Stone Temple Pilots Look Back At The Evolution Of Core: 25 Years Later


Stone Temple Pilots released their landmark debut album Core 25 years ago, and with the 25th anniversary of the album’s release coming up later this year in September, we thought we would put together an oral history of the writing and recording of the album, featuring exclusive quotes from interviews Alternative Nation has conducted over the years with STP members and associates.

The band’s history from when Dean DeLeo joined Mighty Joe Young until the completion of Core is told by late STP frontman Scott Weiland, STP guitarist Dean DeLeo, STP drummer Eric Kretz, original Swing/Mighty Joe Young (STP’s early incarnations) guitarist Corey Hickok, former STP manager Steve Stewart, former Velvet Revolver guitarist Dave Kushner, and Scott Weiland’s second wife Mary Weiland.

SCOTT WEILAND: It was 1989 [that Dean joined].

COREY HICKOK: After I quit, Dean joined Mighty Joe Young on a temporary basis, but was hesitant to join full time because of the great job he had in San Diego, so they put out ads looking for a new guitar player. They started auditioning guitarists and were just laughing, the same thing that happened when we were looking for drummers a few years prior.

DEAN DELEO: I’ll tell you what opened the door for me to join is because, God bless his heart he’s a sweet sweet man, Corey was not very proficient on his instrument. Those guys had a little deal, they got like $5,000 to record.

ERIC KRETZ: What happened is we dismantled Swing, we started Mighty Joe Young, and at some point we got a $5,000 demo deal.

DEAN DELEO: I forget the name of the [label], I was very unattached at that time, like you said I was in San Diego. They had 3 or 4 songs that needed some guitar solos, Robert called me to come up, I think this might have been 1989 maybe, or 1988. Robert called me to come up and play on these demos that they were doing. I think it was pretty evident to Scott, you’ve got to keep in mind that Scott and Corey went way way back man. I think it even got to the point where Robert had to resign himself from the band, it was kind of a shitty band actually.

There was a keyboardist, and Corey’s playing was not really up to par for where Robert felt he wanted to be. So I think Robert was about to walk from it, and Scott kind of saw that with Robert was the place to be. Robert said, “My brother should come up and play on this.” So I went up and played on it and it was pretty evident to Scott, ‘That’s how our guitar player should sound.’ It was very very heartbreaking for Scott to lay that on Corey man, like this is not going to work. Those guys were friends since high school, maybe grammar school I don’t know. But it was a shitty spot for both Scott and Corey to be in, a shitty spot for me too I just went up and played and these guys two weeks later are like, ‘You’ve got to be in the band!’ (laughs)

COREY HICKOK: As Dean was beginning to play with the band though, the chemistry was undeniable. Just as I was leaving the band, “Wicked Garden” was being written. “Where The River Goes,” “Only Dying,” and “Naked Sunday” were also early songs they did with Dean. After a month or so, Dean finally agreed to join on a full time basis. He was the icing on the cake for the band, and I became their biggest fan.

SCOTT WEILAND: Yeah, it started with “Where The River Goes” [as the first song written with Dean]. Dean came in at our first rehearsal, and brought that song in. At first it was clean guitar, then we made it distorted guitar, and it went from a Cure sounding riff into a Zeppelin sounding riff.

ERIC KRETZ: That was after we dismantled Swing and moved onto Mighty Joe Young. That was just the four of us and the first riff Dean kind of started busting into was “Where The River Goes.” Then I kind of had this idea for a bridge chorus thing on guitar and I showed him it to him, and I said, “Alright, we’ve got a song done.” And that was all on the first day.

STEVE STEWART: The demo version of [“Where The River Goes”] (which is on the cassette) is one of my favorite STP songs. Thick and tasty – I think it sounds better than the album version on Core, but it’s pretty much unchanged.

SCOTT WEILAND: [At one of Dean’s early shows with the band opening for Henry Rollins] we were both upstairs after we got done playing, when Henry was getting ready to walk down the stairway. Dean said, ‘How you doing out there?’ And he said, ‘Why? Is someone going to shoot me?’

MARY WEILAND: I can’t think of one story in particular, but everything that comes out of [the DeLeo brothers] mouths is comedy. They always have me laughing. The DeLeos are classic guys, and I think a lot of the chemistry of that band is anchored in their very particular and hilarious perspective on life and love and of course Rock.

STEVE STEWART: “Only Dyin’” was also going to be in “The Crow,” before Brandon Lee was killed.

SCOTT WEILAND: [“Only Dying”] was written way before Brandon Lee died. It was written in 1990.

DEAN DELEO: So we were asked to record a song for The Crow soundtrack and we jumped at the wonderful opportunity and we went and recorded this song. We titled it “Only Dying.” During the shooting of that movie, we all know what happened right. I was like, “There’s no way we’re releasing this song, there’s no way we’re giving them a song called Only Dying.” So we pulled the plug on it. That’s why that song never saw the light of day really.

ERIC KRETZ: When we had the opportunity for The Crow it was like, we should go back in and redo that song? Because there were a lot of elements of that song that were really dark, it was just a matter of reworking in a few things. Then when Brandon died it was such a shame, so we figured we should do a different song (laughs).

DEAN DELEO: The [demo] session with “Only Dying” [in around 1990] was just one session. “Wicked Garden” and “Naked Sunday” were another session. Our dear dear friend Tracy Chisum snuck us into Sound Castle when they closed their doors and shut down at 12 midnight. We went in there at midnight and recorded those two songs from about 12AM to 8AM.

ERIC KRETZ: That’s actually the demo deal that we got signed with, it was that demo that went out to Atlantic Records and Warner Brothers, and everyone else.

STEVE STEWART: The band was signed off the Mighty Joe Young cassette, when a very hard-working A&R guy at Atlantic named Tom Carolan came to see them after hearing from his best friend Don Muller, to whom I had given a demo tape and invited to a show. Don became their first booking agent and is one of the top music agents in town today. Tom’s immediate boss was Jason Flom, who also believed very much in the band. Danny was being brought in to run Atlantic on the west coast at that time and was also there for the signing. I believe Plush, Sex Type Thing and Dead and Bloated were all completed after the signing, although parts may have existed before. They were never on any Mighty Joe Young demo – although some parts of those demo songs did make it onto the first record in different songs.

DAVE KUSHNER: I remember seeing [Scott Weiland] the day they got signed, and he was just so genuinely happy, and unjaded and unaffected at that point. He was telling me the whole thing: ‘Oh we got a record deal, and yeah we didn’t get a lot of money but we’re going to work with this producer guy that used to work for Rick Rubin! It’s going to be really cool, we can do whatever we want,’ and blah blah blah. I will always remember that night because of his genuine enthusiasm, and his kind of kid like enthusiasm, it was so cool. To be the only guy who was in a band with him later that knew that side of him was kind of a memory that I always have, part of the Scott Weiland memory.


Photo of Scott Weiland and Brendan O’Brien courtesy of Corey Hickok.

ERIC KRETZ: Atlantic was extremely excited about the prospects of having a band like us, and grabbed us. History was made for us man, I mean fuck Atlantic Records was saying: “We want to sign you.” We were like holy fuck look at the catalog they have, it was such an honor.

STEVE STEWART: Robert asked me to find him and inquire about producing Core. At that point, the LA scene was dominated by bands like the Chili Peppers and Fishbone, etc., while Seattle was starting to come into its own with a post-punk, stripped-down version of rock.

COREY HICKOK: When it came to contemporaries, Scott had never heard of a band called Pearl Jam when he was writing Core. We were fans though of Alice In Chains when they came out.

SCOTT WEILAND: I was a member of Sub Pop, and used to get singles every month. I saw Nirvana in 1990 I believe it was, at Raji’s

COREY HICKOK: Scott had great admiration for Perry Farrell, he thought he was mesmerizing and an amazing frontman. He loved Jane’s Addiction.

SCOTT WEILAND: In the early days, [the comparisons of STP to Grunge bands] didn’t matter to me so much, because I felt it was the first real movement in rock and roll since punk rock. It tapped into sociopolitical connotations, and pop culture. It just had a vibe. It influenced fashion, I mean it was a huge, huge movement.

STEVE STEWART: Robert asked me to find [Brendan O’Brien] and inquire about producing Core. At that point, the LA scene was dominated by bands like the Chili Peppers and Fishbone, etc., while Seattle was starting to come into its own with a post-punk, stripped-down version of rock.

COREY HICKOK: I was in the studio when they were recording “Creep.” I knew that it would be a major success for them, it definitely felt like witnessing history in the making. Every time I would watch them rehearse and record the Core songs, everyone knew something special was going on. There was a feeling of electricity in the air, and a sense of excitement that was just contagious.


Photo courtesy of Corey Hickok.

ERIC KRETZ: Back in that time in the early 90’s, Scott was my best friend, we were roommates for years. We would always discuss and argue about poetry, literature, movies, life, politics, love, war, you know what I mean? He was my best friend. So when it came time for “Plush” he was like, “Man, I just don’t know what to write about.” We’re jokingly in a hot tub, we’re sitting at the Oakwood Apartments making that record Core, and they actually had a jacuzzi there. We’re just drinking a bunch of beers, and just kind of started working on stuff we’d been talking about as friends for so many years. The intrigue of it all, the intrigue of those things: the politics of love, of literature, of movies.

At the same time [we] were trying to prey on words, we were kind of [doing] a counter thing of you saying one thing, him saying another. Or him saying something to me and countering with something, it was kind of a very natural way of friends putting together a lyrical song. Then strangely enough, Opera Man [Adam Sandler’s SNL character] on KROQ was doing that song one year and it was pretty funny (laughs).

COREY HICKOK: Atlantic Records gave them complete creative control when they signed them. When you got signed back in the day, generally there would be stipulations in the contract where the label would have a lot of control, but STP had a great rapport with Atlantic. They told them, ‘We want to give you guys free reign on what you want to do. We’re not going to be in the studio harassing you, just do what you do.’ Everything was in place for them to create a masterpiece, and they did.

STEVE STEWART: The band changed names right before the first record came out and then was off to tour the states surrounding the record release in Sept. 1992. By the time they came back to LA, in early 1993, the album was already Platinum and it was time to look at larger venues. There was no indie album, there was no list of various players – it was like starting from scratch in many ways.

COREY HICKOK: As Mighty Joe Young became Stone Temple Pilots, I remember feeling that everything I knew we were going to be, was going to be. With any type of career that takes drive and ambition to achieve, there will be naysayers. Whether you want to be a fireman or a doctor, then you get older and you find out it’s ‘1 in 10,000.’ When we were young, we had these people saying: ‘Do you know that 1 in 10,000 people make it in the music industry? Grow up! How are you going to make it?’ We said, ‘We’re the 1 in 10,000.’ Nothing ever penetrated Scott’s mind, he was laser focused.

SCOTT WEILAND: After [Core], I wanted us to be a band that changed, and we were. We changed from Core to Purple, then Tiny Music especially, we made a garage sounding album.

All interviews conducted 2009-2016 by Brett Buchanan. Corey Hickok interview conducted in January 2016, Scott Weiland interview conducted in November 2015, Dave Kushner interview conducted May 2014, Eric Kretz interview conducted in October 2013, Dean DeLeo interview conducted in October 2013, Steve Stewart interview conducted in September 2012, and Mary Weiland interview conducted in November 2009.

Rest in peace Scott, and thanks for the music Robert, Dean, and Eric!