When Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones and Josh Homme let it slip that they were uniting for a special project, they took the music world by storm. After months of speculation and hearsay, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and Queens of Stone Age fans can finally take a huge sigh of relief because the trio’s self-titled debut will be unleashed this week.
On the phone from his home in London, Jones, the former bassist from Led Zeppelin, tells Nova Them Crooked Vultures tried to steer clear of press and promo through the creative process to avoid unnecessary hype surrounding their highly anticipated release.
“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,” he says, laughing. “We just didn’t’ want everybody to go ‘What’s it like? What does it sound like? When’s it going to be out? What are they doing?’ There will be time for all that. We just wanted to get on and concentrate on the music.”
Whether intentional or not, the band’s hesitation to divulge details resulted in plenty of question marks and an incredible amount of interest. Jones says the way they chose to approach this album – and their current tour – flipped the usual record release conventions upside down, and proved to be a brilliant way to launch into their new musical journey.
“Touring’s been fantastic considering nobody really knows – apart from a few camera phone renditions on YouTube - what we’re doing. It’s 90 minutes now and it’s all new stuff. To have an audience just stand there and listen, and take it all in – it’s just amazing. 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.”
With a ripper and quite heavy blue-based track “New Fang” already out, when asked for a further teaser or taste of the rest of the record, Jones kept his cards close to his chest. “Do you want me to hum something?” he asks in a cheeky tone. “It rocks like f**k. What can I tell you? 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’.”
The trio started working on the album in February and have put it together pretty quickly. Jones says from the get-go everything fell into place, and the culmination of years of industry experience has proven to be invaluable through their creative process. “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,” he says.
“There are so many parallels with the old Zeppelin days. Again, 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.”
While the announcement of their reunion marked a significant footprint in music history, Jones say when they decided to get together they didn’t realise the true extent of what their union has come to mean to the music world. “We knew we would create some sort of splash and it would be noticed but you never really know the circumstances. It’s the same as Zeppelin. People would say ‘Did you realise when you were writing “Stairway to Heaven” what a huge song it was going to be?’ Well, not really,” he says. “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.”
Jones says working with Grohl and Homme has been an absolute pleasure and honour. “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,” he explains. “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.”
The reason Jones is in this incredible position is because he was part of one of music’s pioneer heavy metal bands – and arguably one of the world’s most highly influential groups. Jones says it feels great to have been part of Led Zeppelin. “It’s pretty damn good. I’m obviously very proud of the Zeppelin legacy and I’m hoping I’m keeping the spirit alive with this band. Led Zeppelin was the best band in the world – until this one came along. I always try to be in the best band in the world, I promise myself.”
Luckily, Aussie fans only have a few short months of counting down before Them Crooked Vultures head Down Under. Jones says touring so far has been brilliant, and that he hopes the band stays together for longer than just one album and one tour. “Our shows are extremely loud, and slightly terrifying. We love doing them. Nobody shouts out Zepellin numbers or Queens numbers or Foof 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,” he explains.
“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.”
“Them Crooked Vultures” is available on Friday through Sony Music Australia.
Them Crooked Vultures are touring Australia in January.
Jan 19, Challenge Stadium, Perth Jan 22, Festival Hall, Melbourne Jan 25, Riverstage, Brisbane Jan 26, Hordern Pavilion, Sydney