Interview:Beyond Led Zeppelin

Part 1: John Paul Jones - Beyond Led Zepplin

Part 2: John Paul Jones - Beyond Led Zepplin

Part 3: Ramblin' On: Inside the Playing of John Paul Jones




John Paul Jones: Beyond Led Zeppelin


Part 1: John Paul Jones - Beyond Led Zepplin


Too many '60s rock icons lost their vision somewhere along the path of excess and failed to arrive at the palace of wisdom. These players, though classic in their own time, have failed to adapt and grow, and still sound the same today as they did in their prime. How different does Keith Richards sound now than he did when he wrote "Jumping Jack Flash?" When was the last time you heard Tony Iommi play anything besides power chords? And even though Carlos Santana's latest album was a stroke of genius, was his guitar work on Supernatural that much of a departure from anything off Abraxas?



Alas, most of the warhorses of Led Zeppelin have fallen victim to the same affliction. Jimmy Page is still playing "Heartbreaker" onstage, albeit with the Black Crowes, and you can bet that when Robert Plant resurfaces, the song will once again remain the same. But one of Zeppelin's soldiers has refused to stagnate, refusing to cling to the past as emphatically as he once refused to succumb to vapid pop music trends.



Since the final detonation of the mighty Zep, bassist John Paul Jones has maintained his iconoclastic aesthetic, and has produced, composed and played on records by acts as divergent as Brian Eno, Butthole Surfers, Mission UK, Marc Bolan and Cinderella. His 1994 collaboration with Diamanda Galas, The Sporting Life, was innovative and experimental, and it was just a shadow of things to come. His most recent album, Zooma, his first ever solo project, is musically adventurous and emotionally stirring, blending rock, jazz, blues, world music, and avant-noise into a fascinating cauldron of sound that speaks volumes even without a single lyric. Zooma is very experimental and takes your musicianship to a different level. How did you develop the chops to do something so free-flowing? Were you listening to lots of jazz?


John Paul Jones: No, it's always been there. I've always listened to lots of jazz. At the time when Zeppelin started, I was always listening to jazz and rhythm and blues and classical music. The only rock I listened to was Jimi Hendrix. So, I actually came to rock late. I listen to everything constantly -- everything from rhythm and blues, drum and bass techno, Latin music, salsa, meringue, and some rock 'n' roll. Bass-wise I keep listening. Does that allow you to constantly grow as a player?


Jones: In composition and playing, everything at a basic level is about questions and answers. You have musical questions and you have to get the answers, which is basically what composition is about. How does the piece start and then what happens? You'll get a musical idea, then you have to realize it. And in the realization it's just about those questions and answers. How does it finish? What will make it interesting after we've done one thing for a while? All music has the same questions and answers. It doesn't matter what kind of music it is, whether it's pigmy music or Mongolian stuff. It's still, how do you make a musical idea, how do you make a tension release? And everything you listen to can come in use as reference material for your own questions, for your own music. Listen to as much as you can because there's something absolutely everywhere to be found. A lot of people listen to blues, jazz, country, world music, whatever, but they can't combine the different techniques.


Jones: Most people gravitate towards music they like. If you're a blues player, you only play the blues. So listen to everything else and then play the blues. You'll find that you start playing the blues in a different way. How do you feel about what your former bandmates have done with their respective careers? Page and Plant did Zeppelin songs together for a while, and now Page is doing Zep stuff with the Black Crowes. Do you think maybe their not expanding their vocabulary and reaching out the way you have?


Jones: No, they're not reaching out the way I have, because I'm me and they're them. I haven't heard Page and the Black Crowes. He could be playing a whole load of blues for all I know. I heard Page and Plant's Walking into Clarksdale, and was disappointed that there wasn't more Page on it. I like to hear lots of Page. But they're doing what they're doing. They ain't bothering me. Do you keep in touch with them?


Jones: Sure. There's lots of Zeppelin things we attend to. We attend to releases.


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3