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
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.
CHANGING the CURRENT
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.”
SPEE D OF SO UND
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”
FORWARD YESTE RDAY
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