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Rock Vets Start Over Again

“Bands should never break up,” says Jefferson Angell, leaning into the steam of a vermicelli bowl. The lanky musician is answering a question about his new band, Walking Papers, but his emphasis reveals that he is speaking from experience. Like...

“Bands should never break up,” says Jefferson Angell, leaning into the steam of a vermicelli bowl.

The lanky musician is answering a question about his new band, Walking Papers, but his emphasis reveals that he is speaking from experience. Like his bandmates, Angell has history. As a vocalist and guitarist for Post Stardom Depression, he toured with Queens of the Stone Age and flirted with a major record label before the band called it quits in 2008. He shakes his fedora-topped head. “Anger management tells you, if things get bad, remove yourself from the situation. You don’t have to quit.”

The members have quit their share of successful bands—though not always by choice. Drummer Barrett Martin anchored the Screaming Trees for ten years until that band hung it up in 2000. Bassist Duff McKagan played with Guns N’ Roses through five studio albums, went on to play with Velvet Revolver and now, Loaded. Keyboardist Benjamin Anderson is the relative rookie, clocking time with Angell’s other band, Missionary Position.

Sitting at a Vietnamese restaurant on Capitol Hill prior to their debut record release show at the tiny club Barboza across the street, Walking Papers appear to be less a supergroup than a collection of veterans choosing to start over again.

Anderson talks about the thrill of playing postage stamp-size stage shows, of being inadvertently fondled by the bassist’s chord-changing hand. His giddiness is infectious. The conversation is like a basketball passing drill—albeit with players sporting fitted leather jackets. But one teammate is missing. Duff McKagan, who literally wrote the book on rock ’n’ roll living (the just-published It’s So Easy: and other lies), is absent. With a wry smirk and hint of disappointment, Angell blames a botched tattoo from a glass-eyed artist. Martin vaguely adds that McKagan had something more pressing. There’s a sense of bemused resolution to their bassist’s celebrity status.

Martin, who holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and runs the indie label that is distributing the band’s record, explains how Walking Papers formed. While driving through a bleak New Mexico desert, he realized he needed to “make a great rock record again.” He asked Angell to join because he’d seen his band and knew he “could write great stories.” Angell sheepishly shrugs.

“Being in a band is like testing to become Green Berets,” Martin says, before taking a slug of root beer. “You’re put inside a giant, hollow manmade log and told to move it from here to there.”

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