Sex, Drugs, Christian Rock ‘N’ Roll: The Fall Of Creed’s Scott Stapp

“We are not a Christian band. This is a question we are asked a lot because of some of the references made in the lyrics. A Christian band has an agenda to lead others to believe in their specific religious beliefs. We have no agenda!”

That quote comes from Scott Stapp, in regards to the common assumption that because he wrote songs called “With Arms Wide Open,” Creed was a Christian band first and rock group second. This is apparently wrong. From a 1999 interview with guitarist Mark Tremonti:

“When we first came out in America, some people asked us if were a Christian band,” says [Tremonti]. “Then they heard our music and realized that we weren’t. But it’s worked to our advantage because a lot of kids who aren’t allowed to listen to Marilyn Manson can listen to us, because there’s nothing wrong with what we’re saying.”

“The Christian rock thing is a big misconception. It’s not entirely wrong — we all have morals, but that’s it,” he adds. (Via)

Stapp grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family with a cruel stepfather, and while he believed in (and feared) God, he didn’t begin embracing Him — insert “born-again Christian” here — until the mid-2000s when his life was falling apart. It still is, actually, with Stapp most recently threatening to kill President Obama, only eight years after a video of him getting a blowjob from groupies with Kid Rock went viral. What happened? A lot.

In 1997, Creed released their debut album, My Own Prison; by 1999, they were one of the biggest bands in the world, and being one of the biggest bands in the world means you have to deal with everything that makes fame the best and worst thing ever. Stapp once said, “When I was first labeled a rock star…I couldn’t bridge that notion with Jesus’ ministry. I saw rock stars — myself included — as self-consumed hedonists and materialists.” The guilt was eating at him, but it didn’t stop him from drinking, taking drugs, and indulging in the flesh, including the infamous tour bus sex tape. He even had a nickname for the hard-partying side of his personality: Rick.

“Basically, Scott was a cool, normal guy,” former Creed sound engineer Kirk Kelsey told Rolling Stone. “But fame caused the biggest destruction of his personality. The more power he got, the more corrupted he became.” (Via)

It’s a story you’ve heard a million times before — I believe the saying goes, “absolute fame corrupts butt-rock vocalists absolutely” — and Stapp had trouble dealing with fame.

In 2002, he was arrested for reckless driving after swerving his SUV off the highway. Then, following the smashing success of Creed’s third album, Weathered, which was certified six times platinum and certified as the highest-selling rock album of 2003, Stapp’s substance abuse problems got more serious. In a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, he confessed that while touring in support of Weathered, he became addicted to Percocet, Xanax, and the steroid prednisone to treat throat problems. When he quit the drugs—but not the drinking—he said, “I wanted to end my life.” (Via)

And he almost did, getting so far as to drunkenly put two MP5s to his head. Here’s what Stapp had to say about the incident in his 2012 memoir, Sinner’s Creed.

He writes that there was “no way out of this misery except to end it. The pain can’t get any worse…[A]ccept death. Be a martyr. Go down in history with Hendrix, Bonham, Joplin, Morrison, and Cobain.” (Via)

But before he pulled the trigger, he saw a photo of his four-year-old son, Jagger.

Stapp says it had “come to life,” and Jagger was saying, “I love you, Daddy. I need you, Daddy. Stop it, Daddy.” Stapp ended up firing 36 shots around the room, destroying “every award and achievement I had won with Creed,” but also that “Jagger’s unconditional love had saved my life.” (Via)

If Stapp’s life was turned into a biopic, this would be the end of act two, the nearly-violent low point before our hero realizes he has so much to live for. But life isn’t a movie, and the near-suicide didn’t lead to a life of redemption; it brought misery. In 2007, a year after he got married to Miss New York USA 2004 winner Jaclyn Nesheiwat, Stapp was arrested for throwing “a bottle of Orangina at…her head,” but the charge was dropped after he publicly apologized, and because he “missed and the bottle broke.” This wasn’t his only run-in with the law: in 2006, less than 24 hours removed from his wedding with Nesheiwat, the cops nabbed him for public intoxication. Alcohol is a recurring subject for Stapp. He appeared on an episode of Casino Cinema drunk, saying that Dave Grohl had a “little c*ck,” and brawled with members of 311.

We had just finished dinner and were at the hotel bar to watch the Lakers game when Scott Stapp walked in being very loud and obnoxious,” [311’s S.A.] Martinez tells Rolling Stone. “In fact, one of the first things he said was that he loved to fight. So he started doing shots and breaking the glass on the bar, almost hitting one of our crew guys. My wife and I moved to a table and eventually Scott made his way over and sat down. He was looking for attention. Even before that, he had wadded up a napkin that he lobbed in our direction. It was pathetic, and we tried to ignore him, but it was impossible. Then he made a pretty disrespectful comment to my wife, which I’d rather not repeat, but in no uncertain terms, the word ‘f*ck’ was used. That’s when [drummer] Chad [Sexton] walked over.”

“I had run into Scott that day,” says Sexton. “We have some things in common, like the same producer, and we chatted for a few minutes. So knowing we got along earlier, I kindly asked him not to disrespect anybody and reminded him that we’re all friends. That’s when he sucker-punched me — hit me right in the face.” (Via)

Stapp nearly killed himself again in 2006, when he jumped off the balcony of a Miami hotel after days of sleeplessness made him feel like he was trapped inside a mental asylum. He fell 40 feet to the ground, fracturing his skull and breaking his hip, nose, and pride, but lived, thanks in part to, you guessed it, T.I. Yup, THAT T.I (they were friends due to a mutual admiration for the University of Alabama). Stapp told Big Morning Buzz Live, “I laid out there for two and a half hours and my guardian angel showed up — rapper T.I. He immediately took care of the situation and saved my life.” It was an addict coming clean (on, um, VH1), and for awhile, it seemed like he (again) was past the worst of it. Stapp wrote the memoir, kicked drugs, released a solo album, and dedicated his life to God. He was a born-again born-again, out to share his beliefs with the world.

“As you all know, I have recently over the last couple of years rededicated my life to Christ and I’m a Christian and proud to be. And I love God with all my heart and I’m very excited about the future in terms of finally being able to fully dedicate my music and my life and my testimony and my message to share what God’s done in my life and the power of Christ and how he’s done so many amazing things for me,” he said. (Via)

It’s tough to make it through the rambling videos Stapp posted to his Facebook last month, but if you did, you heard him all say that, and so much more. It’s a far cry from sensibly responding to Spin‘s question of “are you on a Blues Brothers-esque mission from God?” with, “Any type of grandiose thinking or mission from God? No, that’s not at all in my psyche.”

It is now: after he began an audit of his finances, where he discovered “lot of money was stolen from me or royalties not paid,” Stapp blamed anonymous “people” for “trying to discredit me, slander me” and allegedly sent texts to his wife reading, “I’m coming to get you Satan and children. No mercy. You know how this ends. God created you and now God is ending you” and “God is also telling me something about Palm Springs and Nashville so there’s a connection somehow. He’s also telling me DEA for some reason.” Actually, that should read “ex-wife”: Jaclyn filed for divorce in November, citing drug abuse (he’s been in rehab), right around the time he called 911 on her because she “threatened to blackmail me, and said that if I went to the police about the stolen money then she would release to the public supposed pictures she says she has, or anything else she can do to defame me to ruin my reputation and career.”

Stapp also got in contact with the dean of his son Jagger’s school, and told him, “I’ve uncovered the core of ISIS is within my own family. Please call me immediately. This is not a joke.” Neither is Stapp anymore. He used to be an easy punchline, back when his overwrought ballads suffocated rock radio, but I can’t help but feel bad for the guy — some believe Stapp appears to be suffering from “paranoid delusions,” and whenever someone claims, “The truth will come out,” as he did in one 15-minute long Facebook video, that’s a cause for concern.

Jagger certainly is concerned. He tweeted that “my dad is too busy posting songs on his FB hiding out for attention rather then getting his act together #dadstop…To all tho confused, my father once again chose drugs over his family. He needs help, but refuses to get it. He’s been on a 9 week binge.” Couple that with everything we know about Stapp from his previous history, and that’s a potentially dangerous combination. There’s an article in Religious News from before his downward cycle became public that reads, “These days, Stapp said, his only ‘meds’ are running five miles a day and being surrounded by the love of his wife, three children, and God.”

One of his “meds” — his wife — is gone, and she’s seeking full custody of their kids, who also seem quite worried. Stapp was already “mentally ill,” to quote Wanda Little Fenimore, a visiting assistant professor of rhetoric at Hampden-Sydney College; now he’s possibly a “schizophrenic” teetering Jenga tower. The third act might not have a happy ending.