We now come to the third and final installment of our unprecedented, soon-to-be-award-winning series on Scott Stapp’s astonishing memoir, Sinner’s Creed. In the first two parts, we looked at Stapp’s struggles with God and his context as an artist. Today, at the significant risk of ending on a dark note, we’ll look at some choice quotes from the long, slow process of Scott Stapp spiraling toward rock bottom.
Part III: “Screaming like Rambo, I unloaded 36 rounds.”
You probably know Creed as a top-selling beat combo — at the peak of the music industry, they sold around 40 million albums, which is only 10 million less than Simply Red. Despite their dizzying success, they were constantly hamstrung by forces outside their control: Scott Stapp’s ego; Scott Stapp’s addictions; Scott Stapp’s self-destruction; Scott Stapp’s war with demonic forces. I’d like to begin this segment with a passage I found particularly revealing: Even when his band seemed to be at the height of their fame and fortune, Stapp couldn’t help but foreshadow doom:
Could it all be too good to be true? Was I living an illusion? Were fantasy and reality on a collision course? Yes, yes, and yes. (pg. 140)
Actually, maybe that’s not quite enough foreshadowing. Right as the book begins, we find Scott Stapp wallowing in excrement, having leaped from the balcony of his hotel room. Maybe this sets the tone a little better:
I was now facedown in bird waste, still conscious and in excruciating pain. Looking back, I now know I was face-to-face with what I had become.
No, wait — that foreshadowing might be too heavy-handed. Maybe we should look at a collegiate Stapp’s first horrifying steps into a world of drug addiction and debauchery:
One of my friends said, “That’s good weed, right?” Pushing aside my anxiety, I replied, “Yeah, bro.” My next thought was, I just said “bro.” I never say “bro.” (pg. 76)
The inevitable fantasy/reality/bird excrement/bro collision began to take shape on Kid Rock’s tour bus, where Stapp stopped by for a visit. Stapp’s recollection of the incident contradicts the popularly reported account, which I believe involved Stapp himself getting a little bit of strippery attention. Judge for yourself:
In Tampa we played a concert with Metallica. Another high-profile rocker was also in town. He and I had become friends a few months before, and he had jammed at my house. I liked him enormously — he was an easygoing, fun-loving musician who enjoyed writing and playing as much as I did. That evening he invited me to his trailer, which was parked behind the venue. I dropped in after the show. When I arrived, I saw that he was accompanied by a group of strippers. My first comment, in jest, was, “It’s good to be king.” I was repeating a line from Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part I, which I’d just seen with my bandmates. After drinking a beer, I left. I didn’t think much of it. When a tape emerged a few years later with me saying, “It’s good to be king,” it created a scandal. I don’t know who edited the tape to make it look like I was part of an orgy — I never saw the tape — but by then it didn’t matter. No one wanted to hear that I’d merely stopped by to say hello and just happened to walk into what amounted to a private strip club. Protesting only further solidified my image as a sinning Christian — which I was. (pg. 147)
I’ve never seen the tape, but somehow the idea of watching Scott Stapp stand around and quote Mel Brooks while Kid Rock gets worked over by strippers is even better than the tape was originally advertised. Next stop on the downward spiral: Stapp expertly punching a hater’s lights out after the sincerity of “Arms Wide Open” is besmirched:
I started to walk away, but he followed me. “You’re a sellout. You’d do anything to make a buck. How does it feel to exploit your own unborn baby?” Even though he was making no sense, something snapped in me. The next thing I knew, I’d hit him with a combination left jab and right cross. He fell with a thump. (pg. 166)
Curiously, no mention is made of his 2005 rumble with alt-reggae group 311. Strippers and violence sound like a great time, but it was all beginning to wear on Scott. Soon, his merciless touring schedule was threatening to destroy the one thing that made Scott Stapp who he was: his perfection.
People’s words echoed in my ears: “We’re counting on you. Don’t let us down, no matter what.” Oh, the irony! The Creed machine demanded perfection, and perfection was something I knew well. I had been beaten by my father for my imperfection. And I was about to learn that show business gives beatings for imperfection too. (pg. 167)
As the pressure continued to increase, Stapp’s unraveling mental state soon deteriorated into the poetry of a madman:
“Come on, Alan. You know I’m the mailman. I deliver. But will we have scheduled breaks or time-outs? You know the band rule — no more than three and a half weeks on followed by three weeks off.” “Time off? Did you hear what I just said, Stapp? There ain’t going to be stopping during this tour. No breaks. You don’t need any. You’re the iron man of rock and roll.”
The iron man was covered with rust.
The iron man was made of clay.
The iron man was, as the song “Weathered” put it, “covered with skin that peels and it just won’t heal.”
The iron man was defeated before the fight.
The iron man had surrendered to avoid the battle.
The iron man was coming undone. (pg. 168)
And then, it was all just too much: Scott Stapp nearly fulfilled his own prophecy of following in Kurt Cobain’s footsteps. And just as post-grunge put an arena-rock spin on grunge, Stapp’s suicide would be a much grander gesture:
With two fully automatic tactical assault rifles pointed at both sides of my battered brain, I was no longer shaking. My hands were as calm and steady as my father’s. I took a long, deep breath and closed my eyes. It was time for goodbye. (pg. 169)
But at the last moment, his suicidal impulse became a Johnny Utah orgasm of anguish and flying lead!
I looked around the room at all the trophies of my so-called success. Screaming like Rambo, I unloaded thirty-six rounds of bullets on every award and achievement I had won with Creed. Glass was shattering. Bullet holes riddled the walls. I had shot up my house. But I was alive. (pg. 169)
Tragically, his brush with death wasn’t the end of his torment. He was still haunted by troubled dreams of fire and death:
Despair set in and told me I would never get better. I hungered for restful sleep, but the second I slipped into unconsciousness, my dreams only made things worse. I dreamed I was flying in a private jet with the band. The pilot suddenly died of a heart attack. I raced into the cockpit to take over the controls, only to crash into the side of a mountain. (pg. 192)
His drinking escalated, and it took a toll on his marriage. Here, Scott explains a news story of domestic abuse. Once again, the media made a mountain out of a molehill:
Jaclyn felt like she needed help, so she instinctively called the police. They presumed that there had been violence, even though that wasn’t true. Jaclyn was the first to say that nothing along those lines had occurred. The police arrested me nonetheless. I was taken in, and they threw the book at me. Eventually the charges were dropped, but once the media got hold of the story, another untrue urban legend about me was born. (pg. 204)
Popular accounts at the time had Scott Stapp hurling an Orangina bottle at his wife’s face, but the beverage is not mentioned here. Finally, we come to the legendary bird excrement incident of the prologue, in which Stapp suffered a Scarface breakdown in a Miami hotel room:
I stayed up for three nights numbing myself. I was obliterated. Guilt and paranoia had set in. I looked around the room and saw nothing but the Miami-white walls, white marble floors, closed white blinds. My institutionalized insides were coming to the surface. In my mind, my penthouse turned into a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The imaginary cops were after me. I had to get out. (pg. 205)
And so he did. How? Well, friends, I’m afraid you’ll just have to read Sinner’s Creed for yourself if you’d like to hear the full story. I think you know by now that it’s worth it. And just to avoid leaving you on a bummer, some final words of wisdom from Scott Stapp about the dangers of the pop music scene:
There were times I’d been living on the bread of shame. I felt all of us in the band had. That bread is as toxic as the culture of rock and roll itself. (pg. 212)
Don’t eat the bread of shame, ladies and gentlemen. Let no shameful bread pass your innocent lips.