SXSW Profiles

Playing Tonight

SXSW Profiles

John Paul Jones, La Zona Rosa, 11pm

From August 1968 to December 1980, John Paul Jones played bass in Led Zeppelin. In the 20 years since, he's worked as a producer, arranger, and composer for everyone from R.E.M. and Cinderella to Paul McCartney and the Butthole Surfers. His debut solo album, Zooma, came out last September.

On the Butthole Surfers: "It's not that weird of a pairing. The band I was in and the band they are were both rock bands with a certain amount of attitude. Paul [Leary] was very professional, and we've since become good friends. At the time, I promised if I made a solo record I'd call him. Seven years later, I called to say, 'You're on.' We went down to Willie Nelson's studio and he played a very sick guitar solo on the first track, 'Zooma.' I just turned up with a CD-ROM, loaded it into their system, he did the solo, and I burned it to a CD-ROM and brought it back. Things are different from the old days."

On his belated solo career: "It's Diamanda Galas' fault. She said she'd done a lot of collaboration with other people and she'd do the work and they'd taken the credit. She said she decided that if she was going to put that much effort into music, it was going to be her own. I was thinking along the same lines. I didn't want compromise. I wanted a pure solo piece that's not democratic in the slightest. I know how to direct musicians and get from them what I want. I'm an instrumentalist, and it's an instrumental record. It's that simple."

On the Zooma Tour: "Nobody knows what to expect from a bass player, but the shows rock and people leave with smiles on their faces. I know how to put a show together to make it exciting. It's not noodly muso stuff all night. I'm a composer and I've been putting shows together for years."

On Page & Plant, minus Jones: "Before they got together, there had been lots of talk and I said, 'Give me a shout if you decide to do something.' I wasn't opposed to it. It was their decision not to call."

On playing Led Zeppelin songs: "Why not? At first, it was because I needed to play more songs than I recorded. Plus, I enjoy them. I like Led Zeppelin songs. I know people would want to see them, and that they know it's not Led Zeppelin and there's no singer, so it's gonna be a funny version of Led Zeppelin. I chose songs I was most closely associated with in the writing and that I could do good instrumental versions of. I do "When the Levee Breaks." It's a killer song on the steel guitar. It's really musical reasons that I chose to do them, but people like them. I can't pretend I wasn't with that band. It would be denial to not talk about them or play them. It's good stuff that I'm proud of."

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