STP’s eighth studio album exchanges the group’s trademark driving rock sound for a melancholy ’60s and ’70s vibe, realized with an array of vintage instruments.
Written primarily by guitarist Dean DeLeo and bassist Robert DeLeo during Stone Temple Pilots’ late-2018 Canadian tour, Perdida—the Spanish word for loss—is largely defined by lyrics exploring yearning, heartbreak, and ultimately love and hope. Spending hours in venue dressing rooms to avoid the northern chill afforded time for the entire band, including Jeff Gutt, who joined as lead singer in 2017, to contribute to the tracks. “We didn’t have any upbeat songs,” Eric Kretz tells Modern Drummer, “but it was what Robert was feeling at the time when he came up with the title song. Perdida is great name for the album.”
Despite the reflective and vulnerable tone of the band’s first-ever acoustic album (electric guitars and keyboards make brief appearances), Kretz says that the recording process was far from somber, and perhaps even more relaxed than during previous sessions. “The writing and recording process was a lot of fun,” he shares. “When you’re doing rock and louder records, you’re all in the room with electric instruments, bashing the songs out, trying to figure out tempos and all that stuff .” But with couches spread throughout the studio, according to the drummer, and acoustic guitars, keyboards, drums, and hand percussion easily accessible, the band could take a more contemplative approach to recording and consider using instruments that wouldn’t necessarily work on a fast, heavy, electric album.
Kretz notes that on previous STP records, percussion would only be used on one or two songs, usually overdubbed during the chorus or on a second or third verse. But on Perdida it’s implemented often and intuitively. Kretz’s percussion rack, which houses instruments he’s gathered from around the world through the years, provided plenty of options to achieve the more subtle sound. Djembes, as well as Dean DeLeo’s 12×12 American Indian drum, can be heard on several songs, along with shakers and bells. “It’s about finding space for everything,” says Kretz. “The record is so delicate and the space between the notes so plentiful that when the accents come in, you don’t want to step on them.”
Vintage mics were used to record the percussion and guitars, resulting in an easy, smooth blend, although there were some difficulties to overcome. Kretz confides that he felt some sympathy for the band members who had to tune the older guitars and basses. “You can be in first or fifth position and the chords sound great,” he says, “but once you get higher you can’t get certain strings in stay in tune. It was a drag to watch Robert and Dean struggle when they had to punch in a chord, because they had to tune differently just to hit the chord up high. Luckily the guitars we had worked really well; sometimes in the past it was just laborious.”
The same 1958 WFL kit (24″ kick, 13″ and 16″ toms) that Kretz used on “Big Bang Baby,” “Lady Picture Show,” and other STP favorites found space on several tracks. “For modern drumsets you have to hit so much harder to get the tone out of them,” says Kretz. “This kit is suited for an acoustic vibe and has a nice, dry, aged tone to it.”
On the majority of the album Kretz played his 5″ Ludwig Black Beauty snare—a staple since his high school days. To muffle the drum he employed Roots EQ dampeners, which helped create an early-’60s British sound. He also experimented with softer sticks, mallets, rods, and brushes to facilitate a lighter style of playing. Zildjian Ks from different decades provided a dark, moody sound for many tracks; riveted cymbals from the 1970s saw a lot of use as well. “I also used a Custom Dry Light ride,” Kretz recalls, “which was pretty much the only ride on the record, as it has a beautiful decay. Constantinople hi-hats provided a pleasant mid-range.”
After laying down the basic kit parts, Kretz added layers of cymbals and additional hand percussion for an understated complement to the flute, saxophones, and strings that are interspersed throughout the album. Sound effects, such as scraping cymbals or dangling key chains, offered additional graceful tones. “It was about finding sounds I could create with two hands,” says Kretz. “I pulled out chopsticks, wooden spoons, and anything I could to get a different sound. For one song I even used sandpaper of two different grits.”
When asked if he had a favorite track, Kretz pauses and responds, “‘Years’ is really special to me. Robert sang on it, and it had a muffled, rolling beat when we tracked it. He usually sings backup, but it was honest for him to sing it. The way the lyrics read out, it’s a beautiful, touching song, and I get choked up hearing it.” Listeners will, too.
Eric Kretz uses A&F drums, Zildjian cymbals, Vater sticks and percussion, and Remo heads and percussion.
More New Releases
The Slow Rush
We’re New Again (A Reimagining
of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here)
(Kevin Raczka, Amayo,
Reinaldo de Jesus, Marcus Farrar)
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
(Donald “DJ” Johnson)