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With new singer, Stone Temple Pilots move past wild Weiland days

By Selena Fragassi | For the Sun-Times

Breakups can be hard to do, especially when you’re in a band and it involves your very high-profile frontman. Yet Stone Temple Pilots seem to be doing just fine since firing Scott Weiland in 2013 from the alternative rock group he helped form in San Diego in 1985. The band marks its 30th anniversary this year with new material, a new tour and new singer: Chester Bennington of nu-metal group Linkin Park.



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“It was nothing good. If it was, things wouldn’t have changed. It came to that point,” admits guitarist Dean DeLeo. Though the band had a long history of tense relations with Weiland due to his repeated substance abuse and hiccups with the law — leading to a trial separation from 2002-08, or the Velvet Revolver years — things hit their breaking point in 2013.

DeLeo and the other original members, bassist brother Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz, reportedly had been at odds with the singer about the idea of a 20th anniversary tour of “Core,” the platinum album that included hits “Sex Type Thing,” “Plush” “Dead and Bloated” and “Wicked Garden.”

The songs carry such weight that lawsuits have flown back and forth the past two years over their legal ownership, although both camps have since been on the road performing STP’s massive catalog, including Weiland with his new band the Wildabouts (they played a Double Door show on Feb. 27).

You’d be remiss to think Bennington can’t perform the classics just as well, says DeLeo. When asked what the singer brings to the band that might have been missing before, he offers one word: heart. “There are days where sometimes I think he knows the band better than I do. … He’s always ready to go, wanting to do all these songs I’ve never played live, but he knows them.” Bennington came into the group as an admitted fan of STP and first met the band when they joined Linkin Park on Korn’s Family Values Tour in 2001.

“Chester was the only name we talked about,” admits DeLeo. “I knew what kind of person he is and what kind of talent he is and what he thought of STP.” He’s also a safe bet — the most drama Bennington has had since joining the band in 2013 is suffering a broken ankle and having to cancel some tour dates with Linkin Park, of which he is also a full-time member.

With this lineup, the band has released one EP, “High Rise,” and currently has six songs finalized for a full-length album that DeLeo hopes to release by the fall. “I think we get into different sonic territory with new tonalities; we definitely don’t repeat ourselves.”

So far, DeLeo has given a glimpse into the recording process by releasing audio clips that he calls “Memo:Demos,” which offer an insider peek at alternate solos and songs at the time of their conception.

Scott Weiland | Victoria Will/Invision/AP

Scott Weiland | Victoria Will/Invision/AP

“My phone is littered with them. When we’re in a writing situation we use our phones to capture the parts. And being a fan of music myself, I figured this is stuff I’d want to hear, so why not share it,” says DeLeo, admitting it’s a very personal reveal. Though most of the Memo:Demos focus on the band’s newest material, including “High Rise” tracks “Black Heart” and “Same On The Inside,” there’s also “Bagman” and “Hickory Dichotomy,” some of the last material the band recorded with Weiland on STP’s eponymous 2010 album.

Going back gives DeLeo pause to consider the legacy his bandmates have with Weiland, calling him one of the best frontmen ever in a recent interview that has since been reposted just about everywhere.

“It was bold statement, but it’s how I felt,” he says. “Even if you’re not a fan of the band, just check out his lyrics. What he did lyrically was great and what he did melodically in my opinion was even better.” At least STP gets to keep that memory alive.