Stone Temple Pilots

The Long and Winding Road to SHANGRI-LA


By George Tsioutsioulas

Stone Temple Pilots should not be here. I don’t mean here at the posh Windsor Arms Hotel where we’re sitting getting ready to shoot the proverbial shit. I mean ‘here’ in general, enjoying the critical and commercial success of 'Shangri-La Dee-Da' - their fifth and arguably their finest album yet.

STP were dismissed as Pearl Jam clones when they first crawled out of the monster’s belly known as grunge back in 1992 with their debut album ‘Core’. Add to that singer Scott Weiland’s very public love affair with heroin and the band could have died a premature death. Stone Temple Pilots are quite simply survivors.

So is it reading too much into the title of their latest disc to assume that everybody in the STP camp is in a happier place these days? “It’s just a play on words”, chirps in Dean DeLeo, STP’s shaggy haired and ultra friendly guitarist. “Also we thought it took a little piss out of the record because some of the songs are kind of heavy, plus we’re into The Stones…Fred and Barney…that’s where they would vacation on ‘The Flinstones’, Shangri-La Dee Da Valley.” So the big question remains: Wilma or Betty? For drummer Eric Kretz, who looks like a cross between 'Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High' and one of the three Musketeers, it’s a no brainer, he likes red heads, but Dean who would “do Betty for sure”, although being the rock ‘n’ roll good Samaritan that he is, he offered to loosen Wilma’s bone if asked nicely.

Five records and almost ten years into a very colourful career, Stone Temple Pilots should have amassed enough road stories to keep the folks at Behind The Music salivating for days but, “Unfortunately we can’t remember anything that happened during the first four records”, laughs Eric speaking on behalf of his bandmates.

Today singer and vocal chameleon Scott Weiland seems a different man altogether. I guess being locked up for seven months in prison has a way of mellowing you out and wisening you up. “Music is the soundtrack to your life”, he confesses softly. “When you look back at certain times in your childhood, in high school, getting laid in the back seat, having a child for he first time, there’s always music associated with those moments and I think that’s why it’s great to be a musical artist because songs live forever.”

Dean clearly agrees but wants to add his own two cents: “Music is powerful, if I’m in a semi-depressed state of mind and I put on ‘Rainy Day’s and Monday’s’ by The Carpenter’s, I cry like a little school girl but if I’m going out I have a nice line of blow in front of me and I put on Iggy Pop’s ‘American Caesar’ – get out of my way man!” And as if to illustrate his point further, he leans in close, looks me straight in the eye and adds, “Music evokes the best and the worst in me.”

Fortunately the worst seems to be a distant cloud on the horizon these days for Stone Temple Pilots. Their troubled singer - now two years sober – is a married man and a proud papa. He wrote a song for his son Noah on the new disc, the tender ‘A Song For Sleeping’. For the first time in a long time Stone Temple Pilots seem to be revitalized, re-energized and ready to rock.

The next day as I join up with the band at HMV headquarters where they are happily meeting their many fans. I’m reminded of their song ‘Big Bang Baby’ from their album “Tiny Music…Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop’:

‘Does anybody know how the story really goes
Or do we all just hum along
Sell your soul to sign an autograph
Big bang baby, it’s a crash, crash, crash’

In between signing autographs I asked about the state of everybody’s soul these days. “A lot of people begin their podium speeches with thanking God.” Dean responds without missing a beat and with tongue planted firmly to cheek, “But seeing as we’ve sold our souls for rock and roll, we’d like to thank Satan.”