Interview: Stone Temple Pilots — "We like to refer to it as 'Letterman Ready!'"
Tue, 16 Mar 2010 05:42:51
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A classic album will resonate with just about anyone—young and old.
"Hang on, my son's here with me," says Stone Temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo over the phone. "He just said, 'Can I be in the magazine?' I'm going to put him on speaker…This is Rocco. He's seven-years-old. What do you think about our record, Rocco?"
Rocco goes on, "It's really cool and I'm a big fan!"
"You're a big fan?" laughs Dean. "He's the one, Rick!"
Given his insider perspective, Rocco also chose a favorite track continuing, "Maybe… 'Bagman.'"
DeLeo chuckles with a smile, "See my kid goes deep into the album, man. That's like track 8!"
Rocco's choice is a great one, but you can't go wrong with any track from Stone Temple Pilots sixth self-titled album. Stone Temple Pilots have crafted the rock record of the decade. It's a masterpiece that will officially solidify STP alongside The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time.
The album, due out May 25, shifts seamlessly from the hypnotic psychedelica of "Dare if You Dare" to the impenetrably anthemic "Between the Lines." Elsewhere "First Kiss On Mars" is the most intergalactically haunting and romantic ballad ever written, and "Fast As I Can" pulsates with an uncontainable blues energy; every song is a new classic. Stone Temple Pilots—Scott Weiland (Exclusive Interview), Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo and Eric Kretz—are back and better than ever.
Stone Temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about the band's new masterpiece, his "ongoing" friendship with the guitar, STP's upcoming SXSW gig, one documentary that makes him feel "fuzzy" and how to write "Letterman Ready" songs.
Stone Temple Pilots seamlessly combines your classic raw riffage with the psychedelic experimentation of Shangri-la Dee Da. Do you feel like this album is the perfect middle ground between those two extremes?
It's hard for me to say, man. I don't put that much thought into it. I simply come into the session with some songs. To me, there wasn't a lot of experimentation. We don't want to get too far outside what people would come to expect from us and, for us, we definitely don't want to keep doing the same thing over and over. It starts with the song for Robert and I, and Scott embellishes upon it. When I have to compete with songs written by Robert, I have to be on my game if I'm going to have any songs on the record [Laughs]. It's a pretty healthy relationship in that respect. With that said, we bring out the best in each other. I don't envy Scott, when it comes to making an STP record because that guy gets a lot of material thrown at him very quickly. I'm sure it's pretty overwhelming [Laughs]. The first CD that we sent to Scott had nine songs on it!
Was this a particularly creative period for yourself and Robert?
Yeah! It's been a while since we've made a record. The last record that Robert and I were involved with in the writing process was Army of Anyone. A few of my contributions to Stone Temple Pilots, I'd actually brought to the table for Army of Anyone and Richard [Patrick] really couldn't get his head around them. I said, "Well, I know somebody who could take a bite out of this!" [Laughs] It worked out.
Once you started writing and recording again, was it just like old times or was it better?
It was a little bit of both. It was better because we had the luxury of working out of Eric Kretz's gorgeous studio, Bomb Shelter and we had no producer. Robert and I took on the chore of producing this record. We actually made this record in between going in and out of tour. We didn't have this time constraint, and we didn't have to appease a producer and work under his time constraint. We've had the luxury of working with Brendan O'Brien on all of our records, and he's a busy guy! We'd start a record with him and we would have to finish it by a certain date because he would have another record to do.
Do you feel like these songs really got to live and grow?
Definitely! We also had the luxury of working at Eric's gorgeous place, and Scott had the luxury of working at his studio. Robert's been hard at work for the past five years building a gorgeous studio in the basement of his house. We tracked a couple songs there actually. When it came time to really finish the record, we had all three studios going at once. We were doing overdubs, drum stuff and bass lines at Robert's house. I was doing my guitar's at Eric's place, and Scott was finishing vocals at his studio, so we had three studios running simultaneously. It was really wonderful to utilize all that.
This album is such a collective vision on all fronts.
I think so. We were on the road right up until Thanksgiving. We'd begun this record quite some time ago, but we'd work on it for a few weeks and then go out on the road for a few weeks. We'd go home and spend some time with the families and then work on the album for a few weeks. That happened over about ten months. When you come off the road, everybody is playing really well, and I think it shows on these performances. Everybody is on his game.
Has your approach to playing guitar changed since you were a kid?
It's an ongoing friendship. It's something that I'm always finding out new things about, constantly. I think you're only as good as the people around you. That goes for anything you really do. If you're a tennis player and you keep playing people you can beat all the time, how are you ever going to get any better? You've got to get on the court with Federer, man, and bring up your game! [Laughs] That's my analogy. About four years ago, Joe Walsh called and asked if we wanted to do some shows with him, so Robert and I were in Joe's band. We went out on the road for a couple of months, and that really opened the door for me, playing with Joe night after night. I really learned a lot being with him, and that goes back to my saying, "You're only as good as those around you." I brought that into my new ability, per se.
Your chemistry with Scott is quite remarkable on this album.
Thank you! As a songwriter, it's been pretty fulfilling. The vocals are the last thing to go down on an album. We work on that arrangement of the song, musically speaking, and Scott will delve into it. He'll say, "Maybe we should double this section or move this?" When he comes back with something, it's very fulfilling as a songwriter.
There's an urgency to this record that comes right from the first riff on "Between the Lines."
Taking on the production of this record meant a lot to Robert and I. We had the luxury of making records with some amazing people—Brendan O'Brien and Nick DiDia. That was going to school for us. It was a big statement for Robert and I to go do this. It definitely wasn't from an egostical standpoint…it was something for own souls that we wanted to accomplish. Robert actually wrote "Between the Lines." The only thing that I wrote on that song was the solo.
Do you and Robert share a musical mind?
Completely! It's very much like one mind. You know how people can finish each other's sentences? There aren't many guys who can tell a story with bass, and Robert's choice of notes and how he plays and approaches a song—he can tell a story with a bass guitar. It's probably easier to tell a story through a piano or a guitar, but when a cat can tell a story with a bass, that's pretty remarkable.
Which songs on the record were particularly special to you?
"Dare If You Dare" is a song that I've had for quite some time and it finally saw the light of day on this album. I wrote that song years and years ago. It was great to have that song finally see the light of day. Everyone did such a phenomenal job on it. That song's pretty special to me. I like where the band went with "Hickory Dichotomy"—this country-honk-big-front-porch-foot-stompin-back-bunny-sort-of-thing [Laughs]. I really feel like I was able to branch out a little bit more on this record and take the liberty to solo a little more with keeping a song at three minutes long. I don't know that fans would really appreciate us doing Tales from Topographic Oceans at this point in our career [Laughs]. Maybe one day soon though, I hope!
On most of the record, you tell stories in less than three minutes such as "Hazy Days!" That's a lost art...
We like to refer to it as "Letterman Ready"—under three minutes [Laughs]. It's an ongoing joke. When we were on David Letterman for the second time doing "Wicked Garden" years ago, the song was at about 3:28 or something. We were moments away from being on national television, and the producer came into our dressing room and said, "We need to knock 15 seconds off the song, and you're on in ten minutes." We looked at each other like, "Oh boy, let's knock this out. We'll shorten this, we'll move this section over her and we'll knock this in half!" We pulled it off, knocking 15 seconds off the song with minutes before we played it. We refer to things now as "Letterman Ready" [Laughs].
You made a "Letterman Ready" album…
[Laughs] Robert said it best, "We have a sonic blueprint." We can tell a tale, still eek out a guitar solo in there and wrap it up in three minutes. Some stuff went on a little longer. The album version of "Plush" is nearly five minutes long, but we did a radio edit. Our society moves quickly, and it's not slowing down. People are very busy and things move fast. There's music that will satisfy every bit of our being if you have the time and you can sit down, relax and really get into a piece of music. You can really dip your mind into it and you have the opportunity to listen to a journey. Side one of a Bach album will take you through a 28-minute journey. If you have that time, great! Maybe your time only allows you to take a three-minute or two-minute spank from a Minutemen or Ramones track. There's something there that could really fit your time schedule and your being. It's all out there, and that's the beauty of it. Wherever you want to dip your mind musically is all there. This record covers a lot of terrain and a lot of sentiment as well as a lot of different moods and colors.
"Cinnamon" does that…
That came out really well! It's interesting—on "Maver," "First Kiss on Mars" and "Hickory Dichotomy," there are country riffs! If you play "Hickory" on an acoustic guitar, it's hillbilly [Laughs]. It sounds great live, by the way. We've been in rehearsals all week and we worked up five songs on the new record for SXSW.
I'm guessing you're doing "Bagman" and Rocco will be happy?
[Laughs] Rocco will be happy we're doing "Bagman!"
If you were to compare this record to a movie, what would you compare it to?
The first thing that comes to mind is On Any Sunday. Are you hip with Bruce Brown? He did The Endless Summer. In 1971, he did a film documenting all of the different aspects of motorcycle riding called On Any Sunday. It captures this really beautiful sentiment, and it has some amazing riders who exercise humility and humbleness at the forefront of their existence but they're the most badass cats on the planet. It has some really beautiful sentiment behind it. If you're into motorcycles, you should check out this film. You have all of this turmoil and violence, if you will, of motorcycle racing, but this soundtrack is done by this French cat named Dominic Frontiere. The music is just gorgeous! It's interesting because if you watch motorcycle films from nowadays, there's just thrash with hard and heavy really violent music behind this stuff. I say "violence" in a beautiful sort of way. This film takes you back to the '70s, and it's interesting to see the dichotomy of motorcycle racing and this beautiful music. It's a really nice film with all different aspects of the sport. As a little boy, it changed my life.
What's the parallel to the record?
Well, I simply enjoy the sentiment. It makes me fuzzy [Laughs].
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