inspired music video, with “people diving into champagne glasses” according to Corgan. Berkeley was a noted choreographer and director in the 20th century, known for incorporating complex geometry into his choreographer. See below to understand any of that last sentence:
A scene from Berkeley’s Footlight Parade
Muzzle and Thirty-Three
There were two contenders for the fifth single, which would become the last one from the album. “Muzzle” and “Thirty-Three” were debated between the band and Virgin Records. “Muzzle” was released as a promotional single in August of 1996 in the wake of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin’s departure and fared much better in the charts than did “Thirty-Three” when it was released as the official fifth single on November 11th, 1996. Regarding the single dispute and the chart performance of “Thirty-Three”, Corgan states that, “Virgin Records tried, and failed, to get me to use an edited version of ‘Thirty-Three’. Which is why they said it failed in marketplace: ‘too long.'” The music video for “Thirty-Three” was co-directed by Corgan and Yemchuk and was unlike the rest of the batch of music videos from the album. The video was slow and whimsical, influenced by vintage and amateur photography of the earlier 20th century, as well as Alice in Wonderland and Americana aesthetics. The cinematography for the music video is not unlike much of the subject matter of Corgan’s new blog, People and Their Cars, which focuses on vintage Americana photography. Both the video and the photographs posted of the website reflect a similar appearance in age, though the photographs are vintage and the music video was filmed in 1996. Sometimes, it is easy to see where Corgan draws his influence from and other times he throws you a curveball. One of the songs from the single’s EP, “The Last Song”, features a guitar solo by Corgan’s father William Corgan Sr., who is also a musician.
I’ve journeyed here and there and back again But in the same old haunts I still find my friends Mysteries not ready to reveal Sympathies I’m ready to return I’ll make the effort, love can last forever Graceful swans of never topple to the earth Tomorrow’s just an excuse
James Iha looking very sad
Such a cinematic double album only deserves great artwork to stand by with it. Corgan drove the idea for the album’s aesthetic and the themes and ideas the art should encompass, but it was designed, drawn and painted by John Craig, a Pittsburgh collage artist influenced by the Dada and Surrealist movements in art. The famous album cover after going through several different ideas, like photographing the band in Victorian clothes, was decided to be a collage of elements from Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s The Souvenir and Renaissance master Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria. In 2012, Craig was interviewed by NPR about his art he made for the project, and he spoke to lengths about the album cover’s evolution and outcome:
“With the Greuze, there was something very dreamy or ecstatic about her expression that certainly wasn’t in the Raphael painting. And then the flow and color of the Raphael dress, just the way it’s rippling and almost traveling. I guess it’s those primary colors too. That’s what happens — you don’t know if it’s going to work, but you put the body on the star and the head on the body and you just know it’s right somehow. Though I look at it now and see some tweaks I would do.”
The Souvenir (Fidelity) by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1787-1789
Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Raphael, 1507
The semblance of artwork hundreds of years apart grew to be representative of the album as a whole. The intersection of classical music, all kinds of rock and electronica proved in time to be as timeless as the art the album begot. Craig had illustrated several children’s books in the past and gave the art the quaint and nostalgic feeling that could only be translated through the music of Mellon Collie. He received many faxes from Corgan of some very rough sketches and he transformed them into the lovely and intricate art the album is known for.
Additional artwork done for the album by John Craig
After the album’s release, the band decided to hold off from touring for a little bit to let fans “digest” the material. To be fair, a double album is a lot to digest. Aside from television appearances, such as Saturday Night Live, there was no touring for the album in 1995. The world tour began with two nights January 2nd and 3rd, 1996 in Toronto, Canada at the Phoenix. This massive tour lasted a long and stressful fourteen months. They took on the world like never before. In retrospect, it became the band’s most successful tour – at a price, a horrible price.
According to tour manager Tim Lougee, Corgan was insistent that if anyone caught doing drugs was “going to be sent home, no questions asked.” Jimmy Chamberlin since the Siamese Dream era had struggled very hard with drug and alcohol abuse, notably with heroin. For a period of time between the Siamese Dream sessions and the Mellon Collie tour, he experienced a period of abstinence from heroin. His sponsor during the Siamese Dream sessions was Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and Navarro helped Chamberlin get clean. During The Mellon Collie tour, Jimmy Chamberlin’s father passed away and was a factor in his continued use of drugs as a method of coping with the grief. The passing of Chamberlin’s father postponed the Australian and New Zealand tour dates. For the first seven months of the tour, James Iha recounted that, “there were obvious signs [of using] and generally we would try to give him second chances.”
For the tour, the Pumpkins had picked up a touring keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin. He was the brother of Wendy Melvoin, one half of the duo heavily associated with Prince, Wendy & Lisa. Before joining the Pumpkins on tour, he became the drummer for the Dickies and recorded drums for their 1995 Idjit Savant. Both Wendy and Jonathan all came from a family of musicians, the children of jazz pianist Michael Melvoin whose work is noted with John Lennon, the Jackson 5, Tom Waits, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and the music direction of the television series Patridge Family. He also had served as the president of NARAS, whose MusiCares program has made strides in treating substance abuse amongst musicians.
Melvoin as he appeared in the music video for “Zero”
Melvoin came into the band after the Pumpkins put out an ad for a keyboardist Chamberlin remembers, “We basically put an ad in the paper for a keyboard player about eight months ago. We got about a thousand tapes. We didn’t listen to any of them. He showed up, he could play, and we hired him.” Like Chamberlain, Melvoin shared a past of substance abuse. February 29th in Bangkok, Thailand, both Chamberlin and Melvoin were using and according to Corgan, “Jonathan was fine, but Jimmy was definitely out of it.” Given a second chance, the band plus Melvoin continued touring. Later into the year, another incident occurred on May 2nd in Lisbon, Portugal when both Chamberlin and Melvoin were found outside of a hotel, passed out and unconscious. They were rushed into the emergency room and successfully revived. At this point, Melvoin was fired but was kept to finish the European leg, but still went on to the next American leg of the tour.
A couple days later at the Point Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, a 17-year old fan, Bernadette O’Brien, was crushed in a mosh pit during “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and died a day later from internal injuries. The following date in Belfast was canceled in respect of O’Brien’s memory. Four other people were injured at the Dublin show. Things were getting progressively grim and grimmer.
Melvoin on stage with the Pumpkins circa 1996, at Top of the Tops
Chamberlin and Melvoin stayed in the same hotel room at the Manhattan Regency on the evening of July 11th, 1996 while the rest of the band stayed in another hotel. This of course spells bad news, but the other problem is that Chamberlin was also trying to avoid a stalker that had a history of harassment towards him. Chamberlin wanted to be in an environment away from the rest of the band to remain hidden. Kill two birds with one stone? Either way, the events of this night would change the course of the band’s history, interworkings and music forever. Around 4am, Tim Lougee gets a call from Chamberlin “crying and freaking out” saying that Jonathan was dead. He tried to revive Melvoin to no avail. A separate 9/11 call instructed Chamberlin to place Melvoin’s head under the shower until paramedics could arrive. By the time they arrived, Melvoin was pronounced dead at the scene. Toxicology reports concluded that he had died from an overdose of heroin and alcohol. The specific type of street heroin, called Red Rum, was native to the drug trade of south east Manhattan. The news spiked the demand for Red Rum in the area, tragically. In reflection, Wendy Melvoin said about her brother in Rolling Stone:
“The only thing I can speculate is that somehow, someway, Jonathan developed this incredible jones with Jimmy on this tour. We’ve all been around people who do drugs. We’ve all been around people who have problems with it. We’ve all seen people go through programs. And my brother just didn’t have, in our minds, in any sense, any of those classic symptoms. Jonathan dabbled, as almost everybody else in our life did. This wasn’t an anomaly whatsoever. At the same time, we never heard of any of these episodes that had happened to Jonathan on the road. No one knew any of this.”
Cupid De Locke featuring Melvoin at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., 1/6/1996
Naturally, Chamberlin was fired and a slew of tour dates had to be canceled or re-scheduled. He faced a court date on August 13th for misdemeanor charges of heroin possession. He was sentenced to a rehab facility program and stayed in the program until December of 1996. Chamberlin had no previous criminal record. Years later in an interview with Modern Drummer, Chamberlin discussed the question on why he felt his relapse happened:
“I don’t know…stress? Whatever happens. We’re a lot older now, and I kinda look at it like that. When your unreality becomes your reality, it’s hard to put a gauge on it, and that’s what happened. At the time, we were arguably the biggest band in the world. You achieve this rock star status and start believing your own bullshit. You start thinking you’re indestructible. But there’s a lot of stress and responsibility that goes along with that, and you may not want it. At some point you begin having this love-hate relationship with your career, and then it all becomes about escapism. Some people deal with it one way and some deal with it another way. A lot of times people deal with it the wrong way. That’s what happened.”
Sarah’s Maclachian’s hit “Angel” was written about Jonathan Melvoin and his death. Additionally, Wendy & Lisa wrote the song “Jonathan” for their self-released album in 1999. Lastly, even Prince contributed a song to Melvoin’s legacy, “The Love We Make”, from his album after his departure from Warner Brothers, Emancipation. I think the saddest part of the whole story is that his story has so seemingly slipped from history. He is the only person to have worked with both Prince and the Smashing Pumpkins, two artists/bands with some of the largest discographies, released or otherwise, in the whole history of music. He was described as a musician who could “play any instrument”, and contributed to the Prince albums Around the World In a Day and Parade. None of the Smashing Pumpkins were invited to Melvoin’s funeral.
Sarah Maclachlin’s hit single “Angel”, written in the wake of Jonathan’s death
A song equally as beautiful as “Angel”, written by Wendy Melvoin. It is clear she loved her brother very much.
July 17th, 1996, the Smashing Pumpkins sans Chamberlin issued a press statement:
“Today we are very sorry to tell our friends and fans that we have decided to sever our relationship with our friend and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. This may come as a shock to some and to others perhaps not, but to us it’s devastating. For nine years we’ve battled with Jimmy’s struggles with the insidious disease of drug and alcohol addiction and it’s nearly destroyed everything we are and stand for. So we have decided to carry on without him and wish him the best we have to offer.”
For certain legs of the tour, Filter opened up for the Pumpkins. Their partnership led to their drummer, Matt Walker, being chosen as their drummer to finish the tour with them during the subsequent auditions after Chamberlin’s termination. He would also play certain tracks on the next album, Adore. On keyboards the natural choice was Dennis Flemion from the Frogs, a band that was very close friends with the Pumpkins. The line up of Corgan, Iha, Wretzky, Walker and Flemion took on what was left of the tour from August 1996 until February 1997. For the most part, the rest of the tour went smoothly. The first show with the new line up was at the Pumpkins’ home venue the Cabaret Metro on August 23rd. The proceeds went to the “Christmas for Kids” charity. The tour ended in New Orleans on February 5th, 1997. During the 14 month tour, the band played shows in nearly every state in America, Canada, Great Britain, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Soon after the tour ended, the trio of Corgan, Iha and Wretzky would begin to lay down demos for Adore and release a song for the Batman Forever soundtrack, “The End is the Beginning is the End.” At least two attempts by MTV to stage an Unplugged Smashing Pumpkins show never came to fruit during the tour, but it is worth noting.
Best Stage Banter From the Tour
January 12th, 1996 at the Academy of Music, NYC (2nd Night):
Wretzky: Thank you for the flowers. Iha: We like flowers. Corgan: Flowers are good. Iha: Flowers grow. Corgan: Trees are bad. Flowers are good. Iha: Trees are bad. Flowers are good. Corgan: People are good? Iha: People are sometimes good. Corgan: People are good, yes, people are good, yes. Iha: People are dualistic, good and evil. Corgan: People are good. Iha: People are good. Corgan: Gods are great. Iha: Gods are crazy. Corgan: Like to play another song from the 20s. Iha: This goes all the way back, about three years ago. Corgan: It seems so fucking old, doesn’t it?
April 28th, 1996 at the Trocadiere in Nantes, France
Corgan: Thank you. Bonsoir, bonsoir mis amis. Uh, uh, uh…je world is je vampire?
Corgan: We’d like to thank our opening band Filter for rocking your asses off. Like to play another song from our album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite fad.
July 3rd, 1996 at the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
*In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (tease)* Iha: Billy C on the guitar’s got that blues. Corgan: We’ve got that wack-ass Chicago blues! Iha: You know what I’m saying. Ow! Ow! Damn! Damn that shit’s hot, come on. Hot! If I can’t see you tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe next week we can get it on. Alright, alright, I’m sorry, I’ll just stop talking.
July 10th, 1996 at the USAir Arena in Landover, Maryland (Melvoin’s last show)
Corgan: So, how is everybody? Iha: Are you spaced out? Are you spaced out? Are you still with us? Well, let’s get on board the space rocket.
November 27th, 1996 at the Gulfcoast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi
Corgan: Thank you very much. Is everyone havin’ a good time? Was anyone here when we played in uh, 1994? [On the date Cobain was announced dead 4/8/94] Hello again. As you can see, we are now the happy pumpkins, not the sad ones.
[picks five dancers from the audience to dance during “1979”]
Corgan: Ok, dancers…Mister Iha has some instructions, please pay attention to the rules. Iha: Ok, we have two rules for our dancers, two rules. Corgan: I think we should have three rules. Iha: Three rules, I’ll make up one. Um…don’t eat red meat, go to college, and become me. Um, two rules for our dancers, do not touch us, and do not touch our shit. Corgan: Now there’s a third rule, I got a third rule. Iha: Yes, what is the third rule? Corgan: If you’re gonna dance on stage, you have to pretend you’re having a good time. Iha: Yes, yes…alright, and for those of you who cannot dance with us onstage, I encourage you to dance on stage with us, but do it in your mind, yes. Any people who’ve got this disease will know what I’m talking about.
January 6th, 1997 at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington
Corgan: How is everyone? As you know we’ve gotten progressively wimpier as we’ve gotten older. And this is our wimpy anthem, it’s called Thirty-three.
February 5th, 1997 at the Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana
Corgan: So that was from our fourth album called Siamese Squid, came out in 1984.
Contrary to what the radio may have you believe, there is more to life than singles. While earlier the memorable singles of the album and some b-sides were addressed, there is a far bigger wealth in the album tracks. The primary inspiration for the organization and structure for the double album was Pink Floyd’s The Wall and the Beatles’ self-titled White Album. However, capping out at 121 minutes, it beats both The Wall and the White Album in length, where were 83 and 93 minutes respectively. All in all, it took almost one entire year to write, record, produce and overdub the entire record from the fall of 1994 until August of 1995. A band can change a lot in a year and with a deep variety of music from the sessions, it sometimes hard to believe it only took one year to make, instead of a lifetime.
The Smashing Pumpkins, circa 1996
The opening piano track, one of the earliest songs written for Mellon Collie, acts as an instrumental prologue or chorus. Chorus not as in a “verse, chorus, verse” kind of chorus, but a chorus. In ancient Greece, the chorus was a consistent staple of Greek plays, acted out by one anonymous and collective group of actors who would candidly perform outside of the play’s main stage and world. This could mean dancing, narrating, singing or commenting on the play’s progress or plot. The more obvious comparison comes straight from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (which played as a stark influence on album track “Cupid de Locke”) from the play’s genesis with the prologue:
PROLOGUE Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life; Whole misadventured piteous overthrows Do with their death bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love, And the continuance of their parents’ rage, Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove, Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
If you listen closely to the title track, you can hear the whispers of the album. All the stories and myths, poetry and prose, and bittersweet melody it contains. The first and second discs have about the same dynamic between loud and soft songs. This dynamic is most exemplary between the songs “Stumbleine” and “X.Y.U.” Half-innocent and half-conscious, “Stumbleine” flows a children’s lullaby across an acoustic guitar that almost sounds too shy to speak up. “Nobody nowhere understands anything/about me and all my dreams/lost at sea”, the “misspent youth” of everyone invested in their journeys like losing their virginity the way they always wanted to, the dragon’s chase for the next high and how these dreams intersect like a five car pileup. The pledge to the listener is the refrain, “I’ll be your stumbeline/I’ll be your super queen” the ideal other half all people, but especially teenagers before the young adult disillusionment sets in, seek their heart out for. In the most poignant way, this song captures that moment alone in your room, walking down the street at night, in the corner of a party, as a teenager. But it is a moment stuck in time, a time that cannot last. The proceeding death rock ballad, “X.Y.U.” is not as sentimental. It is both confessional and unapologetic, a devotion and a curse. The speaker brings up his insecurities and troubles growing up to the forefront and how it affects how he loves and what he might expect with love. Of course with anything, expectations from habit energies rarely or truly satisfy a person’s needs:
“I hurt where I can’t feel, I feel where I can’t hurt I know where I can’t know, I bleed for me and mine ka-boom, a rat-tat-tat, and some good ole bliss cause I’m a sister, and I’m a motherfuck I am made of shamrocks, I am made of stern stuff I am never enough, I am the forgotten child and I said I wanna fill you up, I wanna break you, I wanna give you up from one another, no one should ever come in between us, between us and our love”
“I am made of shamrocks” can be seen as less figurative and more literal, as Corgan is not only half Irish but born on Saint Patrick’s Day, commonly associated with Ireland and its history. The interpersonal dichotomy of love and hate, passion and rage, but isn’t it all the same? But nothing is more haunting than hearing all of instrumentation slow down and quiet, and into the silence Corgan proclaims:
“AND IN THE EYES OF THE JACKAL I SAY KAAAAAAAAH-BOOM!”
Anubis, the weigher of hearts, the embalmer, the balance and the jackal. Corgan blows up straight to the face of all notions of the perceived order of how life of how is meant to be, and clearly not everything works with the hope you intend. There is no balance here, as the song rocks back and forth like the “hell on earth” as it is shouted in the very last verse before an incredible sensory overload breakdown at the outro.
These themes of growing up and the short-comings of “happily ever after” are very prevalent, and the album both seems to celebrate them and tear them down. One of my favorite tracks, “Galapagos”, presents one of the more direct messages on the album:
“Carve out your heart for keeps in an old oak tree and hold me for goodbyes-and whispered lullabies and tell me I am still the man I’m supposed to be I won’t deny the pain I won’t deny the change and should I fall from grace here with you will you leave me too?”
The iconic sweet image of two kids carving a heart with their names inside on a tree. Whispering sweet nothings in a lover’s ear. We want it all, but can we still have it and be the “man I’m supposed to be”? Do the idealizations of romance have real bearings in life, at least once we grow up? “Should I fall from grace here with you?” This is the opportunity to grow and mature, but what is the cost? “Galapagos” indeed, the archipelago where Darwin started his research which would debunk creationism, humanity’s idealistic sense of genealogical innocence. If “Muzzle” could have been a single, “Here is No Why” definitely could have been as well. The song also speaks to lengths on the dichotomy of growing up through jaded teenagehood:
“Lost inside the dreams, of teen machines the useless drags, the empty days the lonely towers of long mistakes to forgotten faces and faded loves sitting still was never enough and if you’re giving in, then you’re giving up cause in your sad machines you’ll forever stay burning up in speed lost inside the dreams, of teen machines”
No matter how much someone will try to grow up, to throw out their yearbooks, to get a new haircut, to “re-define them,” the vast bulk of people are not even trying to move past the traumas and mistakes of their youth, lost inside the dreams of teen machines. In “Tales of a Scorched Earth,” the couplet “Why do the same old things keep on happening?/Because beyond my hopes there are no feelings” when applied to the subjectiveness of certain people’s experiences highlight how people cling to what they want for themselves, what they’ve always wanted, but put the “feelings” acquired in the pursuit in their back of conscious, neglecting themselves in order to keep on pushing. It won’t matter how they continue to treat people or themselves, they’ll keep asking: “Why do the same old things keep on happening?” Machines are devoid of feelings, and what are teenagers raised to be like? While there are universal values instilled into people like “you sow what you reap” or the concept of karma, no matter how people are raised there is few practical examples given to live these values out and the values end up being taken for granted. In this way, without a real human application, these concepts are drilled into people like transferring data to data. Most people have to experience to live these things, but there is no guarantee that anyone is going to be considerate, nice or even decent to the people surround them all the time. There is a plethora of abuse from all facets of human relationships, friend to friend, parent to child, child to parent, lover to lover, that leaves scars in hearts and a burden on the shoulders. It is written off, excused, “justified,” or otherwise the vicious cycle goes on and so does the suffering from generation to generation.
Having to study their album and its history intensely the last two weeks, I’ve began to develop a new appreciation for certain songs I had not paid much attention to, especially on the second disc. “Lily (My One and Only)” has turned into one of my very favorites by the Pumpkins in general. With a bit of a honky-tonk piano and a teaspoon of glittering fairy synths over a folksy-country rhythm, it stands out from even the other softer songs on the album like “Stumbeline” or Iha’s “Take Me Down”. Without listening to the lyrics, it would be just perceived as another sentimental love song. Yet the lyrics appear to be written from a perspective of a voyeur playing peeping tom outside of a girl’s window, obsessed with his thoughts of what he believes to be consummate and requited love. He is still head over heels even after the “officer is knocking at my door,” the police are “dragging’ me away,” and he swears he saw “her wave and say goodbye.” Or good riddance. Indeed, one point or another I’m sure all of the Pumpkins experienced some kind of bizarre stalker, especially Corgan. For us dedicated fans, we might be sometimes too “voyeuristic” ourselves. But it’s all in the name of love, right? Right. It’s not like I frequent Madame Zuzu’s or anything… (I live in California, so the answer is no)
“Thru the Eyes of Ruby”, which was featured on the recent End Times tour with Jimmy Chamberlin back on drums, becomes the most produced track of the album in terms of separate backing guitar tracks. It is estimated that 70 tracks comprise the song, an ode to the guitar production of Siamese Dream, which featured several, several guitar overdubs over the various tracks released on the album. The song begins with a short piano intro reminiscent of the title track, but from there it becomes a song very much of its own. “I believe in never/I believe in all the way/but belief is not to notice, believe is just some faith/and faith can’t help you to escape,” furthers the acknowledgement of this attachment to ideals of love. It is the most beautiful set of things to surround yourself with, but “faith can’t help you to escape.” There is more to life than Valentine’s Day’s cards. This kind of love can’t save you, but it can enhance your life. This love also seemed to be very circumstantial and easily can fall to the winds of change in a very radical way. The refrain “love is suicide” from “Bodies” comes to mind. When not dealt with appropriately, to get caught up in passion becomes the risk of losing yourself and who are. When these subdued traits come to head, “Bodies” paints us the portrait of alienation in love:
“You can’t help deny forever the tragedies reside in you the secret sights hide in you the lonely nights divide you in two all my blisters now revealed in the darkness of my dreams in the spaces in between us”
It is just that: that love alone can’t save us completely. Because there are so many unintentional shortcomings and unforeseen events that could just pull the rug from underneath our feet, so to speak. One wrong word or foolish mistake is all it can take for even the strongest of love to dissipate. It is most logical to refer to only one song here, “Love”, to help us out so more. The appropriately named track expounds on these concepts drawn out of here from “Bodies”, “I can’t help what you see/I can’t help but to be/For what I needed to need/she’ll make it/Love, it’s who you know.” Our problems are our own. They can’t be our girlfriend’s problems, no matter how badly we want for either someone else to deal with them or to go away. Unfortunately, a lot of people will live their entire lives with this delusion. Because everyone has their own problems to deal with, as the speaker concedes of “my mistakes of cowardice.” Love, it’s who you know. How a person defines love is largely reflective of who they know, the people have been engaged themselves enough in a person’s life to make an impact, positive or negative. People internalize it, “teen machines” become re-wired, and then reactions are given according to a personal code of almost DNA strength that takes strong effort and mindfulness to break. Ah, melancholy and how infinite it is.
“My life has been empty, my life has been untrue and does she really know, who I really am? does she really know me at last dead eyes, are you just like me?”
– “By Starlight”
Farewell and Goodnight
“Goodnight, to every little hour that you sleep tight may it hold you through the winter of a long night and keep you from the loneliness of yourself heart strung is your heart frayed and empty cause it’s hard luck, when no one understands your love it’s unsung, and i say goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day goodnight, always, to all that’s in your heart goodnight, may your dreams be so happy and your head lite with the wishes of a sandman and a night light be careful not to let the bedbugs sleep tight nestled in your covers the sun shines but i don’t a silver rain will wash away and you can tell, it’s just as well goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day goodnight, always to all that’s pure that’s in your heart”
The dark night of the soul, where the soul is tried and crucified by trial through spiritual crisis. This album takes the soul out on a dark night through itself, challenging everything frank and for granted about ourselves and the people in our lives. The lyrics of “Tonight, Tonight” brings us what he need for our journey. “The impossible is possible tonight” and from there we are plunged into the melancholy which is unveiled through the infinite sadness: the things about the human experience that seemingly always have been, like: deceit, betrayal, emptiness, hate, despair but these things are juxtaposed with ecstasy, union, fulfillment, love, absolute beauty and God. The crisis here is how to deal with the fact that love can’t always manifest exactly to the image we have about it in our heads. Sometimes, there are no castles or touching sunsets. Sometimes, love is simply revealed unto you in a way that is most unexpected , outside of your fantasy and what is a better surprise? To find out these things are beyond anything you’ve come to imagine. As “Jellybelly” entails:
“You’re nowhere to see there’s nothing left to do there’s nothing left to feel doesn’t matter what you want, so to make yourself feel better you make it so you’ll never give in to your forevers and live for always and forever, forever, you’re forever to be forever, forever, you’re forever to me”
It doesn’t matter what you want. Once this dark night purges you of everything silly love songs and your insecurities tell you to believe, “we’ll crucify the insincere tonight.” The Pumpkins at one point rested their entire career on Mellon Collie‘s potential and what a great horse to bet on. Through strenuous and music-defying work, spending whole days at a time in a studio, the world became blessed with an album that on many levels spoke in more detail on attachment, love, unfairness, self-pity and the anxiety of human consciousness than some holy books. Talk about a “concept album”, this is a life album. The blend of personal experience and universal expression makes it incredibly accessible to anyone who might question themselves or anything else. What a blessing this was to go through the album so carefully, because in reading all these lyrics I discovered an untold story that foreshadows the existence and experience of so many people. It is fairy tale, it is a silent movie, it is the obscure book left next to the Canterbury Tales in a dusty library and an album that really changed the course of rock forever by no longer confining itself to what rock is “supposed” to be like, in the same way the album established new perspectives on love. The consideration that love may not be static or not “unto death do we part”, because we live and die in every moment that we free ourselves from attachment. I once had the chance to ask Corgan on the subject of depression and how to deal with it and he told me: “Realizing that whatever you are experiencing is not real, and only in your mind.” It’s something I’ve found myself turning to a lot. Once we de-attach ourselves from things we cannot attain or no longer can, we are free to do anything. The album neither glorifies or disdains sadness, but accounts as the one thing it is: infinite. Anyone could tell you anything about how to deal with depression, sadness or any kind of feeling, but your feelings are not your own. “The more you change, the less you feel.” The experience of growing up, like no longer expecting gifts at Christmas or other things is the dark night of the soul which brings fruition to the line “believe in me as I believe in you.” Believing in fairy tales like the “love” we idealize does not allow us to believe in ourselves. What do we really need?
I realize I spoke at large lengths about this album and ultimately these are my own interpretations no matter how much I researched. Like the opening quote says, “Don’t give credence to anyone person’s opinion than your very own.” I don’t want anyone to just read this article and take my word. Listen to the album, buy the album, worship the album, burn the album (try not to) or whatever. See how it applies to your life. But for me personally, the Smashing Pumpkins have given me such a great richness that driven me to the most immaculate moments and have been with me at my absolute lowest, spiritually, mentally, physically or otherwise. For me, Mellon Collie started my love affair with this band and supported me during a part of my life I didn’t think I could make it through. It gave me the opportunity to bond with the most beautiful people I’ve come to know in my life, and even myself! This double album has consolidated so many of those “indescribable moments of your life tonight” experiences. Nothing more I could say can compare to living through this album and the insight it can give you, though be warned it may not always be pleasant.
Richard Shannon Hoon, born September 26th, 1967, was the vocalist/lyricist of American alternative/neo-psychedelic band Blind Melon. The band achieved fame and success during the early 1990’s with their single “No Rain”, whose music video was subject to heavy rotation on MTV. Though widely respected and associated with the alternative rock community, their music’s strongest elements are rooted in neo-psychedelic. Every member of the band was also from a different part of the country: Hoon was from Lafayette, Indiana (same hometown as Axl Rose), Brad Smith (bassist), Glen Graham (drummer) and Roger Stevens (lead guitarist) from West Point, Mississippi, with Christopher Thorn (rhythm guitar, mandolin) and Glen Graham from Pennsylvania. They all separately had transplanted themselves to Los Angeles in order to pursue music. At a party, Smith and Stevens saw and heard Hoon play a song he wrote that would become Blind Melon’s first song, “Change”. The bassist and guitarist duo invited Hoon to come and jam with them. Seeking out a full band, they found Thorn and Graham and subsequently founded Blind Melon in March of 1990. We rehearsed together for several months and recorded a four track-demo, which caught the attention of Capitol Records who gave them a big record deal.
Hoon was known by friends as a gentle kind of party animal and accomplished artist. He was influenced largely by the American psychedelic bands of the ’60’s, as well blues, tinges of country and television shows of the ’70s. He and the band were known to cover songs from the Velvet Underground, Steppenwolf and John Lennon. As previously mentioned, he came from the same hometown as Guns n’ Roses frontman Axl Rose but didn’t grow to know him until he moved to Los Angeles where Rose had found success. Hoon was featured on the Use Your Illusions albums and the “Don’t Cry” music video. Blind Melon would become the opener for Guns N’ Roses during their co-headlining tour with Soundgarden in 1992. Hoon’s onstage antics including reckless dancing, light cross dressing, going on stage naked or even at Woodstock ’94, he performed on acid in a dress. During the last five years of his life, he always kept a video camera with him and documented himself and the band extensively. Some of these footage was incorporated into a VH1 documentary in 2001, featured below:
During his youth, he had engaged in a lot of substance abuse which would continue into his adulthood, with some stints in rehab or short periods of sobriety. Moving to Los Angeles seemed to subdue this a little bit, but the success of their self-titled album and especially the sophomore album Soup, his drug use and variety increased. Hoon and his long time girlfriend Lisa Crouse had a child in July of 1995, named Nico Blue Hoon. Her birth led to three months of sobriety. Unfortunately,later on tour for Soup Hoon would tragically overdose on cocaine from a co-morbid heart attack, 20 years ago today.
After Hoon’s death, Blind Melon stayed in a semi-hiatus state until 1999. During this time they released Nico, an album comprised of rarities and cover songs. Named after his daughter, the album’s proceeds would be put in a college fund for Nico Blue, as well as programs who help musicians with drug abuse. A video release from the band in 1996, Letters From a Porcupine, was nominated for “Best Long Form Music Video” at the 1998 Grammy Awards.
Blind Melon did end up reuniting with a new singer, Travis Warren, and recorded one album with him, For My Friends and tour sporadically. However, there was nothing about Hoon’s personality that could be replaced or superseded by anyone.