Stone Temple Pilots: turbulent yet enduring
NOTHING GETS in the way of a lucrative rock reunion quite like a jail stint -- even an extremely short one. Just ask the members of Stone Temple Pilots, the multi-platinum-selling, stadium-rocking, alterna-grunge band that recently reunited after more than half a decade’s “separation” (don’t call it a breakup) to mount a 65-date tour of North America’s top-tier summer music festivals and amphitheaters (with a stop at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday).
Last month, faced with the very real possibility that singer Scott Weiland would spend up to eight days behind bars for a 2007 drunk driving charge, each member of the SoCal rock quartet voiced a different perspective on how disruptive Weiland’s sentencing had been on band unity.
“Seeing a friend go through something like this, it’s an uneasy feeling. It’s a drag,” said the group’s guitarist, Dean DeLeo.”
“To be honest with you, it’s going to be a lot easier for me than it is for him,” drummer Eric Kretz said of Weiland, a guy who by his own estimation has attempted to detox “40 or so” times in between various arrests, overdoses and relapses.
Robert DeLeo, Dean’s brother and STP’s bassist, seemed more concerned about his own self-preservation than his bandmate’s debt to society: “I gotta take care of myself, man.”
Seated at a conference table in a Burbank rehearsal space, the scarecrow-thin Weiland made known his feelings on the matter. “I live my life the way I live my life,” Weiland said, loosening his paisley tie and brushing tresses of pink-dyed hair from his face with visible contempt. “I don’t have to make any apologies.”
Despite having sold around 35 million albums worldwide and topping charts no fewer than six times since 1992 with hits such as “Plush,” “Sex Type Thing” and “Interstate Love Song,” Stone Temple Pilots originally were dismissed by rock cognoscenti as Pearl Jam-soundalikes. But the group has learned to take any criticism in stride, likening themselves to no less an act than Led Zeppelin.
Judging by certain empirical data (if not cultural impact), the comparison isn’t far off the mark. Like Led Zep, the Pilots’ hits remain in steady rotation on rock radio nationwide (locally, KROQ-FM keeps the STP songbook alive), and they are one of the most consistently played acts on Lithium, Sirius Satellite Radio’s ‘90s nostalgia bandwidth. Additionally, the band’s back catalog sells at a consistent clip.
Maybe it has something to do with the still-commanding presence of one of the last bad boy rock stars -- Weiland’s snarling charisma, otherworldly androgyny and smoke-and-whiskey tunefulness are among STP’s most identifiable hallmarks; his narcotic combustibility its biggest liability -- but it’s easy to understand why concert promoters would see a Stone Temple Pilots tour as a golden ticket.
Now, the group’s members are taking pains to ensure that fans remember them fondly -- even though STP never officially faded away. “Success to us does not mean the number of records sold,” Dean DeLeo said. “It means making an indelible mark on the face of music.”
Added Weiland: “Our biggest goal when we first got together was to create a legacy, musically. Now there’s a whole new generation of kids getting into the band. The respect has multiplied like a snowball that goes, um, downhill.”
Three days after making those remarks, Weiland would check himself into and be released from the Van Nuys Municipal Court lockup, having served just six hours of his jail sentence. Not what you’d call hard time -- even for a flamboyant frontman with a predilection for skin-tight trousers and mascara -- and the band’s tour would kick off as planned at Columbus, Ohio’s Rock on the Range Festival on May 17.
It was Weiland’s second taste of freedom in three months. In March, he sprang himself from Velvet Revolver, the hard rock group comprising several former Guns N’ Roses members.
That group scored a hit with its first album, “Contraband,” winning a Grammy and touring the world, but its 2007 follow-up “Libertad” never caught on. VR’s coffin was effectively shut after Weiland announced on stage at a gig in Glasgow, Scotland, that the group would be no more -- without having finalized the decision with his bandmates first.
By then, Dean DeLeo had called Weiland about resurrecting Stone Temple Pilots with the tantalizing offer of a big payday to play a bunch of summer festivals.
Weiland recalled: “I went to [Velvet Revolver guitarist] Slash and said, ‘Listen, we have some opportunities this summer. With the Velvets, we’re going to be done touring because this record isn’t performing the way the last one performed, and to continue to try to flog a dead horse is ridiculous.’ ”
The singer’s appraisal of Velvet Revolver’s commercial doldrums and rationale for breaking up particularly irked the group’s drummer. “Matt Sorum threatened to kick my ass on his website,” Weiland recalled.
On Velvet Revolver’s behalf, Slash portrayed the split somewhat differently in a written statement: “This band is all about its fans and its music, and Scott Weiland isn’t 100% committed to either. Among other things, his increasingly erratic onstage behavior and personal problems have forced us to move on.”
Never a dull moment
So far, STP’s festival convoy has rumbled through Rockfest in Kansas and Calgary’s V Festival, but the tour hasn’t been without its share of speed bumps. On May 31, radio personalities Opie and Anthony reported witnessing a bitter shouting match between Weiland and Robert DeLeo at K-Rock FM’s “Return of the Rock” show in Holmdel, N.J. -- during which the singer reportedly threatened to kick DeLeo off the tour. And earlier this month, the group’s label, Atlantic Records, sued Weiland and Kretz for trying to end their contract early, dashing hopes for a new album.
“Stone Temple Pilots were deeply disappointed to see that Atlantic filed a surprise lawsuit against two members of the [group] when they were in the middle of what were believed to be cordial and positive discussions about [Stone Temple Pilots] returning to the studio to make a new album after five years,” the group said in an e-mailed statement earlier this month.
Although STP seemingly thrives on conflict, its members haven’t always enjoyed the tumult that so often accompanies fame. The bandmates went their separate ways in late 2002, bottoming after performing gigs with Aerosmith. “We were shoulder to shoulder for 14 years. It takes a big effort to keep a relationship together with four men,” Dean DeLeo said. “You get tired of one another’s routine.”
While Weiland toured with Velvet Revolver, the DeLeo brothers joined with Filter singer Richard Patrick to form the alterna-rock quartet Army of Anyone in 2005. However, after its sole album failed to catch fire commercially, the group went on “hiatus” two years later. “We probably could have gotten this thing off the ground if we were prepared to go on the road for a year or two,” Dean DeLeo said. “But quite honestly, man, I’m far too lazy to do that.”
Which is around the time big-ticket rock fests started putting a lot of cash on the table to get STP to reunite. It brings up the question: Precisely how much of a factor was money in getting Stone Temple Pilots back together?
“I love the legacy of what we did, the footprint of it,” said Dean DeLeo. “I absolutely adore playing music with these guys. Do you ask most people what their paycheck is? We get paid handsomely, too.”
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