Scott Tucker was on the verge of having a dream come true. On Saturday, December 12, he and his band the Orange were scheduled to play a show at Gas Monkey Live!, opening for one of his heroes, Scott Weiland. The Orange have spent a decade playing together, and after a brief lull while Tucker went back to school, they'd returned earlier this year with a new album, Sharing Vitamins, and headlined shows at Granada Theater and The Kessler. It was the perfect ending to the year.
Then came the bad news: Last night, Weiland was found dead on his tour bus on his way to a gig in Rochester, Minnesota.
After he'd heard the news from his band mate, drummer Irfan Malik, who'd seen it from Dave Navarro on Twitter, Tucker took to Facebook in the early hours of Friday to express his heartbreak over the death of the former Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver singer. "He was my absolute hero ... one of the most fantastic, dynamic and artistic musicians of my time," Tucker wrote. " I was one week away from sharing the stage with him with the Orange. I'm completely crushed and devastated for his family, kids and band members."
Tucker has had some time to let the reality sink in ("I just stuffed myself at Waffle House with some comfort food," he says), but his feelings are still raw. "It was the absolute ideal show. We had all these things lined up," Tucker says of Weiland. But that's not where his thoughts are right now: "I'm more upset that Scott's not with us than about the Orange playing a show. I care about him as a human. And as a father. He's got two kids, you know."
In his post on Facebook, Tucker referred to Weiland as "the absolute best frontman of the past two decades," a bold claim given that his reputation was often dwarfed by contemporaries like Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan. For Tucker, though, who's 32, Weiland had a formative influence on him as a musician.
"Coming from the background I came from, my grandfather was a preacher and this sort of strict Baptist upbringing — though not necessarily from my parents. My parents are really cool, they still go to my shows," Tucker says. "But you know, I was really fucking dorky, I collected Star Wars figures. I didn't have any friends. And I discovered music and I discovered Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Tripping Daisy. Everything changed."
Tucker says he respected Weiland for never shying away from how he felt, a trait he feels Weiland shared with Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe. "Something I appreciate about him is you get all this bullshit now with pop music and all these celebrities and all this crap, and everybody has a PR manager, and I'm sure Scott Weiland did too. But he always wore his emotions on his sleeve," he says. "If you're going to be an artist, you have to be genuine and you have to sing and talk about things you really believe in. Otherwise you're just wasting everybody's time."
Weiland was an often-troubled public figure during the course of his 20-plus years as a mainstream star, since he and Stone Temple Pilots released their debut album, Plush, in 1992. Long deviled by drug addiction, the 48-year-old was sometimes the subject of ridicule, including being railed earlier this year for seemingly apathetic performances. But Tucker feels those criticisms were harsh.
"Sometimes, to be totally honest, being a lyricist especially, you open up doors in yourself that are really hard to close again," Tucker says. "You open up doors when you're writing songs and it's almost like you have to get fucked up. I don't do drugs; I drink but I don't do drugs. It's almost like you open doors in yourself and create these voids and have to fill the holes with something." But, he adds, that shouldn't detract from the positive contributions Weiland made: "His music really got me through a lot of crap. When I was on the verge of quitting the Orange, or on the verge of quitting my other band before that, I'd listen to STP and I was inspired to keep going."
If Weiland struggled with demons, Tucker says he used them to bring a special intensity to his performances, which he says he's only even seen rivaled by Jibe lead singer Joe Grah. "He looked the audience directly in the eye. He put his body in harm's way. He did all kinds of crazy shit," he says. "That's when music turns into performance art. It's really unique, really special." Tucker, who admits he "throws up after every single show," briefly met Weiland back stage last March after Weiland had played a secret show at The Parish in Austin during South by Southwest. "He was completely drained. Just looking in his eyes he looked like he'd been hit by a car."
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While the Orange had been offered the gig opening for Weiland by Gas Monkey, Tucker says while the band was on tour last summer he had befriended Weiland's guitarist Tommy Black at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, where Black is a bartender. "We're probably going to go on tour next summer and play the Viper Room, and Tommy was nice enough to offer to help us get in," Tucker says. But he imagines Weiland's death is particularly hard given that his guitarist, Jeremy Brown, had just passed away earlier this year as well. "I don't even want to text Tommy. I texted him when the guitarist died. 'My condolences' — like, what am I supposed to say?" he wonders. "Scott and Tommy were best friends. It's just fucking terrible."
Tucker says he and the Orange already have plans to pay tribute to Weiland by performing a Stone Temple Pilots cover at one of their shows early next year, but in the meantime he's still dealing with the shock. "I still can't believe there will never be another Scott Weiland record or another STP record or another Velvet Revolver record," he says.