Walking Papers – the Seattle buzz band that will headline Jazzbones on March 29 - has its roots in jam sessions orchestrated by Screaming Trees/Mad Season drummer Barrett Martin.
First, Martin initially teamed up with Tacoma native Jeff Angell and keyboard player Ben Anderson, both of Missionary Position fame. By summertime, they'd enlisted the help of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver, Loaded.) And, voila! A new Northwest super-group was born.
The band's self-titled debut featured contributions from Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and was released to critical acclaim at home and abroad. But just as the band is gaining traction, a Rolling Stone report suggests there might be a Tool/A Perfect Circle thing going on. Martin, McKagan and McCready have recorded a separate batch of songs for an as yet unnamed project that's waiting in the wings.
With the Walking Papers' Tacoma gig approaching, we turned to McKagan for clarification.
TW: How did you get involved with this band?
McKagan: Jeff is a guy I've known for a long time. Barrett I've known for even longer. And Jeff is one of those guys that everybody has been pretty cognizant of, if not pulling for, from the days of Post Stardom Depression, (Angell's pre-Missionary Position group). I think he's one of those hidden talents in the Northwest that a lot of us know about and kind of scratch our heads. Why isn't this guy an internationally beloved dude, you know?
I got a call last spring from Jeff. He and Barrett were making a record. They asked if I would come play bass on some of the tunes. I was in the middle of a ton of things, and my life was really fast last spring (but) I made it into the studio down in Georgetown.
A month later, two months later, they sent me the final mixes, and it was just this beautiful record, and I was suddenly pretty excited that I was involved with it at all. I've always really loved playing bass, but it kind of re-inspired me to define my style.
TW: What do you like about playing this versus other groups?
McKagan: The rhythm section (is) just a monster. (Martin is) a bass player, too. He plays everything: he plays standup bass, he plays electric bass, he plays vibes, he plays marimbas. He's one of the best percussionists in America, if not the world. So he understands what I'm thinking as a bass player, and he and I have some common inputs from the '80s, like Gang of Four.
It's a real sort of Spartan and aggressive rhythm section live. It's tamer on the record, it's more gentle. But now that we know the songs and we're playing them live, it's really pretty aggressive.
TW: I've gotta ask you about the blurb in Rolling Stone. “This band is kind of a super-group, and there may be a super-group that's come out of the super-group.” What's that all about?
McKagan: I didn't read any of the stuff that was in Rolling Stone. But Mike McCready (has) a studio in his basement, and we just started jamming. I don't know if it's an offshoot of the Walking Papers. … But Mike and I and Barrett went and recorded 15 pieces of music, 14 or 15.
Mike and I have been friends since, I guess, the '70s? The early '80s? So it's just friends, but because you're from these bands it's suddenly a super-group. That's a big, huge monster to kind of carry the weight of. We're just guys who went in and wrote these heavy riffs and recorded 'em, and we're gonna see what happens.
TW: The offshoot is just the three of you, though.
McKagan: Um, it depends. We don't know yet. It's kind of too early to say. Jeff Angell may sing on a couple things. We may get Jaz (Coleman) from Killing Joke, which is killer. I think we'll just get different singers to sing on it. I'll get up to Seattle tonight and we'll pow wow about that stuff. But it's a tasty, little morsel to put out that that Mike and I and Barrett are creating a super-group.
TW: How will those two things coexist? Because Walking Papers, from what I understand, has already started working on a second album.
McKagan: Well, yeah, I don't want to get too much into that because we've really yet to begin touring on this first record. We're going to Europe at the end of April then we're going back to Europe in June. We're doing some gigs on the West Coast in May. The engines are just stoked in the band. So we have been writing and recording new material, 'cause it's there.
TW: So at Jazzbones we might hear some stuff that's not on the first CD?
McKagan: Yeah, we went to the UK in October, November. We were headlining club shows, like at the 100 Club – really cool small, UK clubs, and they were all packed. We played in Paris, too. But the songs on the record only make up about an hour, if that. We had to play some of our new songs in the set. … So you'll hear new stuff at Jazzbones for sure.
TW: You've had a ton of projects just in the past couple of years, from Loaded to Jane's Addiction for a second. What's next up for you?
McKagan: I don't ever make any long-term plans, because I've found that that's kind of ridiculous in my world. I'm just doing the thing coming up next, and the Walking Papers is definitely one of those things that satisfies me.
In a perfect world, Walking Papers would be big as U2. I think the record's awesome. We'll just go and play gigs and stake our claim one Jazzbones at a time.