When a musician becomes famous for his work with his primary band, it can be hard for any of his future projects to be as well received. But whether it's a supergroup or a low-profile collaboration with friends, the results often allow us to hear these artists in a new musical setting. Here's the list of the 10 best rock supergroups and side projects.
With Stone Temple Pilots on hiatus and Guns N' Roses essentially an Axl Rose solo project by the late '90s, some of the biggest names in hard rock found themselves without a permanent gig. And so Velvet Revolver was born, combining Scott Weiland's tortured vocals with GNR's guitarist and rhythm section. (Trivia buffs will also note that the band included guitarist Dave Kushner of Wasted Youth.) Over the span of two whiskey-soaked albums, the band specialized in bracing songs buzzing with air-guitar exuberance and arena-rock spectacle. The group may not have lasted too long, but its leather-pants sleaziness was undeniable.
When their frontman, Zack de la Rocha, left the band, the rest of Rage Against the Machine were stuck trying to find a powerful vocalist to replace their departed fiery orator. Former Soundgarden leader Chris Cornell couldn't match de la Rocha's political commentary, but his deep bellow provided its own force. Paired with Tom Morello's distinctive style of hip-hop-influenced guitar playing, Cornell and the rest of Audioslave worked to create a sound that didn't just slavishly copy their old bands'. On albums like their 2002 self-titled debut, Audioslave made mainstream rock a safe place for intelligent, articulate veterans of the genre.
Jack White is so closely linked to his primary band, the White Stripes, that it seemed impossible to imagine him venturing into side projects. But in 2006, he and singer-songwriter Brendan Benson recruited the drummer and bassist of the Greenhornes to play in the Raconteurs, a more traditional rock band than the blues-channeling White Stripes. On their debut, Broken Boy Soldiers, White giddily incorporated arena-rock traditions into his usually jaundiced, personal commentaries on love and moral corruption. Initially, the Raconteurs seemed destined to be an enjoyable one-off, but the group reunited for a 2008 follow-up, Consolers of the Lonely.
4. Temple of the Dog
In 1991, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were part of the vaunted Seattle sound, enjoying worldwide acclaim and a growing fan base. But that success belied the dark undercurrents of the bands' songs as well as the atmosphere in which that music was created. As an elegy for a musician friend -- Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone, who died of a drug overdose -- the two groups came together as Temple of the Dog. Mostly eschewing the straightforward aesthetic of their regular bands, the songs on Temple of the Dog sometimes stretch out to epic lengths as singer Chris Cornell dissects the power of drug addiction and the finality of death.
5. A Perfect Circle
Because A Perfect Circle is fronted by Tool super-genius Maynard James Keenan, it's commonly assumed that he started the band. But in fact, the group came together thanks to Billy Howerdel, a guitarist friend of Keenan's who approached him about singing on tracks Howerdel had written. Also adding to the confusion is that A Perfect Circle bear a sonic similarity to Tool: Both bands veer back and forth between prog-rock and metal with their complicated musical arrangements. After recording two albums, the group has gone on hiatus while Keenan and Howerdel focus on other projects, though there is talk of a possible APC reunion.
Apparently one side project wasn't enough for Jack White. Teaming up with Kills vocalist Alison Mosshart, White formed the Dead Weather, which like the Raconteurs beefs up the White Stripes' sound to explore more experimental rock textures. Mosshart is the vocalist for the band, and on their 2009 debut album, Horehound, she gives the songs a sexy-scary quality. They went on tour shortly after the album's release, and there has been talk of doing a follow-up record.
Since the early '90s, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard has been busy with his acclaimed band but also his side project Brad. Their 1993 debut, Shame, introduced the group's jam-heavy rock and lead singer Shawn Smith's soulful vocals, most hypnotically on "20th Century." Brad never threatened Pearl Jam's prominence on the rock landscape, but subsequent albums' satisfying forays into pop and country suggested the adventurous spirit Gossard's day-job band has pursued since the late '90s.
8. Army of Anyone
While their former lead singer Scott Weiland was busy with Velvet Revolver, ex-Stone Temple Pilots members Dean and Robert DeLeo hooked up with Filter leader Richard Patrick for some breezy hard rock fun. Their entire output is just one album, 2006's Army of Anyone, but it's intriguing to hear Patrick performing in a more straight-ahead rock unit that shies away from Filter's industrial-edged tendencies. The album was a commercial stiff, and the supergroup soon disbanded, but Army of Anyone is a record worth checking out, especially if this is the first you're hearing of it.
Beyond being the drummer for Nirvana and the man behind Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl is also a hopelessly old-school metal nerd. That geekiness doesn't often show up on his own albums, but he found a way to divert all that furious energy into Probot, a 2004 record of metal songs written and recorded by Grohl that featured different legendary singers like Motorhead's Lemmy on the mic. The results can sometimes be too tongue-in-cheek, but Probot is much more than just an amusing diversion, paying wonderful homage to the excesses of classic metal, complete with growling vocals and stoner riffs.
10. Mad Season
Not to be confused in any way with that Matchbox Twenty album from 2000, Mad Season was an arresting combination of Seattle's most muscular bands: Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley, Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin and Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready. Their sole release, 1995's Above, featured sludgy mid-tempo songs highlighted by Staley's despondent vocals. For fans of Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees especially, Above is a gem you should make sure to add to your library: It's a heavy record that doesn't skimp on either the darkness or the hooks.