We revisit our 2019 interview with Stone Temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo.
Following the tragic deaths of the only two singers they’d ever recorded with - original frontman Scott Weiland in 2015 and then Chester Bennington one-and-a-half years later - Stone Temple Pilots found themselves at a crossroads.
In light of the double loss of two legendary rock frontmen, fans would have been well within their rights to assume the band’s days were officially over...
“I would have been one of those people!” admits guitarist Dean DeLeo, talking to MusicRadar ahead of their appearance at this year’s Download Festival – this visit marking their first in almost a decade.
In 2018, the band released their first album with new frontman Jeff Gutt in place, though truth be told his fallen comrades are never far from thought...
“Yeah… there are no words to describe what we’ve been through as a band. Scott and Chester were two people that were so impactful on my life personally and professionally. To have shared the intimacy of making music together? Those guys are in my heart and in my head daily.”
The decision to continue was not taken lightly, the surviving members taking their time to find the right person to help continue their legacy. After countless auditions, they realised there was something about Jeff Gutt’s voice and persona that worked perfectly within their alt-rock psychedelia. Last year’s self-titled seventh full-length made it crystal-clear this band were far from done.
“There was never any shortage of material with my brother Robert [DeLeo, bass] and I,” explains Dean.
“We had a lot left in us. We had to do the catalogue justice with someone who could sing beautifully, not emulate, but just sound powerful in themselves. More importantly, we needed to find someone to write with. It was about simple things like making music and laughing together. A lot of the time with Jeff was spent doing just that, almost for a year before we said, ‘Okay, hey man... would you like to be in the band?’
“Jeff is extraordinarily talented. He’s a true singer. And Scott was too, same as Chester. We had to go through a lot of people to find the right energy, almost looking for the voice of a crooner.
“His range is incredible, but what meant more to us was his ability to write. On that first day at Robert’s house, we threw five songs at him and the melodies he came up with that afternoon are the ones you hear on the record.”
While some things have evidently changed for the guitarist, others have not. He tells MusicRadar he’s been “using pretty much the same rig since 1990” and that it’s “a bit involved”.
Assembled during the writing period for their Core debut, DeLeo felt it was exactly the sound he had been looking for and has happily stuck with it ever since - using a blend of overdriven and clean amps to ensure his notes ring loud and clear...
“I run a VHT Classic stereo amp, which has the option of 50 or 100 watts,” he explains, opting for the lower output going out at 16-ohms into two stereo 4x12 cabinets.
“I also have an AC30 that is set very clean and chimey - that’s what you hear when I back off the volume on my guitar… it’s really clear, even with a Les Paul. So it’s the VHT in stereo and the Vox in the middle.
“The VHT goes into a Demeter unit - James Demeter does some beautiful amps and preamps. I use his preamp to get make sure my clean, dirty and loud blast-off lead tones are all sounding nice. As for effects, I try to emulate a Leslie sound with a Boss CE-1 chorus. I’ve also started using Seymour Duncan pedals, one for a slapback echo and another Leslie kind of thing because my CE-1 is so old.”
Here, the STP gunslinger doffs his cap to the 10 guitarists who blew his mind...
1. Allan Holdsworth
“You think there’s an Allan influence on my Sin solo? I commend you, only true guitar nerds would notice that - it’s impressive!
“Me and Robert got to see him in New Jersey on the I.O.U. album tour, with Jeff Berlin on bass and Chad Wackerman on drums. I got introduced to Allan later in the 1990s and we spent some time together.
“When I first heard that self-titled U.K. album, I couldn’t believe what was coming out of the speakers. To this day, I think of that as one of the most perfect grey, gloomy, rainy day albums… it is for me, at least. Allan’s solo in The Dead Of Night totally blew me away. I had to nick that lick, man!
“Honestly, I don’t know many people that would leave Allan off a list like this. What he was doing in U.K., Bruford or on his own releases like Road Games - it all knocks me back every time I listen to it. That acoustic stuff he played at the beginning of [U.K. track] Nevermore. I mean, what was he thinking when he heard that? It’s almost inhuman.
“Another one of my favourite tracks is Low Levels, High Stakes. It’s just a brilliant piece of music with some top-of-the-game playing. And he really knew how to get outside, man. It takes a lot of mind and heart to get a grasp on what he’s doing. I don’t really grasp it - it’s beyond my spectrum or abilities - but I can sure digest it.”
2. Steve Howe
“Yes affected me in so many ways. It’s interesting to follow these guys’ careers - they had Bruford, before he jumped over to King Crimson. Then you have the amazing Chris Squire, who had his own solo stuff like Fish Out Of Water, as well as Jon Anderson’s solo career and Steve’s solo stuff, too.
“What I admire most is his ability to cover all different aspects of guitar, whether it be lapsteel, slide playing, fingerpicking nylon strings through to his Telecasters, 175s and beyond. He just covered a lot of bases.
“I loved how he wrote music. There’s an experience of listening to Close To The Edge, from top to bottom. Same goes for The Yes Album. His music takes you on these complete and utter journeys.
“You have to take your hat off to that band, man… especially with all the vocals between Chris and John. They played a big part in my musical roots.”
3. Wes Montgomery
“The coolest thing about today is being able to go on YouTube and see video after video of great musicians who might not be around any more.
“What can you say about Wes Montgomery? His ability and fluidity using octaves, banging it all out on the thumb… it was just extraordinary talent. I’d say his records are jazz and bebop guitar at its finest. He had a huge impact on me.”
4. Jimmy Bryant / Speedy West
“Jimmy made some records throughout the '50s and was a Telecaster guy. You can’t really use his name without mentioning Speedy West, who went on to make some great records.
“They were an incredible band and Jimmy’s playing was always so tasty and so clean. I’m not gonna say it was ahead of its time - there were a lot of cats playing that stuff - but his style and note choices always stuck out.
“Him and Speedy made a lot of albums together, so make sure you look up both players. They might not be direct influences on STP, but I really do admire this style of playing.”
5. Lloyd Green
“Along similar lines, I really loved Lloyd’s pedal-steel phrasing. The articulation and proficiency was something else… he came out with really amazing stuff. He was just burning, man.
“It’s hard to describe the power all of these guys had, you kinda have to sample it for yourself and let it take you away. I wouldn’t say I’m as proficient as them – I mean, I do my darndest to get my point across – but these guys were seriously good.”
6. Leon Rhodes
“We’re gonna stay in the same vein for Leon Rhodes, from Texas, who was in the Texas Troubadours.
“This guy just lived and breathed guitar. Everything from his fluidity and note choices was right on. I won’t recommend a specific song or album - there’s plenty to dig into there so just go right into it.”
7. Jerry Reed
“Here’s a guy not enough people talk about… he was pretty noted as an actor, having been in Smokey And The Bandit as well as some other things, but a lot of people overlook how incredible he was as a musician.
“If you want to hear some really fine guitar playing, go on YouTube and hear him doing Jerry’s Breakdown with Chet Atkins - it’s really great. There’s a lick in that song he showed to a friend of mine called Glen Campbell, who I also have to mention...”
8. Glen Campbell
“So, when we made the Shangri-La Dee Da record, Glen Campbell came into the session and hung out one day.
“We actually did a nice version of Wichita Lineman one night when he was up at the house. He was an extraordinary player that was completely and utterly plugged in.
“That guy had it all... the ability to sing as well as play. So he showed me that lick he borrowed from Jerry in his own song Southern Nights - you can actually hear the lick in both. He told me he had to really rehearse to get that thing down!”
9. Sam Brown
“Here’s someone that nobody will know - he appeared on Bill Evans’ From Left To Right album, which is a beautiful record.
“I strongly urge anyone that hasn’t heard it to go and listen to that record. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to Sam Brown’s playing.”
“I have to say to this… because I want to be specific for MusicRadar.
“Just go on Instagram and see for yourself just how many people are talented beyond words and have the ability to blow your mind. You click on a video of some young cat ripping on a guitar and it’ll be just one after the other. There is some unreal talent out there.
“The world is full of great musicians. We all know about the other cats I spoke of - now it’s time to look into the future. There are countless people out there who can surely blow your mind. Honestly, these days, it’s not even hard to find them.”