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Zep's quiet man meets Nirvana's powerhouse

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Dave Grohl's new side project
  • Dave Grohl's new band features Queens of the Stone Age and Led Zep friends
  • Them Crooked Vultures has Zeppelin's riffs and Queens' time signatures
  • Why the band name? Given predecessors, it "didn't sound so ridiculous," says Grohl
  • Dave Grohl
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Music

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Dave Grohl is furiously pounding on his drum kit, his shoulder-length hair flying in 16 directions. It's a scene straight out of 1993, except Kurt Cobain isn't at the mic.

It's Josh Homme, best known as the frontman for Queens of the Stone Age. At his side, a gentleman in a button-down shirt lays down fat bass lines with the quiet confidence of a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with nothing left to prove except that he can still have fun.

The man is John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, and the band is Them Crooked Vultures.

The supergroup trio has just released its self-titled debut disc. When they hit the stage at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, they're greeted with a hero's welcome.

Their current single, "New Fang," is indicative of the Vultures' sound: quirky time signatures in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age, anchored by chunky Zeppelin-influenced riffs, with enough stops-and-starts to keep a drummer on his toes.

"I think the idea was that it should sound like me playing drums and John playing bass and Josh playing guitar and singing," said Grohl, who is clearly relishing a more behind-the-scenes role in this band than he does as the leader of the Foo Fighters.

We caught up with the Vultures backstage in their first-ever television interview. Onstage, Grohl and Homme want to show that they can keep up with a world-class bass player. Offstage, the 63-year-old bass player more than keeps up with two world-class smart alecks.

CNN: How did this project come together? Who's the mastermind behind it?

Dave Grohl: I'd known Josh for a long time. We've been friends for years and years. Worked with John on a Foos record maybe five years ago. Josh and I talked about doing a project away from our other bands. Foo Fighters were taking a break; Queens of the Stone Age were taking a break. We thought we'd do something together, so we decided to invite the greatest bass player in the world.

Josh Homme: But he couldn't make it.

Grohl: So we got John Paul Jones. (Laughter)

CNN: Dave, didn't this come together at your 40th birthday party? Something about [the theme restaurant] Medieval Times?

Grohl: Yeah, I had my 40th birthday in January this year, and I thought it would be funny to have the party at Medieval Times.

John Paul Jones: Where you normally have your 14th.

Grohl: So I invited the guys to come to the party. John flew all the way from England to come to it.

Homme: Well, they already have Medieval Times.

Jones: Yeah, I left it behind to go to it -- 400 years ago, when my band started.

CNN: You had to figure out what to name the band.

Grohl: I have a band called Foo Fighters. John was in a band called Led Zeppelin. Josh's band is called Queens of the Stone Age. It was all relative. So Them Crooked Vultures didn't sound so ridiculous.

Homme: I think in these modern times, a little bad English -- we came up with the name after we'd done the music, and it felt like what someone would say once we left town. Like (goes into Jimmy Cagney voice) "Them Crooked Vultures."

CNN: Did it all come together at someone's house or at a studio?

Homme: I got a studio called Pink Duck.

Jones: A very macho sort of place.

Homme: It's a little bungalow hideaway. ... It was nice having that secret. It was nice knowing that we were going to surprise everyone.

CNN: We were watching your soundcheck -- and Dave, it looked like you were having a good time pounding on the drums once again.

Grohl: It hurts.

CNN: Do you have blisters?

Grohl: I have problems.

CNN: I know you were looking for aspirin after soundcheck.

Jones: I get blisters standing next to him. In my ears.

Grohl: It's great playing the drums. The drums aren't my first instrument, but it's the instrument I can play and not really have to think about what I'm doing. I just sort of do it off the top of my head.

CNN: What's it like playing in a band with John Paul Jones?

Homme: He's right here. Hello-o-o.

Jones: It's great. I'm really enjoying it.

CNN: Where do you want to take this project? Is it the first of many albums, many tours?

Homme: There's no need to Nostradamus your way through that. Just kind of let it do it's thing. We have a little Magic 8 Ball that we bought together -- our first gift -- so we might use that a little, too.

Grohl: I look at it like every day is one step closer to breaking up.

CNN: John, how do you deal with all this juvenile humor?

Jones: I hate it. The kids, you know?

Homme: You know what? We're never going to grow up. Ever.

CNN: But isn't that the point of being in a rock band?

Homme: I don't know. I'm such a child, I have no idea.

Grohl: Pssh, no -- the MONEY! What are you, crazy?! You know how rich we are? Whoo!

CNN: Well, that's just it; you guys don't really need to do this.

Jones: No, you're right. Bye! (They all walk away laughing)