In a special invitation-only gig at Third Encore Studios in North Hollywood, the newly revamped Stone Temple Pilots with Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington played their first gig before an intimate audience made up of friends and media. Performing "Out of Time," the first single from the band's recent "High Rise" EP, they also played several Scott Weiland-era songs that had never before or rarely been presented live - "Sex & Violence," "Pop's Love Suicide," "Trippin' on a Whole in a Paper Heart," "Piece of Pie" and "Church on Tuesday." Though many of those songs had been trademark Weiland showcases, Bennington brought his own style and approach to the music without sacrificing any of the beauty of the originals.
After working with Weiland for over 18 years and releasing five albums, the remaining members - brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo on guitar and bass respectively and drummer Eric Kretz - have moved into the next chapter of the band with Chester Bennington. Back home after a four-week tour to road test the new lineup, guitarist Dean DeLeo talked about "High Rise" and what it’s been like to work with and without Scott Weiland.
UG: Did you come to the realization a long time ago that either Scott Weiland had to get it together or it was going to end?
DD: I think everyone did whatever they could. I'm talking wives, brothers, friends and everyone.
It was very sad because you made some remarkable records with Scott. He was truly a great singer and lyricist.
He absolutely was, man. His lyrics were (amazing). In my humble opinion and it's easy for me to be biased. Everything he brought forth when we were all kind of running on all pistons per se - and that didn't really last very long - but when we were up and runnin', I don't think there was anybody better, man.
How long did STP run on all pistons?
Well the first record went off without a hitch (laughs).
It started to unravel that long ago?
(pause) Yeah, yeah.
Ultimately Scott Weiland leaves the band and you're thinking, "What do we do now? Call Chester Bennington?"
Look man, that's not an easy position to fill. I've come to terms long ago - I'm merely the guy that stands next to the singer (laughs).
And the guy who writes all the songs.
Well, along with Robert. A lot of people don't know because they deem me as the guitar player but Robert's responsible for really the band's biggest songs. Robert wrote "Plush" and my brother is an incredible guitar player. He wrote everything on "Interstate Love Song" but the lyrics. He wrote that melody, that guitar line and the bass line and he may have even come up with the beat. I can't say enough about him - he's an extraordinary musician.
You obviously have a lot of respect for your brother.
When I come into a session it's kinda like where I need to be or I try to be. I wonder what Robert's gonna bring in and I gotta be like, "OK, well I know it's gonna be really great so I gotta be as good as that or beat it if I'm gonna have any songs on the record." So um, sorry, I got sidetracked with the question (laughs).
You're not going the way of Scott Weiland on me are you?
Ha ha ha ha ha (much laughter).
I'm kidding. I had asked you about Chester and what you were feeling when Scott left.
Oh, right. I dunno, man. It really wasn't talked about much. When we kinda came to the rude, rude reality that it couldn't go on the way it was, there was no one talked about. We really weren't in that place. Like we didn't really discuss it; there was nothing discussed. It was just we knew things couldn't go the way they were. That's what we did know.
When was Chester's name first brought up?
One day I just said, "I think Chester is the person to do this." Immediately Robert and I are going, "That is amazing."
What was your idea about the direction you wanted to take "High Rise?" Were these ideas you’d been collecting along the way?
They weren't. Unlike most every other session we've done - I don't know how many records there are collectively but everyone talks about eight or nine - it was material that was laying around. I wrote "Dare If You Dare," which appeared on the last record ("Stone Temple Pilots") previous to "High Rise," around the Talk Show (Dean's solo band) days. "Big Empty" I wrote when I was about 17 years old. So unlike every other session, the songs for this session were written during that session.
You wanted "High Rise" to be something brand new?
It goes back to we weren't trying to recreate Scott you know. We'd be fools to try to recreate that. That's like to me? What we did together was scripture. And I think what Chester understood and understands is that he just wants to be respectful of the catalog and of the legacy and not try to recreate anything. This is a new thing kinda - you're comparing a baritone to a tenor, man.
"Out of Time" is the first single from the "High Rise" EP. It has a huge guitar sound.
You know what I used on that? I used an old Ampeg fuzz pedal. They're hard to find but they are out there. That's what I used. I just plugged into a 50-watt Marshall bass head and a 4x12 cab and just crammed that fuzz pedal in front of it.
Was a 50-watt Marshall bass head your default amp rig?
No, you know we kinda go into each session with maybe a little bit different amplification and guitars and basses than we did previously. Just to kind of paint a different picture sonically.
What's happening on "Black Heart?"
Robert for the first time, his bass sound is with a gorgeous - ala Chris Squire - Rickenbacker bass. So we always try to kinda mix it up. Robert has kind of grabbing some guitars of his choice and we whipped out for the first time some Gretsch stuff like a Country Gentleman. Just a lot of different things - we used a 335 a bit more on this record than any previous recordings. But of course you always need to standby your Les Paul, your Telly and your Strat.
Those are your three main guitars?
Well, I think with some sort of hollowbody whether it's a 175, 330 or 335. There's no really recreating that sound as there's no really recreating the sound of a Stratocaster. So I think it's essential to have one of those around. So yeah, we usually go into the session for me and we have definitely one or two of each of those laying around. And I know Robert used a different bass on every song on this.
Mainly would you see yourself as a Les Paul guy?
Umm, you know live I have to kind of cover a lot of real estate so yeah, I mainly use Les Pauls. But on this last tour we were doing a song off No. 4 called "Sex & Violence," which kind of lends itself to a Telecaster.
You do play a lot of Telecaster?
I have a lot of Telecasters and I have a lot of Strats. My dear, dear friend Bruce Nelson made me a couple of Tellys and he made this Strat just recently and oh my gosh. Along with love, heart and soul, he just handpicked every item that goes on this guitar and man, they're the finest guitars I own. And Tellys like I've got probably ten of 'em.
Were you a fan of Telecaster players like Roy Buchanan?
I'm trying to think of the cat's name ... give me one minute here, just give me one minute. I have a blank - let me look at something here (it sounds as if Dean is maybe looking something up on his phone). I thought the cool thing about guitar is every different type of guitar kind of pushes you to play it a little differently. You pick up a Telly and you just kind of chicken pick with it. Let me just look at something here.
What about Albert Lee?
Oh my gosh, c'mon. I mean, yeah. There's a cat I really, really love. He kind of teamed up with a pedal steel player named Speedy West and there's a Telly player by the name of Jimmy Bryant. Oh man, they were recording that stuff in the '50s and you can tell it's just a bunch of cats in a room just playing flawlessly and so beautifully. So organic. A lot of those recordings I really dig. And yeah, that early Maphis stuff and Bob Wills. I love that stuff.
"Black Heart" had a cleaner guitar tone and the solo sounds like it was played on a Telecaster.
That was a Telly; that was Bruce's Telly I used on that, yeah.
You are a remarkable guitar player.
(laughs) You're making me blush.
What is so cool about your playing is that it surprises you - you start off playing a blues phrase and then it turns into this strange chicken picking thing. Where did that come from?
You know man? I never really allow myself to dictate what I'm gonna play on the song - I allow the song to dictate what I'm gonna play.
The record button gets pushed and you're just trying to serve the song?
I think that particular tune "Black Heart" lent itself to kind of that open G, four-on-the-floor kick thing and that real hootenanny kind of thing. When you're using the word hootenanny, that's got Telecaster written all over it, man (laughs).
What about "Same on the Inside?"
It was kind of like these major 7th suspension kind of chords that kind of gave it a little more of a, mmm, I don't know, like kind of a more ethereal sort of sound. So I went for kind of that thicker kind of neck pickup Paul tone on that solo. You just gotta let the song tell you what it needs.
The solo on "Same on the Inside" - and I could completely off here - reminded me a little bit of Peter Frampton.
Hah hah hah.
Does that make sense?
Umm, yeah. You want to know something? That is an incredible, incredible outlook on that because I'm gonna tell you - prior to me going out on the road on this tour, I went out and did a week with Peter on his Frampton's Guitar Circus.
Is that right?
So I was playing to a lot of Frampton songs and it was all right at the same time. Peter had called me a couple of months prior to me having to go up and finish the solos and I was immersed in the world of Frampton. So it was funny because I didn't lay it on Peter but when I was out his son Julian was out and I was like, "Oh man, I really nicked something from your dad" (laughs). Well that's a really nice recognition by you. It was very inspired by Peter and I was very immersed in the world of Frampton, man. I was about to go out and do a week with him.
That is so cool.
Peter called me and he said, "There's gonna be over 50 guests I think. B.B. King is opening up." He had Sonny Landreth out, Leslie West, Steve Lukather, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Don Felder and on and on and on. There was over 50 guests over three months. I went out and did a week with him and he said, "Let's do two of your songs and let's do one of mine." I said, "Well I know what I want to do of yours - the one I always wished I had written and that's '(I'll Give You) Money.'"
You were in some good company.
It was great because it was no holds barred, man. We each took several solos throughout the night on that song and it turned out to be 12 or 14 minutes long. I actually did the Greek Theater here in L.A. and Andy Summers and I were there. Then Peter would have us back out to do a really lovely version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Let me tell you something, man - Peter Frampton is one of the greatest, greatest, extraordinary musicians ever.
He is truly an underrated guitarist.
Think about his offering lyrically, melodically and his voice? F--kin' unbelievable. His songwriting ability can't be beat. And the guy backs it up with being one of the most amazing guitar players.
What Frampton did with Humble Pie back in the day was amazing.
You know what's so funny? You know what you said to me earlier about you don't know where my next change is gonna be?
Well, Peter and I have each other for quite some time. We actually got together in L.A. and we got together in a room for about a week and we were writing. He called me the next day and I have these moments in my very humble career that are really, really incredible. Peter called me the next morning and he basically said what you just told me. He goes, "Your playing, man, and your chording - I don't know where you're gonna go next and when you go there it's just like, 'Oh my gosh.'" So it's interesting to hear that from you and Peter kind of laid the same thing on me.
That is so cool.
Note: At this point, the publicist broke in and said we had to wind the interview up. Dean said, "A couple more" because he seemed to be enjoying the conversation. I told him I had more than a few questions left to ask him and he kindly said he'd call me back later that day to finish our conversation. He did and here is the second part of our dialog.
Besides Peter Frampton, did you listen to the other classic English players like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page?
There wasn't much Clapton I'm sad to say. I didn't listen to much Clapton. I think I listened to Disraeli Gears because I was really into Felix Pappalardi. And for all those kids out there who don't know Felix Pappalardi, he played bass in a little band called Mountain.
There you go.
And he produced Disraeli Gears of course. I was a huge fan of Felix and really loved the way his records sounded, man. So I was kind of into that.
What about Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck?
Oh my gosh. My list of people I've begged, borrowed and stole from is a mile long, man.
Those kinds of guys are on it?
Absolutely. Beck? Page? F--k yes, hah hah hah. Yeah, with the stuff we were talking about earlier, man. Like Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West and Joe Maphis and all that stuff, man. To the more commercial country stuff like with what Chet Atkins was doing. You know, man? You know what people really overlook?
Because he was kind of a B actor but one of the most amazing guitar players on the planet hands down - Jerry Reed. People don't even realize what an extraordinary guitar player he is. That list goes on forever, man. We would need hours to talk about that from Holdsworth to Wes Montgomery to all the cats that were playing on those Jobim records and all that stuff.
So there are a lot of different pieces and styles that make up your playing.
It's kind of what I said earlier, man. I've always kind of allowed the song to dictate what I should -and even more importantly - what I shouldn't play.
"Cry Cry" has a great squashed kind of guitar sound on that main riff?
Yeah yeah. Kind of the main riff - badump bom bom badump dum (hums riff). That one?
What is that?
Hah hah hah. It's a Can with a two-inch speaker and 9-volt battery.
Yeah, made by Cactus. That was given to me when I was out on the road. They said, "Try this out." You can go online and see it. It's literally like a pint aluminum can with a 9-volt battery and a little two- or three-inch speaker. Actually that's what the solo is too.
That was such a cool sound on the solo.
Hah hah hah. Giving away my secrets, man.
Another special thing about your playing is the way you build and orchestrate guitar parts. Jimmy Page called it his "Guitar Army."
(with exaggerated English Spinal Tap accent) "Let Jimmy refer to it as that - I call it fairy dust." Umm, you know what, man? Like I said it's allowing the song to tell me what to play and more importantly what not to play. You won't always hear something in the second verse. It depends on the song. For instance, "Out of Time," that first verse, pre-chorus and chorus are the very same as the second. The fairy dust kinda came in - isn't that funny, I'm calling it that - when we allowed Chester to kind of do a thing where the second line in each of the verses we kind of put a harmony on. It's always nice to have a little ear candy that kind of just perks you up a little bit and it makes the song a little more exciting. Like I said, I can't describe it better than just that ear candy - something happening that holds your attention throughout the song.
Where else did that happen on "High Rise?"
A great example of that is in the second pre-chorus of "Same on the Inside” and it’s one of my favorite parts on the record, man. It's one of my favorite moments on the record when Chester does those little backup vocal things there. That's my favorite part on the record.
Do you ever think about how you're going to pull off the music live?
No, because live is such a different thing because you're not just getting audio but you're getting a whole visual onslaught too between the movement of the band and the movement of the lights. One other thing that really covers up for a lot of that is - volume, hah hah hah. So yeah, it's kind of a different animal isn't it? Sitting down and listening to a studio record or watching a band. There's so much going on to kind of keep your attention.
"Tomorrow" closes the EP with a bit of a darker feel?
I don't know. I wrote that musically and Chester of course you could tell lyrically wrote that about me (laughs). I told him to tell his wife that you wrote that about me and he goes, "Yeah, I will." We make very good productivity with our time and Chester was really sacrificing a lot. He doesn't need to do this, man. He plays to a 100,000 people a week in Linkin Park around the world. He loves doing this because he loves this band. It formed his childhood and it formed his taste in music and I feel so blessed that this guy along in so many different ways. And that guy really sacrificed a lot because he was flying in four or four-and-a-half days a week away from his family while he was living in California while his family was home to do this. And you can hear that remiss in his voice there on that song and how he feels about his lovely wife.
"Core" recently celebrated its 20th anniversary - what are your memories of that album?
Those were some great years, man. Those were some really, really, really amazing years. Like I said to you earlier, that was probably the only record that went off without a hitch. Certain people didn't wander into certain experimentation and it was a really, really, really beautiful time. Very innocent; very pure. We knew what we were embarking upon.
That's the first time you worked with producer Brendan O'Brien.
Brendan was kinda coming up too, man. At that point he had kinda been in the shadows of guys like Rick Rubin and stuff. In my opinion and with all respect to the people who put their producer's stamp on those records, Brendan really made those records: "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" and "Shake Your Money Maker." Brendan made those records, man. It was an exciting time for all of us that were in those rooms making that record, "Core." Yeah, it was a great time, man.
First albums are always a special time in a band's career.
It was funny because I took my wife and we were going out to the mall one day and we were driving out Topanga Boulevard. I'm like, "I gotta show you where we lived." Like Scott and I were in a two-bedroom efficiency apartment at the Oakwoods off Topanga Boulevard in the Valley. I rode by and I hadn't been by there since 1990 and I was like, "That's where we lived." We made that record out in the Valley at the Captain and Tennille's place, Rumbo. Brendan was efficient. When it's time for Brendan to work, if it's an 11 o'clock downbeat? You better be there at 11. You know what I mean? So Brendan was like, "You guys need to stay here. I don't want you guys out there" ‘cause Scott and I were living way out in Highland Park. And with L.A. traffic, Brendan was like, "You guys need to set camp up here," which was less than two miles from the studio. And we were all four of us - if you can imagine this - were in a two-bedroom. Scott and I were sharing a room and Robert and Eric were sharing a room. Like I said, man, it was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful time.
What did it feel like making "Purple?"
We made that one down in Atlanta and that one is when things really came unhinged, man.
Even with all that turmoil, "Purple" had some remarkable songs on it.
I gotta really hand a lot of that to Brendan for being the glue and just trying to make it all work. I have to really hand that to Brendan. It really is a great record but it's a shame because umm ... yeah. You know what? I don't want to let too much out.
I'll tell you a funny story. We're speaking about Brendan and he is a busy, busy guy and a very well respected man about town in this industry. We got a little delayed on that record and we threw that record together fast, man. We recorded that record in three weeks and it was funny because I was tracking the guitar part on "Still Remains" as Pete Droge and his band were moving in.
It sounds like you overstayed your welcome.
I'm like, "What are you guys doing here?" He's like, "We start today" and I'm like, "Oh, my god." I literally was out in the room recording the guitar - guitar in hand - a Telecaster and I remember the guitar. It was a burst Telecaster but I don't own the guitar anymore. I was sitting there playing this guitar for "Still Remains" and Pete Droge and company are wheeling in their f--kin' gear (laughs).
How did you feel about the last Scott Weiland album - "Stone Temple Pilots?"
Uhh, that was a big undertaking - that was a really big undertaking. It was a really unenjoyable record to make. Scott wanted to work out of his studio and the stuff they were bringing back to us was uh, hah hah hah, yeah - it was very interesting. You listen back to that stuff he was bringing back and it was like biting into a fork. It was a tough record to make, man. Really tough. Yeah, that was a tough one.
But you feel great about "High Rise" and the future of STP?
All is well, man. It's funny because I just got home from being on the road for four weeks and I just got home last night. My biggest task of the day is walking around the house going, "Sh-t, man. I'm out of 75-watt bulbs and garbage bags" (laughs).
Interview by Steven Rosen