Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jason Bonham talks about his Led Zeppelin Experience

“It’s not just myself, you know, this is representing my family.”
- Jason Bonham

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience is out on the road these days, touring as a 30th anniversary tribute to Jason’s dad, the late John Bonham.

Jason is thrilled with the tour’s progress, as it kicked off across Canada before hitting the States. “Calgary was just – every one of them has been phenomenal for whatever reason, and always the same reason is the audience and the amount of response they give back,” Bonham tells John J. Moser of the Lehigh Valley Music blog. “Cause it’s not just myself, you know, this is representing my family. I’m playing my father’s music and I’m a fan of Led Zeppelin. The response has been beyond what I ever imagined it would be. Unreal. Everyone seems to understand the story I’m telling. We break up the show with a video and the footage of my day as a kid and the home movie parts.”

(For footage of the Calgary gig, see “Watch Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience” here).

The show is a personal journey for Bonham, another way of providing some closure with the past. “Yeah. The strangest thing is the way it hit me,” says Jason. “The thing you’ve got to remember is, when dad was alive, initially one the reasons I kind of have a thing with it is, I never really got it when he was alive. He was my dad and he played in a band and I was more into The Police. You know, I went through the whole blond hair bit. And dad took me to see The Police when I was 13. And I was like, this is a cool band, dad. See this is a cool band. [Laughs] And I felt bad for years because then a year later … I never had a chance to tell him how great I think was. After he passed away, I would go and listen to his music. And when I had a few incidents where I really had to go and really do my homework, I found new favorites – things in the songs that I never knew. There’s certain parts where I thought, ‘I thought I knew that.’ And I didn’t. I had blinders on. So it’s been a great journey for me finding new favorites from albums. Certain albums I hadn’t played for a long, long time. And now some of those things are … ‘Presence,’ which is an under-rated album , is probably one of my favorite albums.”

With such an impressive catalogue to work with, Moser asked Bonham if he had a favorite Zeppelin track. “I think if I had to pick one I’d say ‘Kashmir.’ You could never describe – if somebody said to me, ‘Describe Led Zeppelin,’ if you could pick one song that presents, describes, Led Zeppelin true, I would pick ‘Kashmir’ over ‘Stairway [to Heaven].’ Because I feel that ‘Kashmir,’ being that so many bands tried to copy with the eastern/Indian kind of approach and did it badly, that it’s from there, really.”

Maybe he’s too close to it, but it’s hard for Jason to explain Zeppelin’s longevity. “If I really knew the answer, I would put it in a bottle and sell it,” he laughs. “Um, I don’t know. I think for me -- I can only answer for me; everyone kind of has their own reason – but when you looks at bands from the day and you look at Led Zeppelin, they were totally different. Like in the ‘80s – and I’m not knocking the ‘80s, I am a big fan of the ‘80s – there was a certain genre of rock bands that all kind of sound the same. But you put Zeppelin on even back in the day with all the ‘70s artists, they still didn’t sound like anybody else then, you know? They’ve been unique from Day 1, and copied by many. It is truly an honor to be part of this whole thing in my family and then and again I still … my son will come up with his friends and say, ‘Dad, granddad was in Led Zeppelin, right?’ And I go, ‘Yup.’ And they all go, ‘Wow’ [Laughs]. And we’ve lived in America for the last five years, and he wouldn’t have gotten that response in England. He thinks it’s cool to wear his Led Zeppelin shirt to school. And it’s like another new wave of fans.”

“But these gigs, the other night there must have been three generations from one family; they’re all there rocking out in the front. It was amazing; these two 11-year-old kids in the front, banging their heads like it was an ‘80s concert . Amazing.”

Following Zeppelin's 02 Arena show in December, 2007, there was more music to be made. "Well, I was actually working with Jimmy and John Paul after the show, but there was never talk of a tour before the 02, and after the 02, I think that was an idea the press had kind of built on,” says Bonham. “And there was never talk of a tour. I mean, I thought there might be because it was so good, but there was never any talk of it, so the next phone call I got was in March, and then I flew to England to work with Jimmy and John Paul on writing material and to see what we could do musically together – and that was a great time. I flew backwards and forwards a few times in 2008 for writing periods with the two of them. And that was, for me, one of the highlights of my life – to have Jimmy page turn to you after we played a few ideas of his and John’s and then go, ‘Jason, have you got anything you want to work on?’ I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me!’ [Laughs] So you know, those moments I treasure dearly. OK, it didn’t tour, we didn’t do this. But I have to be grateful and thankful for everything else I get to do. Every now and again, Jimmy would remind me and say, ‘Stop being such a fan.’ [Laugh] ‘You’re in the band now.’ ”

As the frontman – and the lone hold-out of continuing to work in some fashion (whether that was under the Zeppelin banner, or not), Robert Plant shoulders a lot of the heat for the reason the lineup didn’t stay intact.

“I think Robert gets a very tough time, gets hit hard because they kind of put it all on him,” says Jason. “I’ve sat with Robert and we spoke very, very personally about my dad and the whole how he feels with it all. And I don’t … I totally agree with his side of it 100 percent. Wanting say yes, but … obviously feelings that he had for dad and said, ‘Jason, you know, when we stopped 30 years ago – and this was when it was 20-some years ago – I really feel that that was it, you know? So to get back together now, no matter how great it sounds and how great you play – your dad would be so proud; no one plays the drums like you – but Led Zeppelin was with John Bonham. And I’d rather not tarnish the thoughts.’ I totally got that. I really did. And I felt very strong about his feelings for dad. His time has moved on. [He said] ‘I’m sorry if it’s not what you want to hear me say.’ And I said, ‘It’s not really what I want to hear you say, but inside it is what I want to hear you say. He said, ‘There was never going to be anybody else but you if we ever did it. So is that better?’ [Laughs] And I went, ‘I can live with that one.’ “

Check out the full interview here.

Jason Jason Bonham

Led Led Zeppelin

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Good Times Bad Times
Southern Alberta Jubilee
Calgary, AB – October 14, 2010

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Kashmir
Southern Alberta Jubilee
Calgary, AB – October 14, 2010