Alan Sculley: Well let’s ask about the tour itself and this whole concept that you had that brought this together and I think one thing I’m real curious about is what you think makes the Led Zeppelin Experience show you’re taking out something different then any number of the tribute bands that are out there for Led Zeppelin. What are you doing that really separates it from, you know, those kind of shows?
Well, one thing I kind of give it is that I’ve actually played with the band a couple of times and had some moments in authenticity. First and foremost JBLZE is a concert. But I give it a slightly different angle from the story content of the show and I release and show some very tender and pure moments that not many people have seen such as my dad as a child growing up with his father and interacting with his own family and his brother and his children.
And, you know, this is a man that would grow up to be the Beast, the guy--Bonzo, the legendary guy that was one of the first to throw a TV set through a window. But realistically he was my dad and just an everyday guy really. So within the context of the show I talk a little about him as a personal person, you know, as a guy that I knew not so much as the guy that you know as Bonzo, but as my father. I show some of the moments we shared together which were and are, you know, very cherished now.
We didn’t live in the era of everything being recordable on your phone and very easily accessible. So when you see these moments, they’re very few and far between as my Dad could record and capture. And also I like to touch on the love I have of the music, playing with the guys every kind of song that has a different story, a different element of where I put it in the show. And each song is chosen for a reason. There’s nothing we’ve put there because it was a popular song or whatever.
I have a story for each one. But the music does the talking in itself and I just, tell a few moments that were not spoken too much about, the reasons I do certain songs in the set and my own personal take on when I played them with Led Zeppelin.
So that’s why it’s my, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience and this is where I suppose it’s different from the others. But obviously one of the major differences is I have been lucky enough to have played with the band a couple of times. Not many of them can say that....
Gary Graff: You started to talk about every song having a story and such but what was the song selection process like for you and the criteria? And what were some of the particularly special songs for you to play?
Jason Bonham: Well for me the song choices had to be everything that meant something to me. From my first memory of hearing Zeppelin which was “Your Time is Going to Come.” The song is in the show, all my life from the first moment I ever heard that song it stood out to me, since as a child I was terrified of church organists (re the song intro). Other key early memories of Led Zeppelin for me was the black and white TV Danish TV special which included, “Babe I’m Going to Leave You”. That was a key moment and I always thought “Lemon Song” was a key moment for me from the early days of Zeppelin.
And then also just when (Joey) said to me, what are your two favorite Led Zeppelin songs if there’s two? And I said, well there is always going to be two, there’s number one which is “Kashmir” and “The Rain Song”. And while I didn’t do “The Rain Song” on the last tour and this time around, I never really imagined this thing to be taken in as well as it’s has been to be honest. But since we’re in this position now where we can go out there with our heads held high, I wanted to make sure that this time we have some of the later Zeppelin.
On the second half of the show this time we’re having songs like “The Rain Song”, “Achilles’ Last Stand”, and “In the Light” which is another rare one which Zeppelin never, ever did live. So I always come and try and keep some element of a natural show and make it a little unique. We do “Levee Breaks” which is a wonderful part of the show and one of my favorites, because I get to play with Dad like when I do “Moby Dick” it’s a moment when I’m actually playing with my father.
We didn’t have two drum kits in our house. So when I get to do this these days it’s, you know, really for the first time ever that we actually get to play in tandem together because sadly we never did in real life. We never actually got to experience that. I’ve read in many articles that my father had said, “My son plays drums and I’d really love for him to play next to me at the Royal Albert Hall.”
That means so much to me and especially when at the start of the tour I had no idea that the first part of “Moby Dick” that I use to solo with dad on the screens where we play in tandem is his original performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
So in essence I actually get to fulfill one of his wishes as well as mine, to play with him. And then somebody pointed out well what’s it like being the kid who’s now the old man playing with the young kid? Because now I’m playing live along with my father who’s 22 years younger than me in the clip.
It’s kind of a twist on things but, you know, I try and give it a - make it as real as possible to make it. There’s no fake in the show, you’re there, you’re exposed to all the elements that could go wrong, but it’s heartfelt and that’s what makes it very unique.
Each night’s a different feeling, and a different experience to the people coming. The people that come share stories with me after the show as much as I share stories with them during the show. And that’s been one of the key elements of keeping this thing going the story, the fans, the letters I get and receive and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful experience for me. The tour is something that I will treasure because I’ve learned so much about my father, more so then I ever imagined I would know from just the moments where people met him in their life and captured, photographs of them together and, yeah it’s been very special.
The song choices will always be a key part of this because I listen to what the fans say but I also want to keep it as true as I can. We’ll never do a song we don’t think we can do well so if for some reason there’s certain songs we don’t do in the show we probably haven’t tried it yet or we have tried it, and it wasn’t up to standard. We’ll only do the best ones we can so they sound the best. Thank you.
Gary Graff: Is this something you imagine doing for years and years?
Jason Bonham: Well if you’d have asked me that about a year ago I’d have said it was going to be a one-time deal. The stories that people have shared with me over the last 12 months and onward since they first round inspired me. When people say, “oh can you try this one in the show next time, can you do this?”
I spoke to my mom and she said listen you’re representing the family here and I appreciate you doing it. She came out to see the show and said, you know, I was a little skeptical at first, but the show is so wonderfully put together and it’s very special. She said, please continue this for me as long as you feel comfortable doing it.
Gary Graff: If you don’t mind me throwing this at you as I know it’s early in the call but you - you have some brand new music that - that’s going to come out shortly. Can you - can you talk for a couple of minutes about the Black Country Communion album?
Jason Bonham: Yeah, I have a new album coming out with Black Country Communion which comes out in June which is going exceedingly well. I am very, very pleased with the new album. It’s definitely more of a group effort on this project. It went from a side project to a band which definitely on the second album I was able to get involved more with the writing part of it this time. Became a lot more, felt a lot more comfortable as a person in the band. And it went very, very well.
There’s a song that started off as an idea that I worked on with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones so I was happy to finish it off with this band and have it come out. I’m looking forward to hitting the road in June. As soon as I literally finish with (Paul Rodgers) on Friday here in England I’m starting the tour with JBLZE next week and then when it ends I jump on with the Black Country Communion.
Gary Graff: Yeah, what - what is that song you mentioned that you worked on with Jimmy and John Paul?
Jason Bonham: Oh on the new album, it’s called “Save Me”.
You’ll notice it in the rift. You’ll hear a slight Zep-esque rift and you’ll go, I wonder if that’s the one he meant and yes it’s got a definite feel to it.
Tim Dwenger: I wondered if you might be able to share with us a couple of your favorite memories of your father whether musically related or not?
Jason Bonham: Sure. A lot of people always ask me what kind of music I was into when I was younger, you know, when dad was alive. My Dad got me into a band called The Police which at the time my dad had a blue vinyl version of Outlandos d’Amour which we still might have somewhere so I’ll keep that, treasure it. But he took me to see The Police and it was a cool moment. I had never, I mean, I had never been to a concert with my Dad ever before.
I remember we also saw the Osmond’s and Bay City Rollers. Yes Dad did take me to see the Osmond’s and I saw Marie Osmond with her hair in curlers which ruined the illusion at the time. But I fondly remember The Police and is was a very, very cool concert and I remember my Dad put me on his shoulders so I could see the band better.
He got us backstage afterwards so we could say hello. And it was just a great moment when my Dad stepped on Sting’s foot and he was wearing blue suede shoes at the time and Sting said something like “Don’t step on my blue suede shoes”. My Dad turned to him and said “I’ll step on your head in a minute.” So that was a nice father, son relationship. The meeting of old and new. It was quite funny looking across and seeing (Andy) and (Stewart) sniggering underneath and I’m thinking Dad, come on don’t cause any trouble.
We had some very special times. Dad was a gentle giant really. He was a sweet, you know, nervous kind of guy, you’d never imagine that we’d sit and drive. I used to race dirt bikes, so on the weekends when he was home he would always be the first one up making the sandwiches in the morning, we’d get in the Range Rover and head off to the race.
If it was a three hour drive we’d listen to Rumours (by Fleetwood Mac) about four or five times on the way and he was very into his, you know, it was usually Rumours and Steve - Buffalo Springfield - Stephen Stills album or Neil Young or Crosby, Stills and Nash and Abandoned Lunchonette, Hall & Oates first album.
Tim Dwenger: Okay, great.
Jason Bonham: So yeah he was a very sweet guy that as I say you all know as this Beast, this animal, but he was actually kind of a quiet chap at home.
Tim Dwenger: Wow, that’s great, thank you for sharing that.
Jason Bonham: Oh thank you.
Tim Dwenger: On a couple of gigs over the years you performed in your fathers place during Led Zeppelin reunions and I’m wondering what you take away musically and personally from those performances?
Jason Bonham: What I managed to take away from the last one was the element of wow because I was at an age where I was just honored and humbled to be up there. I was such a fan at this point in my life that I always felt that early on, I’d taken things for granted. When I got the chance to go up there and have a go at it was a very special time.
Just to play with those guys and to play their songs and to do the show that we did at the O2 it was a very special moment that I will treasure forever. Being in the rehearsals and hanging with them and getting to know them as adults. You know, I always knew them when I was a young kid so to relate to them on another level now, in another element was phenomenal.
I felt like a journalist because I barricaded them with questions. I was like, oh yeah, but you know this in 1977 well now what did you really think when you did this and, you know, did you know at that point you were really special? And if so, how special did you really think you were and - and did you kind of - and they were like, okay one question a day from now on, ha. But it was a great moment, let me say that.
I treasure it very much and I’ve had the greatest privilege to play with them more than once. When I look back at my wedding video, you know, it’s hard to believe but yes, they were there and they got up and jammed on the local band’s equipment and we did some Zeppelin songs so that was very bizarre.
Doug Fox: There - there are so many iconic drum parts ends up on songs, you know, the opening of “Rock and Roll”, the solo in “Moby Dick” and to me one of the best moments in music has always been when the drums finally launch in “Stairway to Heaven” and immediately kind of kick things to another level.
So I’m wondering first of all, how fun is it for you to play those parts every night and beyond just that, how closely do you try and stick with the recorded album versions that your Dad did? And how much of your own spin and interpretation do you kind of allow yourself to put on these songs every night?
Jason Bonham: Thank you for the question. To go out and play these songs on a nightly basis on a tour like this is a big task to take in and I try and stay as true as I can to what I grew up on. Most of that is generally The Song Remains the Same version which is a major part of my performance. The people who really know the movie they’ll know some of the things that I might change from the album which would be the live version to what I remember, you know?
Like my version of “Kashmir” is more from the version of how dad would play it. In my head I have all these, outlines, sketches of what I’m taking different versions of Dad actually performing. And I try and stay as true as I can to those. Mixing up the different styles as he evolved, one thing it was made clear to me at one point and something that Dad could never do- was go back through time.
Now I can play a song like, “A Whole Lot of Love,” and sometimes I like to put drum fills in that he did from the Presence period. So I get to mix the two together it’s something that he hadn’t done yet, I mean, he hadn’t starting playing that way. So you can incorporate the two different styles of how he progressed as he got older as a player and mix them into the one time period.
At the same time I try to stay as true to the original groove as I possibly can which with the wonders of bootleggers now there’s copies of the drum track of “Whole Lot of Love” on the internet.
I get a hold of those and listen to the nitty-gritty of what actually was playing and it’s very, funky. It was a lot funkier then people really remember. So it’s been a wonderful learning experience to actually go back and study the music again I really do feel like sometimes I’m hearing it for the first time. It’s been that much of a learning curve. Recently we just added a couple of different songs into the set which we started before I left to come to England.
In just the very first rehearsal for the spring shows, I said to the guys, if we get it that good on the night I’ll be happy. We did “The Rain Song” first and it sent the hairs on the back of my neck up. It’s such a beautiful piece of music, I can’t wait to perform it live.
Such great drum parts, such beauty within a song in itself, these days you don’t write a song where you go right into the next segment and don’t have any vocals for another minute and a half. Nobody does that anymore.
As I said, I try and stay as true as I can to the different performances and I think on the next tour what we’re going to hopefully do is have some kind of description of where we get the ideas from within a program or something. So people can actually do their homework after and go well yeah, I see why he did that version.
Doug Fox: To follow up on something you said just a minute ago since I’m calling from Provo, Utah. I think I would probably be remiss if I didn’t ask you for a few more details about your funny story about meeting - going - having your dad taking you to an Osmond concert and meeting Marie Osmond back stage.
Jason Bonham: Yeah well as a kid at the time and I was quite into Marie Osmond I think and she came out of the trailer and she was getting ready and she had her curlers in. And it kind of ruined the illusion. Yeah, it didn’t quite do the same thing for me, but at the same venue I did manage to meet Abba somewhat a few years later.
Doug Fox: Okay.
Jason Bonham: I remember seeing the Osmond’s and it was pretty cool. They started with “Crazy Horses.” They were on these wires and they came out across the audience back then, so Bon Jovi wasn’t the first guy to do it.
Doug Fox: Okay. And then lastly I was wondering if you just share with us the names of the musicians in your band and maybe just a little background with them - about them.
Jason Bonham: On guitar is a friend of mine Tony Catania who’s been playing on and off with me for 20 years or more now, he is from Long Island. Big Zep fan, big Hendrix fan, big Floyd fan. Just an all around good guitarist that really excels on these songs. I know some people have seen the YouTube clips that people have put up and now obviously the news is out there but before we did the first tour we did not tell anybody who was in the band.
I didn’t want anyone to have a prejudged idea of what we might sound like until we actually played because then people could make their own judgments. This worked because there was no preconceived idea. The singer himself, James Dylan, I found on the internet through a virtual Zeppelin Website.
He’s now fantastic if you go onto YouTube clips look him up doing “That’s The Way,” I saw it and went okay, he’s in. What really pleased me was the fact that he didn’t have brown curly hair and he wasn’t, you know, a look-alike. The last thing I wanted to do is go out there and do a dress up that would have felt weird.
I’ll play on my Vistalite which is a play on what my Dad used to use but it’s a slightly different color, it’s yellow rather then amber. I wear the bowler hat for a couple of songs as a tongue-in-cheek reminder and a tip-of-the-hat to the master himself. As far as the dress up, no, it’s about the music and the love and the passion that we all have for it.
On keyboards is Stephen LeBlanc another fantastic musician all around he plays guitar and he plays rap steel, he plays numerous instruments. We all agreed that everyone had to have the knowledge that we all had musically, if we called it out we could play it, you know?
On this leg of the tour I have a friend of mine that’s had prior commitments, some scheduling issues and he actually auditioned another bass player for me that’s going to be on this tour Dorean Heartsong. Dorean is a wonderful bass player who was found by my original bass player, Michael Devin who had a prior commitment with his other band, Whitesnake. Michael found me a phenomenal bass player that gelled with us all from the get-go.
Gary Graff: Hey. If you don’t mind me--and you’re talking pretty easily about you dad, if you don’t mind me asking about a little bit of Led Zeppelin mythology.
Jason Bonham: Yeah.
Gary Graff: If you don’t mind, just your dad’s reaction to it. I’m wondering if the whole thing about Jimmy’s supposed deal with the devil. What did your dad ever say about that to you or did he?
Jason Bonham: We never talked about it to be honest with you. That whole side of him it was never brought up or even talked about in the British press. So, it was of a bit of a far-fetched thing which they probably wouldn’t deal with. I mean, I’ve talked to Jimmy many times about that home and I said, have you ever been there? And he goes, I went once, kind of freaked me out. So he didn’t own it any longer but I never really imagined him being that guy anyway. I mean when you see him with children he’s just way too sweet. He’s not that guy.
Yes they had bad luck at certain times but they had success and the price of fame, you know? It’s a similar, tragedy and success story that Def Leppard had, from the moment Pyromania became such a huge entity, the next thing you know the drummer lost his arm. They finally get themselves through that period then they make another fantastic album called Hysteria. It sold millions and millions and millions again, even more than Pyromania and then their guitarist died, there’s another great band from England that with a double-barrel name that seems to have had the success and the tragedy.
There was a lot of success and tragedy in Led Zeppelin when you think about it, in ’77 when Karac died and then my Dad, you know, three years later. But, you know, I wouldn’t say the deal with the devil thing was anything. And I’ve been around the boys enough to know.
Gary Graff: Yeah you said something interesting about it. It’s not something the British Press necessarily would have dealt with. Have you found over the years are there different perspectives and perceptions of Led Zeppelin on either side of the pond?
Jason Bonham: Oh yes, very much so... What I love about the American press and people is regarding Led Zeppelin, you can’t drive anywhere in America without hearing the unsung form on a station. Where here in England those days, you know, it would be very difficult to actually hear it at all. I love the fact that America holds onto what is great and classic, you know, it doesn’t move past it and go, okay move on.
America pays homage to it, America took in Led Zeppelin at the start when England didn’t. Only then once America found them successful then England started in on the band. Different stories were more important, you know. Hardly any of the story of the incident of my Dad and Peter beating one of (Bill Graham)’s people really made it to any form of press here. There was a big entity there.
Gary Graff: Are you documenting your show at all? Are you filming it or thinking about a DVD or anything like that?
Jason Bonham: I will be. I’m hopefully filming one of the shows on the tour. I know we’re doing the Greek at the end of the tour and that would be a wonderful thing to document. I was very overwhelmed when they told me we were going to do the Greek because I’ve seen so many great bands there over the years. I was like wow, I’m doing the Greek. Especially with the way it’s been going this year and I just look at it like this and as long as the demand’s there, I enjoy playing this music and as a representation of my father and the family and the music he created with Jimmy and John Paul and Robert.
I feel very honored and blessed that people want to go and see it, as I say, we will only do it while people want to experience it. The last thing I want to do is tarnish something so beautiful that is held so highly in my thoughts. So it’s one of those things. I always say, come and see it because it might not be here next time.
Michael DiVittorio: You were talking about how you got to learn a lot about your father through talking with other people, with sharing their stories and experiences. Seems like a lot of the stories that you’re going to be telling and the music that you’re going to be playing sort of has to be done in the intimate setting like a theater, like an enclosed environment versus an arena where a lot of like, rock music - you mentioned like Def Leppard and other people have played in front of like hundreds of thousands.
From what you guys are putting on, it needs to be a more intimate setting. Tell me about how the setting and venue affects performance like Led Zeppelin’s?
Jason Bonham: Well, the base project and it was funny; when they were thinking of doing the reunion in 2007 it was a key element of where they were thinking of putting it because you can imagine there was talk of the Wembley and the stadiums because, you know, they could have easily done that.
But to make it as true as they could be in an intimate way they chose the 02 Arena which can be as, you know, for them an intimate moment and there were moments when you could hear a pin drop when we were talking and Robert was talking to the audience and moments when we bring it down. You can almost hear the squeaking element when you drop the pedal.
One thing I wanted to come across with in the show, is the intimate stories and the moments when you’re talking to an audience when I’m kind of loss for words. In the audience somebody may shout something and it’ll just stay with me for a moment and I’ll get slightly distracted and lose my track of thought and get a bit emotional. Each night is a different experience for me as much as it is for them, for the band, for everything.
I mean even then to some nights we would kind of have a song when we were supposed to be doing something else. Much dismay turned out to be the lighting guy who was like, “I have no idea what they’re playing there. What do I do?” We kind of improvised and one thing we changed on the set was we had to be able to switch it up any time we wanted, we had to be able to alter to the mood because that was one of the key things that LZ could do. They could change things up. They weren’t afraid to change and change things around midstride.
And if I’ve learned anything from trying to perform something true to the meaning of the song is be aware of the audience and the environment you’re in. You change the music to suit the environment, the compassion, the personal moments, the energy, the light and shade, the intimacy.
You have to take everything in consideration when you’re performing these songs to make them feel believable because if you’re getting out there and just go through the motions, you know, you might as well put the wig on and the dragon suit and go out and do it.
To play the songs with somewhat of a knowledge of Led Zeppelin you have to kind of take everything you can from every version you’ve ever heard of them playing live from the bootleg to the song that you sing to the DVDs, everything, mix it all together and you come out the other side and hopefully everyone so far seems to keep understanding what I’m trying to do. So, the setting, when we came to choose the tour dates, where we were playing, it had to be an intimate thing.
There was a real we had to really fight for this. We all say yeah, we can do it in arenas. And I’m like you know what? I don’t think so. For one, people don’t know really what to expect yet even on the second time around. The people who have seen the clips on YouTube and so it’s a lot more knowledgeable now what we’re going to be doing, but at first it was a hard one. People didn’t quite get what I was going to do with the concert.
So this time around the word is out and I’m just looking forward to doing it again.
Michael DiVittorio: One more thing. You were talking about how the Americans really embraced Led Zeppelin and how fans over here in the States really basically loved you guys. Is there any difference between the coasts meaning McKeesport to Pittsburgh area sort of on the East Coast over by New York and things like that versus, you know, Los Angeles, California? Do you see any difference between those audiences at all?
Jason Bonham: Oh, yeah. I can tell just even when the tickets go on sale. It’s funny, LA is one of the first ones for sale, the tickets go fast. The Pennsylvania area Greensburg was straight out the gate, huge, in the initial ticket sales.
And on tour, Philly was a great gig. New York and Philadelphia was always a great gig for Zeppelin as well.
The same in the Toronto and the Montreal areas in Canada. Both are big Zeppelin towns; it’s a big Zeppelin experience town for me so it’s quite true to how Zeppelin was taken. They were key and big in different cities. Chicago as well…
I’m looking forward to, as I say, getting out there. And while the demand is there I’ll keep doing it. I feel blessed to do it, you know? And I am; I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the road doing this again.
Alan Sculley: Yes. Hi, Jason, again. You talked a little bit about the reunion show, of course, from 2007 and everything. And of course there were a lot of reports after that show that, you know, you and Jimmy and John Paul Jones were all rehearsing together for, you know, the intention of putting together a reunion tour.
And there have been reports that you were actually writing songs together. You appeared to reference one of them before and I’m just curious, for the record, just how close you thought things came to actually becoming some sort of reunion tour or some sort of musical project or something of some substance.
Jason Bonham: Well, I was very much under the illusion for what it’s, that we were going to write an album and we were going to put together a new project. Whether it be under the banner of Led Zeppelin, which I doubted, but it was going to be a new project that would feature Jimmy and John Paul and myself.
It winter, like early December of 2008 when it kind of came to a halt which was a hard thing for me to get over for a while. You know, I had just played the concert of my life. Playing with them was a great point, one of the greatest points of my life.
Then when I got the call to come back and do some work with Jimmy and John Paul in the writing environment, it was fantastic. I believed it was eventually going to continue on and be whatever it was going to be.
But, you know, who knows? There are a lot of things I will never understand and it’s purely, as I say, you’d have to ask them. But on my end, I enjoyed every moment. Anybody would when you get a chance to again. You get the phone call from them to go and jam and in a writing element and go over ideas. It was fun, a lot of fun.
Alan Sculley: Good. One thing I’m also curious about, I mean you were still pretty young when you lost your father and...
Jason Bonham: Yeah.
Alan Sculley: You were really young when Led Zeppelin was, first really breaking through and everything. And I was curious just as a kid growing up how aware you were of just what kind of popularity the band had and just their stature in Rock and Roll. Did that register with you?
Jason Bonham: Yes and no. I was 11 years old and I remember coming over to the Tampa Bowl Stadium when the riot happened and 78,000 people suddenly decided that’s is wasn’t not fair and if they weren’t coming back on stage we’ll have a piece of them.
As an 11-year-old you still don’t really get it, you’re like okay, that’s what my Dad does. I didn’t know anything else.
It was normal that Dad played in the band. That was normal. So for me when the real thought process came about, it was much later after he died and much later still, not till I was about 30 that I suddenly appreciated it as well and understood what dad had done in his life.
When I got the chance to play with them in 2007, which is four years ago now, I had just turned 40 so for me to do that, it was a great feeling to get the chance to go back in there, listen to it all again, study it and to know I’ve really done my homework this time.
So yeah, that was the realization full circle. Then when you suddenly go, wow, they were good.
Tim Dwenger: Did you draw on any personal memories of seeing Led Zeppelin perform live when you were completing the staging for this project?
Jason Bonham: Oh, yeah. I mean up till the final moments and when I’m performing the songs. They’re all from memories of certain songs from different times I saw them.
I didn’t see them often and one of my mates was so shocked that he said, how many Zeppelin concerts did you actually go to? I went to Tampa Bowl Stadium which was then (Rain Docks) so I only got to see the first three songs. I went and saw a show in ’77 which was at Madison Square Garden. I saw the show in Ellis Court in ’75, I saw the show in Knebworth in 1979.
I don’t actually remember seeing the show in ’72 in Birmingham but this is the show they let me see which really stood out for me. I mean Knebworth, I still when I look back at Knebworth it was such an amazing experience I really remembered, and still love it there when I watch the “Kashmir” version that Dad did in Knebworth then.
And I draw from that moment when I’m playing live, indeed at the 02. The change that I do on “Kashmir” on the (outro) was drawn from my memories of Zeppelin doing it at Knebworth where my Dad would change it around a bit.
In my head I was doing that version. It might sound a little different but I used it as a guideline when he had a more freelance flow at the end and would go for a lot longer than the actual chorded version.
And, it was a moment to let the hair down or whatever hair I had left.
Tim Dwenger: So you only saw them five times?
Jason Bonham: Yeah.
I’ve got friends of mine who saw them more times in one tour than that.
Tim Dwenger: Right, exactly. Wow. So how has undertaking a project like this affected your understanding and respect for what they accomplished as a band?
Jason Bonham: Oh, hugely… I mean you can’t go and fake this. I had done so much homework prior to the 02 reunion in 2007 that I felt oh, I’ve got all this knowledge again and I don’t know what to do with it.
When there was a possibility of doing this it was great, but still, I wanted to know more. It was meant to be because there was a certain amount of interviews and stuff that I’d never seen or couldn’t remember ever seeing that Dad did which I found.
I found some footage now which I’ve got on film and also audio of Dad being interviewed in ’72 which is really special. One of the extra special ones is the interview from 1970 is a reporter asks; do you have any family? He goes oh, I’ve got a wife and a son called Jason and he’s a drummer. The interviewer says, oh, really. Yeah, he says, he’s four years old now. His technique is crap, but he’s got good time. My ambition is that one day he’ll play next to me at the Royal Albert Hall.
And just reading some of those moments were very, you know, kind of things that you, well I had forgotten what he sounded like.
Tim Dwenger: Yeah.
Jason Bonham: You know, when you suddenly take things for granted somebody says, what did he sound like and I went, I have no idea. I can’t remember.
Tim Dwenger: Right.
Jason Bonham: That hurt me, that the fact I couldn’t remember his voice. So when I found this audio of him talking and the strangest thing was at first I thought it was me because we sound very similar.
But yeah, this tour, no matter how old I get I don’t know if it’s because I’ve just become more of a sensitive kind of person, but the hardship is some of these songs to perform them live, they just trigger emotions off of me, memories that some people won’t understand what are you crying for. It’s just moments in my childhood or my past where I go oh my god, I remember doing this.
We started doing “My Brother Jake” in the show which is an old free song and I remembered when my dad used to put on the jukebox and make me play it when I was eight years old. It sent me back to when I was a kid. I closed my eyes and I was looking out and my Mom and Dad were watching me. It was very special, these songs mean so much to me, they really do.
There isn’t any other way of doing this but honestly and people see this in the show.
Gary Graff: Hey, Jason. You know, hearing you talk about the stuff you did with Jimmy and John Paul after the 02 show jogs this, Steven Tyler’s about to publish his autobiography and I was reading through it and he recounts a little bit of coming over to whatever it was, audition or work with you guys. Wondering what your memories are of his visit?
Jason Bonham: My memories of Steven coming over, I had no idea he was coming because the guys knew that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut half the time because I felt like I’d got the golden ticket but I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody. I remember having an incident while kind of, which is one of the reasons I don’t take it anymore, I used to have trouble sleeping touring on the road and I’d been given an Ambien by my doctor.
All I remember was I kind of got woken up after only going to sleep for two hours to do a radio interview. I did it and thought nothing of it and then suddenly to have my email alert, come up with all these different emails going oh, my god, what did you say?
I’m thinking, what did I say? I didn’t say anything bad. I had no memory of telling the world that I was working with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones again. So they weren’t going to tell me that Steven was coming in. Believe it or not, I’d just tied a bunch of scarves to my cymbal stands on the weekend prior to being there on a Monday.
So he must have thought I knew but I had scarves tied around all my drum stands and obviously that was the thing that Steven did then. When he came in he sounded great. I remember him being brilliant. I was a big Aerosmith fan. I remember him getting on my drum kit and playing and then he got on the keyboard and played a bit of “Dream On” and, you know, I enjoyed it immensely.
He kind of went for it the first day, but then when he came back in a couple of days later it was good. I mean for me, my take on it is it sounded like Steven Tyler singing Led Zeppelin songs. You know, there was no mimic, there was no mime. He was Steven Tyler singing Led Zeppelin songs and there was something quite cool about that.
Gary Graff: Let’s see, the way he puts it in the book is, it’s because it was Steven Tyler singing Led Zeppelin songs, that’s why he didn’t think it would work.
Jason Bonham: Oh. See, to me I thought that’s the way it worked, you know? Because if you’re going to do it, you can’t replace Robert, you know. If you’re going to do these songs then you do them to the best of your ability. The best of Steven’s ability to me is for him to be himself and that’s why it sounded cool because he wasn’t trying to be somebody else. The music still stayed the same, as close as it could with me on drums.
So I enjoyed it. I must say I had a good feeling about it.
Doug Fox: Hey, it’s obvious in listening to you talk about representing your Dad and family and your obvious reverence for the band, that you probably wouldn’t have proceeded with this project without it. But did you feel the need or did you seek the blessing of the other band members before embarking on this? Or maybe if you didn’t do that, did you hear later on what their reaction was?
Jason Bonham: Oh, yes, I didn’t want to piss anybody off. So there was one incident and I remember somebody forwarded me something another person I know had said, it was a potshot and it was quite hurtful. I was upset it came from kind of a family friend of the whole band.
I remember thinking, I don’t like this. I just want to be liked; I don’t want to be disliked. I hate the haters, but honestly, you’re going to get them no matter what you decide to do.
I actually called Robert and spoke to him about it.
Robert told me not to be concerned and then we went on an interview together and then a DJ tried to throw me under the bus saying hey, what did you think about Jason doing a Led Zeppelin tour without any of you guys?
Robert turned around and went on the defensive for me and said, well, Jason can do whatever he wants, when he wants. He said, Jason plays these songs like nobody else. He said, there’s a few people that think they can play them like him but nobody can and they know who they are. He really went on the defensive and he said, and as long as Jason does this with a smile he has my blessing.
So it was kind of like, leave him alone.
That was a big step for me when Robert came in there and said, you know what? This is, Jason representing his family and his father. Just let him be.
There was a big interview with me on a TV show in England and it was about drummers all over the world and I was quite open about what it was like growing up with dad as a drummer.
Robert suddenly went, you know, I just forgot what it would be like for you. I really did, you know, having missed having a hero around to grow up to and him being gone for so long.
I think about this more now, when I make certain decisions in my life now that I have my own family, and my son is the same age that I was when I lost my Dad.
So it’s a tough one to be in that situation when you haven’t got the advice of a father to give you. So I sometimes miss him there. I miss him when I go dad, what should I do?
And what I said to Robert was, sometimes when I don’t know what to do I call you because you are the closest thing to dad for me.
Doug Fox: It occurs to me that in all my years of doing music interviews that you can offer a unique perspective that I’ve always wondered about. There’s been a lot of bands where a member has passed away and the band ends up replacing them. And their thought is that, you know, this person would have wanted us to carry on and to continue on the way that we are.
That’s certainly their right and it’s a valid stance, but I’ve always had a certain level of respect for Led Zeppelin because when your dad passed, they refused to go on after that.
All these years later, I’m just wondering what your personal perspective is on that and how did you view that decision considering all the things that could have happened over the years with the band and how things have ended up now? And just what your thoughts in general are on that.
Jason Bonham: Well, I definitely I love the fact that they stood by their word, it was a respect thing, very much so. It was wonderful.
When they finally came out and said we cannot continue on without our friend and colleague, John. It’s one of the hardest things to listen to, one of the last-ever things of Led Zeppelin, broadcast was that statement.
And many years later, after the 02 Robert’s said to me, “Jason, as much as you are your father’s son and you play like nobody else, for me when I revisit these songs it’s not just revisiting the song, it’s revisiting the whole bunch of memories.” And he adds, “For me Led Zeppelin was with John on drums, not Jason. He says, “I hope you don’t hate me for that.”
I said “No, I get it.” and there’s a whole bunch of fans out there which are actually okay with it now. One way it’s and another way, I did it once and I said to him, one more show, and he said yeah, you did. So we did just that and I just hope that maybe it sees the light of day eventually.
Doug Fox: Okay great. It seems to me, would you say that you’re closer to Robert than you are to Jimmy and John these days?
Jason Bonham: Yeah. I would say I speak to Robert more on a regular basis than I do to Jimmy and John but I find that there’s still kind of that closeness when we all see each other. It’s like we haven’t been apart for years and we carry on the conversation like we just left off, that’s how it has always been.
Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience tour dates:
05/04 - Wallingford, CT - Oakdale Theatre
05/05 - New Brunswick, NJ - State Theatre
05/06 - Atlantic City, NJ - Borgata Resort
05/07 - New Hampshire, CT - Capital Center
05/09 - Buffalo, NY - University PAC
05/10 - Westbury, NY - Theatre at Westbury
05/12 - Montreal, QC - Metropolis
05/14 - Toronto, ON - Sound Academy
05/15 - Greensburg, PA - Palace Theatre
05/17 - Indianapolis, IN - Egyptian
05/18 - St. Louis, MI - The Pageant
05/19 - Kansas City, MI - Harrah's Casino
05/20 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre
05/21 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Depot
05/24 - Fremont, CA - Saddlerack
05/25 - Napa, CA - Uptown Theatre
05/26 - Sacramento, CA - Crest Theatre
05/27 - Los Angeles, CA - The Greek Theatre
05/28 - Las Vegas, NV - Alliente Casino
For more info go to www.jblze.com.