Thursday, November 19, 2009
Them Crooked Vultures filmed a live set in front of a studio audience for Austin City Limits on September 30th that is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS beginning February 13th, 2010.
In other Them Crooked Vultures news...
[recordstoreday.com] Them Crooked Vultures is a new band made up of some band veterans. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Kyuss) John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Alain Johannes (who was in Eleven and may have actually been involved in more records than any of the other guys). Earlier this year TCV went on tour in the States, selling out venues across the country, even though almost no one in the crowd had ever heard their music. The music they were introduced to at those shows is on the record, Them Crooked Vultures, which is in stores 11/17. The band didn’t do too much press, if any, and the only thing we could find to read on the internet were show reviews. So we here at Record Store Day love that Josh Homme wanted to talk with us about the things we hold near and dear—including Them Crooked Vultures and our beloved record stores.
JOSH HOMME: I miss you guys. When I go on tour it’s a strange world.
RECORD STORE DAY: We do have a website, (www.recordstoreday.com) you can just look up where you’re gonna be and find a store.
J: Well by now I know where all the stores are, after having been on tour for 18 years. It’s funny because, when I was on tour years ago, I would go to record stores, that’s where you go when you don’t want to be a tourist, and find out what’s going on. And now you just go to the Body Shop or Starbucks, because that’s what’s in every town.
RSD: We’re still there!
J: I know! I just wish there were more of you guys.
RSD: That’s kind of why we started this thing called Record Store Day….
J: I know! Because Jesse Hughes from Eagles of Death Metal…
RSD: Yes! He was our Ambassador last year.
J: Which is a great choice, by the way, because he’s like the most flamboyantly elegant choice for Ambassador of Record Store Day.
RSD: We were a little bummed we didn’t get to make him a sash.
J: He IS the only guy I know that has three capes. That I like.
RSD: Are you in Los Angeles now? Do you have favorite stores there?
J: Yes, I go to Amoeba all the time. I just bought some Tycho stuff.
RSD: When you are on tour, do you have favorite stores?
J: I really like some of the Newbury Comics in Boston, especially when they get real specialized. I know many just by location… I’m a vinyl collector and I just love to scour.
RSD: This is your moment then!
J: I think it always reverts to the thing that’s most rewarding and tangible. CDs… you can’t burn vinyl! And the size of the cover… and that feel of being connected to it, because you have to pay attention to vinyl, you have to change the sides and stuff. It can’t just be background music while you’re cooking or driving to the bank. It brings itself a little more foreground. Unless you want to hear shmmp, shmmp, shmmp…
RSD: Which can sometimes be a little soothing…
J: If you’re hearing that because you’re doing it with someone else, then that’s fine.
RSD: You have a kid now, do you think vinyl will be around when they’re buying records? Vinyl is showing up everywhere now, and that could be the sign that it’s a trend.
J: It has to show up somewhere. Long ago I gave up being too picky or judgmental about where I find my cool. I grew up in a place where there was nothing, out in the desert. You had to make your own fun, and that was awesome. But I wish I could have bought spikes somewhere, you know. I went through this phase of ‘mall punk is bullshit’ but then I was like ‘what do I know, man?’ I know what I like, but I don’t know what’s better for anyone else. And if I lived where I lived? I probably would have welcomed some spikes from the mall, because I just wanted to put a couple on my ankle.
RSD: But you’re still gonna seek out the record stores.
J: Fucking A! I love that journey, actually, getting directions and finding it. I love getting lost.
RSD: What’s the last surprising find you’ve had at a record store?
J: This Tycho stuff. That’s why I was at Amoeba the other day. It’s a little hookier than some of the other Tycho stuff. I need the hooks, no matter what kind of music I’m listening to. I need to be able to hear that main focal point of a line. I’ve been listening to this Tycho stuff lately because I just love the simplicity and when there’s only a few things to listen to, your mind focuses in and it really becomes almost more dramatic than when there’s multiple things going on at once. For me. And people playing drums and then screaming to each other, there’s something sexy about that.
RSD: Your new record is also coming on vinyl, of course.
J: I haven’t NOT put out vinyl, ever. I have a little label called Records Records, and I think I’d be kicking myself in the side of the head if I didn’t put out records. More than anything, honestly, I love the size. There’s something about the artwork presentation, and the fact that they won’t be destroyed in the car. Vinyl’s price range too is still where you can take a chance on things. And that was what got me into music in the first place, it was like, I saved my allowance enough to buy this thing that was mine.
RSD: I own this art.
J: Yeah, and I like the import aspect of it too. It still exists. Like, you couldn’t get Raw Power… you ever heard of the band Raw Power?
J: They’re an Italian hardcore band. They had this album called Screams from the Gutter. And it was so fucking hard to get. When I got it, out in the desert, I was the only guy who had it. And I was like “Oooohhh, yeahh!” And I think that aspect still exists of being the only kid on your block to have the Groundhogs on vinyl.
RSD: Were you the kind of guy eager to share that knowledge with other kids?
J: Yeah, and I suppose I’m sort of in that wave of people who became people who end up stealing music because mix tapes is the way to say you love somebody. Making someone a mix tape, and saying “this is you and every song is choreographed just for you.”
RSD: Or even just sharing a band, like Raw Power: I like you enough to let you in on this.
J: Yeah, my secret. My secret music. And I think that’s why I’ve always held music close to my chest. It’s a discovery thing and I realized early on that music is the only thing I’ve ever come across that’s never wrong. You can not like something, and that’s your opinion. But it’s not wrong. And that’s the only thing I understand that works like that.
RSD: It’s interesting that you say you hold music close to your chest, because making music and sharing it with the world is what you do.
J: Yeah, but I’ve always felt like music’s function is either as a pleasure device, or to express something when words aren’t good enough. Words can be difficult when you’re trying to explain something that’s really complex. Music says that so much better for me. I’ve always made music for selfish reasons. I make it for myself, and to get better as a person. It’s like a religion, really. And then once you get done, you share it with the world and there’s nothing you can do about what they do with it. They may listen to it all day long or turn it into a coaster. And I need to be ok with that. So when I make a record, before anyone hears it, I’ve already accepted what it is, and now you can do whatever you want with it, I’m ok.
RSD: So are you able to go back and listen to your Kyuss records…
J: I do all the time.
RSD: Then your music becomes your own pleasure device?
J: I don’t walk down memory lane all that much, but every once in a while I’ll pull out a record and shut my eyes and listen to the whole thing. I wouldn’t change any of the records that I’ve made. I love all those records. You know, Kyuss, when we first started playing, the one thing that irked me was when we’d meet all these bands and none of them listened to their own records. For us, we were always like ‘God, what the fuck do you make these things for?’ It almost put us off at first. Because it’s like, aren’t you making your favorite music that you always wanted to hear, but no one would make it, so you had to? That seems like the base level obligation of anybody who’s lucky enough to be in a band. Make your favorite music or go fuck yourself.
RSD: That’s kind of basic for anyone who’s creative in any way: “I made these clothes because I didn’t see anything I liked.”
J: Yeah. I sew too. You know, the tailoring of your whole life is one of the fun things you get to do. And when you don’t do it, or you feel like it’s a chore? You may come to find, too late, that you were missing out.
RSD: I got a chance to see the show at the 9:30 Club in DC, and I’ve been reading reviews and such and the thing I came away with was that this seems like more of a BAND band, than a side project for any of you.
J: Yeah, I don’t really do side projects. There are some words that come up, like ‘side project’…
RSD: Or ‘supergroup’…
J: Yeah. And I understand that, but that’s not how any of us are treating this. We set out to be in a band that’s vital and a very modern rock ‘n’ roll band, you know? But hopefully unlike other modern rock ‘n’ roll bands. This doesn’t have a time frame. We’re not doing stuff like that. This should go on as long as it’s supposed to go on. Until we believe it’s not good, and then it should stop immediately. And I think especially because of the pedigree of this band, we shouldn’t rest. We’re playing five nights a week. And we should. Because you should be hungry and lean and if you’ve got a name you should be showing why you’ve got a name, not sitting on top of it.
RSD: All of you, including John Paul Jones, looked thrilled to be there playing in a club.
J: It’s fun! You can’t, nor should you, disavow what bands you’ve been in, but at the same time it shouldn’t be a ceiling either. I want to do something classic, and you have to do something risky to get there. Risk nothing, get nothing.
RSD: How did this even come about? Obviously you and Dave Grohl and Alain Johannes have played together often, and are friends, but how did the idea of forming an entirely new band and bringing in John Paul Jones come up?
J: For many years, Dave and I have been looking for something to do when the schedules line up. And knowing that we’re gonna do something. We’ve talked for a long time about who w should include that makes that really interesting and makes that chemistry right. In December of last year he mentioned Jones and I thought he was joking at first.
RSD: There’s this guy, he plays bass, he might be good…
J: Well, you know Dave’s met some great people, and been to some of the greatest places in the world, and I’ve been thrown out of some of the best places in the world. One foot in the gutter, one foot in the clouds, that’s kind of how I live. And so suggesting Jones seemed almost silly to me at first. Then come to find out he’s serious and he’s been corresponding with Jones. Then I met Jones and we hit it off and two days later, we started playing.
RSD: Was this a jam session at first, or did you know from the beginning you were gonna make new music?
J: You have to see if you have chemistry. And after that first jam session, a couple things were clear: We had good chemistry; Dave didn’t really know what he was unleashing when he asked us to do this. In a way, I was like, well, we HAVE to do this, and it has to be really good. Otherwise, it was like saying ‘Why couldn’t the three of you make something you really enjoyed?’ It’s almost damning if you can’t make it work. The best thing to do is put that daunting notion in your pocket and just try to enjoy each other. Which is what we ended up doing.
RSD: Did you ever have a John Paul Jones moment where you said ‘ Um, I’m playing with John Paul Jones.’
J: That first jam I almost felt like I wasn’t there. Because I hadn’t played guitar in almost six months, I was gonna take a year off. And I’ve always written music far in advance of any need to record, so you can feel comfortable going into a situation and letting things come out because you have all this other stuff in reserve, basically. But as I walked in there, not playing guitar for six months, with nothing, and it’s John Paul Jones… that first one was kind of like ‘aaaaaahh.’. But after that first one, things really started moving fast. And come to find out he’s a lovely guy. I can’t work in an environment where you can’t just be honest, and early on it was like, we should only do what we all support 100% and only pursue those ideas.
RSD: Which can be tricky because it means you have to say when you don’t support something.
J: Yeah, but there shouldn’t be something wrong with that. I’ve tried in the past to say you couldn’t hurt my feelings regarding that, unless you’re just being cruel. But what we should be obliged to do is try each thing, try it a couple different ways, turn the turtle on its shell and look at it from a couple of different angles. And if it doesn’t work that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, it just means it wasn’t right for this time. And that should be ok, because how else do you get to the best things you all agree are available to you?
RSD: And this was the first time you didn’t have any music already written, and in your pocket, right?
J: I didn’t. I’ve been trying to avoid this my whole career. What ended up happening is we started writing stuff together, and it went through everyone’s filters and it gets arranged. And I’m saying, yeah, there’s good melody possibilities here, and then we move on. Then having to go back and write words and melodies to all this stuff, that’s really, for me, the most difficult part. Because usually things come to me melody first.
RSD: How much time did you have to do this? You all have families and three or four other bands or projects, did you have to carve time out for this?
J: We put everthing else on hold. Except family, of course. We started in January, and we were done by July, basically. I think we recorded for about two and a half, three months, maybe?
RSD: That seems like a really accelerated time line for a brand new band.
J: Especially to write everything, yeah. And you need to live with it to understand, when it’s that new, you have to be able to be really vulnerable in front of the other folks. You have to fail to know where something good is. You need a reference point for ‘this isn’t good.’ And you have to have a person be like, ‘That’s ok. I know this isn’t definitive, I know you just fell down, that’s all right.’ All the pressure we felt was self-inflicted. But because it was these guys, and it was fun, it made that pressure not show up that much.
RSD: You and Dave play so many different instruments and you’ve both been in bands where you’re the lead or bands where you’re the drummer. How did you decide who was gonna do what, and not to do some sort of Genesis thing where you switch off?
J: You used a good example, because we all understand that you can’t Phil Collins the thing where you’re playing drums and singing. Because that’s just not cool.
RSD: The headgear is ridiculous.
J: Even as a child, wearing headgear is ridiculous. Dave and I knew that in the situation we’re looking for he’s on drums and I’m on guitar. Or I’m on bass. But that didn’t become necessary with Jones. At the same time, Dave played guitars and stuff too, and I played piano and lap steel, and I played drums on one song (it isn’t on the record, but it’s part of the acoustic stuff we did too). Really, whoever’s got an idea, go ahead and lay it down. I wanted Dave to sing some more, but he kept saying “I’m the drummer.” I think he really wanted to scratch that itch.
RSD: He looks like he’s having the time of his life on stage.
J: I love Dave as a front man and a songwriter, and a guitar player, but I always think of Dave as a drummer. Because he truly is, he’s the sort of drummer where he’s a jawdropper. He just plain plays differently from other people.
RSD: John Paul Jones played with such a legendary drummer (John Bonham) in Led Zeppelin. Do you think Dave Grohl is similar? In terms of presence, maybe?
J: I know that Bonham is Dave’s clear-cut favorite drummer, and mine as well. That being said, Dave’s kind of his own version of that. What I would say is that Jones has pretty good taste in drummers. Bonham to Grohl.
RSD: That doesn’t suck.
J: No. And in fact, listening to Jones tell Zeppelin stories… hearing a Zeppelin story first hand is kind of trippy.
RSD: Gotta be one of the great things about touring with the man.
J: Well, it’s not reams of Zeppelin stories, so it’s not like sitting around a campfire where someone’s just spouting off, you know. He’s not telling a Zeppelin story, he’s telling us about his life and his friends. Honestly, he’s a friend, and I don’t think of it like it’s too fanboy, it’s just talking about life. And what I like about Jones is, Zeppelin is so idolized, his stories humanize things. It’s just a band of people, doing stuff. The song is called “Black Dog” because there was a black dog outside.
RSD: Led Zeppelin is so iconic that you never really think about them being a “baby band” but some of his stories about them starting out, must be similar to your stories of starting out.
J: Very much so. Because they were made up of players with some notoriety that just pounded the hell out of people. And like I said, Jones is just a really great guy because he’s not adding to the myth, he’s saying “this is what these people did.” I just dig that because honestly, I would’t play with him if he was just tooting his own horn. That’s not cool. And Jones is fucking cool, man.
J: Someone was like, ‘what’s he been doing the last bunch of years?’ Jones has never compromised what his taste is. It’s Zeppelin and Diamanda Galas and producing a Butthole Surfers record. There’s leaps between stones, but they’re cool stones.
RSD: Happy to hear he’s a good guy. He gives off that vibe.
J: Very thoughtful, and very deliberate cool motherfucker. And understated.
RSD: He’s British.
J: Absolutely. He’s not gonna wave his abilities in your face, and he’s not desperate or clamoring. He’s got a great sense of who he is which is beyond the mythologized side. I’ve spent a whole lifetime trying to avoid the leeches and the clingers and the freaks. Well, not the freaks. But, having your ass kissed and being hated is the same lame. And he’s just a cool guy, and now a friend.
RSD: So even if the record never happened, you made out well.
J: It’s funny, a friend of mine said ‘You guys are touring and the shows are sold out, and you guys are getting to do this thing that no one ever gets to do’ in that we’re playing 120 minutes worth of music that no one’s ever heard to a sold out audience. And each city has their own collective facial expression in regards to that. He said, ‘Do you guys even need to put out a record?’
RSD: Good question. We’re glad you are, but…
J: I’m glad too, because it’s nice when people know, but this has been a great phase which I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do again, this notion where we’ve been trying to make it all about the music.
RSD: It’s noticeable: not a lot of stage banter, no elaborate stage sets.
J: I don’t have a whole lot to say that I can’t play to you. If I could say nothing, I would but that would feel awkward I think. A little voyeuristic.
RSD: Was it a conscious decision not to play anyone’s past songs? There’s an incredible canon amassed between the three of you.
J: Like my grandpappy always said: “It’s not what it was, it’s what it is.” We are not those other bands. We’re this band. And I think I can speak for everyone when I say I really want you to like it but I’m not trying to make you like anything. To play these other songs, that’s not who we are. That’s just not ok with me.
RSD: Fans of each of your individual bands tend to be pretty hardcore. At your shows, all three bands were fairly evenly represented on people’s t-shirts. Do you see what a Them Crooked Vultures fan would look like?
J: I think there’s a desperate need for some really great rock n roll music, and there needs to be something exciting going on and so I hope we’re attracting the people that are just ‘will you just give me something?’ Maybe I’m just putting that on everyone else, but I feel a sense of people throwing their hands up in the air and ‘just fucking give it to me, man!’ I hope we’re attracting the open minded people from all those bands, because the fans are really intense and sometimes they can actually box themselves in and I want to get the most open-minded ones who say ‘I’m excited for anything, and I want to hear that anything right now.’ The surprise factor of music has kind of been taken away and you can’t really drop something on someone and have them be just “whoah!”. And that’s what I love about what we’re getting to do right now, we’ve kind of been able to titillate everyone by how we’ve been doing this and not doing press and just making it about the music.
RSD: Do you think that will change once the record’s out?
J: The nice thing is, it doesn’t have to. ‘No’ is a complete sentence.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 12:52 AM