John Paul Jones is a man with many musical tastes. Ever since the release of his solo album Zooma in 1999, and especially since the launch of Them Crooked Vultures in 2009, Jones has forced listeners to reconsider his reputation as Led Zeppelin’s “quiet one.” More often, a modern-day vision of Jones is as a man of many talents.
As a record producer, he recently lent his helping hand to folksy artists such as the traditional bluegrass quartet Uncle Earl and mellow singer Sara Watkins. However, his resume also includes studio work with decidedly noisy acts like Diamanda Galas, the Butthole Surfers and the Mission. His work in producing and arranging began in the 1960s, when he also doubled as an in-demand session bassist.
As a performer, Jones can sometimes be spotted sitting in with bands that bear little resemblance to Led Zeppelin, whether he’s picking on a mandolin with a country act at Merlefest, jamming away on a Led Zeppelin song with musicians he’s just met, or improvising a full set of experimental sounds with Sonic Youth.
It was little wonder, then, that after plans ended late in 2008 for Jones to continue making new music with Jimmy Page, he quickly and secretly accepted an invitation from Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters to form a new venture with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. The trio spent the first half of 2009 in isolation, readying for their onslaught. Their sudden onstage debut in August 2009 made Them Crooked Vulturesone of today’s hottest and hardest rock bands. In the group, Jones offers not only bass and keyboard but also mandolin, keytar, lap steel, fiddle, and whatever else is needed. The self-titled album — released in November 2009 and supported by concerts around the world throughout 2010 — stands as a declaration of creativity and proficiency, independent from any one member’s previous work. One aspect of Led Zeppelin that was crucial to that band and can also clearly be seen in Jones’s new group is the expansion of songs through the exploration of new territory by onstage improvisation.
As a scheduled hiatus for Them Crooked Vultures goes into effect this summer so that the other members can return to their own separate projects, Jones is left with some time to kill. The band plots an eventual reformation to commence with writing a promised second album. How Jones will spend his time until then has yet to be announced, and Lemon Squeezings anticipates being one of the first news sources to unveil his plans.
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