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Interview:
Stone Temple Pilots enjoying smooth flight these days
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

The group has had hit singles, multi-platinum sales and sold-out concert crowds around the world. But all Stone Temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo wants for his band these days is peace, calm and quiet — except, of course, on stage.

“I just want everything to be smooth around us,” says DeLeo, who co-produced this year’s “Stone Temple Pilots,” the quartet’s first new album in nine years, with his younger brother, bassist Robert DeLeo, and Detroiter Don Was.

“I want everybody to work in a really pleasant environment, and not just the band; we’re just four cats that walk up and grab our instruments — they’re handed to us, for goodness sake. But we have 18 people on the road with us who have families as well, and we want to make sure our work environment is safe and pleasant and everybody’s content.”

That’s not an unreasonable desire given STP’s tumultuous history.

Formed as Mighty Joe Young in 1986 in San Diego, STP — which also includes frontman Scott Weiland and drummer Eric Kretz — was a hit out of the box. Its debut album, 1992’s “Core,” sold more than 8 million copies, launched the hits “Creep,” “Sex Type Thing,” “Plush” and “Wicked Garden” and scored a Grammy Award (Best Hard Rock Performance), an American Music Award (Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist) and an MTV Music Video Award (Best New Artist).

Since then, the group has sold more than 40 million records worldwide, notched 16 Top 10 singles on the Billboard rock charts and was ranked No. 40 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.

But the success has come with plenty of drama — mostly stemming from Weiland’s drug addictions, which led to incarceration, rehab stints and schisms within the band, including hiatuses during 1997-98 and 2000 and a five-year split between 2003-08. The group members stayed busy during the interim, with Weiland fronting Velvet Revolver and the DeLeos, who are godfathers to the singer’s children, working with Filter’s Richard Patrick in the short-lived band Army Of Anyone, but there was always a sense, according to Robert DeLeo, that “we do something very special when we’re together as Stone Temple Pilots that you can’t duplicate anywhere else.”

Reuniting the band in 2008, spurred by a preemptive call from Weiland’s wife to Robert DeLeo’s wife, proved relatively easy. But now the DeLeos say due diligence is being paid to prevent the tumult that has driven STP apart in the past.

“I think in any relationship, communication is the key factor,” Dean DeLeo explains. “We’re better at that now, I think. We all have to respect what one another’s wishes and needs are. We’ve been shoulder to shoulder for a long time. We know each other really well and we know what to expect from one another and we have high expectations from one another.”

His brother, however, notes with a laugh that, “I don’t think (the band) has ever been on an even keel, and I think that’s what I’ve grown to accept with Stone Temple Pilots. We’ve been a band for 18 years now — more like 23, before we were signed. There’s a certain understanding you have where you know what the other person is going to like and dislike and you know what’s going to work.”

Most importantly, the younger DeLeo adds, “As a 44-year-old man now, I can honestly say I don’t think Stone Temple Pilots is my life. I’m a father and a husband. I have other things and people and things within myself that define me, and if I can take those things and put them towards my music now, I think it makes for better music and for a better relationship with (my bandmates) to enjoy what we’re doing.

“There’s a lot more clarity this time around, and a lot more wisdom to go along with the music.”

STP is certainly enjoying the reception to “Stone Temple Pilots,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 when it was released in May and also topped the magazine’s Hard Rock and Rock Albums charts. The first single, “Between the Lines,” soared to the top of the Alternative and Mainstream Rock charts, while its successor, “Take a Load Off,” is in the midst of its own ascent.

Dean DeLeo says the latter, which he wrote, has been around since the sessions for Army Of Anyone’s lone 2006 album. “There are a lot of people saying, ‘That really sounds like an Army Of Anyone song’ — well, no s***, I was in the ... band!’ ” DeLeo, 44, says with a laugh. “It just happened to be in that time frame. If I was writing for a Stone Temple Pilots record it would still sound the same.

“But what happened is I demoed that song, and Rich (Patrick) wasn’t really digging it. And I was like, ‘That’s just fine, my good friend, ’cause I know somebody who will take a good bite out of that.’ Of course, Scott (Weiland) did his thing; he put together the entire melody and lyric to that. I just offered him the music, as I did with most everything on the record.”

STP had plenty of material for “Stone Temple Pilots,” in fact. “We’re always writing. There are always songs around,” says DeLeo. But a key difference in making the album was that the group produced it for the first time themselves, with the DeLeos and Kretz working on instrumental tracks at the drummer’s Bomb Shelter Studios in Los Angeles and Weiland working on his vocals with Don Was separately at Lavish Studios — a vastly different process than the group’s first five albums with Brendan O’Brien.

“Brendan was always a very, very busy guy, and he had time constraints,” DeLeo recalls. “He was always like, ‘We have to finish by this date, ’cause I’m on another record two days later.’ I remember when we were tracking ‘Purple’ (in 1994); I was (recording) ‘Still Remains’ when Pete Droge was moving in. So that was always kind of a drag.

“So for the first time in this band’s career we didn’t have that time constraint, and it was really really great. You’re able to kind of stumble upon a little bit more nuance and explore new ideas and not feel that time pressure.”

Recording the instruments and vocals separately, meanwhile, falls under the heading of maintaining inner-band peace, according to the guitarist.

“Scott wanted to work by himself, and I get that,” DeLeo explains. “It’s like ... everybody in my band’s a guitar player, and when I’m in there trying to see my vision through ... and I’ve got two guys breathing down my neck, ‘Hey man, use this guitar’ or ‘You should try that amp,’ you feel like, ‘Dude, get outta here! Leave me alone!’

“And I’ll be honest with you, I would’ve been that guy for Scott — ‘Hey man, try this microphone. Can you do this? Can you sing that a little differently?’ I wouldn’t have allowed him to see his vision and creativity through, so it was better this way. And Don was kind of the liaison between the two camps and was instrumental in getting us in the same room and putting what we both did together.”

It’s a process DeLeo can see repeating when STP records again — but he doesn’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. The group is touring North America through mid-October, then has dates in South America during December before heading over to Europe in early 2011. Getting back into the studio again isn’t on the docket, but DeLeo does hope to avoid the nine-year gap that preceded “Stone Temple Pilots.”

“Stranger things have happened,” he says, “but I think we’re all having a really good time doing this and, yeah, we’ll just kind of see what happens. Right now we’re just really busy with this. We’re in the throes of figuring out when we can do a video for the third single (probably ‘Cinnamon’) and we’re talking about the touring.

“At this point we just take things as they come and not get too far ahead of ourselves, you know?”



Stone Temple Pilots and Cage the Elephant perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 26, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $29.50-$125. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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