The Chicago Tribune reported that "a drug overdose is suspected" for the musician, who left the group shortly after Weezer (better known as The Green Album because of the album cover's green background) to pursue a career in painting. According to the newspaper, Welsh had been staying at the Raffaello Hotel and a hotel employee found him unresponsive in his room on Saturday afternoon. "Police said prescription drugs were found in Welsh's hotel room along with a ziplock-type bag containing white powder, which was suspected to be heroin," wrote Tribune reporter Peter Nickeas.
According to Weezer's website, Welsh had come to town to catch the band's Sunday headlining show at RiotFest. He had been part of Weezer from 1998 until 2001, a period when the group were beginning to reestablish their commercial standing after 1996's dark, divisive Pinkerton.
Welsh had suffered from mental illness. In a 2007 interview with Mystery Island, it was mentioned that he had been institutionalized, which occurred after he experienced a nervous breakdown and decided to leave Weezer. But although he said goodbye to music, he quickly refocused his creativity toward painting, which he had learned from his mother. "I started painting when I was very young, and continued basically until I started up with music full time," Welsh said in the interview. "After everything that had happened, painting again in the hospital was my only salvation. I left the music biz and hit the paint and haven't stopped since."
This is the second time in two years that Weezer have been rocked by terrible news. In December 2009, frontman Rivers Cuomo cracked some ribs when his tour bus lost control on an icy road in New York. (Cuomo's wife also suffered fractured ribs and a fractured lower vertebra.) Thankfully, no one was killed in that accident, but there's no such happy ending to this weekend's story with Welsh. "Our deepest heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends," Weezer webmaster Karl Koch wrote on the band's site. "The world has lost a truly one of a kind guy."
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Photo courtesy Interscope Records.