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AC/DC did it. Van Halen, too. After their initial success, both bands were able to rise from the ashes with a new lead singer, who led them to the biggest commercial triumphs of their careers. It remains to be seen if Stone Temple Pilots can recapture their past glory with their new frotnman, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, but as far as guitarist Dean DeLeo is concerned, they already have.
The band -- which also includes DeLeo's bass playing brother Robert and drummer Eric Kretz -- is in the middle of a tour of small venues and DeLeo says it's going incredibly well, largely due to the presence of Bennington.
"It's like there's a fire there between Robert and I and Eric and it's definitely put us in a different realm," he enthuses. "Especially in the last two weeks. I think we're becoming a better band. [Chester] sets a high bar and I can feel it. Robert even said it the other night -- we're becoming a better band."
It isn't too far out to suggest that it's highly unlikely that STP would be a functioning band at this point without Bennington. "He pretty much saved the band," DeLeo says. "It couldn't have gone on. It was either going to stop or...We all just hoped Chester would say yes when we asked him to be the singer of this band. He really did save it."
In February 2013, Stone Temple Pilots officially fired singer Scott Weiland after months of speculation and some disastrous gigs, including a September 2012 show in which the band took the stage two hours late and cut its set 30 minutes short, angering even its loyalist fans.
After a two-album stint with Velvet Revolver, Weiland had rejoined STP in May 2008 and things went well enough for the band to record and release its self-titled sixth album in 2010 and do a few tours, but then problems and tension once again developed between the band's instrumental core and Weiland. "We never had trouble," DeLeo says. "Our trouble was Scott. Scott's troubles were our troubles."
For his part, Weiland recently issued a statement to Blabbermouth.net, saying he's been clean for more than a decade. "I haven't had a needle in my arm in 13 years," he said. "Overcoming my addiction to heroin was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I'm damn proud of the fact that the time in my life when drugs were stronger than my commitment to my health is so far behind me, and always will be... As for my issues with my former band — just remember the old adage that there are two sides to every story."
The DeLeo brothers and Kretz had been down this road before. When Weiland was having personal issues back in 1997, the instrumentalists in STP recruited Ten Inch Men frontman Dave Coutts and recorded and released a self-title album under the name Talk Show. STP regrouped in 1998 and recorded and released No. 4 in 1999 and Shangri-La Dee Da in2001, but by the end of 2002, things came to a head during the final show on the band's fall tour and the singer and the band once again split. Weiland went on to join Velvet Revolver with former Guns N' Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum while the DeLeo brothers launched Army of Anyone with Filter singer Richard Patrick.
This time, however, the DeLeo brothers and Kretz had no plans to form a new band. "We called Chester to be the singer of Stone Temple Pilots," DeLeo says. "There was no question in that whatsoever. We were hoping he was going to say yes and he'd front this band," he adds. "This is his band. This is our band." DeLeo became friends with Bennington back in 2001 when STP and Linkin Park shared the bill on the Family Values Tour. Bennington, a long-time fan of STP, often joined the band on stage during its set.
The new look Stone Temple Pilots made their debut in May 2013 with an unannounced appearance at the 21st Annual KROQ Weenie Roast, surprising fans with Bennington as their new lead singer. A day later, it released "Out of Time," as their first recording featuring Bennington on vocals, as a free download on their website.
Simultaneous with the band's relaunch came a legal battle with Weiland. STP sued him to prevent him for calling himself a former member of STP in advertising and from performing the band's songs live, while Weiland countersued for wrongful termination and misleading the public by calling the band, featuring Bennington on lead vocals, STP. The lawsuits have since been settled.
"I completely cut ties with him," DeLeo says, when asked about the legal battle. "I don't have a situation with Scott. That's what I spent a year in court for," he adds with a laugh.
As far as DeLeo is concerned, now it's onward and upward. Although he's enjoying the current tour, he's anxious to get home so the band can finish its first full album with Bennington, a follow-up to the 2013 five-song High Rise EP, featuring "Out of Time." The band hopes to have it out by late fall or early 2016.
"Right now we have six songs completely done that I've even laid down solos on," he says. "Chester has vocals on one of the six songs, so when we get home, he's going to try and sing on some others," he says.
While STP must share Bennington with Linkin Park, DeLeo doesn't seem to mind and understands if that's his priority. "That organization is massive," he says. "It's five time the size of this one. It's his baby."
Undaunted, STP will work around Bennington's schedule and continue plug away at the new album. "When Chester's on the road with Linkin, that's when Robert, Eric and I will start compiling new material and send MP3s new stuff to him, so we can start cutting and he he'll send up back notes," DeLeo says.
Bennington is also still recovering from an injury he suffered in January during a basketball game. Earlier this year, he attempted to tour with Linkin Park on crutches, but ended up having to cancel the tour and undergo surgery. "He did some severe damage to his ankle," DeLeo explains. "Broke some bones and did some ligament damage. I've seen his X-rays. He's got a bunch of metal in there -- seven screws and two plates holding it all together. He comes off stage and puts his foot right into a bucket of ice."
Yet, even with a frontman recovering from an injury, who has to split his time between STP and his other band, Bennington is still a huge improvement over the band's previous situation, DeLeo insists. "There's no comparison. It's like talking about the strength of a 2-year-old baby compared to a professional body builder. I'll tell you this man, Robert, Eric and I are really fortunate. We're having the time of our lives right now. We really feel like this has been a rebirth."
As for a possible reunion with Weiland down the road, apparently that ship has sailed. "Why that f*ck would we want that?," DeLeo asks. "That f*cking mess? I just told you earlier we're on a rebirth now. We're with a guy that pushes us. We're with a guy that is 1000% present," he adds, before pausing. "I've waited almost my entire career for this."