In the Studio: Stone Temple Pilots
The DeLeo brothers on the 1960s vibe of STP's reunion album, Wii bowling, and more.
In 2008, San Diego alt-rockers Stone Temple Pilots ended a five-year split and reunited for a massive U.S. tour, kicking off with a rockin’ extravaganza at Harry Houdini’s old Hollywood mansion. And then the magic really started to happen: the quartet began jamming during sound checks and soon had an album’s worth of demos.
This May, STP — singer Scott Weiland, bassist Robert DeLeo, guitarist Dean DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz — will return with a new yet-to-be titled album, their first since 2001’s Shangri-La Dee Da. To get the 411 on how the recording process was coming, we rang up the main songwriting force behind the band: the DeLeo Bros.
Here the siblings discuss the hardships and awards of reuniting, Wii bowling, Weiland’s sobriety, and the ’60s vibe of STP’s upcoming album. “If [fans] are expecting another ‘Plush,’ they are going to be let down,” says Dean DeLeo.
Where are you guys in the recording process now?
Dean DeLeo: We’re done recording and will start mixing Monday.
Robert DeLeo: Yep, we just finished the last two songs at my home studio, and we’re going through the editing process and getting everything sounding tasty. A gentleman by the name of Chris Lord-Alge, who actually mixed a song of ours back in early 2000 called “All in the Suit That You Wear,” will mix the new album.
What should fans expect from this record?
Robert: Fans are going get a great STP record. We know what STP sounds like — we have a sonic blueprint. It’s always worked for me to put myself in the ears of the listener. I ask myself, “What kind of STP record would I want to hear?” The answer is a really cohesive record with songs that are going to be lasting. Fans don’t necessarily want to hear songs from me being the best person I can be. Those songs are for a solo record. STP fans don’t want that side of me. This band is attractive because we bring it to the edge of a cliff and write songs that have attitude.
Can you tell me about a few songs from the album?
Robert: There’s a song called “Between the Lines,” which musically is like Paul Revere and the Raiders, with that ’60s sound that I’ve always been a fan of. It’s a ’60s rockin’ basher! There’s another song called “Huckleberry Crumble.” It’s funny: these were actually working titles from when Dean, Eric [Kretz], and I were writing the music at Eric’s studio. Scott has gravitated toward them and we’re officially using those titles, “Huckleberry Crumble” included. [Faux British accent]: “And it’s another good rocker baby!”
Does STP have traditions or pastimes in the studio? Or is there anything you can’t live without while recording?
Robert: If you have your laptop you’re set. We have a good work ethic in the studio — and it’s a lot of work. You’re writing, arranging, producing, and paying attention to the tones and sounds, and making the best record you can.
Dean: We’ve made a few records in houses and there’s usually a tennis court or a pool. One time we filled up a pool with lime jello and jumped in naked. Another time we played tennis on horseback. This time we got really into Wii bowling! Eric’s studio is in the dregs of downtown Los Angeles, and there were three things to pass the time when we weren’t working: a pool table, a ping-pong table, or Wii bowling. And the Wii bowling really grabbed us, man.
Who’s the best Wii bowler?
Dean: A dear friend who helped us out, Bruce Nelson. He bowled a 299. There was definitely some competition. He was one pin shy of a perfect game. Pretty spectacular, huh?
I understand the DeLeo Bros took on a larger role with producing this record. Why?
Dean: Well, it’s a different ball game when you are taking on that aspect of it. We were very spoiled from making our records with Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen). He’s extraordinarily great at what he does. I’m not so good at walking around the control room with a pen and clipboard in my hands, marking down what takes are the best. It’s a lot of work. But I like being the very best I can be, and when you’re producing you are taking on everyone’s performances and wanting it to be the best it can be.
Robert: We decided to do this record ourselves and it’s been a great learning process. It’s going to be something we look back at and are definitely proud of. We did most of the work, musically speaking, at Eric’s studio. But we have the luxury of using three studios, including Scott’s and my home studio. We we’re just kind of tag-teaming the duties.
When and where did most of these songs come together?
Dean: They just began as things that I’ve stumbled upon. That’s what music is for me. I never sit down to write. I’m just hit with something and it happens very fast, very easy. If I try to sit down and write, it doesn’t really happen. The album is a mix of songs we’ve been kicking around for a little while and others that we’ve written more recently, most on while on tour.
Robert: There’s no rules to writing songs. I try to be the best person I can be in life, but there’s always times when I feel like I want to walk off a cliff. And if I don’t walk off the cliff, at least I go visit the cliff and that’s where I choose to write songs. It makes for good songs. There are many different aspects in life to absorb from and extract from. Being on the cliff always seems to be the best place for me.
What is the songwriting process in STP and has it changed at all since reuniting?
Dean: Robert and I will usually bring in a piece of music completely finished. As far as Scott goes, he’s hearing these songs for the first time. These are all songs that Robert and I have played one another over the past several months. Scott has to come up with melodies and lyrics for songs he’s hearing for the first time. It’s a lot to digest.
Robert: Well… I’m only on my first cup of coffee right now — my brain is just kicking in. My fuckin’ dog got skunked last night and he stunk my whole house up, so I didn’t get much sleep. Have you ever smelled fresh skunk? OH. SHIT. Fresh skunk is like boiling onions, tar, and ass together. That shit woke me out of my sleep. My wife and I were up all night cleaning. [Laughs]
But, seriously, we definitely did this record differently. The fact that Scott, Eric, and I have our own studios gives us the luxury of working at home. We recorded at Eric’s studio, then would send songs to Scott and he’d record vocals at his studio. The band wasn’t in the same room as much as we could have been, but I think we’ve been making records long enough to know what to expect from each other. Plus, it added an extra bit of excitement to see what that person was going to record.
Did STP plan on recording an album from the beginning of the reunion?
Robert: It was talked about from the beginning. We’re in our 40s now, you know, and there are many other aspects to life: kids, wives, all kinds of shit. STP is a piece of my life that I have to learn how to work with. When I was in my 20s it was all I had. Now, STP is a piece of what I do, so it’s definitely cherished more. I feel really great about being in this position to be able to make an STP record after all this time.
How has being in your 40s and partying less affected the record?
Robert: It hasn’t changed the music at all. We certainly haven’t gone soft.
What about Scott’s sobriety? How has that affected the recording process?
Dean: Sobriety? What the fuck are you talking about? Scott does what he does.
So, what’s next?
Robert: We’ll be touring into 2011. And I’ve got another baby coming at the end of May. It’s another son, so it’s going to be a juggle! Also, I have 30 acres of property in Upstate, New York. I don’t know if my wife would enjoy living back there full time, but I get back there as much as I can. It’s my happy place. It’s so mellow and beautiful up there. I’d love to record an acoustic album up there. It would be a fuckin’ amazing place to record.