Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean DeLeo Delves Into ‘Core’ 25th Anniversary Package
Time flies, but great music endures! Such is the case with Stone Temple Pilots‘ debut disc, Core, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The band is planning on releasing a sizable deluxe edition 25th anniversary package on Sept. 29 and we recently had a chance to chat with guitarist Dean DeLeo about the collection, some of the highlights among the live and acoustic material, his recollections on some of the album’s biggest songs and more. Check out the chat in below.
I think even as far back as the 20th anniversary, you guys were discussing this wealth of material you had for a Core anniversary package. So having a chance to finally get to it, were there any things that kind of surprised you in putting this together and what was the process like for you to go back and revisit this album?
I try not to live in the past. I try, but sometimes I do. I like to reflect on the good times. There were a lot of good times we had. It was a time when we were embarking upon what we were really intent on doing. We wanted to be able to make a lot of records and to be able to make records that people remembered 20, 30, 40 years from now, just like the records we grew up on. That was our intent.
That time, it was just absolutely amazing. Scott was in a great place, one of the best places I had ever seen him in. I knew Scott prior to making that album for about five years. I met him around 1987 or ’86 when Robert and Eric were playing together before I joined. It was those great memories with laughter, camaraderie and of course the music [that stick].”
One of the great things about this collection is the live material. I realize that many years have passed since, but do you remember anything specific from the Castaic Lake show?
Back in the early ’90s there was a lot of hype on this band Rob Rule. I’m almost positive that was the name. When we were mid-set, this guy jumped up onstage. It wasn’t malicious, but I swear there was paisley shooting from this guy’s eyes. He just jumped up onstage and was freaking out. About three years go by and I’m in a restaurant, and this guy comes up to me mid-meal and says, ‘Hey Dean, do you remember that guy who showed up onstage? That was me, sorry.’ [laughs] He went on to say that he was on LSD. I said, ‘Well that explains the sparks shooting from your ass man — [laughs].’ That was one of those things that I’ll remember for the rest of my days.
Looking back on the song “Plush,” can you take me into the studio on that one? Did you have an idea you had a hit on your hands?
I don’t know about a hit, but we knew we had some songs that people were going to like. It was going to go one of a one of two ways — it’s going to do well or it’s not going to do so well.
We went into making that record really excited for a lot of reasons. One of the greatest things about my recording career was forging a lifelong friendship with Brendan O’Brien and that is something I would never ever change, man. I learned so much about guitar playing and a certain level of musicianship, recording techniques and really, just Brendan’s whole philosophy which is you can’t overthink this. We’re going to just play and hopefully we capture something. That’s how we approached that record. We set up to play live – we were all in one room. We had speakers in isolation booths and the drums, and Rob and I stood in front of Eric and we just played those songs live, man.
Another cool thing that’s on this collection, we’ve got the Headbangers Ball acoustic version of “Plush,” as well as the MTV Unplugged stuff. Can you talk about stripping things back and seeing the roots of the song in the acoustic setting?
There’s a fair amount of songs on the Core record as well as many of the other records that kind of started in an acoustic format, “Plush” being one of them, and “Creep.” A lot of things start there. So they seemed to transpose quite nicely back to that format where they once originated.
But I think that performance, I think what people saw is truly how brilliant of a singer Scott was. He was obviously not just a rock singer. He has the ability to sing a lot of different things. He was just such a huge fan of country and he was weaned on that kind of acoustic stuff. He was just a great singer man, a really great singer. And I think that’s what’s really shining about that performance. I was just playing some chords, but it was the beauty of his voice — just how rich it was — and his choice of melody and of course his lyrics.
Another big song off this record was “Sex Type Thing.” I know there was some Led Zeppelin influence to that.
Well, I wrote that riff because I heard “In the Light” off of Physical Graffiti. I was playing in front of my house and I happened to be outside, probably picking up after the dogs or something and I had Physical Graffiti on and it was quite loud. It was a beautiful summer day and the windows were down and that lick in “In the Light” — the “Sex Type” lick — fits right in between it. I was basically hearing the notes in between Jimmy Page’s lick. That’s how I came up with that lick.
I also wanted to hit on “Wicked Garden” as well…
There’s a good example of Robert and I each having parts and bringing them together. Robert had the intros and the chorus and I have this verse and it was one of those things that just we brought together. I think he actually put that together at my house.
You know what I became really good at in those early days of writing? I was a master at holding the phone between my knees and playing a guitar into it. [laughs] That’s how we wrote a lot at this time. I was living in San Diego and those guys were up in L.A. and I was just like, “Listen to this part I have!” I’d play it into his phone and “I got a cool thing for that.” That’s how a lot of the stuff got thrown around until we all got into a room where we were really able to flesh it out.
I wasn’t really familiar with “Only Dying” on this collection and thought it was a great find. That was initially intended for The Crow. What is the history on that track?
Some of my dates are a little fuzzy on how that came about. We were doing a demo for another company, a small label, and they threw us in the studio and we recorded that. We heard that The Crow soundtrack wanted to use it, but of course we all know what happened there [with film star Brandon Lee dying in an on set accident] and we weren’t about to give them a song with that title. We just put that song to bed and it’s just now seeing the light of day.
I loved hearing that track and I’m so glad that this is part of the collection.
But it’s just a demo. We would have re-cut it. It’s interesting because the song to me, and I don’t want to burst anybody’s bubble here, but it really is a beautifully written song. The chord structure of it and the melody, it’s really a beautiful song. The guitar tones that I chose I’m not fond of. It’s just way to washy, too echoey and I don’t know what we were thinking when we were cutting that but it was a demo. I think maybe down the road it’d be something cool to maybe recut and just use Scott’s vocal on this recut with some music around it. Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.
Did you have a favorite live song from this period of the Core album?
A live situation is a very reciprocal moving event, you know? The more we feed off one another the better off we all are. The songs that got the most reaction, you could see the smiles on people’s faces and you could see the memories passing through their minds. Those are the songs that were the most fun to play. Very early on when the “Plush” video and single came out — that’s right kids, there used to be videos attached to music — we saw things changing and changing fast. It was at that point where people were starting to buy the record and we could see more and more people coming to the shows and more and more people singing every song. I’ll tell you man, that is a very, very moving and loving beautiful experience. We’re all in it together.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a show in South America, but my goodness, man. You go do a show for 20-30 thousand people down there and you’ll have 15 thousand people singing the lyrics and melody and you’ll have the other 15 thousand people singing the guitar lines, [laughs]. It’s a whole thing! That to me is what a show is about. Everybody is involved and we all are in it together.
Our thanks to Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean DeLeo for the interview. The band’s ‘Core’ 25th Anniversary deluxe edition offering will be released on Sept. 29. You can pre-order the set via the band’s website or through Rhino.
Stone Temple Pilots, “Plush” (Live at Castaic Lake Natural Amphitheater)