In 2016, Scott Stapp was announced as the new frontman for rock supergroup Art of Anarchy.
The band consists of Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (formerly of Guns ‘N Roses) on guitar, Jon Moyer (Disturbed) on bass, and the Votta brothers on guitar and drums. This lineup just released their debut album, The Madness.
It seemed unlikely for Stapp to ever be in this position. Just two years ago, Art of Anarchy announced their debut album with Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, while Stapp himself was barely out of recovery from a highly publicized breakdown. This episode was ultimately attributed to a bipolar disorder diagnosis.
The rest of 2015 was mired with band drama over Weiland’s actual status with Art of Anarchy (leading up to his death in December), while Stapp sought to rebuild his life and career. Somewhere along the way, Stapp and Art of Anarchy had naturally come together.
“I can’t remember the exact date,” Stapp explained to me over the phone on an early April morning. “[Weiland] had parted ways with the band a long time before he passed away. It’s coming up on two years.”
Having just recently emerged from his own dark place, Scott hadn’t heard of the band or its drama in the media.
“I didn’t really think about [joining] until I learned who the members were. That’s what really sparked my interest in the band and got me to the point where I wanted to get together with the guys.”
While supergroups are not what they were in the late 2000’s golden age of Velvet Revolver and Audioslave, the commercial appeal of joining with members of Guns ‘N Roses and Disturbed is undeniable.
However, on a spiritual level, Stapp considers Art of Anarchy to be a reaffirmation of his attempt at starting anew which began on his 2013 solo record, prior to his episode.
“I believe the fresh start for me started with my Proof of Life album,” he said, before admitting: “Certain things have crept back into my life since then.”
Stapp’s renewed optimism was bolstered upon setting off on tour over the past few weeks.
“We’ve had great audiences who have been giving us a lot of support and love.”
Even with the support of his new band and his fans, Stapp has been faced with adversity dating back to when his gig with the act was first teased.
For one, a miscommunication between Stapp and a radio host led many to believe Stapp was hinting at a position in Scott Weiland’s former outfit, Stone Temple Pilots.
“I think it all spawned from me insinuating that I was replacing Scott Weiland,” Stapp explained. “[The media] just made assumptions that it was for STP.” In hindsight, it really could have been for any of Weiland’s projects, including Velvet Revolver and Art of Anarchy.
The STP themselves took notice of the rumor, issuing a rather blunt statement shooting it down: Despite recent comments, Scott Stapp is not, nor has he ever been considered as the singer for STP.
“You know, it is what it is, man. I think they could have handled it with a little more class and dignity. But… it is what it is.”
I jokingly suggested Stapp try out for Nirvana, especially with the band performing with guest singers like J. Mascis, Lorde, and Beck in the last few years.
He would only say, “Kurt Cobain is irreplaceable. He is, quite simply, irreplaceable.”
Moments before my own phone call with him, I read a separate interview with Stapp that was published earlier that morning. It was a rather scathing piece that consisted of nothing but low shots at Stapp, basking in Creed jokes and shots at his fashion sense.
During that conversation, Stapp insinuated that Weiland “spoke” with him on his tour bus. Incidentally, Stapp had been renting the very same bus on which Weiland died almost two years ago for his recent tour dates. In the midst of touring, he experienced the following sensation:
“All of a sudden, it was almost like Weiland speaking to me from the grave, man. It was a very weird feeling that I felt. I remember being in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, on the bus, and really feeling like I could hear or feel him saying, ‘Dude, this could have been you. And this could be you if you continue that path. Don’t do what I did. Don’t go down that road.’ And, literally, I’m having this moment.”
Seeing as how that scenario was painted as a “ghost story” by the original writer and picked up on in a literal sense by most of the online rags, I felt compelled to ask:
You meant that in a metaphorical sense, right?
“Yeah, absolutely,” Stapp agreed. “Scott Weiland didn’t literally speak to me. What I was referring to there was how being on this tour bus that he died in created an epiphany in me. The way I carried on my life at certain times could have put me in that same position. In no way, shape or form, as you interpreted, did Scott Weiland speak to me. Those were the writer’s words, not mine.”
“The writer for that article was, in my opinion, way out of line, and wrote an article just to assassinate me personally,” Stapp concluded. “He took any window of opportunity to take anything I said out of context.”
Among the claims in that particular article was that Stapp was embarrassed by, and regrets, making the music video to Creed’s hit off of Human Clay, “Higher”.
He was, in his own words, simply making fun of himself wearing a “wife-beater” tank top and leather pants.
“I don’t regret making that video at all. I’m very proud of everything that I’ve made with Creed. I was just poking fun at myself from a nostalgic point of view.”
Creed’s debut record, My Own Prison, is encroaching upon its twentieth anniversary. Love em’ or hate em’, there’s no denying that Creed’s brand of passionate yet commercially astute hard rock music made a tremendous impact. The Florida band moved over 50 million records during their short original stint and still have many passionate fans, despite naysayers.
We are in the era of legacy acts of the 90’s like Pearl Jam being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What would you think about a hypothetical Creed induction?
“It would be a tremendous honor. I would be extremely humbled if that were to ever happen. As you know, that’s not up to me. If the opportunity ever presented itself…”
While we’re on this topic of the rock and roll hall of fame, what are your thoughts on the induction of Pearl Jam?
“I think they’re a great band, man. Their music really speaks for themselves and I know just like millions of other people out there that Pearl Jam’s Ten was a great album. Full of great tunes and energy.”
The question was not meant to reference Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder comparisons. Scott’s baritone may be more influenced than anything by the voice of legendary Doors frontman Jim Morrison.
“That was one of the most memorable moments of my career,” Stapp said, speaking about his performance on VH1 Storytellers with Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore of The Doors. “Having idolized the band, and their impact on me, I would have never thought that I’d have the opportunity to be on stage with members of the band and singing those songs. It’s something that I will cherish forever and never forget.”
Though Scott is focused on Art of Anarchy at the moment, he promises he will always keep himself busy, even if a Creed reunion seems a ways off.
“I’m always continuing to write. I was writing for my next solo album prior to Art of Anarchy contacting me. I have some songs in the works. In my downtime, when I’m not on tour with Art of Anarchy, I’m going to continue to work on that record. When we finish our cycle for this album, I’ll get back to getting that solo record out there.”
I wrote in November 2015 that 2016 was shaping up to be a “Great return to form” for Scott Weiland; I do believe everyone deserves a second chance. If Stapp really heeded his predecessor in Art of Anarchy’s metaphorical message from beyond the grave, or if a similar message reached any other soul on the planet, Weiland’s death a mere four days later won’t be in vain.
Scott Stapp has had a long and sometimes difficult career, and especially in the age of clickbait media, it’s easy to want to see rock stars crash and burn. It seems as though Scott Stapp is here to stay. All the power to him for that.