March 8, 2018 Interview – Eric Kretz of Stone Temple Pilots
Times change and so do we, but it is how we learn from the past that makes for a better tomorrow. Alternative Rock icons Stone Temple Pilots know that all too well, weathering the storm of various trials and tribulations through the years. One of the most successful Rock bands of the last two decades, Stone Temple Pilots (often called STP) were blazing hot in the 1990s thanks to their 1992 album Core, followed by the equally impressive Purple in 1994 – both multi-platinum selling records.
The band would go on to grow sonically, while always remaining distinctively Stone Temple Pilots the whole way through. Proving there is still plenty left in their tank, the guys are back in 2018 with their long overdue seventh studio album, due out March 16th. The first with brand new Vocalist Jeff Gutt, fans are in for an epic return from this beloved band. Recently we caught up with founding member and original drummer Eric Kretz to talk the wild ride of the band, life lessons learned, the addition of Jeff Gutt, their new music, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Stone Temple Pilots are one of the successful Rock bands over the past two decades. Attaining various platinum-selling albums, touring the world and building a massive following, what has the journey been like for you?
Eric Kretz – It’s been life changing. Luckily we all started pretty young with our focus that we wanted to be musicians when we got older – that in being in our teenage/formative years. We all met down in Los Angeles when we were relatively young – I moved down there when I was 18, Robert moved out from New Jersey when he was 18, Scott was already there. We all met a few years later but growing up admiring Rock-n-Roll, you admire what your icons are doing from the posters you look at, and maybe the few shows you go to. But I tell you, man, once you get in there and get into that mix, it’s a whole different ball game; I guess that is what I am referring to as life changing. So much of what you learn in your formative years can help you and can also be kind of destructive, the Rock-n-Roll lifestyle.
CrypticRock.com – There is are positive and negative things, like anything in life. Beyond the music, one of the band’s most inspiring attributes is perseverance. Obviously we are all aware of the challenges the band faced with Scott’s personal issues, then you had a great run with the late Chester Bennington, now you are back with Jeff Gutt on vocals. What has been the key to the band’s persistence to keep this going strong?
Eric Kretz – Definitely the love and respect we have for each other, that is probably the foundation of it. Then the fact that we have such a deep appreciation and love of music, and we want to create music continuously – with creating it, recording it, writing it, and also the live performance aspect. It just ties all-in that we love what we do, we really get along well and love each other enough to continue and carry on between the good times and bad times. It’s much easier in the good times, that’s for sure. The bad times, which I was alluding to in the beginning of the conversation, it is all part of it. It is kind of what makes you strong. If everything comes easy in life, what are you going to learn from it? Not much.
CrypticRock.com – That is true, you have to take the good with the band. It is fantastic to see Stone Temple Pilots back for more. Through all the ups and downs yourself, Robert, and Dean have always been the core of the band. Would you say those bad times made the relationship between you three stronger?
Eric Kretz – Yeah, definitely. Like any family relationship, you get in there, mix it up quite a bit, but it also makes you respect each other more. Like I said, it was the love and respect that we have for each other that really unifies us to continue on. Also the ambition that there is so much more to be produced from Stone Temple Pilots. We look forward to the years to come, continue to put out new music, and keep performing.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. There has been a buzz surrounding Stone Temple Pilots for the past few years from the search for a new vocalist to the writing of new material. In the end, what lead to the band’s decision to bring on Jeff as the new singer?
Eric Kretz – In this situation there were a lot of boxes that need to be checked. Jeff, his voice in general, was the number one issue. There were a lot of other issues as well, such as how is his personality? Another one that was probably important was how’s his writing ability? Every month we would go in for about a week and audition quite a few singers. We would continue to write stuff on the spot. Some singers would look at you like, “That sounds really cool, I have no idea what to do.” That would be pretty much a signal of, “Well, you are gonna be outta here in about 5 minutes.” (Laughs) Whereas people like Jeff would jump right in, very similar to what Scott and Chester would do.
That is the collaboration that we all demand. They would just jump right in! We all come in with ideas and next thing you know it could turn out to be a great song, or just a fun little thing we put together. It’s really nice when you have people who can just jump in, singers especially; just start messing around with some melodies, not necessarily any words or meanings but just messing around. The songs can take a few changes and we can reaffirm we are doing something really exciting here; it is clicking in all areas.
Back to Jeff, with all the boxes that needed to be checked, there were quite a few. Also representing the catalogue, no one is going to replace Scott Weiland – and that is not what we are looking for – but it had to be someone who could sing the catalogue with clarity, respect, honor. Jeff really had a good handle on that as well as the new material.
CrypticRock.com – Jeff does have a very strong voice, you can hear that when reprising the back-catalogue songs. Fans have had a chance to get some samples of what the new music will be like and it is certainly really great stuff; the songs are sincerely STP and fresh. What was the writing and recording process like for this new album?
Eric Kretz – In some ways it was similar to other ways, but in some ways it was new. It was similar because we have been messing around with the recording of some the material at the same time we were auditioning with singers. We said, “Okay, we have a few months, lets go record this song and this song.” We had a good idea of how to arrange songs even before we had the affirmative melody in there.
When it was time to give Jeff the high-fives and hugs that he is in the band, we were over at my studio, got together 5-7 days a week, kept writing, writing, and writing. It was so effortless how we could just jam and put stuff together, like some real fun songs such as “Middle of Nowhere” and a few others. They came together really quickly, it was a lot of fun. When we got to record them it was kind of the same process, we already had the arrangement of the songs. We got down to recording the tracks, put down the vocals, guitar solos, and off to mixing and mastering world.
Like I said, some of the process was similar but some was different than over the years. In the early days of STP we would go into a rehearsal room for about a month, put together the whole record, and go to the studio and record it. This time around, the studios we used were my studio and Robert has a studio as well; between the two we put together the whole record. That part of it was just a little different. We still have all the same recording equipment that we used in the days of Core. Everything is just in a home setting now opposed to driving out to Northridge in the valley of Los Angeles.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was a good experience this time around. It is great that you have the ability to do it from a more comfortable, home studio. The album is set for release on March 16th. Being this is the band’s first full-length LP since 2010 and first studio release since 2013, was there some rust or was everything clicking on all cylinders?
Eric Kretz – It was good. Like I said, some of the songs we had instrumentally recorded already. When we were writing with Jeff, we had him come in and sing on some of the tracks we already had. It was pretty incredible. I think we threw 5 songs at him in 1 or 2 days, and he came up with amazing melodies and harmonies; right on the spot, within 10 minutes he’s already got fantastic melodies. They were so similar to what we were putting together in our head without having to tell him. It was kind of eerie in that way, he was just right on the same page with us. Because of that there wasn’t really any rustiness going on. Doing the writing process with all of us in the room, putting together songs, working on lyrics and when it came to recording it was like, ‘okay, we’re ready, let’s go’!
CrypticRock.com – Very cool. It will be exciting when the record finally hits. Are Stone Temple Pilots planning any extensive touring in support of the record?
Eric Kretz – Yeah, it’s kind of nice that we are able now to plan the next year and a half. We we will be touring North America, South America, Asia, and Australia. Right now everything is looking pretty good up through August, then we look to start booking the fall stuff as well. Right now there are shows announced through May and up to June. You will see a lot of shows coming out in June, July, August, and September in the very near future. Things are looking really good and we are going to stay very busy. We are looking forward to special occasions where we can display the new record in its entirety. We have some good stuff coming up.
CrypticRock.com – It seems like it will be a very busy year and a half ahead. Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Core. It is hard to believe it has been that long, but it has. Core was a mega-debut for STP. Looking back, what was it like for you and the band when Core took off like it did?
Eric Kretz – When we were in the Southern California/ Los Angeles area trying to get a record deal, playing clubs, and having 30 to 50 people show up on average, some of the shows down in San Diego would be a couple 100 people. That was all leading up to getting a record deal. Back then bands had to continuously play and play original music in order to get the attention of a record company. Once we got signed and made the record, we started a national pull like everyone else and then it really started blowing on MTV and on all the radio stations across the country. By the time “Plush” really took off that is when your really close friends call you and tell you, “Man, I’m sick of hearing you on the radio every hour.” (Laughs)
It was quite a ride. It is like trying to climb on top of a rocket and hold on as it was taking off. It is nothing you plan for; you just try to hold on, go with it, and try to take charge of it as it’s accelerating. Then we followed it up with Purple: it was a very creative, fruitful time in all our lives.
CrypticRock.com – Wow. And those a good problems to have when your friends are telling you they hear you on the radio too much right? (Laughs)
Eric Kretz – Oh yeah! I love those guys, they were just trying to bust my balls a little. We would be on tour – when I talk about this time period between “Sex Type Thing” and by the time we got around to doing a video for “Plush” – we were on the road constantly. You go to a pay-phone, call the manager and get a report on all the songs which are doing great in this market, doing okay over here. The shows were filling up with more and more people, but it was hard to really judge how it was catching on. Whereas my buddies back in Los Angeles, they can listen to the radio all the time, and can see people talking about it. In some ways they had a very good handle on it from the outside of our touring bubble.
When you are on the road, especially back in the ’90s like that, you didn’t have the internet access, everything wasn’t so available. It was kind of cool to get those personal phone calls telling you it’s non-stop, it’s just fantastic.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that has to be pretty awesome. Obviously it all has lead to a long career for the band. As we spoke of, you have to take the good with the bad and you learn from things. What would you say are some of the more important things you have learned from being a part of Stone Temple Pilots and being a career musician?
Eric Kretz – Just stay true to what you believe in. Treat good people with the respect they deserve. Luckily, and I say luckily, because when Atlantic Records was signing us we said we want artistic freedom. They kind of smiled and laughed because we know record companies a lot of times want to control the artist – how they look, what they can do, etc. We said, no, we really want control of our careers, of our artist careers. They said, you got it. I think because of that we were allowed to change somewhat of our style of music.
Between the four of us with Scott, we were all influenced from so many different styles of music growing up. From the AM Pop radio of the ’70s, there were a lot of great singer-songwriters; there were bands like Fleetwood Mac, you had great bands like Sweet and David Bowie. Then as we got older we jumped on Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Aerosmith, some of the Punk Rock, Glam Rock, Country, Folk music. We had all these influences, we just wanted to be able to throw them all in. That was a big part of us being able to be personally satisfied of where we were going creatively and not being stifled with presidents of a record company saying, “You know, this is the hit new sound. You need to focus on this otherwise we are not going to put your record out.” Unfortunately, a lot of artists have to deal with that and it’s usually killer for their careers.
CrypticRock.com – And that creative freedom has paid off: each record the band has put out is not like the one before.
Eric Kretz – Yeah, it’s really kind of exciting too. This is kind of funny because we always talk about how we want the record to sound, and it usually doesn’t sound like that. By the time we finish it’s just veered off to a whole ‘nother course. We will keep a mental note of that, then the next record, a couple years later, we will say, “Hey man, we really need to kind of sound like this.” Then we start it and go somewhere else. I am sure every band has the same sort of problem, which isn’t really a problem, it’s just kind of a funny situation. You think you have a vision of where it goes, but by the time you get to the middle of it you get so creative and so influenced by stuff you have done in the past, where you want to go in the future, and other people come up with ideas. The album will always end up where it’s supposed to go. You can’t say it’s gonna go exactly in this direction, you just kind of know it’s moving forward and you just try and make it the best it can be. It’s always really exciting because when you look back at it in retrospective, you think, “I’m really happy and I am glad it didn’t go where I might have thought I wanted it to be.”
CrypticRock.com – You just never know where things are going to take you. Fans will be thrilled with this new record and it will be great to see STP back on the road.
Eric Kretz – It’s going really good. We are in rehearsal right now, getting ready for the first leg of our tour. It’s great, the new songs are translating really well. You do stuff, you write it, record it, then you always have this little hesitation of, is this going to translate well? It just sounds great. Jeff is doing such a great job with the catalogue and new stuff; it is just all coming together really well. We are going to be playing deep cuts, going to change the setlist every night; it is going to be exciting for all the fans who have been hoping to see something different from us for a while. It’s going to be a great first run!
CrypticRock.com – It really is going to be a great year for Stone Temple Pilots! Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either or both genres, what are some of your favorites and why?
Eric Kretz – I used to like the Horror movies. The Sci-Fi, that stuff I really like. Interstellar (2014) is good, because I know they used a lot of scientists from MIT to kind of help put together the fine-tuning of the scripit. I have to say for the longest time the original Blade Runner (1982) was my favorite movie, because it really seemed like that is where we would be heading in the future; it was almost a very clear vision scientifically of where we could be heading in the future. The latest Blade Runner film, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), was actually really good too.
There have been quite a lot of good movies lately. It seems like the Sci-Fi movies have such great film-scoring going on with them; Blade Runner being one of them, Under the Skin (2013) which is a wicked film score. Sometimes now the score is really exciting, unique and incredible, kind of like the old Horror films from the ’60s and ’70s; especially like the old Hitchcock stuff, some of the creeper stuff with piano stabs, very sparse, adding so much tension to a scene. The music has such a huge impact on whether I really enjoy the movie or kind of like it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes! Music is an essential part of any film, especially Sci-Fi and Horror. You take away the music, and a scene which could be intense loses it if the music is not there.
Eric Kretz – I enjoy Horror movies. I don’t get too scared and find them hilarious especially afterwards. The film medium is just an incredible, all-encompassing kind of environment. I am one of those people who prefer to see a movie in a theater, that way my phone’s off, there are no distractions. When I’m at home, it’s so tough because you are continuously thinking about stuff you have to do. It’s just much better to get the full experience in the theater.