The group parted ways with their lightning rod frontman Scott Weiland in 2013 (more on that later), but their other three founding members remain intact: brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo (guitar and bass, respectively) and drummer Eric Kretz.
STP made their mark in the '90s with the albums Core and Purple. Alongside Pearl Jam, Green Day and Alice in Chains, they dominated the Modern Rock genre ("Alternative" if you prefer), with a string of hits: "Interstate Love Song," "Lady Picture Show," "Vasoline." Their song "Plush" even got some Grammy love, taking the award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1994. These were all band compositions, with the writing credits split equally as DeLeo/DeLeo/Kretz/Weiland. As Eric explains, the group was formed as a collaboration of equals - a democracy (for better or for worse) - and that's how they remain.
Here, Eric gives us the view from the drumkit, explaining the writing process and the songs that stoke his fire during live performance.
Eric Kretz: It's definitely different now. It's more akin to how it was in '92, where there was enthusiasm and excitement and everyone was in the room and participating creatively, artistically. It's the most fun time to be in a band when everyone has the same ideas and everyone has the same goals. Unfortunately with Scott, in the later years it got to the point to the extreme where the last self-titled Stone Temple Pilots record  Scott showed up to my studio I think twice. And the rest of the times, it was just, "Send over the songs and I'll sing 'em over here." Basically, he was phoning it in and it's not the way to make a record and not how we used to make records 20+ years ago. What we're doing now with Chester is going back to that energetic level, that enthusiasm. Let's all participate; let's all be on the same page. It's a very natural way of making great records.
The band felt they couldn't continue with Weiland, who has released three solo albums and also fronted the first lineup of Velvet Revolver. Eric and the Deleos have gone Weiland-less before: in 1995 they formed a band called Talk Show with lead singer Dave Coutts and released a self-titled album in 1997. Contractual obligations to their label kept Stone Temple Pilots from breaking up at the time.
Eric: Yeah. The band has always been a democracy, as tough and dysfunctional as democracies run. When you have a dictator, things move really quick, don't they? But we always remain a democracy and votes always count, as tough as that is. There's been some stuff that Scott and I voted for and we just couldn't get passed, and there's stuff other guys have voted for and couldn't get passed – certain performances or certain opportunities. In the end I do prefer it. It's like our country being a democracy: it's very dysfunctional, like it is at the moment, but it's still the best way to run things.
Songfacts: Your perspective is different, as you're the drummer. You probably enjoy certain songs more than other members of the band. I'm guessing that when you perform now you have to do a lot of the hits. What are the songs you enjoy playing most in the set list?
Eric: Performing live, the songs excite me still. Songs like "Big Bang Baby" and "Sex Type Thing." We do a song called "Hollywood Bitch." I used to prefer the more athletic type of songs, but with "Big Bang Baby," "Hollywood Bitch," "Sex Type Thing," they have a very straight-type rhythm pattern to them. You usually get the audience jumping up and down because the rhythm is basically on 2 and 4 - it's very simple. Especially when you perform down in South America. I mean, man, those fans are fantastic! When they jump up and down in unison, even at outdoor festivals the stage will start shaking. They're actually shaking the ground. You have 40 or 50,000 people doing that. It's such a rush, whereas if you play songs that rhythmically are a bit more complex it staggers across the audience and they're focused more on the melodies and the harmonies, and they're singing along, which is great. It's great to have a band that can contribute to different arenas: the rhythmic side and the melodic side and the harmonic side. Put that all together and it makes for a great show.
But to answer your question, those kind of push, bouncing-type of songs are exciting because from the drummer's point of view you're going to get the audience very excited and participating more.
Songfacts: The song I like the most is "Vasoline." What do you remember about writing and recording that song?
I got a little tiny 4-inch bass drum, and a little tiny 12-inch snare drum - detuned it so it sounded a little off. And I had a high hat and a rise cymbal. The smallest kit you could imagine for a rock band. Nice and simple. We recorded it in a small little drum room, which is great because the excitement is in the guitar and bass riffs, which became so much bigger.
Songfacts: It's one of the all time great riffs, and like you said, it's kind of simple. But sometimes the best things are the simple things, not the complicated things.
Eric: Yeah, we had the riff and that whole song came together. The lyrics came together in 20, 25 minutes. It was one of those exciting moments when we knew, "Oh man, this second record can be fantastic!"
Songfacts: The project that you're supporting is kind of an EP, right? It's not a full-length. Is this just a sample of what's to come?
Eric: Yeah, that's exactly what it is. We had so little time, from the time that Chester joined the band. We got the first song out, "Out Of Time," in correlation with doing the KROQ Weenie Roast – we were surprise guests on that bill. We wanted to launch the song on radio that night, which was really putting two exciting aspects into one night. At this point we're, like, "Okay, we need to try and make an album," but Chester was going on tour with Linkin Park to Asia through the month of June. So it was, "Okay, we've got so little time here."
So because of time restraints, we agreed upon doing a 5-song EP. We went on a month-long tour in September, so it was a lot of work to get everything in place, to get all the studio time together. Chester was also working on Linkin Park's new album in the mornings, and then in the afternoon, he'd come and sing with us all night long, and never complain. He never blew his voice out. He's a complete professional all the way across. It's just a timing thing.
We're definitely going to have an album out, and we're going to keep touring now. The plan now is to do the Soundwave tour with Green Day over in Australia, and that's in February. Linkin Park's going to fire up their machine at some point next year, so I would say we would complete a full-length LP next year while Linkin Park is out touring the record they're working on right now.
Songfacts: Did you have a relationship with Linkin Park prior? I'm just wondering how all of this came together?
Eric: I think it was 2000 or 2001, we were doing the Family Values tour with Linkin Park and Chester would come out and sing "Dead & Bloated" with us almost every night. Sometimes we'd do acoustic performances for radio stations earlier in the day and Chester would come out and sing some backup vocals with us on some acoustic songs so we already had a bit of a relationship with him.
And at different award ceremonies and stuff like that we'd run into Chester and the other guys from Linkin Park, so there's always been a cordial relationship there. When it came time to pick a new frontman, a new singer for the band, once the name Chester popped in, there was no one else we were thinking about. And the fact that he said yes that quickly, it was just a blessing because he could jump on the wagon and finish the EP and go on tour.
Songfacts: If he wears out and loses his voice, you're going to feel mighty guilty, aren't you?
Eric: Yeah, I just read a funny interview last week where someone asked if there could be a possible Stone Temple Pilots/Linkin Park tour and Chester laughed and said, "Yeah, that's the night I die on stage after singing." An hour-and-a-half set with STP and 2 hours with Linkin Park he would just collapse and die. That we'd all wanna watch - maybe we could do pay-per-view for something as exciting as that.
Songfacts: The EP is called High Rise. Are there songs you like the most from that one?
Whereas the song "Same On The Inside," Dean was strumming something on guitar when I walked in, "Ah, let's go play that." So he and I would just sit there and start going through the chord progressions and getting over all the jive feel, the jumpin' and jive feel of where the song was going. Chester would come in and suddenly start shooting melodies [snaps fingers], like, bam, bam bam! That was just so exciting as we were putting songs together. Within a few hours we were getting songs together, minus the lyrics. What Chester would do, as he would call them, is "banana lyrics" where he would just sing, "bananananana." Those are his words, not mine. That gets the point across. He doesn't have specific words yet. He'll be writing stuff down on his laptop and sing out the vowels and we all go, "Alright. The song's coming together." It's a really exciting time to be in the studio and working with the band when it goes that quickly.
November 20, 2013
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