Stone Temple Pilots have never been a band that found controversy to be something foreign. They are, however, one of the most phenomenally talented acts to come out of the superstar-studded '90s music scene – and amongst an even more rare grouping of bands who didn't dissipate into the night after enjoying their decade of success, having sold over 40 million records to date. In fact, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Core (which itself went eight times platinum). And they'll be rolling their ever-popular catalog of music into the Motor City as the headlining band for the Motors & Music Experience on 8/18.
What would initially have been categorized as grunge quickly evolved and matured to alternative, and STP took off – aided by the dynamic eccentricities of frontman Scott Weiland and the solid musicianship of the DeLeo brothers (guitarist Dean and bassist Robert), plus the solid rock percussion of drummer Eric Kretz.
Almost from the start, there has been an otherworldly chemistry between the bandmates ¬– part of it not entirely odd, being that there's a pair of brothers anchoring the string section – but the combination of influence and diversity of musical talents and interests have made for one of the most vibrant rock careers of all time. "Scott was the youngest," says Dean DeLeo, "and he helped me and Robert out, with a lot of the eclectic things – a lot of country, actually. I was really immersed in the glam rock of the '60s and '70s. But Scott's musical tastes really helped broaden my horizons."
There is obviously evidence of the influence and evolution of STP's music – whether it be from internal or external forces – throughout the course of their impressive catalog of albums. Again, what started as a very thematic sound that was omnipresent in the music of the early '90s became what it is today – a legacy of alt-rock. "We didn't use the flavor of the month," DeLeo says of the creation of Core. "We kind of did stuff that would be timeless."
The five albums that followed the debut would gradually change – much to do with maturation of the band as individual musicians, but in part at the whim of Weiland's off-again, on-again struggles with drugs and alcohol. As a cohesive unit, however, they are nearly impossible to touch in terms of the impact they've had on modern rock music. "My playing and writing has evolved," DeLeo explains. "I think that's very evident from record to record. I always view the rest of those guys as at the top of their game."
There is never any more obvious evidence of the strength of their collective talents than their live show. "When we play live, we put the knife in our Adam's apple," says DeLeo, "and pull it out from our belly button."
Ironically, speaking of narcissism (metaphorically or otherwise), one cannot simply think of Stone Temple Pilots without conjuring images of the Jekyll-and-Hyde talents and personal life of Weiland. But alas, this was not the only thing that has impacted the band over the two decades that they've been creating music. Evolutions within the industry as a whole haven't necessarily hurt the band in particular as much as they've just changed the game as a whole. "The times itself may have effected us," says DeLeo. "There was a time when we would sell millions of records. A gold record used to be a thing that was an achievement – it meant you sold 500,000 copies of something. And they would present you with an actual gold record to commemorate it. Now, a gold record might mean that you may not be able to make another record."
The times do change, especially in the entertainment world, but STP has managed to adapt and change with it – their legacy will endure forever – as they've been able, after 20 years, to not have fallen in with bands that may have become an afterthought. And there have been several other changes within the industry, while STP was still cultivating its legend, that have taught them to be what they are today. "We saw the onslaught of the prefabricated pop sensations," says DeLeo. "We're just not that act. I do not deny the pop – I love pop. I think we bring a portion of it to our own act."
Indeed, poppy and psychedelic and rock-heavy and twangy all at once, STP has pulled from many influences over the course of their six proper albums. But what's next in terms of creating something in the studio – especially for a band that routinely goes six or seven months, while not touring, without speaking? (The brothers DeLeo obviously communicate almost daily, something that can't be said of Weiland and Kretz.)
"Not separately, but collectively, I'd love to be able to release two albums in one year," says DeLeo. "And as a band, I think I first said it when we were making Core, I'd like to contribute ten albums before we're done."
The mark of a band who will never fade from memory – or far from the influence of an ever-growing and eternally youthful fan base – is one that refuses to rest on its laurels, and a grouping of musicians who insist on building upon a legacy that is already impressive. "I'm quite simply proud of the music we made as a band – the music we made," says DeLeo, "the four of us in a room together, once we hit play." | RDW
stp at Motors & Music Experience • 8/18, 9:30 p.m.; main stage • Pontiac Silverdome • 1200 Featherstone Rd., Pontiac • 248.439.1640 • motorsandmusicexperience.com • $35 General Admission; $75 VIP