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It was early September and Eric Kretz was looking forward to a brief 11-date co-headlining tour pairing his band, Stone Temple Pilots, with Bush. That run would precede a longer fall headlining tour for his band.
“Two times we were going to go to Australia with them,” drummer Kretz said. “The first time was right when COVID was coming in and everything was getting shut down. Then the promoter was doing his best to figure out how to get us back. It was looking like early April (2020).
“We found a winery hotel that was an hour outside of Sydney so … we were going to have the place to ourselves,” he said. “We were just going to barbecue, play tennis and write songs together. It was going to be great. And they got one or two cases (of COVID) and they shut down travel in between states, so we just couldn’t do that.”
As it turned out, this fall’s U.S. run with Bush got canceled as well, because of surge of the delta variant. Stone Temple Pilots, though, has gone ahead with its headlining tour, which starts Oct. 17. Kretz admitted there will be challenges for the group, which also includes brothers guitarist Dean DeLeo and bassist Robert DeLeo, and singer Jeff Gutt, since they will have to adhere to strict protocols to keep the tour on track.
“It’s hard and it’s going to be frustrating not being able to see some friends you have across the country and hang out with them or go to dinner,” he said. “It just takes one person out of that 25 to 30 people, band and crew. We’re all parked in a hotel somewhere. It’s just going to be a new way for a while until we all get used to it.”
But at least the band will be touring, which is something that couldn’t happen during most of 2020. The musicians took advantage of the down time. Dean DeLeo collaborated with guitarist Tom Bukovac on a mostly instrumental album, “Trip The Witch.”
The group also assembled a box set reissue of the 1996 Stone Temple Pilots album, “Tiny Music … Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop.” It supplements the original album with outtakes and early versions of songs from the album and a 14-song 1997 concert recorded by MTV during spring break Panama City Beach, Fla.
“Tiny Music” was a pivotal project for Stone Temple Pilots. The band, with original singer Scott Weiland joined by the DeLeo brothers and Kretz, blasted onto the scene with their 1992 debut, “Core,” and 1994 follow-up, “Purple” — two multiplatinum albums that generated such hit songs as “Plush,” “Creep” and “Interstate Love Song.”
While the band’s popularity soared, Stone Temple Pilots’ many critics dismissed the band as grunge rock copycats whose songs shared the stylistic traits of groups like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
“Tiny Music,” though, changed a lot of those perceptions and gained Stone Temple Pilots newfound respect. The band significantly broadened its sound, drawing on influences like classic rock, glam and psychedelic rock to craft a musically diverse set of songs.
“I think we were trying to challenge ourselves,” Kretz said. “Like OK, we’ve done two albums and we’ve accomplished that, and I think it was more of a way to challenge ourselves and say what haven’t we done?”
While Kretz said the band had a great time making “Tiny Music,” that period also foreshadowed difficulties that would grow more trying with Weiland, whose drug addictions were leading to increasingly erratic behavior, tensions within the band, a breakup in 2003, reunion in 2008 and a final split in 2013. Weiland didn’t overcome his addictions and died in 2015 from an overdose.
“With Scott, it was just a slow slide of him falling down, you know what I mean. It was just keep trying to pick him up, and after awhile he doesn’t want your help anymore,” Kretz said.
The DeLeo brothers and Kretz moved forward after the split with Weiland. Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington stepped into the vocal slot for a 2013 EP, “High Rise,” before he returned full time to Linkin Park in 2015. Bennington committed suicide in 2017, adding another tragic wrinkle to the Stone Temple Pilots story.
By that time of Bennington’s death, Stone Temple Pilots was well into a worldwide search for a new singer. Gutt, who had appeared on two seasons of “The X-Factor” television show, eventually was chosen as the new vocalist. His performances on his first album with the band, a 2018 self-titled release, made for a promising new start for Stone Temple Pilots that was only reinforced with the 2020 album “Perdida,” which found the band shifting gears to craft a largely acoustic album.
And with Gutt fitting in nicely within Stone Temple Pilots, fans will see a band that is now enjoying a smoother life on and off stage.
“We love being creative and we love each other and we love performing for the audience that has memories of the songs,” Kretz said.