“You really do have something together that you don’t share with anyone else.”
How do you replace the irreplaceable? That’s the vexing task facing the three core members of Stone Temple Pilots — guitarist Dean DeLeo, bassist Robert DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz — who are on a mission-quest to find themselves a new lead singer.
Original STP vocalist Scott Weiland — the mercurial singer behind hard-charging alt-rock classic tracks like Plush, Big Empty, Interstate Love Song, and Sour Girl, to name but a few — had been out of the band for a few years and died tragically from a drug overdose while on tour as a solo artist last December. Chester Bennington, who fronted STP from 2013 to 2015, recently returned to his gig as lead vocalist for Linkin Park fulltime.
So what’s a band to do? You take to the Web to find your next co-pilot, which STP is doing right now. “It’s ultimately a matter of meeting with people and finding out what they’re all about on all different levels,” explains Robert DeLeo. “Our cutoff on singer submissions is March 7, and right now, we’re getting about 100 people a day. I’ve been sifting through them, and man, there’s some great talent out there.”
DeLeo got on the horn with Digital Trends from his home base in Los Angeles to discuss what the band is looking for, as well as Scott Weiland’s indelible STP legacy, loving vinyl, and connecting with The Doors. Where ya going to tomorrow?
Digital Trends: So you’re now hard at work on solidifying the next incarnation of Stone Temple Pilots. Do we call it STP 2.0, or 4.0?
Robert DeLeo: I think it’s 10.0! (both laugh) Yeah, exciting times. Really exciting times.
Well, let’s get into that. You’ve put up the backing tracks of some major STP hits for people to sing to online — namely, Interstate Love Song, Vaseline, Sex Type Thing, and Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart. Is it a daunting task to wade through so many submissions?
No. You know, we started trying some people out about eight months ago when Chester informed us he was no longer going to be doing this with us. So we got right on that.
We played with some really great singers out here in L.A. already. Don’t know if they’re really the ones for STP, but I think we owe it to ourselves to not only go nationwide, but go worldwide. It’s a big world out there.
You three will know when the chemistry is right, which is ultimately the key. Can you define why you three guys play so well together?
After all these years, we don’t even think about it anymore. I really respect and love to hear my brother [Dean’s] guitar playing, and I really respect and love to hear Eric’s drumming. It’s one of those things you take for granted for so long, and then it suddenly hits you when you get a bit older and you realize you really do have something together that you don’t share with anyone else.
I feel fortunate to have shared music with Scott Weiland. We’re here today talking partly because of him.
We created something more than half of our lives ago. When you think about it, it’s been over half my life of sharing this with these people, and that really has come to light over the past few years. We don’t even have to think about what we’re doing — we just do it.
And God rest Scott [Weiland], we really created something together. Sometimes it’s not until you really feel that and put things in perspective. I guess that’s part of looking at your past.
Do you mind talking about Scott a little bit? It seemed like you four had a unique energy together, right out of the box.
I feel really fortunate to have shared that music. I’m sitting here talking to you partly because of Scott. That’s why we’re talking right now, partly because of him.
There was a time he was really great, and really exuberant about our art and how we expressed it. It’s very emotional to look back and see YouTube footage of us. It hits me hard. It literally hits me very hard.
That guy added a lot to my life. I feel very fortunate to have shared my music with him. He reciprocated with some beautiful poetry, melodies, and vocals.
Is there one song from the overall STP canon that sticks out to you as your favorite band performance?
I have some of my personal favorites. I was online last night looking around at our stuff. I was going to send something to someone who wasn’t all that familiar with STP music, and I was looking at Hello It’s Late, from Shangri-La Dee Da (2001).
A great album, unfortunately overlooked.
Very overlooked, and I think one of our best works. It was a great creative time, and I liked where we were going with our music.
There are very few times I get moved by my own music, and Hello It’s Late is one that really, really moves me. I think what Scott does on that song is one of the most beautiful things he’s done.
Yeah, I really like the emotionality of his vocal on that one, and I hope I get to hear it on vinyl someday too. Speaking of that, is vinyl still important to you as a listener?
Absolutely! I think vinyl has a certain integrity and a certain charm that never went away for guys like us. We grew up with that. It’s really a feel as much as it is a sonic thing. It brings me back to when things were simpler. It was great growing up in the ’70s! It was very Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn.
Getting a record was a huge deal. I used to walk down to Ocean County Music on Arnold Ave. in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. I would buy vinyl there, take it home, look at the cover, and read who did what and see who the people were who were doing it. Man, it was a whole experience, a whole journey.
It is good to see vinyl sales picking up. It’s cool. It’s definitely a thing from the past that keeps on giving, and hopefully people get to experience what we got to experience when we were little.
And I still prefer some stuff in mono, since some people mixed it that way.
That was one of my questions for you. The Beatles: Mono or stereo?
Mono, man — mono! That’s the way it was done originally.
Besides vinyl, we’re also living in a streaming universe. What do you feel about that?
Beatles and Beach Boys songs were really my nursery rhymes growing up.
It’s all kind of gone in different directions, hasn’t it? I don’t know if haywire is the word for it, but I really don’t know how an artist survives these days. A lot of things are being taken from the artist. But it sure is convenient, isn’t it?
On a positive note, I think streaming allows a lot of people to get their music out there, and I know more about new bands now from streaming than I did before.
Speaking of The Beatles, have you ever crossed paths with Sir Paul McCartney yourself?
No I haven’t, but he’s definitely on my bucket list to meet and say, ‘Thank you for raising me,” you know?
I love STP’s kick-ass cover of The Beatles’ Revolution back in the day (2001), and I could easily see you doing Taxman — that’s right up your alley.
Oh man, yeah! Those guys are really directly responsible for me getting into this. When I was growing up in New Jersey, we had a little Realistic stereo in the living room. I’d have the headphones on and would just get lost in that world of 45s. The first 45s I remember listening to were The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Those Beatles and Beach Boys songs were really my nursery rhymes, you know?
I look back, and I can still remember being a 7-year-old kid, listening to all that stuff for the first time. It’s amazing how music moves us.
Sure is. And when something like The Beatles or The Doors comes on, it either takes you instantly to where you were when you first heard it or where it had the most impact on you.
Yeah, I just did this tribute to [the late keyboardist] Ray Manzarek of The Doors, with John [Densmore, Doors drummer] and Robby [Krieger, Doors guitarist, at The All-Star Tribute to Ray Manzarek Benefiting Stand Up to Cancer, at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on February 12, 2016]. I just got so sucked up into that music, playing it with half of the guys who made it. That music is some of the most original music I’ve ever heard and played. Those songs are like paintings.
And when you say “The Doors,” that name literally defines their sound. Nobody sounds like The Doors, and they don’t sound like anybody else.
I was really excited to play with John, because I’ve never played with a drummer like him. What he does is completely original.
He’s got great jazz chops too.
Yes, that jazz background drummers like John and [Jimi Hendrix drummer] Mitch Mitchell had —
And Ginger Baker [of Cream] too, for that matter —
Yes, absolutely, Ginger Baker! Those guys, integrating the jazz elements they grew up with into pop and rock music — it’s really amazing.
Ray Manzarek’s left hand was essentially the bass in The Doors, so you became Ray’s left hand…
I know more about new bands from streaming than I ever did before.
(laughs) I was Ray’s left hand for the night! I gotta say, I also loved playing the Doors songs that bass was actually on. There was bass on Love Me Two Times, and Roadhouse Blues, with Lonnie Mack —
Yeah: “Do it, Lonnie! Do it!
Oh yeah! The one I really like is L.A. Woman. That was with Jerry Scheff, from Elvis’s backing band [the TCB Band], on bass. I tried to do Jerry some justice while playing on that, man. I was playing all this Doors music here at home getting ready for it, because there are some pretty complex songs.
Like When the Music’s Over.
That’s what we started the show with! (chuckles) It was funny — I have a 5-year-old son and a 10-year-old son who are both curious about music. I was playing L.A. Woman over and over and over for two weeks, and my 5-year-old son came up to me and said, “Daddy, who’s Mr. Bozo Raisins?” (both laugh heartily)
[During the back half of L.A. Woman, Jim Morrison sings “Mr. Mojo Risin’” a number of times, an anagram of his own name.]
That’s fantastic! That’s also the name of your cover band from now on, by the way.
(laughs again) It was so great when he said that.
So to wrap it up, STP singer submissions end March 7. Is it fair to say once you guys make your choice, new music will be imminent?
I think that will come. We’re going to have a great start at something we’re all excited about. We started making a record with Chester last year, so we’re eight songs deep into music already recorded, which is about three-quarters of a record done. And we’re really excited about what we put down, too.
It’s such a huge part of the fabric of my being, you know what I mean? (pauses) Music means a lot to me, you know?