The 15 Best Rock Supergroups Of All Time
Ever since Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker formed Cream in 1966, the term supergroup quickly became lazy shorthand for a band who feature other successful musicians.
But with The Damned Things and Simple Creatures in the news recently, it got us thinking about other groups of successful musicians who’ve joined forces for the greater good of everything under the comforting umbrella of rock and metal.
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra
Type in ‘giraffe tongue’ into your Google search bar and you’ll find the search engine will suggest, after colour (black or purple) and length (20 inches), The Dillinger Escape Plan Ben Weinman’s side-project featuring Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds, Alice In Chains vocalist William Duval, The Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen and Dethklok/Zappa Plays Zappa bassist Pete Griffin.
“I was at the zoo in Sydney, Australia and was checking out the giraffes,” says Hinds of their unusual moniker. “They are amazing animals – one just grabbed a bunch of bananas from my hand with its tongue and peeled them with it as well – by the time the bananas got to its mouth, they were ready to be eaten. I saw Ben who was at [Australian festival] Soundwave too and said, ‘Man I think I found the name for our band.’”
Giraffe Tongue Orchestra released their soaring prog-like debut, Broken Lines, through Weinman’s Party Smasher label in 2016.
Gone Is Gone
2016 also saw the release of Gone Is Gone’s self-titled EP. Mastodon singer/bassist Troy Sanders teamed up with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Troy van Leeuwen, At The Drive-In drummer Tony Hajjar and keyboardist/guitarist Mike Zarin, combining big riffs with trippy interludes.
“It’s a project that can live even when we are working with our other entities as well,” Hajjar told Rolling Stone. “The goal is to be able to compose remotely, if needed, on film, trailers, or on anything else that comes up.”
The band’s full-length debut, Echolocation, was released the following year.
Killer Be Killed
Before Gone Is Gone released their debut EP, Mastodon’s Sanders found time to work with Killer Be Killed, a supergroup formed by The Dillinger Escape Plan/The Black Queen frontman Greg Puciato and Soulfly’s Max Cavalera. The line-up, who released their self-titled album via Nuclear Blast in 2014, welcomed Converge drummer Ben Koller and ex-Torche guitarist Juan Montoya into the fold a year later. The quintet are currently working on a follow-up.
Late Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk joined forces in 2001 and named their new project Audioslave. After it emerged there was an Liverpool act already using the name, they gave the unsigned band $30,000 to share the name (the UK band later changed their name to The Most Terrifying Thing. “[The name] was Chris’s suggestion that sort of came to him in a vision,” remembers Morello. “We’re all on the two-way pagers, and Chris one night said, ‘I got it. It’s Audioslave.’ We were all, like, ‘All right, fantastic.’ It’s the last thing in the world, to paraphrase Elvis Costello, talking about band names is like dancing about architecture – there’s just no point in it because the band name becomes the music and the people.”
During their six-year tenure – save for a one-off performance in 2017 – the quartet released three albums: their self-titled debut (2002), Out Of Exile (2005) and Revelations (2007), effortlessly combining the most powerful elements of their other bands with a satisfying classic rock bent.
Prophets Of Rage
Featuring members of Rage Against The Machine (minus Zack de la Rocha), Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord, and Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Prophets Of Rage formed in 2016. Taking their name from a track on Public Enemy’s 1988 album, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Morello declared the band’s intentions in an interview with Rolling Stone: “We’re an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing.”
Throughout 2016, the band toured North America, armed with an incendiary setlist featuring tracks from their respective back catalogues and new material. On January 20, 2017, the day Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America, the band threw an Anti-Inauguration Ball at the 600-capacity Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, headlining a set which was live streamed on Facebook, and featured guest appearances from Jack Black, Jackson Browne, rapper Vic Mensa and a short set by Audioslave. The band released their self-titled debut (this seems to be a thing with supergroups) in 2017 and are currently working on a second.
This American hardcore supergroup formed in Los Angeles in 2009 and features former Black Flag/Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris, Burning Brides frontman Dimitri Coats, Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald, and Rocket From The Crypt/Hot Snakes/Earthless drummer Mario Rubalcaba. In that time, they’ve released three full-length albums: First Four EPs (2010), Off! (2012) and Wasted Years (2014), plus a clutch of singles and two live albums, with artwork by Raymond Pettibon, whose artwork has graced Black Flag’s iconic albums and flyers. “Even though we have the luxury of taking a long time with things, we’d rather be true to the spirit of the way things used to be,” Coats explains of their quick recording sessions. “By putting yourself in those situations, an urgency is created, and that’s very much what we’re after. There’s a lot of soul in this. We’re not fucking around.”
And so to the first of three Mike Patton-fronted supergroups. Fantômas formed two decades ago in California, featuring Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne, former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and Mr Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn. Fans of Faith No More may have been surprised by the band’s avant-garde metal leanings on their challenging 1999 self-titled debut, which was framed as a soundtrack to a comic book featuring a pre-WW1 French crime novel villain. Their 2001 follow-up, The Director’s Cut featured covers of classic film scores. 2004’s Delìrium Còrdia was a one-track, 74-minute concept album based on surgery without anaesthesia. Their most recent release, 2005’s Suspended Animation, a manic cartoon soundtrack whose 30 tracks were named after national holidays which take place in April: Day of the Amazon Goddess (Brazil), Rekindle Your Romantic Self Day (USA) and National Scoop the Poop Day (USA) being just three examples.
Shortly after the formation of Fantômas came Tomahawk, a collaboration between Patton, The Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison, Helmet/Battles drummer John Stanier and bass player Kevin Rutmanis (Melvins/Cows). With four albums to their name, the band channel the ominous, disorientating sound of The Jesus Lizard with a thunderous rhythm section. Their 2007 album, Anonymous, features interpretations of Native American songs which Denison heard while touring reservations with Hank Williams III. Pro tip: check out their eponymous debut album.
The third and most recent all-star act to feature the vocal acrobatics of the Faith No More frontman are Dead Cross. This aggressive punk band feature The Locust’s Justin Pearson, Retox’s Michael Crain and Dave Lombardo. Originally featuring Gabe Serbian of The Locust and Head Wound City, the band met while recording session work for producer Ross Robinson and Poppy Jean Crawford. Patton later joined and wrote his own lyrics for their 2017 debut, which had already been recorded.
“To me, it is a traditional hardcore record,” says Patton. “It is very pointed, direct and visceral. It reminded me of stuff that we had collectively all grown up with and loved when we were like teenagers — bands like the Accüsed, Deep Wound or Seige, stuff that was just brutal, uncompromising and right to the point. And now I got a chance to do a pencil-in-your-eye record.”
Temple Of The Dog
Formed in Seattle in 1990 by Chris Cornell, Temple Of The Dog was a tribute to his late friend, Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood, who died following a heroin overdose in the March of that year. The line-up featured Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament (the latter two were in Mother Love Bone) and Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder made a guest appearance on their sole, self-titled album, which was released in April 1991. The album received much attention the following year after Pearl Jam and Soundgarden rose in popularity, following the release of Ten and Badmotorfinger. It was reissued in 1992, with Hunger Strike released as a single. On the album’s 25th anniversary, the band played several North American dates, minus Vedder who had “family commitments”. “We wanted to do the one thing we never got to do … play shows and see what it feels like to be the band that we walked away from 25 years ago,” said Cornell. “This is something no one has ever seen.”
Featuring Stone Temple Pilots’ vocalist Scott Weiland, Guns N’ Roses’ guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, drummer Matt Sorum and Wasted Youth’s Dave Kushner, Velvet Revolver released two albums: Contraband (2004) and Libertad (2007). The band were awarded Best International Newcomer at the 2004 Kerrang! Awards and a GRAMMY for the song Slither in 2005. The band parted ways with Weiland following a strained tour in 2008 and announced his dismissal on April 1. The band reunited for a one-off performance in 2012 as part of a benefit concert for the late composer John O’Brien at the House of Blues in Hollywood.
Forming in New Orleans in 1991, Down’s pedigree as a supergroup is without question: vocalist Phil Anselmo, Corrosion Of Conformity guitarist Pepper Keenan, Crowbar guitarist Kirk Windstein and bassist Todd Strange, and Eyehategod drummer Jimmy Bower. Their heavy 1995 debut, NOLA – an acronym for New Orleans, Louisiana – received critical acclaim and they went on to release Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow (2002) and Down III: Over The Under (2007). They’ve since released two EPs under the title Down IV in 2012 and 2014 respectively, Anselmo said last year that the band are committed to making another record.
A Perfect Circle
A collaboration between guitarist Billy Howerdel and Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, A Perfect Circle have seen many legendary musicians pass through their four-album career: Queens Of The Stone Age/Failure guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Nine Inch Nails guitarist Danny Lohner, Zwan/Pixies bassist Paz Lenchantin, Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie ‘Twiggy Ramirez’ White, Primus drummer Tim Alexander and Vandals’ Josh Freese have all been part of the band at some stage. Their current line-up – which includes Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and Eagles Of Death Metal bassist Matt McJunkins – released their fourth album, Eat The Elephant in 2018.
Them Crooked Vultures
“We sound like we should,” said Dave Grohl of Them Crooked Vultures. Featuring one-time Queens Of The Stone Age bandmate Josh Homme and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Grohl wasn’t taking the piss, the band sounded exactly they should; a swirl of heavy blues riffs, Homme’s laid-back croon and jackhammer rhythms. During a 2017 interview with Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show, Grohl hinted that the trio may get back together to record a follow-up to their 2010 self-titled debut. Anselmo said last year that the band are committed to making another record.
And so to the biggest supergroup of all time. Formed as a solo project by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl following the death of Kurt Cobain, he largely performed all of the instruments on his, yes, self-titled 1995 debut. To tour the release, he recruited Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith, along with Germs/Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear. Alanis Morrissette drummer Taylor Hawkins joined in time for the band’s third release, There Is Nothing Left To Lose (Scream/Wool guitarist Franz Stahl was briefly in the line-up before the recording, too). No Use For A Name guitarist Chris Shiflett joined the band in 1999, and most recently keyboardist Rami Jaffee, formerly of The Wallflowers – led by Bob Dylan’s son Jakob – joined as a full-time member. As of 2015, Foo Fighters have sold 12 million albums, and sell out arenas and stadiums around the world. Grohl is no stranger to the supergroup setting, having played drums in Queens Of The Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, his own superstar metal project Probot, and performing with pretty much everyone, including The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, who we believe did quite well for themselves in the 60s.
Words: Simon Young