ALLENTOWN, Pa. _ Stone Temple Pilots founder and bassist Robert DeLeo says the most important thing about the band recently replacing its charismatic founding singer Scott Weiland is that it opens the possibility of writing new music again.
But there's another benefit for the band _ one of the foremost acts to come out of the grunge movement of the 1990s. It can play some songs it hasn't been able to, DeLeo says.
With new singer Chester Bennington, whose soaring vocals are featured on Linkin Park's No. 1 rap-rock hits "Numb," "In The End" and "Breaking The Habit," Stone Temple Pilots can perform material Weiland no longer could, DeLeo says.
The band, for example, reportedly skipped a 2012 tour for the 20th anniversary of its eight-times-platinum debut album "Core" because Weiland could not sing its songs.
"I think vocally, the band was a bit saddled by what we were able to do," DeLeo says, choosing his words carefully in a phone interview from his New Jersey home.
"I'm trying to find the way to say it politically correctly. Let me put it this way: We're eager to do material that we haven't been able to do. Or haven't been able to do the way we wanted to hear it done.
DeLeo says Stone Temple Pilots will play new material, old hits and even some deeper cuts when it opens its first tour with Bennington Wednesday Sept. 4 at Sands Bethlehem Event Center.
"I think that's really, in our eyes, what makes this valid is moving forward with new music together," DeLeo says. "And as far as playing, we want to go out and play the best performance that we can do every night, and have people hear these songs the way that they were supposed to be performed."
DeLeo says that in recent years, Stone Temple Pilots' live shows "turned into a novelty to see what kind of condition Scott was going to be in. And that's just not what I'm in it for."
"I'm doing it to go out and give people the best rock 'n' roll show that we can give them. And that means being on time, and it means performing from top to bottom the most amazing thing that we can."
Those comments are a not-so-veiled reference to Weiland's well-publicized struggle with drug addiction.
But DeLeo makes it seem as if the bigger problem was Weiland's availability.
The band put out just one album _ 2010's self-titled disc _ in more than a dozen years, and even that was a struggle, DeLeo says. It reportedly took more than a year to make, as the band and Weiland wrote and recorded separately.
Asked whether the band had been writing anything new with Weiland, DeLeo laughs. "Um, you know, no. No. We never even talked on the phone. I didn't even have his number. I haven't had his number for a long time, so we weren't writing, no.
"I mean, I tried that on the last record ... and I didn't really care to do that again."
After Stone Temple Pilots' 2011 tour, Weiland released two solo albums, toured with his own project, The Wildabouts, and made overtures to rejoin Velvet Revolver, the all-star group with former Guns N' Roses members. But he showed no public interest in Stone Temple Pilots.
"I think Scott's made it pretty clear what he's been up to," DeLeo says. "It's been a lot leading up to this, and it's been a lot of patience."
So DeLeo, his guitarist brother Dean and drummer Eric Kretz made what Robert DeLeo says "wasn't an easy decision."
"It was very, very difficult to make this decision (about) someone you've been with for that long, and being patient and being a guy in someone's life who we're looking out for him and we're looking after him," DeLeo says. "And I hope someday he'll realize that."
DeLeo says Bennington was the only singer the band considered to replace Weiland, even though he's still an active member of the rap-rock band Linkin Park.
"We've known each other for a long time. We toured together back in 2001 on the Family Values tour, and Chester's been over at my house a couple times through the years," DeLeo says.
"It's a very small world out there in the music world, and there's very few people that would fit the bill of being the person you're looking for, and he was definitely really the only one we were considering to do this, if we were going to continue to do this. So that's it. We gave him a call, you know, to see what he was up to. So simple as that."
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DeLeo says Bennington "had a place in his life to do this and was interested in doing this. His main concern was, 'Well, if we're going to do this, then I want to do this in a way that's going to honor the past and really make this a valid thing.'
"He's got enough going on, and his main concern and priority is Linkin Park, and it always will be. But I think being able to have him in this situation with us, where we're able to move forward, like I said, with creating new music, that's really what me and Dean were interested in."
That part moved along quickly, and in short order the band had its first single, "Out of Time," released May 19. It gave the band its first mainstream rock chart-topper in 17 years.
"When you have some new blood, it definitely inspires you to kind of see where that can go," DeLeo says. "I think I wrote that riff with just what people would really see as STP, man. Writing that kind of music and writing that kind of riff is something that's familiar to me, and I think I wanted something familiar for people to hear _ something that people could grab onto."
DeLeo says the band did another song, "Tomorrow," at the same time, and since has completed three more. A five-song EP, tentatively titled "High Rise," is scheduled for release Oct. 8.
"It's Dean and me writing the music, and all of us kind of getting together on the melodies, and Chester writing amazing lyrics and I think it's going to be _ dare I say _ that DeLeo / STP sound," DeLeo says. "I think there's a thread that Dean and I have with songs, and I think we just want to continue that."
Bennington has been an integral part of the songwriting, DeLeo says. "He's a brilliant lyricist. I'm really, really happy with what he's coming up with."
"And he's there," DeLeo says with a laugh. "He's 100 percent there, and he's in the session, and it just feels good, man. It feels good. The guy's a great human being, and he's up for doing this. It takes a lot out of someone to take that on, and I think he's the person that's capable of doing it, and doing it honorably."
DeLeo says Bennington is the singer of Stone Temple Pilots for as long as he wants to be.
"I think I speak for Dean and Eric and myself _ we want to make music, man, and I can't let someone else's actions hinder me from making music. I mean, we're all not getting any younger."
DeLeo says that in retrospect, the pairing with Bennington almost seems destiny.
"It's funny because it's been told to me and us that he's been a fan of the band for a long time _ you know, if you look on his Wikipedia (entry), it actually says that he one day kind of dreamed of being a singer of this band!
"It's pretty amazing fortune that after all these years have come around to this happening. I don't know if I believe in 'meant-to-be,' but it definitely was a great opportunity for all of us to continue and honor the past of STP and, more importantly, move forward musically, making music together."
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