John Paul Jones, the former Led Zeppelin bassist and keyboardist, is planning his first American tour since the band broke up 14 years ago. But he won't be performing with former bandmates Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, who, having released their recent "No Quarter" album, will be reinterpreting old Zeppelin songs on their own tour next year sans Jones. And he won't be playing stadiums either. Instead, he will be in New York at the downtown club Irving Plaza performing avant-garde songs with singer and performance artist Diamanda Galas.
"I may miss the private plane," Jones said, speaking by telephone from Berlin, "but on the other hand, I'm much more interested in new, alternative music now."Since Led Zeppelin's demise, Jones has received countless offers to work with what he described as "tedious formula rock bands." Though he recently produced a live acoustic comeback album for the 1970s Zeppelin-influenced pop group Heart, he has spurned most of those requests, preferring to collaborate with more cutting-edge bands and artists like REM, Brian Eno and Galas.
"I first heard of Diamanda when my wife bought her `Wild Women with Steak Knives' album in 1983. I was immediately impressed with her voice, and the power and the emotion. Our backgrounds are very similar. We both played in our fathers' bands when we were starting out, and we're both great fans of classical music, jazz, blues, Mediterranean music and Arabic music. A mutual friend suggested that we should work together, and I think she wanted to do a rock record."
The result, an album called "The Sporting Life" (Mute), is a lighthearted change of pace from the confrontational and challenging song cycles dedicated to people with AIDS that Galas has been performing since 1984.
Galas, also in Berlin, said, "I think that if you get together and decide to do an album called `Homicidal Love Songs,' which is what I originally wanted to call it, you've got to have a sense of humor. What makes this album possible in terms of lyrics is real life experience. Every single song, and John knows it, too, has a particular person in mind with whom I have had various provocations and entanglements."
Though the pair don't perform any Led Zeppelin songs on the album, Galas said that she'd be singing the Zeppelin nugget "Communication Breakdown" in concert.
Jones, who was neither invited to perform with Page and Plant nor informed of the reunion in advance, said he was skeptical about continuing to perform Zeppelin songs. "It was a great band and I'm very proud of what we did," he said, "but it has its place."
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, by the way, seem to be having some trouble planning their first American tour together since their Led Zeppelin days. With the fate of the hockey season still undecided, a source said, the group is unable to confirm dates in arenas in several key cities, including New York.
Originally conceived of as a 50-date trek from February to April, the tour might have to be extended, with the duo playing smaller theaters in the spring and outdoor theaters in the summer.