As Stone Temple Pilots prepare for the release of their first EP with Chester Bennington next week High Rise, I had a chance to interview guitarist Dean DeLeo yesterday about the band’s past, present, and future. Over the years die hard STP fans have been clamoring to find out more information about the band’s days as Mighty Joe Young, the “Only Dying” demo, the unreleased Shangri LA DEE DA documentary, and why the band frequently stick with the same setlist. Wait no more, as DeLeo finally speaks in depth about the band’s early days, whether he envisions ever playing with Scott Weiland again, and if the band have added ‘With Chester Bennington’ to their name for legal reasons.
Hey Dean, thanks a lot for doing this. I actually met you guys at the rehearsal last month, I was the guy in the STP peace sign t-shirt who had you sign all six albums, and I was asking all the obscure questions.
Your Dad was with you.
Yes. I thought it was really cool that you did that, great performance and great fan interaction, really appreciated it.
Oh man, you’re welcome you’re welcome.
But anyways, I’m really enjoying High Rise right now, I got a digital copy a few days ago. “Tomorrow” is my favorite track on the EP, I think it’s just beautiful. musically it reminds me a bit of “Regeneration” and Purple a bit, and Chester’s vocals are just great on it.
Glad to hear that.
Describe the process of writing that song.
We made that record at Robert’s house in his basement and I literally walked into the session one day. I got there a little early, and Eric arrived shortly after I did, and Robert was upstairs. I walked in and my Strat was laying there on the couch. I just walked in and I wrote it within minutes, I picked up the guitar and literally in minutes I said, “Eric let’s go play this.” We put down the rough idea of that song pretty much as it appears on the record. We recorded that, I wrote it and recorded it roughly, when [I say] recorded it I recorded it on my iPhone. So I wrote it and recorded it with Eric playing it in under 20 minutes.
Wow, that’s impressive. You know the best songs are always very simple and the riff to that is just instantly memorable.
It was just one of those things, it almost wrote itself. Let me tell you man, there’s days where I pick up the guitar and I’m like ugh, nothing’s here, I’ll put you back over there. But sometimes there’s those days when you pick it up and something really really special really happens. That was definitely one of those days.
Why didn’t you guys release the Shangri LA DEE DA documentary?
Mmm, I don’t know why. I don’t have a good answer for that. I will tell you, our dear friend Chapman Baehler shot that. I don’t know if I ever really have gone through much of the footage, I don’t think any of us really have. I don’t know, maybe it will one day see the light, I highly doubt it though.
I wish it would come out because the video of “Hello It’s Late” that appears on the Thank You DVD is just amazing. But anyways moving onto the next obscure question. The early days of STP during the Mighty Joe Young era are kind of hazy, it’s said you joined in 1990 replacing Corey Hickock. You’d been working as a contractor making a lot of money in San Diego.
(Laughs) I don’t have the physical ability to be a contractor. I was selling contractors supplies.
Oh so that’s what you were doing. See Wikipedia is wrong, you can’t trust it! But anyways the band changed their name from Swing to Mighty Joe Young when you came in and replaced Corey. Can you recall exactly when you joined and you changed the name, and give a clearer picture of the timeline? Because Scott’s book just added more questions.
I’ll tell you what opened the door for me to join is because, god bless his heart he’s a sweet sweet man, Corey was not very proficient on his instrument. Those guys had a little deal, they got like 5,000 dollars to record. I forget the name of the [label], I was very unattached at that time, like you said I was in San Diego. They had 3 or 4 songs that needed some guitar solos, Robert called me to come up, I think this might have been 1989 maybe, or 1988. Robert called me to come up and play on these demos that they were doing. I think it was pretty evident to Scott, you’ve got to keep in mind that Scott and Corey went way way back man. I think it even got to the point where Robert had to resign himself from the band, it was kind of a shitty band actually.
There was a keyboardist, and Corey’s playing was not really up to par for where Robert felt he wanted to be. So I think Robert was about to walk from it, and Scott kind of saw that with Robert was the place to be. Robert said, “My brother should come up and play on this.” So I went up and played on it and it was pretty evident to Scott, ‘That’s how our guitar player should sound.’ It was very very heartbreaking for Scott to lay that on Corey man, like this is not going to work. Those guys were friends since high school, maybe grammar school I don’t know. But it was a shitty spot for both Scott and Corey to be in, a shitty spot for me too I just went up and played and these guys two weeks later are like, ‘You’ve got to be in the band!’ (laughs)
Stone Temple Pilots during their days as Mighty Joe Young in 1990.
Now listening to the demo tape, there seems like an evolution of the sound. Now were songs like “Dirty Dog” and “Love Machine,” the funk stuff, was that some of the earlier material they called you in on?
I didn’t play on that, that wasn’t me.
Well then what songs did you play on the Mighty Joe Young demo? Obviously “Wicked Garden,” “Where The River Goes.”
Actually we did [do] “Where The River Goes.”
And “Only Dying” is another one, that had to be you.
That was a little after. I don’t know what demo you’re talking about. I don’t even know what’s on the [first] demo any more. I know there were three songs that I played on: “Where The River Goes,” “Super Scary Area,” and “Fast As I Can.” The “Only Dying” thing was a whole other session, a whole other thing.
When did that happen?
Oddly enough, we were asked to record a song for The Crow soundtrack. I think we already may have been with Atlantic Records at this point. I’m sorry, this is so hard to look back at this. Okay, so we were asked to record a song for The Crow soundtrack and we jumped at the wonderful opportunity and we went and recorded this song. We titled it “Only Dying.” During the shooting of that movie, we all know what happened right. I was like, “There’s no way we’re releasing this song, there’s no way we’re giving them a song called Only Dying.” So we pulled the plug on it. That’s why that song never saw the light of day really.
Well the demo’s out there, but you’re saying there is a studio version?
No, we never pursued it. After that horrible accident, I was like “I’m not being part of a song called Only Dying for that movie, no way.”
It’s a shame that happened, because it’s an amazing song. I’ll bet if you guys re-recorded it now it would be a hit. But basically “Only Dying” and “Wicked Garden,” those songs are from another session separate from the first one?
Right yeah, so there was “Wicked Garden,” my goodness you know more about me than I do myself man (Brett and Dean laugh). Those are two separate sessions. The session with “Only Dying” was just one session. “Wicked Garden” and “Naked Sunday” were another session. Our dear dear friend Tracy Chisum snuck us into Sound Castle when they closed their doors and shut down at 12 midnight. We went in there at midnight and recorded those two songs from about 12AM to 8AM.
Will you ever work with Brendan O’Brien again? Why didn’t you work with him on self-titled or the new EP?
Of course I would work with Brendan, I love Brendan. I love him not only for his professional talents, but he’s one of my dearest friends. He just recently moved not too far from my house so we kind of see each other more than we ever have, it’s kind of nice. But yeah, I’d love to work with Brendan again. I know this goes pretty deep because Robert, I can’t believe he did this, it took him 3 years, but he built a studio himself in his home. I don’t know if a lot of people understand what kind of undertaking that is. In typical Robert fashion, he built this like a real studio, not some fucking jive home studio.
Robert had a guy come in, I don’t remember his name, to kind of like measure out the room with the physics of acoustics in mind. Robert ran all the wires himself behind the wall, he had to bring everything down to the studs. He ran everything, and had everything grounded, because you can’t be in a studio and have buzz or hum or hiss. He really built a studio right, and it took him 3 years. And there’s this emotional attachment to it, and it’s in his home. This is after the self-titled record of course, I don’t think the space Robert has wouldn’t be sufficient to house the band at that time, but we recorded High Rise there. So there was this attachment to that with Robert, but if you want to go back to self-titled I’ve got to go back to Robert too. He was very adamant, he goes, “I want to produce this ourselves.” If I knew what we were in for, that was a big job, that was a tough job man.
I loved that album though, I know some people may say negative things about it, but I loved it.
I love that album too. I’d say Shangri LA DEE DA and that one are my two favorites, if we’re going pre Chester with Scott. I love the way those records sound man.
Yeah “Maver” and “Take a Load Off” are just amazing, and they’ve never been played live and those are my two favorite songs off of self-titled.
Well thanks, I like that record too. I like the way that record sounds, it was a lot of work to get that record to sound that way man believe me.
Not having played those live, that leads me to ask about the live setlist. Right now you guys have basically been playing the same standard setlist, about 17 songs. Of course all of the die hard fans on the internet want to see you change it up, but you’re just starting out with Chester. How do you see the setlist evolving over time as you get more established with Chester? Do you think you’ll be playing all 5 new songs, and mixing in some more deep cuts like some Shangri LA DEE DA stuff, or self-titled and Tiny Music?
That’s kind of the beauty of the 5 songs off of High Rise, they all will transpose in a live setting really nicely. Where sometimes, like “Maver” for instance, unless we had somebody up there playing piano [it wouldn’t work]. The piano part is pretty integral to that song. There’s just some songs that may not transpose live very well. But I’m pretty confident to say that all 5 songs on High Rise will transpose live beautifully. We’ll definitely be playing 4 or 5 of those. There’s a lot to choose from, kind of like this last tour we did that we played some stuff that we definitely hadn’t played in awhile. We’re comparing a baritone to a tenor here, it’s really what Chester feels comfortable with you know.
Yeah I’d definitely like to see you guys do “Wonderful,” because there was that version of it from the Family Values Tour with Chester doing backing vocals with Scott. That was amazing.
That’s a nice version isn’t it? I almost forgot about that, I haven’t heard that in a long long time man.
That’s why I’d love you guys do an acoustic set like you used to do. I saw Robert and Chester kind of talk about that in an interview, and I think “Wonderful” would be perfect for that.
Well look Brett, we’re just scratching the surface man. The canvas is pretty much at this point clear, believe me. There’s a lot of things I’ve been wanting to do for the last 10 years, but my hands were tied man. Now they are no longer, believe me man there’s a lot that we are going to bring to the table, I promise.
New Stone Temple Pilots frontman Chester Bennington and Dean DeLeo at an STP show in May 2013.
When it comes to future music I’ve seen you guys kind of joke about it in some interviews. Robert even joked about a double EP. But do you guys plan on releasing a mix of singles, EP’s, maybe a full album down the line? Do you guys have a plan set in place for new music?
It just all comes down to time, especially with Chester’s involvement with Linkin Park. It’s just time, that is the main reason. It’s funny, because I get asked that question a lot: “Why didn’t you guys just do an LP?” We didn’t have the time. Believe me, with Chester’s involvement now we make really really productive time with our time. But you’ve got to kind of be realistic too. I don’t think any of us are really the type of people to want to make these grandiose plans, “Now we’re going to do this” and it never sees the light of day. I fucking hate that, I absolutely hate that, I want to be able to back up what I say I’m going to do.
When there’s time involved, you’ve just got to look [like] okay, we have 4 weeks here before Chester has to go to Asia with Linkin Park to get this thing written, because every song on here was written during the session. We didn’t have anything laying around, it was all written during the session. So we have to write this, record this, mix it, master it, and deal with all the artwork which is a very lengthy process in itself. I mean, look man we were recording “Black Heart” on the last day we had and Chester wrapped up those vocals I think at 3:45AM, and he wound up leaving Robert’s house at about 4:15 in the morning to go feed his babies breakfast and then go to Linkin Park rehearsal where they were leaving a day later for an Asian run. Then Chester gets back from the Asian run, has 2 days at home with his family, we jump in rehearsals and then we’re out on the road. I think we left on September 2nd or September 3rd for the first show on the 4th in Pennsylvania. It’s just all about time, once again man I’ve had enough of the days of people shooting their mouths off with these grandiose plans we can’t back it up, it’s not me.
Quick question about Dave Coutts and Talk Show. Robert told me that he’d talked to him for the first time in 15 years when I met you guys at the rehearsal. Would you ever play with Dave again for fun, a little Talk Show?
I’m far too busy, unless it was going to be a real serious project where I was going to alot a fair amount of time to [it] I would do it, but I don’t see that happening. So the answer to that would be no.
Now this question, I understand if you can’t answer it. Stone Temple Pilots With Chester Bennington, are you going to be keeping the ‘With Chester Bennington’ or will you maybe drop it? If it’s a legal issue just say the words and we can skip it.
You know what man, I don’t think it would be fair to fans of the band. Because you just can’t assume that everybody in the world knows that we fired Scott. What a drag if people are buying tickets to Stone Temple Pilots, and they get there [and go]: “Where’s Scott?” So I think it’s more of an informative thing, it’s just kind of being forthcoming. I heard Kiss was sued because people heard Peter Criss wasn’t behind the makeup (laughs).
You guys have had spats with Scott a few times in the past, I know this one is the worst one with everything going on. I follow it all, I’m a die hard fan. If Scott were to ever be in the right frame of mind in the future, [while] I love the current lineup right now, but do you envision [a reunion] maybe even 10 years from now? Do you think that would ever happen at this point or no?
I think you could ask me, if you win the Powerball will you quit music? What are the chances of that happening?
Stone Temple Pilots at their second to last show with Scott Weiland in September 2012.
Not likely (laughs), I guess that answers it. What ever happened to your 1957 Les Paul Special? You used it as your main guitar from 1996 to 2000.
Gosh you’re fucking blowing my mind right now (Brett and Dean laugh). That’s funny, I haven’t seen that guitar in quite some time it’s just been locked up in my vault man. Jeez, I don’t even remember the last time I played it.
For Army of Anyone you used it on a couple songs.
Yeah I probably had it on that session, it hasn’t really been out much.
Well the fans miss that guitar and would like to see it again.
Well man, that’s nice to hear. I’ll have to resurrect it. That guitar is interesting because it was kind of a tough guitar, because I brought it on a bunch of tours. But back in 1957 for people who don’t know much about the physics of a guitar, it has what’s called a wrap-around tailpiece. There’s no way you can intonate it, there’s not a tune-o-matic bridge. The tune-o-matic bridge was kind of brought on around 1958 or ’56 maybe, ’57 right around there. You can probably find it probably as early as ’57. Each string fits in its own little saddle where you can kind of move it back and forth where you can really intonate the guitar. Well a wrap-around tailpiece allows no intonations, so you kind of got to finger that guitar differently all around the neck to make it play in tune. So yeah, that’s probably one of the reasons I wasn’t bringing it out live much any more. It was kind of a job to kind of keep that thing in tune.
Well thanks a lot Dean for doing the interview, I hope I didn’t bombard you with too many obscure questions. But a request from me, please play: “Take a Load Off,” “Wonderful,” and “Adhesive.” I’d love to see those live.
You know what, “Adhesive” [could work]. Chester’s a fine guitar player himself, so “Adhesive” with this lineup I think Chester can cover the acoustic parts which will allow me to do all the electric parts. The drag about that tune, was trying to keep the rhythmic pattern through the verses. The acoustic is basically keeping the rhythmic pattern through the verse, but I also had [a thing] with that huge downbeat on that chord. It was one of those songs that didn’t transpose live, but I think the next batch of rehearsals we’re going to get a guitar in Chester’s hand.
I think “Bi-Polar Bear” would work well too having an additional guitarist, that’s another one. But thanks a lot Dean, good luck on the tour, looking forward to more new music. I really support the new lineup as a die hard fan, I know there’s others out there who disagree but thanks a lot man.
That means a lot man I appreciate that Brett.