Monday, November 9, 2009

John Paul Jones proclaims Them Crooked Vultures now 'the best band in the world'; he hopes for second album, says Led Zeppelin won't be calling him back

John Paul Jones, in an interview published today by Australia's Nova 91.9 FM, says that for the second time in his life as a musician, he finds himself in "the best band in the world." Them Crooked Vultures has now taken Led Zeppelin's position as the world's best band, Jones says.

The full context of his statement comes in an in-depth interview that touches on the vows of silence under which the band labored all year to create the album now streaming online and soon to be released commercially, the reasoning behind the secrecy, his satisfaction with both of his bands, and the fact that he no longer expects to work with Led Zeppelin.

Unlike at least one other recent interview with Jones, there was no mention during this one of the group with Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham that did not come to fruition last year after being heralded by the press as a second coming of Led Zeppelin with a singer other than Robert Plant on vocals. Today's interview focuses solely on the events since this February, when Jones began working with current bandmates Josh Homme and Dave Grohl, and comparing the impetus behind their music with that of Led Zeppelin's from 1969 to 1979, when that band was releasing albums and, according to Jones, was the world's greatest.

"I always try to be in the best band in the world, I promise myself," says Jones. "I'm obviously very proud of the Zeppelin legacy, and I'm hoping I'm keeping the spirit alive with this band."

In some real ways that deal with the music, he does seem to be. "There are so many parallels with the old Zeppelin days," says Jones. "We're making music that we want to make. You're not thinking, 'What's going to sell? What is everybody else going to like?' We're making music for ourselves, and Zeppelin was exactly the same. We never thought, 'What's the new record going to be like?' We just got the songs together. It's all an organic process. None of it's manufactured."

It seems to be the exception and not the norm in the current climate of today's music scene. Jones agrees: "To my ears there's not much around that actually excites me, and this music that we're making excites me. So I assumed it might excite other people too. That's the only way you can think of it."

Furthermore, this is the first time Jones has felt this way about a band of his since Led Zeppelin's breakup in 1980, so why would he want the feeling to stop with the release of this album? Why would he want to make this disc his sole statement with Them Crooked Vultures?

He says he'll be ready to head back into the studio with Homme and Grohl, and he'd rather fight off the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age than not work with those two again right away. Jones testifies, "I hope there's maybe going to be another album. I don't have a band that's going to call me back – the other two do. But they're going to have to fight me for them because we're having a bit too much fun at the moment."

And there it was: Jones slips in that he won't be anticipating any future work with Led Zeppelin. The window of opportunity for that to happen has firmly shut, Jones affirms. There really is, as anticipated not long ago, no reason to believe. Who's going to be at Glastonbury with Robert Plant? Not John Paul Jones and, therefore, not Led Zeppelin.

Jordana Borensztajn's interview with Jones carries so much more, though, than one member's de facto denial of a Led Zeppelin reunion. As for the reasons Them Crooked Vultures kept its existence the secret it was for months and months, Jones says, "We kept it quiet so there wasn't all the speculation and the pressure. There was enough pressure between ourselves to do a really good record, and we did try to impress each other. ... We just wanted to get on and concentrate on the music."

The best part of touring this new material prior to its release, says Jones, was that nobody in the audience was familiar with it and, therefore, was uniquely capable of giving honest reactions to hearing the music in a live setting for the first time. "To have an audience just stand there and listen, and take it all in – it's just amazing," says Jones. "They're reacting really, really well and it's new for them because normally they would have heard the record first and know the lyrics. It's a new experience which they look like they're enjoying and they sound like they're enjoying, certainly." Talk about taking a risk! And yes, Led Zeppelin was always known for taking those.

Jones on the band's sound:

"When people ask what it sounds like, it sounds like me playing bass and Dave playing drums and Josh singing and playing guitar. It's very obvious. It's just us -- it's straight ahead, it's very honest and it really rocks. It's multi-layered and sounds fantastic. We love it. We play it and we're like, 'Wow, this is really good.' ...

"Josh is great. You know those old competitions in magazines where they show you a familiar object from an unfamiliar angle and you have to guess what it is? That's how Josh seems to look at life. He just looks at it from a really unfamiliar angle and it's just so refreshing. ...

"And Dave is just a killer drummer – a bass player's dream. And he's a great musician. He listens, he's very enthusiastic, very excitable, he drinks a lot of coffee and there's a lot of laughter and a lot of joking all the time. It's a very nice position to be in, I have to say. ...

"We all listen to each other. With the experience [we have], nobody has to explain anything to anybody else. If something's not working, everybody knows it's not working. And also, when you're with experienced musicians, you can fail. You can try something out knowing that it might now work."

There's one other comparison Jones makes to Led Zeppelin, and that has to do with the fan reaction. The fact that the music is not "manufactured" but is made just to please the musicians themselves greatly affects whether or not fans too will like it. As Jones says, "This music that we're making excites me, so I assumed it might excite other people too."

He and his bandmates suspected their individual names had some drawing power but weren't sure exactly what effect that alone would have on public interest, on creating enough demand to fill clubs and excite festival audiences when the audiences knew not what to expect.

"We knew we would create some sort of splash and it would be noticed but you never really know the circumstances," Jones says. "It's the same as Zeppelin. People would say, 'Did you realize when you were writing "Stairway to Heaven" what a huge song it was going to be?' Well, not really."

He describes Them Crooked Vultures concerts like this:

"Our shows are extremely loud, and slightly terrifying. We love doing them. Nobody shouts out Zeppelin numbers or Queens numbers or Foo numbers at our shows -- nobody does it. And that's refreshing. They're here for us. In fact, none of us have played any covers in rehearsals or jamming and we're very, very happy with that."

This writer must fess up to shouting for Jones's post-Zeppelin instrumental "Spaghetti Junction" as a request between songs at the 9:30 club in Washington, D.C. To my ears, Grohl may have teased "Moby Dick" between songs that night, but Jones didn't sate my palate for "Spaghetti Junction." Instead, he sated it with the band's new album plus other new material perhaps destined for that second Them Crooked Vultures album Jones has now publicly expressed interest in recording.

After all, he says there's no band from his past that will be calling him back. And you can take that to the bank.


  1. Excellent write-up, Steve. Great to hear JPJ's enthusiasm for his band - I hope he gets to make a second album with them.

  2. Sounds like whatever relationships that were re-built during O2 rehearsals have been broken.


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