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Stone Temple Pilots’ Robert DeLeo Talks Singer Auditions, Upcoming Benefit + Scott Weiland

Play Pen LLC / Photo by Harry Reese
Play Pen LLC / Photo by Harry Reese

Last fall, Stone Temple Pilots revealed that their partnership with Linkin Park‘s Chester Bennington had come to an end amicably, as the vocalist revealed he simply was having difficulty balancing the time needed for both bands. As the band attempts to move on with another vocalist, they recently announced another component to their search. The band offered up performances of them playing three songs and invited those interested in the position and open opportunity to show what they have.

Loudwire recently spoke with bassist Robert DeLeo about the auditions and what it means for the band’s future. He also shared some insights on Bennington and late original vocalist Scott Weiland. Check out the chat below:

First off, Robert, condolences. I know it’s been a rough year for you guys with the loss of Scott and once again having to start anew with a singer search. Sorry you went through that.

Yeah, you know it’s been an interesting journey through the career of music, man.

Absolutely. Obviously we’re here talking about the singer search you guys have going on. I know that the split was decided even before the public announcement came of Chester’s exit, but was the idea to do the open audition always part of the plan?

No, when Chester, I guess it was nine months ago, maybe. It was back in April, I think when he let us know that he wasn’t able to do this anymore. We instantly started trying out some singers that were recommended to us. It’s a small window, we tried out about six people and we played with some really really great singers, great talent. We just didn’t feel like we searched the whole haystack yet. I think we owed to it to ourselves to really take this not only nationwide, but worldwide and really see what’s out there — see what kind of talent.

There’s probably about 100 submissions coming in per day. We’re just weeding through that, and there are some really talented people in there. I think it was a good decision to do this, and it’s the first part in seeing what people have as far as talent goes. The next step is getting together with these people and seeing what kind of people they are.

You mentioned six people you worked with before the audition process. Does the opening of this audition preclude any of the others from still being a possibility at this point?

Them and everyone else, them included. We just want to make sure that we make sure [laughs].

You’re known for STP, but you’ve played in other bands, other projects. I know you’ve got Delta Deep going, as well. Going into these different situations, what are you looking for before going into the situation on a professional and personal basis?

I think it’s really the people involved. That’s what’s so great about Delta Deep. I really enjoy the company of the people I’m playing with and being around. Phil [Collen] is one of the nicest people I know. We’re just having fun. We’re having fun, and I just did a tribute to Ray Manzarek for Robby Krieger and John Densmore. It was Rami Jaffe on keys and Stephen Perkins on drums and me. We were kind of the house band, sitting in with Robby and John. I mean, there’s so many different scenarios and situations that you get involved in, especially with something like that where that brings you back to, really, hearing music for the first time. I think The Doors was some of the first music I’d ever heard on AM radio, [laughs] back in the day. Getting a chance to play with the people that raised you, is really an amazing thing to experience. That is one of the most satisfying things, to be able to share that music with those people.

With the submission process, obviously being able to handle the catalog is a big deal, but if somebody catches your ear through this process, what’s the next step you take in terms of feeling them out?

I think seeing them sing is the first step, and seeing what kind of talent these people have. I think it’s a matter of taking that talent and getting together with them and seeing what kind of people they are. There are many different levels to … look man, we’re going to be spending a lot of time together. It’s gonna take the right kind of person as well as the right kind of singer to really make this work on a longevity basis.

I saw “Interstate Love Song,” “Trippin’ on a Hole,” “Vasoline” are the submissions I see coming in. Any particular reason why those three songs? Was there a debate on which songs you should have people test out?

I think it was a matter of getting around it, “Interstate” is more of an R&B vibe and “Vasoline” is a little more rock and “Trippin'” — there’s a lot of lyrics in there. I think we were thinking of putting something new. We’ve written and recorded and completed eight songs. We were making a record while Chester was in the band. We musically have eight songs completed and we were even thinking about putting something up of that people can work on. I think that’s really a concern about moving forward. We’re not looking at trying to recreate or be the legacy kind of band. I think it’s just a matter of putting those up because people are familiar with those songs. I think that is going to be a part of moving forward, having someone that can honor that material. I think people want to hear that material. I want to play it!

You’ve got songs already, but when that new person that does come in, will they sing the songs you have or be able to put their stamp on it? Or do you envision that with a new person, you might want to start from scratch? What happens to the material you already worked on?

Oh I think we use what we’ve got, I think we feel very comfortable about what we’ve recorded. I think it’s a great vibe that we really envisioned this new record being, and it’s heavy stuff. It’s heavy stuff and I think we really sat down and really got a chance to do some pre-production and really explore everyone’s strengths in this band. That’s what we did for these songs and I think it’s been a year now since we’ve recorded those songs.

I was just listening to them the other day and they’re really holding up great and we got a gentleman by the name of Ryan Williams as sound engineer. He started with us on Tiny Music and he was Brendan O’Brien’s assistant. Now we’ve got Ryan, and this is the first time we have Ryan engineering and mixing too. It’s the first time we really have the sonics of what we were creating back. He’s got that touch and feel for engineering that I think has been missing.

When it comes to replacing a singer, there’s no clearly defined way to do it. Sometimes people get a name vocalist and that brings its own expectations and then other times there’s an unknown and people have no idea what to expect. Do you have a preference one way or another?

I think either. It’s just looking for greatness. I don’t really have a preference of age or color, I just want someone to have greatness.

I love the Joss Stone Temple Pilots performance and I’m sure as soon as that aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live people were probably wondering if Joss was a possibility?

She’s really busy and — you know, it’s always fun to — my favorite thing in listening to a song is not the original version but someone else’s take on it. You really kind of, sometimes discover or rediscover the beauty of that song. I think we moved the key of that song from E to A for her vocal and I kind of rediscovered that song I wrote in 1993. I rediscovered that with moving that up to A, and having her female voice on it. It was always a very kinda harder Motown R&B kind of thing. If you listen to the bass it’s something that I always was inspired by. That’s kind of where — it took more of that meaning to it, to me, when we did it like that.

Only you guys will know when it’s truly right, but ideally is there a timeframe of when you’d like to have someone in place?

As soon as possible. It’s a very big decision. We’re talking about the next 5-15 years of playing music. It’s a very big decision to make and we have a cutoff point of March 7, when people can submit. After that, Dean and Eric and I are probably going through 5,000 submissions right now. [laughs]

You, Dean and Eric have been together through just about everything over these years. What has made the three of you cohesively stick? Do you see a through line of why you guys have been successful at that relationship for so long?

I think it’s respect. I think there’s a great deal of respect in any relationship that makes it last. I get to play in a band with my brother, that’s an amazing thing in itself. Music has brought us closer together. Eric, the kind of human being he is, he’s one of the nicest people I know. I think there’s a respect there and a love for the same kind of direction in our lives, musically. We get together and it’s something I really appreciate. This music and these people have been … we’ve been in each other’s lives for more than half our lives. [laughs] It’s incredible to think about that. Dean and I have been playing together since 1982. Eric and I have been playing since 1987, so it’s more than half our lives. It’s something we still enjoy doing.

I saw you guys have the ‘From Rock to Bach’ benefit coming up and you’re playing with Chester as well. I know the relationship is still good but maybe a little bit on what it meant to have Chester involved in recent years.

He brought in an energy and a level of positivity that was really needed for Dean and Eric and I at the time. There was no trying him out, we made a call and he was like, “Yeah.” I think he knew he could do it and we just got together and he nailed that stuff. Not only that, it was the positivity that he brought in and he was good to go every night. He made sure he was professional every night. That’s what I respect about him.

This thing we’re doing is really a benefit for the community here. We’re trying to raise money for the school that our kids go to, all the schools here. I have Gary Wright, who wrote “Dream Weaver.” He’s a neighbor here, Gary and I are close friends. I asked Gary if he would like to come be a part of this, his kids were in the school system here too. I get to play, me, Dean and Eric get to play “Love Is Alive” with Gary and Gary’s going to a beautiful version of “Dream Weaver” and it’s going to be a real fun night. It’s a one off thing for Chester to get back together with us and do something great for the community.

We haven’t spoken to you since Scott’s passing. I know there were difficulties that came with working with him, but he was just an amazing talent. If you could, talk about some of his best qualities and what he brought to the band over the years.

He brought a lot of this band. He was the frontman of this band and he’s partly responsible for why I’m sitting here talking to you today. That’s the honest truth. I’ll always cherish what we did together musically. That comes but once in a lifetime for people, or not at all for people. To share art together and have it go to the places where it went to for us. I’ll always be in deep, deep gratitude for having him in my life and I think it’s really sad and as time goes by I can’t believe the guy is gone. I really can’t believe he’s gone.

It’s really sad and I guess that’s the beauty of music, though. I simply have to go on YouTube and there he is. There he is and there we are, and there we are sharing something really amazing together. I think that’s what lives on. That thing we created together, I’ll always cherish for the rest of my life.

Lastly, we mentioned Delta Deep, but any other projects out there you’re working on that you’d like to discuss?

I have an acoustic [recording] — I have some songs that I wrote years ago, man. I just never found a place for them. I finally just kept them in the format that they were in, acoustically. I’m actually playing guitar on these, the way I wrote them and I got a friend Shaun Tubbs who actually played on the MTV Unplugged with us back in 1992. Shaun is playing acoustic guitar and I got a gentleman by the name of David Piltch who plays upright bass. He plays with KD Lang and plays a lot of session work and I got David into play some upright bass and got a beautiful singer, female singer named Kara Britz.

I actually got Gary [Wright] down here to sing on one of the songs, Gary and I are doing some of the back vocals and it’s an acoustic project of some songs that I never really had the chance to put out there. I kept them in that format, acoustically. I’m real excited. We’re calling it The Bridals. We’re about three songs deep right now. It’s just about getting this done when we can. But it was all done at my home here and we did in on the Neve board and all analog and it has that beautiful smooth, creamy quality that only analog can bring, you know?

You and I are pretty close in age, so I know you probably grew up on Gary Wright. Like you said earlier, it’s got to be so fun working with someone you grew up on. 

Gary is like my dad, man. He really is a wonderful person and has given me a lot of guidance. He was friends with George Harrison, very good friends and studied a lot from George as far as meditation and spiritualism. It’s nice to have that energy in my life, I value that.

Our thanks to Stone Temple Pilots’ Robert DeLeo for the interview. For those interested in submitting for the vocalist position, be sure to check out the site the band has set up for the process here. As for the band’s benefit show with Chester Bennington, tickets are on sale now. The show will take place Saturday, March 26, at Norris Theater in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif. For ticketing details, click here.

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