[AltWire Interview] Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots
- Posted on March 15, 2018 at 10:00 AM by Derek Oswald
I’ll never forget the first time I heard a Stone Temple Pilots record. Being a seven-year-old kid in 1993, I remember walking out to the garage and finding my father rocking out, completely uninhibited, to the grungy, grimy, and exuberant sounds of the band’s Core record. The energy of Eric Kretz, Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo and the raw intensity of Scott Weiland’s vocals was nothing like my young ears had ever heard before, and it’s safe to say that Stone Temple Pilots were responsible for my love of rock music and introduction to the grunge world. While bands like Linkin Park would go on to fine-tune that love of rock further, Stone Temple Pilots were the ‘milk in my musical bottle’ (to borrow a phrase Robert DeLeo himself uses to describe his love of Aerosmith).
My father and I would continue to share that love of Stone Temple Pilots over the years, going on to watch the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park take the stage as the band’s new front man in 2013. It proved to be a watershed moment that would be directly responsible for the creation of AltWire, and the content you’re reading today. The band’s influence on me and this website is undeniable, and after the untimely passing of my father in 2016, their music would take on a new meaning, providing a link to the memories shared with my father, bonding together over their music for almost 30 years.
Of course, Stone Temple Pilots are no strangers to sudden loss themselves. After the tragic passing of original vocalist Scott Weiland in December 2015, and the suicide of second vocalist Chester Bennington in July 2017, the boys have gone through more tragedy and heartbreak than most bands will experience in their lifetimes. Heartbroken but resilient, the original three remaining members have forged a new path together with third vocalist Jeff Gutt, and are about to release one of their strongest albums to date. Check out our review of their latest record here, and read our interview with Robert DeLeo below:
AW: First off, thanks for taking the time out to speak with me today. I know the last year has been really difficult for you at times, and I know I speak for all of us at AltWire when I say we’ve been thinking of you guys. With that I just wanted to start off by asking you how you’ve been feeling and how you’re doing?
Robert DeLeo: Thank you, that’s very nice of you! I was just talking about this to someone, and there’s definitely a difference in life between the past, present and future. The past has definitely proven that. As well as the present and the future. I feel like a pinball in a pinball machine, and it’s been an interesting ride. I definitely cherish my past. When I sit down and think about it it’s kind of mind boggling, you know?
But I look at the present and things are really busy right now, and I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that we’re going to get a chance to – in the near future – go out and perform songs that we wrote 30 years ago. It’s a fun time right now and we’re all really excited about going out and performing these songs. Things kind of take on a new different meaning as time goes by. Performing songs off of Core and even through Scott’s life, they definitely take on a new meaning now.
AW: I’m really excited for the future of the band. Jeff sounds great! You guys have said in previous interviews that Jeff came in on the last day of auditions. Were you guys mulling over several candidates before Jeff came in, or was Jeff the only vocalist that truly hit all the targets you were aiming for?
Robert DeLeo: There definitely were some people who came in and who were great singers, but this person, whoever it was that we were to hire, they had a very big task in front of them. Not only being able to perform songs that were performed by one of the best, Scott, but it was also about looking ahead and making this new record and whatever records we were to make afterwards, and forging their own path. It’s an interesting situation, not only talent-wise but also psychologically, and there’s a lot that goes along with that. So it was the person who was best prepared for that. That’s where we all thought Jeff was the man for the job, so to speak.
AW: What would you say really sold the band with Jeff’s audition? Was there something that really stood out right from the start?
Robert DeLeo: He came in and it was his personality and who he was as a person. That’s the first thing. You’ve got to think: you’re going to be on a bus and traveling with this person like family. It’s got to be someone who has had some experience with that and who has been on stage and who has been in these scenarios and situations. Also, they have to be able to sing [laughs] and be a genuinely great singer, which is who Scott was. He was a genuinely great singer and these songs that we have written, and these songs that we are writing; it demands someone who can sing.
AW: You worked on and recorded several songs with Chester in 2015. Were any of those songs re-purposed for the new album with Jeff?
Robert DeLeo: There were, but they were kind of ideas and they didn’t really get too far. Working on a new record with Chester was kind of a notion and it didn’t really go too far before he said he could no longer do STP. We got together and played some ideas and that was about it. So these ideas were sitting there for a couple of years.
AW: Branching off of that, over the years there have been a few projects, performances, or releases that never came to fruition. What was the one you were most disappointed not to see released?
Robert DeLeo: Hmm, I don’t know. I think everything was released, and whether it did well or not in people’s eyes is really out of your control, you know? I’m very proud of the Army of Anyone record that we made and I’m very proud of the Talk Show record, and all the STP stuff. I think we’ve released the best of what we have, and to see a song come from a little idea in your head to an actual song, it’s like building a house. You build it and you hope that someone eventually likes the house and decides to live in it. That’s the way music is for me. People live in music and that’s the beauty of it. I live in music and it’s a huge part of my life, both as a fan and as a listener too, and not only just as a writer and a performer of it.
AW: In listening to the record, I felt ‘Finest Hour’ in many ways lyrically seemed like it could be about Chester or Scott. Am I correct in my interpretation of the lyrics and did the loss of your former bandmates factor lyrically into the album?
Robert DeLeo: Yes, it is. It’s a serious nod and prayer to the people who are partly responsible for us being here. There are a lot of emotions put into this record and I think that Jeff did a great job coming up with things lyrically. We’re really pleased with where he brought the song together as a whole, and there’s definitely a sentiment there for Scott and Chester in ‘Finest Hour’.
AW: Stone Temple Pilots as a band has had quite a storied history filled with colossal ups and tragic downs. Have you guys discussed making a proper full length documentary on the band’s history, with home footage and interviews? How likely will we see one in the near or distant future?
Robert DeLeo: Yeah I think so! I think there have been talks about something like that, and I think we all need to get on the same page with that. There’s definitely an aspect there where you have to pull your pants down to your ankles [laughs] to show everything and I think there’s going to be a time and place for that and it’s going to be an interesting story. It kind of goes back to what we originally were talking about when you and I first started talking here, which is looking back at life. It’s been a very interesting journey and I wouldn’t have expected the outcome with some of the things, and with others I would’ve thought they were going to happen, and when it does you put that one away in your pocket and you just go, ‘Wow!’ When somebody’s not walking the earth anymore it’s pretty plain and simply put that the person is gone. There’s two people gone that had a lot of interest in this band, and it’s sometimes hard to comprehend that.
AW: That last thing you said makes me wonder. Given that you were fortunate enough not to only have one but TWO ‘once in a lifetime’ vocalists in your band, perhaps on a more positive note, what would you say were your fondest memories of both Chester and Scott?
Robert DeLeo: Scott and I, we had a lot of the same interests. One of the greatest things I remember doing with Scott was not even musical. We shared a love for fishing and we both brought our fishing poles out on the road, and we spent a lot of time fishing together. That time right there was a really therapeutic time for both of us, and it was nice to be able to share that. I always look back at that time really fondly. As a vocalist, I don’t think there’s anything more pleasing than to write songs with someone and share in those emotions, because you don’t really share that with a lot of people in your life. But those songs really connected with people, and even if they didn’t it still would’ve been gratifying, but the fact that they connected with people was pretty amazing.
With Chester, he lived in the same community as me and I’d see him at school and baseball games and everything, and it was more of a social thing outside of the band. Just the fact that he’s not really here in this community anymore, it’s a little surreal. He was always positive and smiling and in the ‘solution of life’ and not the ‘battle of life’. That’s what I really remember about him and I’ll always have those memories with me with both of those gentlemen.
AW: I think it’s appropriate here to say that both you, Chester and Stone Temple Pilots were responsible for one of my happiest memories with my dad as well. I was actually with him at the first ever full show of the STP with Chester tour in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. And it was so cool because my dad’s favorite rock band was Stone Temple Pilots, and I’ve always been a big fan of Linkin Park so when you two joined forces? My dad and I were on cloud nine that night.
Robert DeLeo: Yeah man! That was a great show and a great way to start off the whole thing. I remember that show being a very good show, and everyone there having a really good time. That was a really great night!
AW: Speaking of great nights, you recently performed alongside Dean at Joe Perry’s record release show. How was it for you? Joe has been quoted as saying he felt the energy was overwhelming that night.
Robert DeLeo: Well, that’s what we’re there for! I have many different ways of looking at performing with someone like Joe Perry, because Aerosmith was really the milk in my musical bottle. I not only listened to that music, but it was also a lifestyle for me. That music was greasy, it was dirty, it was loud and rockin’ and that stuff came at a time in my life where I was hitting puberty and a lot of the records around that time were like sex ed. Steven Tyler really knew how to push it with his vocals and push it lyrically and push the limits a little bit.
One of the songs that Joe discussed with me that he wanted me to play that Aerosmith never really did is a song called ‘Pandora’s Box’. Joe kind of gave me the rundown of how that song was written and, you know, I’m sure it’s very equivalent to how you feel about Linkin Park and what they did for you. There were bands for me like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and all that stuff from that era – which a great era, you know. Aerosmith was up there teaching me a lot of things. To be able to play with the person who influenced and inspired me so much is my way of trying to give back the best I can to that individual. It’s an honor to be up there playing those songs that raised me. It makes me teary, it makes me sentimental, to think about how these guys are literally responsible for what I do today. To be able to perform with one of those people is a high honor.
AW: I definitely can relate. I’ve been inspired by the artists that I love to do some (albeit unsuccessful) attempts at creating music and it just makes me appreciate the amount of effort that goes into making these songs even more. Which STP song (either on this album or on previous records) would you say you feel was the hardest to get just right in the studio?
Robert DeLeo: I think the hardest to kind of get together was our [first] self-titled record, the last record we made with Scott. We self-produced that, and Scott was recording vocals at another studio and sending them over. I don’t think I ever want to play, perform or record a record like that ever again. That was probably the toughest because in just choosing the right key for the singer to sing in – well, Dean, Eric and I were simply guessing. So that was probably the most difficult record to put together, but it’s still a pretty damn good record for four guys who weren’t even in the same room together.
AW: What will the set lists be like for the upcoming tour? Any chance of songs from the self-titled and High Rise EP being played live in the future?
Robert DeLeo: There’s a lot to choose from, and we start rehearsals in a couple of weeks. I think it’s just going to be a matter of what is going to be strong points for us and really what’s going to keep our interest in performing stuff. I definitely want to get in to some songs that we haven’t performed. I think that would a great thing to go out and do some stuff that people really haven’t heard. So yeah, all of the above! We’re going to have album by album on the wall and we’re just going to go through and it’s pretty amazing the amount of songs we have now. It’s kind of overwhelming!
AW: Your fans have followed you guys on quite a crazy journey since you first began in the late 80’s / early 90’s. Before we finish, I’d like to take the opportunity to ask if there’s anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
Robert DeLeo: I just want to really thank everyone for giving us a listen. I hate the word ‘fans’ because I think the word is kind of condescending, but for ‘people who really dig music’, I wanted to thank them for following us along on this journey. It’s been a long and interesting journey and I’ve said this before, but the thing about this record is that it has a lot of resilience to it. It’s like here we are, after all we’ve been through, and I think we have something to say still or else we wouldn’t be doing it. So I wanted to thank people for following us along on that journey, because it means the world to us.
LISTEN TO NEW STONE TEMPLE PILOTS BELOW: