Chester Bennington and Richard Patrick on How Not to Be a Scott Weiland 'Caricature' (Q&A)
When news arrived in February that the members of Stone Temple Pilots had fired their mercurial frontman Scott Weiland after years of difficulties, hardly anyone was surprised. What was unexpected, perhaps, was the addition of Linkin Park's Chester Bennington as STP's new singer, and the subsequent announcement that the newly branded Stone Temple Pilots featuring Chester Bennington will release a five-song EP, called High Rise, on Oct. 8 via Play Pen Records.
Meanwhile, another millennial institution, the industrial rock band Filter, put out its first album in three years, The Sun Comes Out Tonight, on Wind-Up Records. Fronted by Richard Patrick, who began his career as the touring guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, the band has been enjoying a career renaissance with their latest single, "What Do You Say" climbing the Active Rock charts and a previously released cover of The Turtles' "Happy Together" featured prominently in trailers for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby.
In July, a tour was announced featuring both bands in a pairing that's oddly appropriate: in 2006 Patrick played in a supergroup with Dean and Robert DeLeo of STP called Army of Anyone. Bennington, with his band Linkin Park, used to cover "Wish" live; the video for the Grammy-winning Nine Inch Nails song featured Patrick on guitar. The two sat down with The Hollywood Reporter before the bands' Sept. 9 bow in Boston to talk about the tour, new music, working with the DeLeo brothers, and why Bennington is a good fit for STP.
How did this tour come together?
Richard Patrick: I heard about it and said to Dean [DeLeo], "Hey, Dean: take me on tour!" (Laughs.) And he asked the guys, came back and said, "Everyone says this is good!"
Chester Bennington: Pretty much. We wanted this tour to be a really good experience for our fans; and we had been struggling to find bands, the right band, to make it awesome. So when Dean came to rehearsal, we were at Robert's house recording, and said, "Richard said that they would go out with us." I was. like, "F--- yeah!" That is exactly what we want and what we need for this tour.
You haven't worked together before…
Patrick: No. We had the same manager, but that was about it. We ran into each other at a concert once, I think it was a Christmas thing over at KROQ.
Bennington: At Universal Studios. We saw each other there. We'd kind of said hello in passing a few times. I know we played with Linkin Park at festivals, but we've never done a proper tour where we were out on the road together for a good amount of time.
Filter, Stone Temple Pilots and Linkin Park are such different bands it seems unlikely they would have anything in common, and yet this combination of styles seems to mix perfectly. Why does it work so well?
Bennington: A genre that we all fit under, Filter, STP and Linkin Park, would be the "alternative" umbrella, which is what makes the alternative moniker funny in a lot of ways. In LP, we've prided ourselves as being a band that has no genre bounds, because we do pop music, rock, hip-hop, metal, dubstep -- we do whatever the f--- we want to. If I walk into the studio with a banjo and some jugs and write a song that's awesome, we're going to find a way to make that work with Linkin Park. STP is a good, solid rock and roll band. It's sexy; it's got groove, energy and attitude; there's melody; it's got all those things that make rock great, but it's modern, which is how it fits into the alternative side.
Patrick: I would say Linkin Park is way more electronic and more broad; for Filter, I think of us as modern rock. That's a massive canvas to paint in. Although we use electronics and samplers, it's still always written around a guitar.
What has the response been like for you?
Patrick: I was walking over from the bus and some kids freaked out and came over and they looked exactly like [Chester] -- with the ear thing and the flannel. I said, "You guys are Linkin Park fans, aren't you?" And they said, "Yeah! You're the Filter dude!" Then some 20-year-old is on their phone, looking me up. ... It's awesome because Chester is bringing a younger crowd and, at the same time, we have a single out now and it's doing it's job, bringing in younger people to mix with our longtime fans. For a while there, we'd do a show and go, "Gee, everybody's the same age." (Laughs.) So now we have this song that connects to the youth.
This is a fairly short tour -- barely a month long -- presumably because you both have a lot going on. Chester, can you talk about what you've been up to?
Bennington: I have an EP coming with STP; a new song with Linkin Park, "A Light That Never Comes," that we worked on with Steve Aoki. I'm also working on a new record with Linkin Park and we're delivering a new single through the game, "LP Recharge," that we have coming out. We're also putting out almost like a remix album -- not quite like Reanimation where it's every single song, but most of Living Things has been remixed by some of the world's best DJs and EDM guys. At the same time, working with Mike [Shinoda], the guy's so prolific and he has such good vision and he's been listening to a lot of really great punk and metal music that I have a feeling -- I've made the mistake of saying this before, when we were making Minutes to Midnight, I was doing this interview and at the time we were writing really, really heavy music and I said, "It's going to be the heaviest record we've ever made!" And then it came out and it was just not heavy; it was, like, the opposite.
Patrick: (To Bennington) Well, what do you want to do: make a heavy record?
Bennington: I don't care. I just want the songs to be good. I'm always drawn to whatever evokes melodies out of me -- and not just one, but multiple melodies where I can't pick the melodies out of my mind fast enough. And typically, really heavy songs are the easiest for me to do because it's kind of easy to freak out.
Bennington: Yes! But now, what I'm doing artistically, I'm all over the place. It's electronic, rock and roll, midtempo, heavy metal and punk and electronic and hip-hop and, like, adult contemporary ballads! (Laughs.)
Patrick: Have you heard the new Filter record? You're blowing my mind right now because that's exactly what we tried to do!
Let's talk about the new Filter record for a minute. The Sun Comes Out Tonight harkens back to the sound of the band when you first came out. How would you say you've changed over the years; or has the band just found a new audience for the Filter sound?
Patrick: I wanna say that it's found a new audience. I was screaming, "Let's make this as heavy as f---!" I said let's go back to a drum machine and Johnny [Radtke], my new guitar player, and Bob Marlette, our producer, agreed. But Bob said, "Let's keep that one with you and the piano." But in the middle of writing heavy and writing songs that have great melodies and great hooks and feeling really good about that, we did write these super mellow, sweet, beautiful songs like "Surprise," "First You Break It" and "It's My Time."
"First You Break It" is undeniably catchy, but "Surprise" sounds like a really pretty new wave song from the 80s.
Patrick: For some reason, every time I get a handle on what the band is, it grows and it changes, like The Clash did. Linkin Park actually reminds me of The Clash in the fact that it's very aware of what's going on now. It's very aware of what's going on now, sonically, say with dubstep; but more so itself. I mean, he's singing.
That's a huge compliment.
Bennington: It is. (To Patrick) Thank you very much.
Patrick: You're welcome! For Filter, we're going to change it up in our "modern rock" world. And what's modern rock to me? U2 and Skinny Puppy somehow forced together.
Bennington: Those are two good examples of what Filter is. To me, you have the song sensibilities and the arrangement and melodies of U2, mixed with the rawness and aggression of the industrial Skinny Puppy world. Obviously, going back to your roots in Nine Inch Nails to what you've done earlier in Filter. [Being a musician] who doesn't care about really being a part of the scene and focuses more on what inspires you currently, I think, is really freeing.
One of the things we decided early on in our career with Linkin Park, is after we made Meteora, we knew immediately after that if we made another record that sounds like Hybrid Theory we're only going to be in a position to make that kind of thing and it's going to become unimportant and dated. Do we want to do that, or do we really want to put our balls on the line, go out, do something totally different and push ourselves? We decided to push ourselves and be able to not have anyone put a finger on us as to exactly what it is that we do.
Patrick: I don't know about you, but I took a lot of shit when I wrote "Take a Picture." I lost a lot of people from the heavy metal audience that were enjoying the fact that we were crazy. Our record company said, "You have really gone out and explored here, but was it too much of a departure? Is your audience ever going to come back to you?" And I said, "I don't know, man. That's your job." You look at bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Jane's Addiction: They were heavy, but they were light and they did beautiful things like "Classic Girl" and then they did "Mountain Song." So, explore! Explore!
Bennington: It's funny because, I feel like every time Linkin Park puts out a song, we gain fans and we lose fans. We alienate people. There's people that love "Points of Authority" and "One Step Closer" and they just want that over and over again; and if we did that, we would alienate everybody else that likes "In the End" or "Crawling" or "Pushing Me Away." When we made our first record, we had no fans: We weren't making music to please anybody but ourselves.
Bennington: And carrying that over to STP, we're just writing songs that we like. The way Robert and Dean write and the style that they have automatically makes it sound like they wrote it. We don't even think about it. Does it sound like STP? If they pick up a guitar and start writing, it's STP. I don't care what he's playing. So then it's just about coming up with melodies and a vibe that makes you feel good when you sit down and listen to it.
Patrick: Blowing your own mind, that's the thing that you aim for all the time. Going back to what I was saying earlier about "Take a Picture," the record company kept saying, "Are you ready for this? What this is going to do?" And I just said, "Come on, man, it's a good song!"
Bennington: It's a great song!
You've both worked with the DeLeo brothers. Richard, with Army of Anyone, and Chester, with STP right now. What can you share about your experiences with them?
Patrick: Army of Anyone was a completely separate outside band. We wanted to take the DeLeo brothers to my sound design and we did a lot of that, but I went at it so that under no circumstances could I be compared to Scott Weiland. I had to sing everything high and I wanted to sing way up there because Scott's a baritone, and the moment you start singing baritone stuff -- so I was adamant that they stay in the key of drop D because that's where my voice likes to hang out. I kept saying things like, "I wanna rock. I wanna do really fast, exciting stuff!"
Bennington: They had decided to move forward without Scott, and were talking about who they wanted to move forward with. My name got brought up, and I was like, "F--- yeah!" I didn't even think about it. It was like a dog looking at a squirrel, getting instantly excited and wanting to chase it.
Bennington: (Laughs.) Yeah! It was like, "I want that!" Next thing you know, I'm on the phone with Dean and we're talking. I mean, it's crazy. There's potential for this to get weird for a lot of people. So if we're going to do this, we're going to make sure we do this with dignity and respect and with our mouths shut, and we'll let the music do the talking. Our performances, the music we write: that needs to be our voice, because the last thing we need to do is to go around and try to justify this move. So we got together and the second we sat down and had our high-five, "We're really doing this!" I'm fighting through throwing up and feeling like I'm going to have a heart attack. I mean, this is Stone Temple Pilots. They were a huge influence on me and arguably one of my favorite bands of all time. I've watched these guys since I was a teenager. I always felt that they were a band of the ages who made timeless music that was important; and Scott is one of the best frontmen of all time. I have a ton of respect for him as well. So it was scary to move forward and do this.
How was it playing with STP for the first time?
Bennington: When we got together, right away it was three songs from Dean, three songs from Robert, three songs from me -- overnight! All this adrenaline was injected right into our hearts. If we got together and it was weird, it wouldn't have happened. But we got together and it was amazing. The new music needed to feel like it was us. It was still STP, but it's me [as well], and I don't want to be doing a caricature of Scott. Live, I'm singing Scott's melodies and Scott's songs, so I want to stay honest to that and present it in a way that people feel they're getting an STP show. … It's been an interesting and very rewarding experience so far.
Stone Temple Pilots/Filter tour dates:
Sept. 13, Oklahoma City, OK @ Downtown Airpark (w/ Motley Crue)
Sept. 14, Newkirk, OK @ First Council Casino *
Sept. 17, Sunrise, FL @ BB & T Center (FLA Panthers Event)
Sept. 18, Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
Sept. 20, Columbia, SC @ Township Auditorium
Sept. 21, Fort Myers, FL @ Rockwave Festival – Jet Blue Park
Sept. 24, Midland, TX @ La Hacienda Event Center
Sept. 26, Tempe, AZ @ Marquee
Sept. 27, Las Vegas, NV @ Fremont Street Experience *
Nov. 1 Biloxi, MS @ Hard Rock Live *
* Filter will not be appearing on this show
Filter "Self-Inflicted" tour dates:
Oct. 3, Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues
Oct. 4, Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
Oct. 8, Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
Oct. 9, Denver, CO @ Summit
Oct. 11, Indianapolis, IN @ Egyptian Room
Oct. 12, Ft Wayne, IN @ Pierre's
Oct. 13, Baltimore, MD @ Fishead Cantina
Oct. 15, Ardmore, PA @ Ardmore Music Hall
Oct. 16, New York, NY @ CMJ-Gramercy
Oct. 17, Lancaster, PA @ Chameleon
Oct. 18, Vienna, WV @ The Fishbone
Oct. 19, Flint, MI @ Machine Shop
Oct. 22, Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
Oct. 25, Lafayette, LA @ The Station
Oct. 26, Austin, TX @ Halloween Hullaboo