From DRUM! Magazine’s November 2017 Issue | By AJ Donahue
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Stone Temple Pilots’ seminal debut, Core. The record not only kicked off the band’s incredible career, but also helped define the post-grunge sound of ’90s alternative rock. To celebrate the album’s quarter centennial, the band is releasing a remastered edition along with a limited run of 1,000 four-disc super deluxe packages that include B-sides and demos, as well as full live performances and the band’s iconic MTV: Unplugged set. We caught up with STP drummer Eric Kretz to talk about getting that first big contract, preparing for the session, and tracking a musical monument.
We were playing clubs around Los Angeles and San Diego [in the early ’90s]. The club scene was pretty tough in Hollywood back then. A good night would be if there were more than 30 people there, and if you got free beer and pizza. It was pay to play, and that’s a really tough way to play original music because you’re not bringing in hundreds of people if you don’t have a record deal. But when we signed to Atlantic Records in ’92, it was like a dream come true, you know? I got to quit my job and play music full time.
We took up a nice, rickety kind of rehearsal space that was about what you would expect — carpets on the walls, dirty carpets on the floors — and we’d go in there from noon to 10:00 at night, five or six days a week. It was great to just focus on writing the music instead of worrying about the gig, the flyers, and everything else. We got to spend more time on arranging the music.
Picking A Producer
A friend mentioned Brendan O’Brien, who was just getting off the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik record. He had a different vibe and moved a lot quicker than other producers we’d worked with, but in the end, we decided he would be a better fit. It turned out to be a match made in heaven for the next few records.
We had a bit of studio experience, but working with Brendan was a whole different thing. He had so many great ideas. One of the things he wanted to do was put a small PA system with some subwoofers behind the drums, and run the kick through it so the room would fill up with a little more low-end, which would then be picked up by the microphones. You kind of hear it, and you kind of don’t, but it made a difference in the room. That was one of those cool recording things that I never would have thought of.
About The Gear
I tracked with a birch kit that had a 24″ kick and power toms, and I already had a cymbal deal with Paiste. Beyond that, we were lucky enough to have a good-sized recording budget, so I got to reach out to The Drum Doctor in L.A. and rent a few snare drums. One of them was that ’80s Tama Bell Brass that was on Metallica’s Black album and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” We used it for “Dead And Bloated,” “Sex Type Thing,” and “Piece Of Pie.” I kept asking Ross [Garfield, owner of Drum Doctor] to sell it to me, but he would just laugh. It was a beast of a drum. If you listen to “Dead And Bloated,” it sounds different than other tracks sonically because I was hitting so hard. I’ve never had a drum that you could hit that hard without it choking.
Making The Magic Happen
I think we tracked everything in three weeks. It went pretty well because we were very well rehearsed. We tracked about two songs a day, and we did it all live together. I remember for “Dead And Bloated,” I made Scott [Weiland, singer] face me directly because I wanted to have the anger and all of the presentation of that song right in my face. It wouldn’t have been the same if he was just singing through headphones. It was nice with Brendan because we didn’t worry about things like bleed. That record had bleed all over it from the original tracks, but it works.
Click Or No?
I only prefer click tracks on really slow songs or really fast songs. The tricky thing was that I started with the click in the verse, but wanted to speed up for the choruses. This was before Pro Tools, so we couldn’t automate the click. I ended up having to speed up just a little bit for the chorus, and then basically fall behind the click for the next verse so it would line up again.
Notable Drumming Moments?
At the end of “Naked Sunday,” we needed absolute chaos from the percussion department, so I set up a bunch of pots and pans and just wailed on them with wooden spoons and the butt-end of sticks like I did when I was a kid. I absolutely destroyed these copper sauce pans they had. It was a lot of fun.
We knew we had a good record, and then it was time to tour after that. That’s probably still my favorite tour of ours. It was all over the place. We played this one show that we’ll never forget in Buffalo, New York. I think there were seven people there including the bartender. After that, I started getting real down about the whole experience. I was remembering scenes from Spinal Tap and thinking the end was near. But then the next night, we played in Toronto and there were like 500 people in the crowd just for us. That was when we knew it was going to work out.