It was early September and Eric Kretz was looking forward to a brief 11-date co-headlining tour pairing his band, Stone Temple Pilots, and co-headliner Bush that would precede a longer fall headlining run for his band.
“Two times we were going to go to Australia with them,” the drummer says. “The first time was right when COVID was coming in and everything was getting shut down. Then the promoter was doing his best to figure out how to get us back. It was looking like early April (2020).
“We found a winery hotel that was an hour outside of Sydney … we were going to have the place to ourselves,” he says. “So we were just going to barbecue, play tennis and write songs together. It was going to be great. And they got one or two cases, and they shut down travel in between states, so we just couldn’t do that.”
As it turned out, this fall’s U.S. run with Bush got canceled as well due to the surge of the Delta variant. Stone Temple Pilots, however, have gone ahead with their headlining tour, which started Oct. 17.
Kretz admits there will be challenges for the group, which also includes brothers Dean DeLeo on guitar and Robert DeLeo on bass along with singer Jeff Gutt, as they will have to adhere to strict protocols to keep the tour on track.
“It’s hard, and it’s going to be frustrating not being able to see some friends you have across the country and hang out with them or go to dinner,” he says. “It just takes one person out of that 25-30 people, band and crew. We’re all parked in a hotel somewhere. It’s just going to be a new way for a while until we all get used to it.”
Stone Temple Pilots went into 2020 with big plans. In February of that year, the group released “Perdida,” a unique album in the Stone Temple Pilots canon. Where the band is known for melodic rocking anthems, the group unplugged and recorded a new set of original songs in a largely acoustic format.
The group had a special tour planned to promote “Perdida,” but canceled the outing so Gutt could have surgery on a herniated disc that had reached a point where the singer was in serious pain and had difficulty just sitting.
Looking back, Kretz is grateful that the tour didn’t happen as planned.
“Actually, it was probably a good thing because that tour was going to start in the Northwest, and that was where the early cases were coming through with COVID,” he says. “We wouldn’t have had any idea of the protection we needed. We would have done the shows as usual, and (with) two buses, a whole lot of us could have gotten sick.”
Soon, like virtually every other band, Stone Temple Pilots found themselves unable to tour due to the pandemic. But the group members were not idle. Dean DeLeo collaborated with guitarist Tom Bukovac on a mostly instrumental album, “Trip The Witch.” STP also assembled a box set reissue of the 1996 Stone Temple Pilots album “Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop,” which supplements the original album with outtakes and early versions of songs from the album and a 14-song, 1997 concert recorded by MTV during spring break Panama City Beach, Fla.
“Tiny Music” was a pivotal project for Stone Temple Pilots. The band, with original singer Scott Weiland, blasted onto the scene with their 1992 debut “Core.” It gave the band four hit singles – “Sex Type Thing,” “Plush,” “Creep” and “Wicked Garden” — and eventually peaked at No. 3 on “Billboard” magazine’s album chart.
The 1994 follow-up “Purple” was another hit thanks to the hit singles “Interstate Love Song,” “Vaseline” and “Big Empty” taking only four months to top 4 million copies sold.
While the band’s popularity soared, Stone Temple Pilots’ many critics dismissed the band as grunge rock copycats whose songs shared the stylistic traits of groups like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
“Tiny Music,” though, changed a lot of those perceptions and gained Stone Temple Pilots newfound respect. The band significantly broadened their sound, drawing on influences such as classic rock, glam and psychedelic rock to craft a musically diverse set of songs.
“I think we were trying to challenge ourselves,” Kretz says. “Like, OK, we’ve done two albums, and we’ve accomplished that, and I think it was more of a way to challenge ourselves and say what haven’t we done?”
The influences that emerged on “Tiny Music” weren’t calculated and came out naturally as the band worked on the songs, Kretz says
“It’s never forced that way,” he says. “I mean, like always, the four of us when we were making ‘Tiny Music,’ we’re all so influenced from ’70s music, whether it was singer-songwriter folk-pop that we heard from our parents, and then on AM radio we’re hearing Elton John and Fleetwood Mac, and then as the high school, junior high years came on it was just, oh my God, it was the Stones and Zeppelin and the Who and on and on and on, you know, Yes and Rush, and just how great all of that stuff is. So we all absorbed those 20-plus years of music.”
While Kretz says the band had a great time making “Tiny Music,” that period also foreshadowed difficulties that would grow more trying with Weiland, whose drug addictions were leading to increasingly erratic behavior, tensions within the band and a pair of breakups.
The band managed to make two more albums with Weiland – 1999s “No. 4” and 2001’s “Shangra-La Dee Da” — before splitting in 2003. The four band members reunited in 2008 and released a well-received 2010 self-titled album.
Weiland, though, was never able to overcome his addictions. In 2013, he was fired by the band and tragically died in 2015 from an overdose.
“With Scott, it was just a slow slide of him falling down, you know what I mean. It was just keep trying to pick him up, and after a while, he doesn’t want your help anymore,” Kretz said.
The DeLeo brothers and Kretz moved forward after the split with Weiland with Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington stepping into the vocal slot for a 2013 EP “High Rise” before he returned full-time to Linkin Park in 2015. Sadly, Bennington committed suicide in 2017, adding another tragic wrinkle to the STP story.
By that time of Bennington’s death, Stone Temple Pilots were well into a world-wide search for a new singer. Gutt, who had appeared on two seasons of “The X-Factor” television show, was eventually chosen as the new vocalist. His performances on his first album with the band, a 2018 self-titled release, made for a promising new start for Stone Temple Pilots that was only reinforced with the songs and performances on “Perdida.”
While Kretz says he hopes Stone Temple Pilots will at some point do the “Perdida” acoustic tour that was canceled ahead of the pandemic, this fall tour is a chance to revisit the “Tiny Music” material and other hits from the group’s catalog. And with Gutt fitting in nicely within Stone Temple Pilots, fans will see a band that is enjoying a smoother life on and off stage.
“We love being creative, and we love each other, and we love performing for the audience that has memories of the songs. It doesn’t suck,” Kretz says.