Twenty-five years ago on Sept. 29, a new band from San Diego called Stone Temple Pilots released their debut album, Core, and never looked back. A perfectly timed arrival during the alt.rock revolution, the set flew to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified eight-times platinum, launching the hits “Sex Type Thing,” “Plush” and “Creep.”
Things would turn tumultuous after that blazing start, particularly with late frontman Scott Weiland’s substance abuse struggles — which ultimately led to his tragic death at 48 in 2015 — but Core was a bright and shining moment for STP. Fitting, then, that on Sept. 29, the group will release 25th anniversary Deluxe and Super Deluxe editions of the debut LP. The latter features four discs packed with rarities and unreleased material — including STP’s 1993 MTV Unplugged appearance, from which “Wicked Garden” is exclusively premiered below — and a DVD with music videos and a 5.1 Surround Sound mix of the album.
STP is now reeling from the loss of another singer — Linkin Park‘s Chester Bennington, who did double-duty with STP from 2013-15 — but is also moving forward in a search for a new singer to usher in another era. Bassist and co-founder Robert DeLeo took a break from that to talk about his Core memories…
Does it feel like 25 years of Core? Or 25 minutes? Or 250 years?
DeLeo: Y’know, I don’t like looking back at life in years. I kind of look back at in in lifetimes, and that was definitely a different lifetime for all of us. I look back and think about that frustrated, highly motivated group of guys, searching for I don’t know what and trying to soothe it with the music we were making. I think all of that wrapped up shows on that record. There’s a lot of frustration and anger and sadness all wrapped into one. I don’t go back and listen to it much, but I can certainly relate to it, still.
While you were making Core did you at all feel like it had the potential to be as huge as it was?
DeLeo: Well, I don’t think we would’ve done what we were doing if we didn’t feel it was impactful. I think from a musical standpoint we felt like we were sitting on a bomb. The business part of it and where it went and how many people related to it, you have no control over that, especially as a first record. We had no idea it was going to do. All we really knew is we sincerely believed in what we were doing, and really what mattered is we finally had the chance to express what we were going through in life at the time. And it seemed like a lot of people related to that.
Scott became a real icon from the get-so. Was that evident to you when you first started working with him?
DeLeo: Well, y’know, when I met Scott he was a very different person. He was definitely an alpha and he had that air about him that he was a lion. He really was, in every way in life — almost to the point of being hyper about creating and getting things done. It wasn’t only the voice; I knew he could sing and he was a real singer, but the energy he brought along with that… And he learned it as he went along. But as a basic, fundamental energy that he had, it was something that he always had from when I met him.
Is there a remaining sadness about what ultimately happened to him, both within STP and afterward?
DeLeo: Absolutely — an immense sense of sadness for many reasons. Ultimately what saddens me is he’s not here to enjoy the reissue of our first record we made together. I mean, that’s really sad to me, that he’s not here to share in this.
Any particular favorites among the unreleased tracks?
DeLeo: I just want to point out that all this stuff came out of my garage. I picked up the hoarding gene from my mother. I’ve saved pretty much everything from our career, from guitar picks to laminates to reel-to-reel tapes. So, yeah, I spent a lot of time personally going through boxes of cassettes and I found things in there I didn’t know I had.
One of those things that really touched me was when I ran across a cassette of Scott… when we were all living in a two-bedroom apartment down by Rumbo studios in the Valley. I remember he had two cassette players, and he was playing the music of a song called ‘Piece Of Pie” off one cassette player, and recording his vocal lines onto the other one. That was really special. There’s a lot of special stuff that’s part of this.
You’ve included your 1993 MTV Unplugged performance in the package. What was doing that show like for you?
DeLeo: Oh, that was nerve-wracking. I was so nervous. There’s something about volume and turning things up so loud that allows you to hide behind the wall of sound, and there we were doing something we’d only done together when we were alone in a room, just us. I remember getting to “Creep,” and I have a little vocal part in there where I answer Scott, and looking back at the video you see my hands were shaking, I was so nervous. It was part of growing as a musician in front of a large audience. No one prepares you for that.
Are you planning to do anniversary packages like this for STP’s other albums?
DeLeo: Absolutely. I think they deserve that. There’s so many demos, and the bare bones of how some of these songs came together musically. I’ve got so much stuff that I saved, and I think it’s gonna be fun going through one of the best musical parts of my life, that decade. It’s all about there in my garage, and it’s going to be interesting going through that.
So what’s up with STP now?
DeLeo: Dean [DeLeo, guitarist] and I are always writing music, whether it’s for STP or not. Hopefully we will find a singer who will be that guy, and represent what we want to do moving forward. I think there’s a lot of music to be made, still, and I think we all feel we want to continue — not only that, but also playing songs that we wrote 25, 30 years ago that mean a lot to me, and I think there’s people out there who want to hear those songs, too.
When do you think STP will be back up and running again?
DeLeo: When it all comes together it’ll come together. It’ll feel right and we’ll proceed forward. This is not an overnight decision. This is a series of getting together with someone and really figuring out what they are all about and if that’s right for us.
You put out an open call for auditions. What’s that process been like?
DeLeo: It’s been very interesting. You get some interesting scenarios with people. There’s been some colorful people, I should say [Laughs] … Some of these people, they sing in their bedroom and their mom and dad tell ’em they’re great. Then they get into a room with a band that’s turned up to 10 and expect to lead the band. You can pretty much tell right off the bat that’s not happening with certain people. There are a lot of things to look at to really, really choose someone to move forward with.
You did that, briefly, with Chester Bennington, of course. How are you dealing with is death?
DeLeo: It’s sad, really sad. I lost a great friend. We’re part of the same community here. We took our kids to school and took our kids to baseball, and he was a great human being. He was there for us when we needed it. It’s hard to talk about him in the past tense, still. He was a really great person, and I miss him every day. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and think about why he did what it did. Obviously it made sense to him, but I’m baffled by that. And always will be.