Friday, February 25, 2011

Rock Bio #2: Stone Temple Pilots

Part of a series of brief artist biographies I wrote for in the spring of 2010 ...

After more than two decades together, Stone Temple Pilots have proven themselves to be one of the most resilient bands in rock 'n' roll. Initially dismissed by critics as Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains wannabes, the San Diego quartet were a hit with listeners from the start, and despite various breakups, side projects, and internal squabbles over the years, STP continue to record and tour, proving they've still got fuel to burn.

The band's origins date back to 1986, when Scott Weiland (vocals) and Robert DeLeo (bass) met at a Black Flag concert in Long Beach, California. Quickly realizing they were dating the same girl, they moved into her apartment once she left town, and decided to form a band. With DeLeo's brother Dean on guitar and Eric Kretz on drums, the band named themselves Mighty Joe Young and slowly built a following in San Diego's clubs. They kept their distance from the L.A. music scene and its corporate influence, but by 1992 Atlantic Records had come calling, and that fall the group released their debut album, Core, under their new name, Stone Temple Pilots.

Core was an immediate success, and the tracks "Sex Type Thing," "Plush," and "Creep" became staples on MTV and alternative radio stations. Though STP's sound was accused of being derivative of grunge, it was closer in spirit to '70s stadium rockers like Led Zeppelin and Kiss, tethering hard-rock riffs to concise melodies. The band's winning streak continued with 1994's Purple, which spawned the hits "Vasoline," "Interstate Love Song," and "Big Empty."

In the spring of '95 Weiland was arrested for possession of cocaine and heroin and ordered to enter rehab for his drug addiction. Upon completion of his treatment program he joined the rest of STP for the recording of their third album, Tiny Music ... Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop, which debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 in March of '96. It didn't reach the same commercial heights as its predecessors, though, partly because Weiland relapsed that spring and had to return to rehab, forcing the band to cancel its summer tour.

At that point Stone Temple Pilots went on hiatus. The DeLeo brothers and Kretz formed Talk Show with singer Dave Coutts and recorded a one-off, self-titled album (1997), and Weiland worked on his first solo LP, 12 Bar Blues (1998), in between arrests and trips back to rehab. STP reunited to record No. 4 in 1999, after which Weiland spent five months in jail for violating his probation.

To the surprise of many, the band soldiered on, following up No. 4 and its hit single, "Sour Girl," with Shangri-La Dee Da in the summer of 2001. But after Weiland and Dean DeLeo almost came to blows onstage in the fall of '02, it looked like Stone Temple Pilots had finally crashed and burned. Weiland then joined Slash in the hard-rock supergroup Velvet Revolver, while the DeLeo brothers formed Army of Anyone with Filter lead singer Richard Patrick.

In 2007 Weiland reconciled with his former bandmates, and after quitting Velvet Revolver because his new bandmates reportedly nixed the idea of him doing reunion concerts with the old ones, he joined STP for a 65-date tour in the summer of '08. Their chemistry reestablished, the band entered the studio a year later, with their self-titled sixth album set for release in May 2010.

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