The Stone Temple Pilots have spent much of their young career fighting the perception that they are a "Seattle" band. Their 1992 debut album, Core, invited comparisons to a host of other current alternative rock acts from the Pacific Northwest's burgeoning music scene, but the Stone Temple Pilots actually paid their proverbial dues in southern California. The group is often pejoratively lumped together with Seattle grunge rock success stories like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, but in reality all are part of a wave of new bands whose roots lie in a bizarre allegiance to both the power-chord arena rock of the 1970s and a modern-day punk rock aesthetic. James Rotondi of Guitar Player described STP's work as "memorable, tough rock songs backed by anvil-heavy grooves and rich, unflashy guitar parts."
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Core spent over a year on the music charts, won a slew of awards, and eventually went triple platinum. The Stone Temple Pilots toured during most of 1993 and put in appearances as an opening act for heavy metal goliaths Megadeth as well as an MTV Unplugged show. In the summer of 1994, they released their sophomore effort, Purple, another instant series of hits. Between the two albums, STP were a permanent fixture on the album rock charts. Despite their unparalleled success, the band members felt frustrated by the criticism that often accompanies such accomplishment, but album and concert ticket sales offered somewhat of a balm. "Being a musician, you're so used to what's going on in the industry," guitarist Dean DeLeo responded to the snarkiness in a 1993 Rolling Stone interview with Kim Neely, "but when you get fan mail and you read what real people are saying about you, that's what really counts."
Stone Temple Pilots formed around the Los Angeles-San Diego axis in the late 1980s. Two of its members, brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo, were transplanted New Jerseyites living in San Diego. They had played professionally once before, back home in a cover band called Tyrus. Robert came across singer Scott "Weiland" Weiland at a Black Flag concert; the two realized they had been dating the same woman. Nevertheless, a friendship developed and they started to mess around with their guitars and an eight-track recorder. Californian Eric Kretz, then playing drums in another band, soon joined them. Kretz and Robert DeLeo relocated to Los Angeles, and Dean followed after a few years to help out with a demo tape. The brother decided to stick around, and the band officially formed as Mighty Joe Young.
The first-ever show of Mighty Joe Young happened at the legendary Whiskey-A- Go-Go in Los Angeles. The band soon tired of the L.A. music scene and returned to San Diego, where they wrote music and schlepped equipment to local bars for the next two years. In 1992 a representative from Atlantic Records came to one of their shows and soon the label was expressing interest in signing them. Yet the quartet was leery of a big, juicy, major-label contract until they talked with industry-insider Danny Goldberg, then managing Seattle grunge-rockers Nirvana.
Mighty Joe Young signed the contract on April Fools' Day of 1992. They headed into the studio with Brendan O'Brien, erstwhile producer of such bands as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Black Crowes. Shortly before their debut album's scheduled release, their lawyer discovered that the name Mighty Joe Young was already being used by an aged blues artist and they would need a new name. The "Stone Temple Pilots" moniker originated in the "STP" motor-oil logo sticker that the young Weiland's bike had sported. They invented the name from the letters.
Core began climbing the charts following its release in September of 1992. A video for the first single, "Sex Type Thing," made its first few appearances on the MTV metal showcase Headbangers' Ball, then garnered heavy rotation during the rest of the programming week. The Stone Temple Pilots arrived on the scene just as other up-and-coming bands--especially the Seattle triumvirate of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains--also began rocking the alternative charts and stations with a similar edgy, guitar-based sound. Fans assumed the Pilots hailed from the Pacific Northwest, too.
Meanwhile, some critics assailed the overnight explosion of similar-sounding bands--for years the alternative scene had been a healthy industry unto itself with neither major-label interest nor support--but now the behemoths had stepped in and found a way to market one particularly accessible sound to a wider spectrum of youthful listeners. By mid-1993 the Pilots were fed up with the issue. "What is mainstream, and what's alternative?" fumed bassist Robert DeLeo in the Rolling Stone interview with Neely. "I mean, you can't really control who's gonna buy your album. You can't put an alternative sticker on it and say, 'This is for cool people only.'"
The Stone Temple Pilots began a heavy tour schedule, making stops in both the United States and Europe. They turned down a slot as openers for Aerosmith in part because of the legendary act's traditional treatment of women as sex objects. Core's first single, "Sex Type Thing," was a strident message against date rape written by Weiland that nevertheless was sometimes read the wrong way as being pro-date-rape. The vocalist told Rolling Stone reporter Neely that he put himself in the frame of "the typical American macho jerk" as he was writing the song's lyrics from a first-person stance and was a bit stunned that some took his intent in a completely opposite way.
More criticism was heaped on the Stone Temple Pilots' second single, "Plus"; the track was easy to mistake for a Pearl Jam tune due to its riffs and Weiland's vocals. But Guitar Player's Rotondi tried to put the similarity in perspective, saying, "A generation that grew up discovering the joys of the Doors and Led Zeppelin in the wake of the punk explosion are bound to see and hear things similarly. If ... Weiland sounds like anybody, it's Jim Morrison, whose moody baritone has been appropriated by everyone from the Cult's Ian Astbury to Billy Idol to Glenn Danzig to Layne Staley to, well, Eddie Vedder--all, like Weiland, talented, charismatic figures."
The Stone Temple Pilots began racking up an impressive array of awards as their debut album was selling millions. "Plush" remained on the charts for a record-setting 77 weeks from 1993 to 1994, and won the Grammy for best hard rock performance with vocal as well as a Billboard award for Number One rock track; indecisive American Music Award voters gave them honors for favorite new pop/rock artist and favorite new heavy metal/hard rock artist; Rolling Stone readers voted them the best new band and Weiland the best new male singer of 1994, and they also won an MTV Music Video Award for best new artist. But the success as well as the pressure nearly dissolved the band, as Weiland admitted in retrospect to RIP reporter Mick Wall in early 1995. "A year ago, well, it just got to the point where we just really did not have the energy to communicate with each other," Weiland said of this period. "There were problems ... [like] the lack of respect that we had gotten from the music press, which we had always paid attention to." As a band they had been secure in their songwriting abilities, he explained, and at first were indifferent to what others were saying, but "then after a while I think it started running on us and we were thinking like, 'Maybe they're right,' you know 'Maybe people are right. Maybe there's something wrong with what we're doing.'"
But the Stone Temple Pilots managed to keep their heads up long enough to duck back into a studio in Georgia in early 1994. Working again with Brendan O'Brien, they wrote much of the material for the next album in studio and got it down on tape in less than a month. The DeLeos wrote the music and Weiland the lyrics, and many of the twelve tracks on Purple could be termed somewhat brooding and introspective. "I guess I tend to find the darker shades of life more attractive than the yellows and oranges," Weiland told Neely in the Rolling Stone interview about his muses. "I know it's something that I relate to when I listen to music." Robert DeLeo looked forward to getting the album released in an effort to silence their critics. "I think the new album is going to be our only savior," he told Rotondi in Guitar Player in early 1994. "Hopefully, it will dispel a lot of the demons that are following us around."
Purple debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 in June of 1994. Its first singles were "Vasoline" and "Interstate Love Song," each quickly becoming staples on both alternative and rock radio. Critical reaction was mixed. Reviewing it for Entertainment Weekly, David Browne called it "rock & roll utterly without roots or, despite the pseudo-underground sheen, a real, defined sense of time or place." People writer Tony Sinclair made the usual Pearl Jam comparison and also likened STP to a sort of modern-day Grand Funk Railroad. Lorraine Ali of Rolling Stone was less judgmental, however. She described Purple's lyrical content as "cryptic and sensitive" and lauded "mystical interludes and acoustic melodies [that] could be hokey but instead are naively pretty."
Critical barbs aside, Purple was an unqualified success. It went triple platinum in less than six months, and "Interstate Love Song" held at Number One for 15 weeks on Billboard's album rock charts, a rather rare feat. The Stone Temple Pilots began playing headlining dates around the country as well as sold-out shows overseas. By early 1995, they were working on a third album and planning a tour that would perhaps feature STP's own ticket distribution system. The band hoped to eliminate what they viewed as exorbitant service charges imposed on concertgoers by Ticketmaster, a national ticket distributor.
The Stone Temple Pilots remain nonchalant about their success and their detractors. "Before the Seattle thing happened, popular rock was stale," Robert DeLeo told Guitar Player's Rotondi. "Before we got into the whole alternative scene, things were fine. But bands that are in this so-called alternative scene are just trying to prove that 'Hey, my band's more underground than yours.' What's the point here Are we trying to prove how underground we are, or are we trying to prove we can make good music We're all making music, so why should we hack on each other And why not look at the differences between bands Everybody's got something to offer.
The band broke up in 1997and Scott has since been pursuing his solo career.
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