As Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots’ de­but Core is reis­sued for its 25th an­niver­sary, we look back with gui­tarist Dean DeLeo on the am­bi­tion, drive and tone that made a 90s clas­sic

Total Guitar - - FEATURE - Words Rob Laing Pho­tog­ra­phy Ka­t­rina Dick­son / / 43

Look­ing through the his­tory of broth­erly love in rock ’n’ roll, it’s clear that things can eas­ily go south: Ray and Dave Davies, the Gal­laghers, the Ever­leys and Robin­sons be­ing prime ex­am­ples. It’s hard to think of a greater con­trast to that than Robert and Dean DeLeo, the song­writ­ing cen­tre of Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots. The gui­tar and bass-play­ing sib­lings whose mu­tual re­spect is key to the time­less songs they’ve cre­ated to­gether.

It’s a con­nec­tion that would help Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots hit the ground run­ning with their 1992 de­but Core. Be­fore the tragedy of the de­cline, es­trange­ment and loss of their front­man Scott Wei­land, the four-piece, com­pleted by drum­mer Eric Kretz, were an ex­tremely fo­cussed unit when they went into Rumbo Recorders stu­dio in LA (where Guns N’ Roses recorded Ap­petite

ForDestruc­tion) to track with Bren­dan O’Brien on one of his first big projects with a pro­ducer credit. But be­fore that there was a ma­jor­piece miss­ing from the band – namely Dean not be­ing their gui­tarist.


When the band were gig­ging in San Diego and build­ing a fol­low­ing un­der the name Swing in the late 80s they fea­tured Wei­land’s old friend Corey Hickok on gui­tar. But by the time they tracked a new demo record­ing fea­tur­ing the song Piece Of Pie that would even­tu­ally make it onto Core, it be­came ap­par­ent Hic­ock’s play­ing wasn’t work­ing out.

Dean DeLeo al­ready knew Scott Wei­land through his younger brother play­ing bass in Swing. So when the band recorded their demo they asked Dean to track a few guest so­los. “It was ev­i­dent to Scott how he wanted the gui­tar player of the band to sound,” Dean ex­plains. “I brought in a very dif­fer­ent el­e­ment to what their ex­ist­ing gui­tar player had.”

Scott’s ded­i­ca­tion to mak­ing it as a mu­si­cian was clear but it made for an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion re­gard­ing his loy­alty to Hic­ock. “I think Scott went to his grave call­ing Corey his best friend,” re­veals Dean, “It was very hard on Scott. He knew that Corey was un­able to take the band to where he saw things go­ing.”

The ad­van­tages of Dean join­ing up with his brother in the band – now go­ing un­der the new name Mighty Joe Young – quickly be­gan to reap re­wards. By 1991 the gui­tarist brought in the idea that would be­come Core’s hulk­ing closer. “The first thing that we wrote to­gether as a band was when I came in with the riff for Where

TheRiverGoes,” re­calls Dean. “I think the band got heav­ier once I came in.” MODEL BE­HAV­IOUR By that point Robert DeLeo was al­ready es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a song­writer in the band, after con­tribut­ing PieceOfPie early on. And when Mighty Joe Young moved to LA, he be­gan col­lab­o­rat­ing with Wei­land by steal­ing any time they could to­gether and de­vel­op­ing songs, like the acous­tic an­them Creep. “Scott and Robert were work­ing across the street from one an­other,” says Dean.

“Robert was work­ing at an am­pli­fier shop on Sun­set and Scott had a gig driv­ing mod­els to their shoots. When­ever those guys would get a spare mo­ment they would meet in Robert’s car – this big kooky ’67 Buick – writ­ing for the Core al­bum.”

see the light

Al­though Scott Wei­land’s charis­matic per­for­mance would un­der­stand­ably be­come a fo­cus, Dean’s own work on

Core was fun­da­men­tal to giv­ing Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots a de­but that still res­onates a quar­ter of a cen­tury later. He’s one of the un­sung he­roes in the hot­bed of gui­tar tal­ent in the early 90s, prov­ing his ver­sa­til­ity on Core’s 1994 fol­low-up

Pur­ple and the sur­pris­ing turns on 1996’s TinyMu­sic. But for the heavy groove riffs that would cre­ate some of their best-loved songs, Core is where it’s at. With a lit­tle help from Mr Page.

“I was out in my drive­way with the win­dows open on a beau­ti­ful sum­mer’s day play­ing Phys­i­calGraf­fiti and InThe

Light came on,” re­mem­bers Dean about the day he came up with one of his most fa­mous riffs. “And when it comes to that lick [around the three-minute mark], well you can fit the SexType

Thing lick right be­tween that. I heard what was hap­pen­ing be­tween the notes so I im­me­di­ately ran in­side, trans­posed it on to the gui­tar and called Robert.”


Hav­ing al­ready gained the faith of At­lantic Records with a deal that gave them artis­tic free­dom (and fol­low­ing an­other name change after le­gal rum­blings re­gard­ing a blues artist us­ing Mighty Joe Young) Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots were de­ter­mined to make their mo­ment count, hon­ing songs in pre-pro­duc­tion that were al­ready fully-formed.

“We had the lux­ury of demo­ing with all the gui­tar parts, all the over­dubs,” says Dean. “We were play­ing that record in pre-pro­duc­tion just as you hear it on the record. We wanted to be ef­fi­cient. A re­hearsal room was $150 a day and this is the time when record­ing stu­dios were $2,000 a day, man. Can you fuck­ing be­lieve that? We were like the last of the mo­hi­cans in that re­spect: get­ting de­cent record­ing bud­gets to go and make th­ese records in stu­dios.”

The two weeks of pre-pro­duc­tion al­lowed STP to work fast in the stu­dio with O’Brien, form­ing a val­ued work­ing re­la­tion­ship that would last an­other four al­bums to­gether. “We were play­ing those songs in­side and out for two weeks. We ex­hausted our­selves play­ing those songs. We went into the stu­dio and Mike Clink was in there with I Mother Earth [record­ing de­but Dig]. We were leav­ing and those guys had just fin­ished their drums tracks. Mike says to Bren­dan, ‘Are you guys go­ing to an­other stu­dio to fin­ish?’ And Bren­dan’s like, ‘No we’re done.’ That’s how Bren­dan loved to work. He made it clear early on; ‘I work fast, man, and if I don’t work fast I’ll lose in­ter­est.’ We did the same thing with Pur­ple. Mixed and mas­tered in three weeks.”

“ithink­the band got heav­ier once i came in”


There was a lot of fore­thought go­ing on to make Core a com­plete lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – a ‘mu­si­cal ride’ is how Dean de­scribes it now. Big hit­ters Plush and Crack­er­man are to­wards the back of the al­bum rather than the front where most bands would place them. Else­where, a sense of in­stinct crossed over into Dean’s wah-soaked so­los and his sur­pris­ing fu­sion twist in Sin (“a lit­tle Al­lan Holdsworth in­spi­ra­tion”). “Back then it was, ‘Let’s go, put that track up’ and I’d knock out about three or four so­los and we’d pick the one we liked the best.”

Though the lion’s share of mu­sic was cooked up be­tween the broth­ers, the funk rock NakedSun­day was very much a joint ef­fort in the re­hearsal room. “I started play­ing those two chords and Robert goes, ‘What’s that?!’ Re­ally the whole song is two chords. We just started jam­ming... Scott jumped into it and started singing it, pretty much what you hear on the record.”

Wei­land’s pres­ence looms ever larger over the al­bum fol­low­ing his death in 2015. While his vo­cal tim­bre would find the band lazily com­pared to Pearl Jam after Core was re­leased, it was Jim Morrison who was ac­tu­ally one of the singer’s in­spi­ra­tions at the time. But as a lyri­cist and melody writer he was

com­ing into his own. “[ PieceOfPie] shows how bril­liant Scott was, not only melod­i­cally but lyri­cally,” praises Dean. “The lyrics to that song are ex­tra­or­di­nary… I think he was 23 years old writ­ing that stuff.”

The singer would even leave his mark on the gui­tar side too. Con­tribut­ing to the groove­some opener Dead­And

Bloated in two very dif­fer­ent ways. “Scott hummed that verse riff to Robert and Robert trans­posed it onto gui­tar,” con­firms Dean. “And he also sang the in­tro into the pickup of my Sun­burst Les Paul in the stu­dio. I had just fin­ished a part on the song and the gui­tar was plugged in. Scott wanted to sing the in­tro it into the bull­horn [mega­phone] and we said, ‘Sing it into the gui­tar pickup and see what hap­pens.’”

After the al­bum was re­leased in Septem­ber 1992, mo­men­tum be­gan to snow­ball for STP. Core would even­tu­ally go on to sell eight mil­lion copies. But the band had lit­tle sense of what was com­ing – Wei­land and Kretz’s lyri­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion on Plush even touches upon it. “We all knew what we had at that point,” says Dean, “and we knew how spe­cial the record was. We didn’t know how suc­cess­ful it was go­ing to be, and there’s a big dif­fer­ence there. That song was re­ally about Scott and Eric talk­ing about the fu­ture.”

Ask Dean what he re­mem­bers most about that time and he pauses be­fore reflecting. “It was an amaz­ing time, man, it was so beau­ti­ful. And they were some of my great­est mem­o­ries of Scott. He was so on his game, he was so healthy. He was elec­tric and vi­brant. There was in­no­cence and de­ter­mi­na­tion. And it was so new. It was great.” The re­mas­tered Core is out now via Rhino in Su­per Deluxe, two-disc Deluxe and sin­gle disc ver­sions.

Scott Wei­land and Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots per­form at the Greek Theater, Berke­ley on July 4 1993

STP (clock­wise from left): Eric Kretz, Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo, Scott Wei­land

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