AP: You were one of the last people to meet Scott Weiland and you were also in the band that opened for him just before he died. Were you a fan of his music? Can you share your experience?
LD: True, true. I was a fan of his work. I did not grow up listening to STP. I loved bands like Fugazi and Sonic Youth around the time they arrived on the scene. I do remember when his first solo album came out- 12 Bar Blues. I remember being interested in it just for the album cover. It looks like one of those old Blue Note Jazz records. I bought that CD and that was the first I was really impressed by his talents. That’s a damn near perfect album. It was more like a PJ Harvey record than STP, very artsy and experimental. Since that album, I followed his career and I also revisited STP albums and they grew on me over time. I heard a lot of influences in that band that came from bands I already loved. So like everyone else I knew, I passed them off as a typical grunge act and didn’t invest the time to really see what they were about. They’re incredible players, and he was a remarkable songwriter, one of the best of all time.
AP: He’s well known as a flamboyant and chaotic frontman more than anything else.
LD: Yeah, he really was one of the greatest entertainers on Earth. Through the years, I saw him perform over 20 times. I’ve seen him at his best, and at his worst. I never knew exactly why he was so drastically inconsistent. But I found it appealing actually. Many did. Plenty of legendary artists were that way like Jim Morrison or dare I say Kurt Cobain? But he was always entertaining to watch and always unpredictable.
AP: How was he at The Paramount?
LD: He was good! Definitely not in his prime and without all those James Brown moves he used to pull off, but his voice was solid. If I had to critique, I’d say he was going through the motions but still, wasn’t bad. It was only about 5 years ago he was still a lightning bolt on stage. Something changed this last tour. He moved slower and appeared disconnected from the audience. Hell, he looked disconnected from everybody that night. I just assumed he was punching the time clock at this point. It happens to everyone on the road soon enough.
AP: He looked disconnected when you met him?
LD: Me and my bassist accidentally wandered into his band’s private after party. I don’t think we were supposed to be there. It was real late, and there were no more than 30 people hanging out in a bar. We were talking to his band, his crew, and eventually I was up at the bar with him. I had no idea what I’d say to the guy. I was a little tipsy myself. First, I told him I was in the band that opened for him. He said “Great show mannn!”. I thanked him and offered the same compliment. He replied “Thanks mannn!” He covered the David Bowie song ‘Jean Genie’ that night, so I told him I loved the Aladdin Sane album and that song. I asked about his recording studio- Lavish Studios in California. We talked about David Bowie more. Casual talk I guess, I mean, I don’t know the guy. What kind of deep conversation were we going to get into, especially when everyone in the room’s taking photos and staring at us. He sat there sipping a glass of whiskey and said again- “Thanks mannn…” I felt like I was talking to Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High! This is probably all boring stuff that will only remain in my memories, so I’ll get back to your question. Yes, he looked blank, like a man who’s lost passion for life. I assumed he was just tired and I’m sure he was. This was after his performance and very late.
AP: Was he doing drugs or anything like that?
LD: That was the big question of the night. It was like the secret Willy Wonka joke of the evening. Haha.. I can say this- We were told by his guitar player not to mention drugs around him. Other people were partying. He just looked real tired and spent. I’ve toured, not nearly as much as that guy, and I know how hard the road can be. Even small tours will knock you out from night to night. It’s an unhealthy way to travel, unless you’re in a huge band like Maroon 5 or something, traveling by private jet everywhere and staying in beautiful hotels. But this guy was back to 5 shows a week, indie rock touring in a small bunker bus. It’s hard to imagine how someone gets through as much touring as he was without drugs! Constant traveling and performing is stressful and takes a toll on your health.
AP: So would you say he was cool to meet?
LD: I’ve met cooler celebrities. Some are more extroverted and affable. Some are loners. He was definitely introverted. I can’t say I blame the guy when you’re like a Zoo animal in a cage, trying to enjoy a drink, everyone taking photos of you and trying to talk to you constantly. I think I’d be a total asshole if I was in that position half the time. I can’t say for sure. Isn’t that what everyone says is the price of fame? You lose your privacy? I don’t know. Everyone handles it differently. Justin Timberlake or Jimmy Fallon look like the type of celebrity that always greet their fans and look happy all the time. But who knows? Is it surprising at all that Scott Weiland would be introverted and gloomy? Nah…
AP: What was your reaction when you heard he died?
LD: My initial reaction was not at all expected. Somewhat shocking, and most definitely filled with sadness. I woke up to 100 text messages about it. That’s how I found out. Most were from friends who were fans and really sad, some were making jokes. That’s always going to happen with celebrity deaths. I remember when Kurt Cobain died. I was 16 or something and it was a shock for about an hour. The next day all my friends were joking about it. When you’re 16 years old and a rockstar dies, they are like cartoon characters to us. We don’t know these people. We only know their public personae and how we relate to that. There is no tangible connection. And then the myth of the dying rockstar is always glorified, or usually is. But when you’re at an older age, a working musician, and you open for someone who became one of your musical idols, drink with the guy at a bar days before he dies, it hits you hard. I also think his death, at age 48 is more relative to my life than the mythical 27 year old rock and roll suicide. It’s more realistic and closer to my personal life. It made me wonder, will I or someone I know go out that way around that age? Lose the passion for life and just not give a fuck anymore? People that get to that point feel like they’ve lived the best parts of their life and lose any form of inspiration. It’s sad.
AP: How did you come to get the gig? If he was an idol of yours, that’s interesting and doesn’t happen to a lot of up and coming bands. Did you have to audition for it?
LD: See, now I’m going to reveal some things maybe I shouldn’t… But I was never a musician who went after big opening slots, trying to play sold out shows, compete with other bands for stuff like that. I don’t really care about that stuff. I enjoy playing music and that’s that. Part of me wishes I had that drive, like an athlete, but music always felt the opposite of that to me. It’s art, not sports. No different from painting to me. I’m going to have as much fun playing a killer show at Ottos Shrunken Head with my friends. Haha.. Back when I went to Berklee College, I studied to be a Jazz musician and there was insane competitive pressure there. Back then, I was a different kind of musician. But since I became a songwriter and played in 100 bands, I’ve changed. Anyway, so here’s what happened, cause it was a combination of weird coincidences. Originally, The Icarus Line was on the bill, who I am a fan of, and personally know members of the group. It started when I wrote Joe, the leader of that band about touring with Weiland. I saw they were missing dates on the tour. I wrote him. He told me about some drama his band had with Weiland’s and the details of that part will stay secret between us. The same day I was online writing back and forth with him, my band’s manager Rick Eberle was calling me. He had no idea I was talking to Joe, sort of poking around from a fan’s point of view, and he was calling me the very same day telling me The Paramount booker needs an act to open for Scott Weiland. They needed a heavy rock band that fit the bill. I had played The Paramount before and the booker likes Shock Radar. Even though we release all styles of music, we keep getting picked for Metal and Hard Rock shows. I guess because our live act is high energy, loud as hell and for most of the songs, I’m a screamer. So what do you think I said, of course I jumped at the gig, mostly because I was a huge fan of Scott Weiland’s music. That was one of the weirdest days of my life. Long story short, we signed on to replace The Icarus Line and it was a crazy successful, fun show for us. And yes, I got to open for one of my musical heroes and party with him and his crew all night. Life is surprising like that.
AP: Now that time has passed since Scott died, what do you miss the most about him and what will you take away from the experience?
LD: I’m going to miss the feeling I got before he released new music, enjoying his new music. He was certainly not dried up artistically in the studio. His first 2 solo albums are totally awesome and what I love most of his whole discography. The Wildabouts album was ok, it wasn’t amazing, but it was never going to be amazing. It was a solid debut album. He was sort of testing out the waters. It showed the potential of that band to become something greater. I believe it’ll be thought of as a cult classic in the future. It reminds me of The Stooges first album. There will be no Stone Temple Pilots reunion with Scott. Sad about that. No one can replace that guy. They tried and failed. I’m just going to continue with my music and that show will remain one of the most magical nights of my career. Life goes on, man…