There was a time when the “supergroup” was super obvious. When the world saw legendary axman Ted Nugent making his guitar squeal with the guy from Night Ranger to his right and a guy from Styx to his left, we all knew there was something special afoot. (Classic-rock lovers will recognize this ’80s band to be Damn Yankees, which many refer to as the OG of supergroups, with hits such as “High Enough.”)
The same goes for, say, Alice Cooper out front and Aerosmith guitar icon Joe Perry behind him. Better known as Hollywood Vampires, they went that extra super mile, though, by adding actor Johnny Depp to the mix. Over the years, most supergroups have remained super…just not quite as obvious. Here are 15 cases in point below.
So many were quick to simply dub the Foo as Nirvana’s drummer’s new gig or, worse, a “vanity project.” Sure, Dave Grohl was coming out from behind the kit and taking on lead vocals, guitar in hand. There was a novelty factor. And the band is definitely his baby. But it’s also so much more. Grohl brought along Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear straight away, also from the Germs, plus Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith, both from Sunny Day Real Estate, and the savage Taylor Hawkins, drummer for ’90s rock queen Alanis Morissette. There was also Franz Stahl of Scream and the ubiquitous Rami Jaffee from the Wallflowers and Pete Yorn. No wonder the band were immediately deemed super.
Some are loath to admit that the Bridge are and were anything other than that: something for Creed to careen over when they wanted Myles Kennedy on vocals, as opposed to the increasingly difficult Scott Stapp. But Kennedy’s resume was considerable, from the awesome Mayfield Four to acting in 2001’s underappreciated Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star. Hell, the ferocious Mark Tremonti even often found work for Wolfgang Van Halen in what many dismissed as a side project yet quickly realized it was anything but.
Angels & Airwaves
blink-182 co-founder/lead singer Tom DeLonge’s decision to form an entirely new band angered blink lovers who believed—and still think—it ain’t blink without him. They also thought Angels & Airwaves were just a phase, especially as DeLonge seems prone to those. What they may’ve missed, however, is that the band are so much more than DeLonge. The Offspring’s Atom Willard was there at the start, only to be replaced by Nine Inch Nails’ Ilan Rubin. Matt Wachter of Thirty Seconds To Mars came aboard in 2007 but left in 2014. Far from a lark, AVA continue to make music and even moved into filmmaking by scoring Love and Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker. This paved the way for a record based on the short film and a novel by DeLonge, too.
Speaking of NIN, Tin Machine founder Reeves Gabrels, who in addition to working with the late David Bowie also spent time as a member of the Cure, found himself mesmerized by Pretty Hate Machine and wanted to make a record reflecting that. Instead of seeking a fresh face off a bus on the Sunset Strip, he opted for icon Bowie himself, and two tremendous albums followed. The rest of Tin Machine were composed of comic legend Soupy Sales’ sons, Tony and Hunt. They had been toiling with Todd Rundgren at the time. And Iggy Pop. From Iggy to Ziggy.
While many in the press were quick to describe Dayton, Ohio, rockers the Breeders as little more than a side project for Pixies bassist Kim Deal, it was actually a side project for both her and Throwing Muses singer-songwriter Tanya Donelly. The Grammy-nominated Donelly wasn’t long for the project, however, and as the Breeders slowly but surely shed their side project skin, earning accolades in their own right, Kim brought in her twin sister, Kelley. With Kim handling lead guitar duties, the bassist role was ably filled by Josephine Wiggs of the Perfect Disaster.
It’s surely selling the killer product short by describing Audioslave simply as “Rage with Chris Cornell singing.” Many did it and were wrong to. The dizzying, dope “Cochise” making dashboards crack should have been proof this was quite the departure from Rage Against The Machine, even if three members came along for the ride. Tom Morello showed his most radio-friendly side yet, demonstrating that he was a rocker at the core, and the late Cornell did anything but mail it in while on hiatus from Soundgarden. Some of his best vocals can be found on the band’s eponymous debut, especially the aforementioned first single. Morello would cement his commercial rocker appeal not long after with the criminally ignored Street Sweeper Social Club.
Five Finger Death Punch
Ghost Machine’s Ivan Moody lives up to his name, with Five Finger Death Punch founder Zoltan Bathory fortuitously hitting him up on a good day. Jeremy Spencer, a well-respected drummer with adult film star also on his resume, was with the band for a stretch but left in 2018. With Darrell Roberts of legendary ’80s hard-rock act W.A.S.P. on guitar, you got yourself a supergroup. The guitarist role would prove to be a revolving door with FFDP, but they’ve stood the test of time despite that, proving that they truly are “Bad Company.”
Though not exactly prolific, they do pound the pavement. Their eponymous debut, which is one of only two releases, is a gem, with the song “Conspiracy” being a standout. Frontman Fred Mascherino of Taking Back Sunday teaming up with Hot Rod Circuit’s Andy Jackson and Josh Eppard of Coheed And Cambria produced something considerably more Top 40-friendly than many would have expected in 2010. Eppard rejoined Coheed in 2011, and after dropping a 2012 EP, the band fell off.
Oh, how there should have been a follow-up record here! As crazy as it must look on paper, Hanson lead Taylor Hanson, along with stalwart Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and the late Adam Schlesinger of Fountains Of Wayne, were one hell of a cohesive unit who turned out great pop/rock fare. There isn’t a single bad song on their one and only record from 2009. Schlesinger passing away suddenly in April will probably put an end to any reunions even though studio musician Josh Lattanzi (the Lemonheads, Ben Kweller) toured with the band as a second guitarist in the past.
A Perfect Circle
The supergroup who keep on giving, A Perfect Circle began as a pet project for Tool’s Maynard James Keenan but turned into more. Much more. For every musician who leaves, another great takes their place. Original bassist (and violinist) Paz Lenchantin, of Pixies fame, would leave only to be replaced by Marilyn Manson plucker Twiggy Ramirez, who would then see the gig go to Matt McJunkins of Eagles Of Death Metal. Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen is now watching his licks being perfected by Pumpkins player James Iha and so on. It’s a revolving door, but at least it’s a rocking one.
When word broke about Mad Season, the enthusiasm was palpable in the rock community. Especially the branch on the tree that is grunge. Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready on guitar? Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin keeping the beat? The late, great Layne Staley of Alice In Chains on lead vocals? Back up, Temple Of The Dog. Which is probably exactly what McCready was trying to say. And the Dog did back up, particularly when first single “River Of Deceit” dropped in 1995.
Originally intended to be a one-time thing, even satirical, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Pussy Galore’s Julie Cafritz immediately saw that people were less interested in getting the joke and more into rocking out. Pavement bassist Mark Ibold no doubt persuaded them to keep going. What was to be one lone record became four, and the band even saw some of their tracks get the remix treatment with DJ Spooky at the turntable.
Speaking of hot beats, who knows their way around those better than a former member of Tony! Toni! Toné!? And so it goes that Raphael Saadiq, along with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and D’Angelo himself, joined forces for what just may be regarded as the music world’s first-ever R&B supergroup. D’Angelo barely made it past the planning stages, unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts. But he gently bowed out just in time for En Vogue’s Dawn Robinson to join Lucy Pearl. What a man.
More recent supergroups include this fab trio. Consisting of letlive. vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, guitarist Stephen Harrison of the Chariot and Night Verses drummer Aric Improta, the act’s birth can be traced back to an unplanned evening Butler spent talking music with Travis Barker. Butler went from having many a conversation about Black people’s participation in rock music, or lack thereof, to basically anyone who would listen to a FEVER 333 pop-up performance in a U-Haul truck in a doughnut shop parking lot. Next thing you know they’re signed to Roadrunner Records with another release on the way this month.
Bad Wolves are badass. It’s that simple. In This Moment bassist Kyle Konkiel joined forces with Bury Your Dead’s Chris Cain, God Forbid’s Doc Coyle, drummer John Boecklin and screamer Tommy Vext (Divine Heresy, Snot) first for a cover of the Cranberries classic “Zombie.” That was 2018. Their debut was such a beast, a record a year followed, not counting 2020. But the year ain’t over yet, and April did see their cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” get released on Patreon. No rest for the wicked.