How fun is it when you are sitting in your office during crunch time and the phone rings? Normally, it can't be great news. Today was a different story, when the voice on the other end was none other than Eric Kretz, drummer of Stone Temple Pilots. We both took time out of our busy schedules to discuss High Rise, writing and recording with Chester Bennington, and other things STP related...
photo by: Chapman Baehler
Eric: Hey Todd, how’re you doing?
Toddstar: Good, yourself Eric? How are you today?
Eric: I’m doing fine thanks. You have such a cool last name.
Toddstar: Thank you.
Eric: I was trying to pronounce it, but I’m sure I screwed up [laughs]
Toddstar: It’s actually easier than it looks; it’s Jolicoeur [Joll-icker].
Eric: Oh ok, you made it sound so easy!
Toddstar: I’ve been saying it for a couple of years, so... Well listen man, first off, I want to say thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule. I know you guys are just all over the place right now, and we really appreciate you taking time out for us.
Eric: You got it man, we’re releasing a new baby to the world, so it’s very exciting and it’s fantastic to be able to talk about it and to share it with everyone.
Toddstar: Well, you brought it up so let’s talk about High Rise. This thing just came out a couple of days ago, I’ve had the esteemed pleasure of listening to it thousands of times by now, and you even got a nice review of it - 10 out of 10. Once the fans really start digesting this, what kinda things can you tell us about the EP that the fans might not get from listening to it 2, 3, 5 times?
Eric: I would say first and foremost, it’s just how organically and how easily it came about. We met with Chester we had the initial meeting and talked about and the justice that STP deserves. You know with Chester coming in and the fact that he’s in Linkin Park and that’s his first and foremost band. So it’s like, ok, can we do this? He was like, ‘well yeah, we could probably take a year/year and half off every other year, so there’s definitely time to do this.’ We just jumped right in to recording the first song Out of Time, and at that same week we recorded it we also started the beginnings of the last song on the EP called Tomorrow. Then we released one song at a time on the radio, then we went back in at that point to finish up the EP and we tried to do that before Chester had to leave to Asia with Linkin Park for 3 weeks or so. Then he came back and we mixed the record and we went on tour back in September. It’s been a very busy schedule, but the quickness, the ease and the efficiency in how we tackled it was just very natural for a band, very similar to what we used to be like back in like ’92/94 in the early days. When we just write the material and everybody’s chipping in on ideas here and there; trying to add guitars in here, add a bass part in here, how about a drum solo here, how about a vocal harmony over here. It’s very conducing to getting along and everybody sharing and putting together a range of songs. With the last couple of STP records it was very disjointed in that way and not very cohesive, and very painful sometimes to make records like that. So the excitement was there, the efficiency was there and we look forward to probably doing either a double EP, jokingly, or you know, a full length record at some point next year.
Toddstar: The first single Out of Time - which you talked about - that thing reached number 1. How exciting was that and to hit everything with guns blazing and to hit a number 1?
Eric: Yeah, that was, well you already answered that, it was extremely exciting. It was just kinda like every week Jim kept calling us like, ‘ok number 10, oh shit number 5,’ and then you know when we hit number 1 it was definitely high fives around the board. On top of that we don’t have the record company, we developed our own record company Play Pen, so it used to be such a gigantic machine of Atlantic, Warner Bros and the RIAA corporation publishing songs, and now it’s between us and our fantastic management and their contacts with radio stations to help get the spins out every day at the stations. It’s kind of a double achievement in my eyes because it’s very rare to become your own record company and still have success so it’s definitely showing how music is changing for the future.
Toddstar: You kinda hinted towards it, talking about the cohesiveness and the way in which you guys records this, STP have been around for a long time, you guys are a well established band. But to what level did you guys go into this and finish the EP with the sense of, ‘this really is a kind of a new band, with that renewed hunger,’ what you guys used to experienced way back when you were first trying to break out. Was there any of that, or was it, ‘we’re STP and we can wrap this’?
Eric: A little bit of both, was definitely the confidence of, ‘look we’ve got so many successful records we know what we’re doing here’ and the other side of it, we’re trying to present an established band with a new singer, so the pressure of, ‘this has to be really, really good,’ is always there. But Chester comes from one of the biggest bands in the world, so is no stranger to pressure and of course challenges himself as hard as anyone else can challenge anyone. So the excitement is always there, the confidence is there and as far as pushing and challenging, that’s usually internal because you want yourself to be the best you can be, and you kind of expect that from the other people and you get into a situation where everybody is giving 100% all the time. That’s something we haven’t had in a long time, so it’s very refreshing and very exciting for us all because of that.
Toddstar: How is this being received by the fans, you guys have been on a month long tour and you’ve done some of the festivals, so how are the fans digging this?
Eric: It was really great man, it was the first three of four shows it was the same thing, you come out guns a blazing, and the crowds really into it, but kinda hesitant and by the time we do Dead and Bloated they’re like, ‘holy shit’, hands up, nobody’s leaving for a bathroom break and they’re just cheering all the way to the end. We didn’t have a bad night for the whole run through September, it’s kinda change, but everything keeps going back to what STP was back in ’92/94 just firing on all four cylinders, just playing great, looking great, and everybody into it 100% and it just shows in our performance and in the crowd’s reception, so I’m just looking forward to doing more and more shows, more people that are even hesitant about it are coming out and be like, ‘holy shit that’s incredible’, so it’s nice to prove to everybody how great the machine still is.
Toddstar: As a side note, I can tell you that 99% of Detroit let out a collective sigh when you guys didn’t come on your tour.
Eric: Yeah, I don’t know what happened there. We’ll be there soon enough. Detroit man, talk about a rock city. One of the earliest shows we did out there was at Cobo Arena, and you know, me being a fan a of KISS, and getting to play there live it’s like, ‘fuck, I’m on the stage,’ and I specifically remember the crowd that night being fucking incredible. Detroit IS rock and roll, we look forward to going back there, because the fucking crowd there is just so crushing and so true to what rock and roll is.
Toddstar: Well, we can’t wait to have you back. Let’s talk about the EP again for a second, you guys obviously wanted to put the best thing out you could. So were there any songs, that you guys just had to pound and hammer over and over to get it right, or did these things just flow from you guys, ready to go?
Eric: Yeah, I would say pound and pound. I’ll tell you the story of Black Heart, which is the single that’s on radio right now. We had the music all recorded for it, and Chester didn’t have really much happening yet, in terms of his melody or any lyrics at all, and we didn’t have time to take our time, we were like, ‘this is our last day, and you’re heading off to Asia tomorrow’. Then he was just like BAM and he kept hitting it and hitting it and hitting it, changing a few things and that one was the only one that was different and time restricted in terms of him having no lyrics. He started singing that one at five in the afternoon and I think around four in the morning we left the studio, we arranged the song a bit, but he got all the harmonies, his lyrics were fantastic and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs. That’s not uncommon at all, because with our early - or almost every, except for the first - STP record with Scott, there would always be at last three songs that we - myself, Robert and Dean - would record musically and have choruses, bridges, guitar solos and everything there and Scott would have nothing yet, and then he would just show up in the studio one day and BAM it would just click together right there as we were going along. It’s not uncommon for singers to go along that process, some songs can be done very quickly, like right off the bat, and other songs take a little bit of time sometimes, so you just need the pressure of, ‘ok here it is, on a platter, with all the sounds and everything for you, just lock it in,’ because the melody process is sometimes different from the bass, drums and guitars, because what we have to do in unison all the time, the singers can bounce ideas off of that. For instance, with drums, bass and guitar you pretty much have to play from the beginning of the song to the end, whereas the singing comes in in bits and pieces. It’s definitely something that happens all the time with every singer and every band, I understand that it’s not until last minute that they do it, and sometimes it’s the best song on the record.
Toddstar: If you had to pick a song or two that you’ve heard Chester do from the back catalog, that you think he just nailed, and even took it to places it had never been before, what would those songs be?
Eric: Oh man, there’s a lot. Piece of Pie from the back catalogue was great, because he could just hit some of those notes with such power and ferocity. Big Band Baby has a whole new life to it now, there’s some harmony stuff that goes on between Chester and Robert that just very exciting and extremely exciting. It kinda feels like the whole set now, I don't have to worry anymore. There’s a lot of stuff live that’s happened over the past couple of years that every night you never knew was gonna take a different turn, which can be very exciting if you’re in a kinda improv mode or band, when you’re playing a song that everybody knows and playing an arrangement of it that everyone knows, and all of a sudden an unknown element comes in, it takes it in a different direction, it kinda throws your whole game off for the first few minutes. There’s definitely none of that anymore, so we’ve started to harness that excitement to focus and pinpoint on some of the other areas now that Chester was inspirational to.
Toddstar: Let’s talk about you for a second, Eric. Who made you wanna pick up a set of sticks and beat the hell out of something?
Eric: Shit, I think that goes back to the early KISS stuff, man. I always loved rock and roll growing up, opening up those KISS records was like, fire and blood and humungous drum sets then I was like painting my face like them. It was all just part of that excitement. The more that I started to hear Queen and Aerosmith and then by the time I heard Houses of the Holy by Zeppelin, I was like, ‘God, that’s what I wanna do with my life,’ just try to create that kinda energy, that power and magic that Zeppelin created on some of those records. At that point I was just practicing more and more and how easy things came drum wise in terms of developing it you know, when you’re a teenager, I ended up cutting school and awful lot just to practice more and more and more and play with some really great musicians in San José Bay Area, California where I grew up, there were some really great musicians who were into the same type of music I was, and did the same thing of cut school and practice more and it pretty much was a relationship between how much you practice and how good your chops get. So there’s no free ride as far as being a musician, you have to hone your craft and put in the time and effort to get back what you put into it.
Toddstar: Especially if you have the longevity of a band like Stone Temple Pilots.
Eric: Yeah you know, you still gotta do it. You can’t just take a few months off and then just hop on and be like, ‘wow man that’s great,’ you gotta continue, which is a good thing, it keeps you humble and keeps you dedicated.
Toddstar: There’s one piece of music in the history of time that you’d wished you’d been a part of, what would it be?
Eric: Wow, that’s such a big question. Oh god, if somehow I could have done a part with Queen, to me Freddie Mercury is probably the greatest rock singer of all time, he definitely had that bionic singer capability, from all the bootlegs I’ve never heard a bad night for Freddie, and just the talent of that bad was so exceptional, it would have been great to be around or be involved in News of the World or Jazz Record, that would have been something else.
Toddstar: I know you’re a busy man, so I’ve got one more for you if you don’t mind.
Eric: Sure man, go ahead, these are great questions. As long as it’s not one that gets me stumped, you know? [Laughs] Does that mean I get to be a time traveler and be like, ‘how old am I?’
Toddstar: I get I; you’re talking to a guy that’s from Detroit with ceremonial tattoo on my ankle of the four original members of KISS, so I mean instantly my gut tells me that I wanna do something with Alive, but then you’re talking about Queen and you think if you’re not gonna go for the makeup and the glitz and the rock show, then Queen is obviously the next step just because of the musicianship.
Eric: Yeah I was thinking more like, what they were creating in the studio and I was thinking, ‘ok, how old am I gonna be?’ I figured out the variables like, am I gonna be a young kid coming in like, ‘holy shit, how are you doing that?’ Whereas at least now I’ve studied the records for so long, I would know what they’re doing and how they’re doing and would still be just as excited. How about going in there whilst Brian May is doing the solo for We Will Rock You wouldn’t you just be like, ‘aahhh god that’s it!’
Toddstar: Especially knowing what we know now about it.
Eric: Yeah, we could do this all day. Go back to Elvis, or The Beatles, go back to Sgt. Peppers and the making of that, that would just be something. Or The Stones, you could go on and on, that’s a great question.
Toddstar: Thank you, well listen, it’s 2013, you guys have come back with guns blazing, balls to the walls songs, you’ve put together a nice package that combines the old Stone Temple Pilots with the energy of a new lead singer, and things are just firing out on all cylinders right now. So at this point in your life, Eric, what is the meaning of life?
Eric: Wow, it’s two in a row isn’t it? I think it kinda goes back to what I said before about challenging yourself, and not resting on your laurels. There’s already someone there to take your place, that’s younger and better than you and in probably just about everything, other than being a parent. But there’s always someone in the wings as far as music, so you just can’t just take anything for granted, and you have to want to be the best and you have to expect that you are going to continue to chase that, or else you should do something else. If I didn’t feel this passionate about music as much as I do now, I would be looking into getting my architectural degree or something like that, something that would be such a new challenge for me to overcome, but thank God it’s still music and we’re very blessed to have Chester on board to help create and help continue the legacy of what we feel is such a fucking great band.
Toddstar: have to agree with you on that. I cannot wait for you guys to bring this thing to Detroit and I appreciate not only the time you’ve taken out today, but what you guys have brought to the rock table for the last 20 plus years [thank you] it’s no small feat, especially when there was such a flux in the music world in the late 80s early 90s, and you guys just kept true to what you were and to rock and you guys have done it through your whole career and you never gave up on who you were, so as a fan, thank you for that.
Eric: Well you’re very welcome, and we’re just gonna keep on ‘keeping on’ I guess.
Toddstar: Well keep on ‘keeping on’ till I see you in Detroit, and we look forward to it and I can’t wait to see how the fans dig the rest of this EP.
Eric: You got it, thank you so much and we’ll see you in Detroit if scheduling permits we’ll be out there.