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Turbulence ahead

Stone Temple Pilots are back at it: performing together, fighting, getting sued.

June 21, 2008|Chris Lee | Times Staff Writer

Nothing GETS in the way of a lucrative rock reunion quite like a jail stint -- even an extremely short one. Just ask the members of Stone Temple Pilots, the multi-platinum-selling, stadium-rocking, alterna-grunge band that recently reunited after more than half a decade's "separation" (don't call it a breakup) to mount a 65-date tour of North America's top-tier summer music festivals and amphitheaters (with a stop at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday).

Last month, faced with the very real possibility that singer Scott Weiland would spend up to eight days behind bars for a 2007 drunk driving charge, each member of the SoCal rock quartet voiced a different perspective on how disruptive Weiland's sentencing had been on band unity.

"Seeing a friend go through something like this, it's an uneasy feeling. It's a drag," said the group's guitarist, Dean DeLeo."

"To be honest with you, it's going to be a lot easier for me than it is for him," drummer Eric Kretz said of Weiland, a guy who by his own estimation has attempted to detox "40 or so" times in between various arrests, overdoses and relapses.

Robert DeLeo, Dean's brother and STP's bassist, seemed more concerned about his own self-preservation than his bandmate's debt to society: "I gotta take care of myself, man."

Seated at a conference table in a Burbank rehearsal space, the scarecrow-thin Weiland made known his feelings on the matter. "I live my life the way I live my life," Weiland said, loosening his paisley tie and brushing tresses of pink-dyed hair from his face with visible contempt. "I don't have to make any apologies."

Staying power

Despite having sold around 35 million albums worldwide and topping charts no fewer than six times since 1992 with hits such as "Plush," "Sex Type Thing" and "Interstate Love Song," Stone Temple Pilots originally were dismissed by rock cognoscenti as Pearl Jam-soundalikes. But the group has learned to take any criticism in stride, likening themselves to no less an act than Led Zeppelin.

Judging by certain empirical data (if not cultural impact), the comparison isn't far off the mark. Like Led Zep, the Pilots' hits remain in steady rotation on rock radio nationwide (locally, KROQ-FM keeps the STP songbook alive), and they are one of the most consistently played acts on Lithium, Sirius Satellite Radio's '90s nostalgia bandwidth. Additionally, the band's back catalog sells at a consistent clip.

Maybe it has something to do with the still-commanding presence of one of the last bad boy rock stars -- Weiland's snarling charisma, otherworldly androgyny and smoke-and-whiskey tunefulness are among STP's most identifiable hallmarks; his narcotic combustibility its biggest liability -- but it's easy to understand why concert promoters would see a Stone Temple Pilots tour as a golden ticket.

Now, the group's members are taking pains to ensure that fans remember them fondly -- even though STP never officially faded away. "Success to us does not mean the number of records sold," Dean DeLeo said. "It means making an indelible mark on the face of music."

Added Weiland: "Our biggest goal when we first got together was to create a legacy, musically. Now there's a whole new generation of kids getting into the band. The respect has multiplied like a snowball that goes, um, downhill."

Three days after making those remarks, Weiland would check himself into and be released from the Van Nuys Municipal Court lockup, having served just six hours of his jail sentence. Not what you'd call hard time -- even for a flamboyant frontman with a predilection for skin-tight trousers and mascara -- and the band's tour would kick off as planned at Columbus, Ohio's Rock on the Range Festival on May 17.

It was Weiland's second taste of freedom in three months. In March, he sprang himself from Velvet Revolver, the hard rock group comprising several former Guns N' Roses members.

That group scored a hit with its first album, "Contraband," winning a Grammy and touring the world, but its 2007 follow-up "Libertad" never caught on. VR's coffin was effectively shut after Weiland announced on stage at a gig in Glasgow, Scotland, that the group would be no more -- without having finalized the decision with his bandmates first.

By then, Dean DeLeo had called Weiland about resurrecting Stone Temple Pilots with the tantalizing offer of a big payday to play a bunch of summer festivals.

Weiland recalled: "I went to [Velvet Revolver guitarist] Slash and said, 'Listen, we have some opportunities this summer. With the Velvets, we're going to be done touring because this record isn't performing the way the last one performed, and to continue to try to flog a dead horse is ridiculous.' "

The singer's appraisal of Velvet Revolver's commercial doldrums and rationale for breaking up particularly irked the group's drummer. "Matt Sorum threatened to kick my ass on his website," Weiland recalled.

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