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Robet Interview In The Daily Mail 8/10/2010


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My screaming Led Zep days are over

Daily Mail (London); Oct 8, 2010; Adrian Thrills; p. 64 The LAST time Robert Plant toured under the name Band Of Joy, he was a hip young gunslinger from the Midlands taking his first tentative steps on a stage.

Along with his teenage pal and drummer John Bonham, he went on to become a founder member of Led Zeppelin, a group that changed the face of British rock.

Now, four decades on, he is using his latest album and this month's televised show at the BBC's electric Proms to rekindle the carefree spirit -- and name -- of those far-off days.

'I called the new album Band Of Joy to remind myself why I started doing this in the first place,' he says. 'It's a way of tipping my hat to those times. Staying alive in this game requires a certain state of mind and I can't do this on autopilot. I needed to fly the freak-flag again.'

As the bare-chested frontman of Led Zeppelin, Plant was the biggest beast in the rock jungle. his out flamboyant style set the tone for a generation of singers in the Seventies and Zeppelin sold more than 200 million albums Plant's to be called nectar. 'i before splitting, after Bonham's death in 1980.

As befits a man of 62, Plant's music is softer these days, although a fondness for experimentation survives. On 2007's Grammy-winning Raising Sand, he hooked up with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss, and he looks towards Nashville again on Band Of Joy, another set of sparkling songs rooted in vintage Americana.

'I'm trying to sing with more restraint,' he says. 'But that's a challenge for me, as it has always been easier to scream, "whoa, baby baby!" But that's part of the fun. I like jumping from one log to the next.'

Reminiscing about the original Band Of Joy, formed as a psychedelic rock outfit in 1966, Plant admits that he and Bonham sometimes had to break the law to survive, siphoning petrol out of parked cars and stealing milk from doorsteps.

'We didn' t always have enough money for food, drink and fuel, so we had to get by somehow,' he laughs. 'But you can rest assured I haven't done any petrol siphoning for a few years.'

Chatting in a Birmingham hotel room, Plant is great company. The golden mane is greying and his face is now well-lined, but a mischievous twinkle remains.

Despite feeling ill at ease with the modern promotional whirlwind -- 'it doesn't sit well with the flamboyance of making records' -- he has driven from his home on the Welsh borders for our interview and is happy to talk about his illustrious past and ongoing resurgence.

He says last year's Grammys triumph with Krauss was particularly gratifying. Raising Sand scooped five awards, beating Coldplay and Radiohead to the prestigious album of the year gong.

'It was great to win against those big rock acts,' he adds. 'Alison and I had a wonderful time making Raising Sand and we ended up festooned with gongs -- silly, really.

'It was a crazy combination, but we're good friends now, even though her ironing is terrible.'

An attempt to recreate Raising Sand with a second volume was not so successful, though.

'It wasn't Raising Sand, it was Raising hell,' says Plant. 'We had a few songs, but they weren't as immediate. Alison also wanted to do something more contemporary, so she went back to her band, Union Station. Our record captured a moment and I'm sure we'll have others.'

Plant stayed in Nashville and made the Band Of Joy album with Buddy Miller, his guitarist on the Raising Sand tour. An eclectic mix of country, folk, rock and Fifties pop, it reminds its maker of 1970's Led Zeppelin III, an epic LP that augmented the iconic band's hardri f f ing blueprint with more reflective folk-rock leanings.

'When we made Led Zeppelin III, we achieved two things,' he says. 'We became the band who would never go away and a band who were never going to repeat themselves.'

Talk of Zeppelin inevitably leads to questions about a reunion. The group, with John Bonham's son Jason on drums, staged a triumphant one-off show at London's O2 Arena three years ago, but they have since resisted lucrative offers to reform.

Plant is enigmatic: 'I can't speak about that, as I'm not in control of destiny. It's not for anybody to say. Anything is possible, but it'll take a lot to turn it into something worthwhile.'

That said, he is proud of the December 2007 concert, staged in honour of the late Ahmet ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records.

'It was tough tearing into those songs after 27 years,' he says. 'But it was quite something. The sense of event was so big in comparison to any one of us individually.'

A WEST MIDLANDER at heart, Plant is a vicepresident of Wolverhampton Wanderers and believes football helps him to stay grounded.

'Watching Wolves is a perfect cure for my madness,' he says. 'I'm always happy to wander along to Molineux and hear someone shout: "Alright Planty, still doing a bit?".

'I feel an affinity with the Black Country. I'm fascinated by local history and I love the humour. It's very locked into the spirit of the region, that little circle to the west of Birmingham.'

As a performer, Plant now ploughs an idiosyncratic furrow but, with Grammy wins and a topthree placing for Band Of Joy in the UK, he is taking plenty of his old fans with him.

'The visuals of rock don't interest me any more,' he says. 'I was in the band that invented them, but my interests are now elsewhere.

'But I'm still a singer. I'm a onetrick pony and this is what I do. So I'm looking forward to touring with the Band Of Joy -- and to Wolves staying in the Premier League.'

Plant's album was going to be called Knee Deep in nectar. 'I saw everything as a summer's day,' he says. he eventually settled for Band of Joy

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