LED ZEPPELIN author, historian and music journalist Ritchie Yorke recently conducted an interview with drummer Jason Bonham about JASON BONHAM'S LED ZEPPELIN EXPERIENCE — which celebrates the life and music of Jason's father, the legendary LED ZEPPELIN drummer John Bonham. The question-and-answer session follows below.
Ritchie: Jason, a pleasure to talk to you as always and particularly in this interesting point mid-way of the evolution of the tour. The unveiling of the JASON BONHAM'S LED ZEPPELIN EXPERIENCE must represent a case of your destiny coming to life.
Jason: I'm almost ready to do ZEPPELIN acoustic during intermission. Ritchie: Which of the songs would you say, after a dozen shows, work best? Jason: They love "You're Time Is Gonna Come" which they get after I do my little speech downstage. That one goes down really well. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" gets a standing ovation every night. The turning point for me is after we do "Lemon Song". After that everyone is generally up on their feet. After the break, "When the Levee Breaks" gets a huge response with the way we start it. I get the crowd to go "1, 2, 3 Bonzo" and then the drums kick in and I interact with Dad and join in with him. As much as I say it's not theatrical, I do take a little bit of pantomime into my performance. As Dad always said, I'm very much like my Mom sometimes. Ritchie: We can see it in some of the home movies. I like the way showing the home movies adds to the intimacy of the experience. Of you and your dad messing around, playing together adds a feeling you never get in shows. Jason: I realized the other day, Dad's the kid and I'm the old man playing with him. When we do "Moby Dick" together, I'm older than him and it's the strangest thing in the world because he's still the master and that's the classic. It's like the pupil overtook the teacher in age, but he's still there — he's still kicking butt. So that has been evolving and getting better every night, because I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants till he comes in. I'm not really keen on drum solos. When your Dad was the creator of "Moby Dick"… you kind of steer clear of getting compared in a solo-ing aspect. For me soloing is still new and I had to wing it a bit till I played a few times, but that has got better and better and is now working out fantastically. Ritchie: The show seems to go to another level when there's that split screen of you and your Dad. It just gives it a new bond and intimacy that I think is so special. Jason: Yes that works very well. Ritchie: People are obviously bound to compare you and this band with the original LED ZEPPELIN. What I found interesting is that with the level of production you have taken the live performance of these songs to a whole new level. The lights, the sound, the visuals… The overall vibe of the show has established a whole new set of standards. Jason: While we are trying to emulate the greatest band in the world, we always remember that they're the creators. We just have a great mass of material to look over and play and emulate in some way. I love listening to different versions and imagining what Dad would do on those and try to get that vibe and feel. As far as lights and PA systems go, when you look back at early pictures — there were two mics on Dad's drum kit. There's a vocal PA and nothing else, phenomenal really. We probably have a system now that doubles what they had in those days. Ritchie: The increases in technology obviously play out in the show. It must be particularly gratifying for you that in the 30th anniversary of your Dad's passing you can offer this up there, to him, in the universe. Jason: As I said from the start, I never imagined doing this or more importantly getting the response I've been getting. I did an interview yesterday and it got quite deep and intimate. We talked about my son and now more emotions have been going on in my head — I feel more connected to Dad and I never realized that when I'm playing I'm at my happiest and somebody said it's because you feel closer to him, and I do, I thought about it and, well, that epiphany is an evolution. Ritchie: And I'm sure it will continue to I'm sure, from this tour and into the future — whatever that may be. Jason: My Mom was supposed to come tonight. I sent her a few clips so she could prepare herself. I told her, "I don't think you are ready for what you're gonna see," and she kind of broke down. I sent her two clips from Montreal, filmed from the audience and you can hear the crowd singing along to "Kashmir" from start to finish. She said, "I'm not ready for this, I promise I will come to a show, but I will wait and come to L.A, I just feel this is a bit much for me to take in right now." She also said, "Dad would be so proud, you've devoted your entire life to him," and then she got quite upset and said — and this was the first time she's ever spoken badly about Dad — "what a bastard for doing this to us" and I said, "oh dear, here we go," and she really has never spoken a bad word about Dad. I told her she could have moved on a long time ago, so it's been a roller coaster show on a personal level as well. Ritchie: I think this is a chance for you to move up to another level. Jason: As I say, I don't know how I would feel if I were doing this every night and we'd been getting reviews that were slagging us off. I don't know how it would have felt, but because it's been all positive. All around I feel ok and that we are doing the right thing. It's been accepted by everyone. Ritchie: Montreal was a special show; so far on the tour it was the culmination thus far on the tour of what you are trying to do — both from the audience and as a band working together. Jason: The audience pulled the performance out of the band. We went with their enthusiasm and we got into it. We were bombastic and going nuts. We were totally taken on an emotional roller coaster vibe with them. There were no seats. It had more of a club atmosphere, a large club, standing room only. It was also the first night we added a non-LED ZEPPELIN song. I decided to tip my hat to Neil Peart, and at the end of "Whole Lotta Love" we went straight in to RUSH's "Tom Sawyer". Neil was the next guy I got into after Dad died. I bought "2112" on vinyl and everyone was saying, "this guy is the shit, you gotta listen to this guy play drums." And I think after Dad died he won every rock drummer poll and has done since, he really is a phenomenal player. Plays a totally different style than Dad and myself, but I admire anyone that comes along and is a master of his craft. He's had a lot of grief in his life and he pulled through it. Bad things happen to good people unfortunately — and my thoughts are with Neil and I feel he has a wonderful life with his new chosen way and I respect him very highly. Montreal made us think of others; every time we play we research the cities and pick key people from that city to tip our hats to, not only the ones that we were personally close to, but the ones that were important to the people of the town. In Boston we're thinking about doing "Train Kept A Rollin'", because of the AEROSMITH connection and ZEPPELIN used to play it."