Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Stone Temple Pilots

Sound Familiar?
“Plush,” “Interstate Love Song,” “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart”

Who Are They?
Alternative radio mainstays and supposed grunge imposters.

As with most of the history of Stone Temple Pilots, there are two sides to the story of how Scott Weiland and bassist Robert DeLeo met: the band’s side and Scott’s side. The band said that Scott and Robert met at a Black Flag concert in 1986. The two began discussing their girlfriends, only to find out that they were dating the same woman. Instead of beating the shit out of each other in a jealous rage, the two developed a bond and decided to start a rock band (they broke it off with the girl shortly after).

Scott’s side of the story (as detailed in his autobiography, Not Dead and Not For Sale) was that he and his high school friend, Corey Hicock, pursued Robert after seeing him play live.

Personally, I prefer the band’s story (but I still love you, Mr. Weiland).

Scott, Robert, Corey and a drummer named David Allin formed a band called Swing, but after Corey and David ditched them, they grabbed drummer Eric Kretz and guitarist Dean DeLeo (Robert’s older brother). Dean flat out refused to be in a band called Swing, so the name changed to Mighty Joe Young.

The band recorded a demo tape in 1990 and played its first show supporting Henry Rollins. During the recording of the debut album, Scott and company got a call from a bluesman who claimed the name Mighty Joe Young.

In a scramble to find a new name, the band threw around various spins on the initials STP (inspired by the STP Motor Oil stickers). After briefly considering the name Shirley Temple’s Pussy, they settled on Stone Temple Pilots (thank God for that).

Stone Temple Pilots signed to Atlantic Records in 1992 and released their debut album, Core, the same year. Core was a huge success, but most critics accused the band of being “grunge imitators.”

Critics may have hated them, but STP still gained a loyal fan base. The band toured extensively with Rage Against the Machine and Megadeth and filmed an episode of MTV Unplugged.

(Fun fact: In a January 1994 Rolling Stone poll, STP was voted Best New Band by readers and Worst New Band by the magazine’s critics. Talk about discrepancy.)

Despite the critical backlash, STP won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for “Plush” and released the hugely popular Purple in 1994.

“Interstate Love Song” became the album’s biggest hit, topping the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for 15 weeks.

Meanwhile, Scott was developing a serious heroin addiction. By the time STP’s third album, 1996’s Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, dropped, most of the tour had to be canceled due to Scott’s drug abuse. As a result, Tiny Music fell off the charts and STP’s popularity began to wane.

The band went on hiatus soon after the album’s release. During this time, Scott released a solo album (12 Bar Blues) and the rest of the band teamed up with Ten Inch Men front man Dave Coutts to perform as Talk Show.

STP regrouped in 1998 to record No. 4, released a year later.

Where Are They Now?
Still technically together, sans Scott Weiland (maybe?). We’ll get into that later.

STP’s success came roaring back with a little help from No. 4’s biggest single (and my favorite song), “Sour Girl.” (I highly recommend watching the super strange and oddly sexy music video.)

In 2001, the band released Shangri-La Dee Da, which ended up being a commercial disappointment. After an altercation between Scott and Dean on the final show of the Shangri-La Dee Da tour, Stone Temple Pilots officially disbanded.

Scott joined the ultra-cool supergroup Velvet Revolver in 2003, which consisted of former Guns N’ Roses members Slash, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan, along with former Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner. Velvet Revolver released two albums, 2004’s Contraband and 2007’s Libertad, before Scott officially left the band in 2008.

Stone Temple Pilots eventually reunited in 2008 after Scott and the DeLeo brothers settled their differences. The reunion tour officially kicked off at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio the same year (I unfortunately didn’t get to witness that miracle firsthand).

After the release of a self-titled sixth studio album, things began to go sour again. Hopes for a 20th anniversary celebration for Core were dashed in 2012, and Scott was already looking to reunite with Velvet Revolver (which Slash immediately declined).

But Why Stone Temple Pilots?
As of February 27, 2013, Scott Weiland is no longer part of the band. Or maybe he is. I’m not quite sure at this point. Scott recently told TMZ, “STP is not broken up. It’s a whole thing to try to boost ticket sales.” And apparently he learned of his termination through the band’s official website, not directly from any other members. So is this for real, or is it really just a marketing ploy? It may be one of the great mysteries of the world.

What Does Sam Think?
Story time! Back in middle school, I was obsessed with Velvet Revolver (and I also had an embarrassingly huge crush on Scott Weiland, but that’s beside the point). Through Velvet Revolver, I became interested in Stone Temple Pilots. I had heard “Interstate Love Song” and “Plush” before, but I didn’t think of delving into the band’s discography until the formation of VR.

I know some people dislike this band for a variety of reasons. Some say these guys are “grunge wannabes” since their debut came out a year after Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam’s breakthrough albums. And although Core does have a grungy feel to it, STP evolved past it. There’s a vast difference between Core and Purple, and an even bigger difference between Purple and No. 4. The band kind of adapted a more psychedelic sound in later albums, with a pinch of Southern rock influence (especially on “Interstate Love Song”).

But most people I know who dislike STP cite Scott Weiland as the weak link. I know I’m biased when I say this, but Scott is incredibly talented, and I think people look past that talent and concentrate on Scott’s drug abuse. His drug and legal escapades should not define him as a musician. I’ve read his autobiography (and you should, too) and I’ve come to realize that he’s a pretty troubled guy. You really can’t hold that against him.

So if you don’t like STP (which is perfectly okay), I hope it’s because of the music and not the man behind it.

--Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s

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