Stone Temple Pilots' Dean DeLeo: my top 5 tips for guitarists
Stone Temple Pilots guitar great Dean DeLeo has a secret for fighting musical ruts: He simply puts his instrument down. “If I feel like it's not happening, I just won't play," he insists. "I don’t touch the guitar unless I'm feeling inspired. If you're trying to force something and you're beating your head against the wall, chances are it's not going to happen, at least at that moment. I’d rather walk away from before I try force it."
But when inspiration does hit, DeLeo leaps to it, no matter what time it is. "This happened just the other night," he says. "It was 1:30 in the morning and I was feeling a little restless, and just like that something came to me. I got up out of bed, went to my son’s room, grabbed a guitar and started playing it. I could hear my wife saying, ‘Babe? What are you doing?’ By now it was two in the morning. But you know, you have to grab the moment when inspiration hits. Now I'm going down to the studio, and I'm going to play that part. I think it's all because I didn't try to force it. I waited till the time was right."
As for the timing of the next Stone Temple Pilots record, DeLeo hints the disc could come later this year – but don't hold him to it. "I don't like to make promises I can't keep, so let's just say that we'd love to release it this fall," he says. "We've cut six songs already, and they're awaiting vocals and solos. It's turning out great."
On March 28, Stone Temple Pilots hit the road in the US for a tour that run through May 2. Visit stonetemplepilots.com for dates and ticket information. On the following pages, DeLeo runs down his top five tips for guitarists.
“It’s one of the most important things in life – family comes first. There’s something to be said for having a good sense of who you are and where you’re from, to be able to feel and express love to and from those around you. No matter what, your family is it.
“It’s easy to lose sight of this, especially if you’re young and just starting out. If somebody said this stuff to me when I was in my teens and wanted to learn some guitar, I’d be like, ‘I don’t quite get that.’ But trust me, as you go through life, you learn that your family is the most important thing you have. Your family can be your anchor and can help carve the trail. Always remember that.”
Patience is a virtue
“Nothing good comes easy, so you have to have patience. To be honest, this is something I still need to work on, as I can very easily get frustrated. This happened quite a bit when I was starting out as a player. My mind wanted to do certain things; I would hear things in my head that I wanted to achieve and express, but I didn’t have the ability at the time.
“I’ve been playing for a long, long, long time, and I still wrestle with my patience. It’s nice to exercise a little humility when you have your good friend in your hand – it helps ground you. But you also have to remember that when you’re trying to force something to happen, that’s probably the time to put the guitar down. Maybe it’s time to move on to something else. Whatever it is that you're beating yourself up over might not show up tomorrow, and it might not show up the next day. But have faith – it will. Just keep working on it, but keep things in perspective.”
Establish a friendship with your guitar
“Don’t think of the guitar as this thing you have to practice and master in this technical way. When things get so bogged down and they become so technical, it’s time to rethink the relationship. Establish a friendship with your instrument, because it’ll be there for you and you’ll be able to find solace, shelter and inspiration in it.
“I’ve always thought of the guitar as this great little world to enter into. It’s allows me to experience a different kind of freedom, and that might be something only musicians can understand. So look at the guitar as your friend, because it is.”
Don't text and drive
“A very good friend of mine, an extraordinary guitar player, singer and songwriter named Peter Frampton, was almost killed when he was hit by a driver who was texting. So I’m putting this out there because one of the greats was almost killed by a texting driver.
“I don’t text and drive, but I have to admit, I do sometimes look at my phone when I drive. We’re working on a new album, so I try to find solos and listen to things on the way to the studio. That’s not very cool, and yeah, it can be dangerous. I’ll ask my wife, if she’s with me, to find things for me to listen to. So while I don’t text and drive, I do need to refrain from looking at the phone, too.”
Listen to them all
“Listen to what Jimmy Bryant was doing on a Telecaster. Listen to what Wes Montgomery did on a big jazz box or what Allan Holdsworth did on his thing. Listen to Pat Metheny or Sonny Landreth – what he does with a slide. Listen to them all, every facet of guitar.
“This is the beautiful thing about the guitar – we have so many avenues of creativity. We can play classical nylon string, we can play slide on a Tri-Cone dobro, or we can play a Stratocaster or a Les Paul – it’s all out there. We can pick up a jazz box and bebop away on it. Each guitar tells you how it wants to be touched and played, and each one has something to say.
“Listen to them all. This has always been my brother Robert’s and my recipe. We take these very untypical jazz chordings and put them in a rock format. It’s there in every one of our songs. It’s a funny thing, because when I see people try to play our songs, nobody does it quite right. Something's always a little off, because they're not playing those chords. One of my favorite composers is Antonio Carlos Jobim, who wrote the most incredible chordings. Listen to him, too. So if you play rock, take non-rock elements and put them in a rock format. You’ll have people opening their eyes.”