Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd, Dimitri Coats of Off! and Alain Johannes — formerly of Eleven, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures — have joined forces for what Coats calls a “fun little side project” that will hopefully have some music ready for public consumption this year.
“I think we’ve laid down the foundation for, like, ten songs,” Coats tells Billboard. “I’m going to be singing. Alain’s definitely singing a bit. We might invite a couple of guests at some point.”
The guitarist laughs and adds, “I’m kind of along for the ride on this one. Those guys have known each other for years; I’m like the new guy. I don’t know if we’re gonna play live or what the deal is. I just know that I really enjoy hanging out with them and I’m learning a lot and we work very quickly; before I even feel like I’ve learned a song it’s like we’re hitting the record button. There’s a looseness that reminds me of Off! — certainly not the music, but the way we do the music.”
Coats says the as-yet-unnamed group came together earlier this year in Seattle after a Facebook exchange with Cameron. “I was like, ‘Dude! I’m a huge fan!'” Coats recalls. “I told him, ‘I consider myself to be a really excellent air drummer, and I have trouble air-drumming to some of your fills.’ And he was like, ‘Wow, that means a lot coming from you ’cause I’m a huge fan of yours.’ We became instant friends.”
Cameron then told him about a musical project he, Shepherd and Johannes had started in 2008 that they wanted to rekindle. “So I was like, ‘Jeez, let me in on that,'” Coats says. “They invited me to Seattle and it was really incredible. There was just an instant chemistry and a really creative and open situation where everybody’s passing around the guitar and throwing in ideas. I sort of felt like I was in the grunge Beatles.”
Coats adds that, “I think we’re all in situations in our bands where we may not get to express ourselves fully the way we want to, and this is an opportunity to let some of those other colors out in our songwriting. All those guys can write songs. They can all sing. They can all play guitar and all different instruments. Those guys are top-level musicians — I sometimes feel like, ‘What am I doing here?'”
“We’re all fans of a broad spectrum of music,” Coats says, explaining the quartet’s sound tends to be “really heavy and doomy, but it’s really all across the board.”
“It’s a little bit more laid-back than I would’ve thought, but in a good way,” he continues. “There’s some kind of heavy, bluesy moments and then there’s some really beautiful stuff, too. It’s a little bit like ‘Superunknown,’ that kind of era of Soundgarden, mixed with Alain’s kind of Stevie Wonder vibe. And they call me the secret weapon; I’m a little bit rough around the edges, but I have a lot of good ideas.”
The group did some more recording during late April and early May in Los Angeles, but it’s taking a second seat to everyone’s day jobs. Shepherd is on the road with Soundgarden, who will begin a North American summer run with Nine Inch Nails, while Cameron is logging time with Pearl Jam. Meanwhile, Coats is on and off the road with Off! playing select dates over the summer to promote its latest album, “Wasted Years,” as well as a European tour in October.