Jump to content
Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
Sign in to follow this  
Triplet Kick

Robert Plant interview in Hot Press magazine

Recommended Posts

Readers, for your edification and weekend reading, some rather candid replies and the usual oblique Plantations... Transcribed by me while listening to Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys Baggy Rehearsals; some obscure and dated Roger Taylor (Queen) stuff; and Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother. Enjoy!

All my love,

Triplet Kick

*******

From Hot Press, vol. 34, issue 23, Dec 01, 2010. Pages 38-42.

A SPRING IN HIS ZEP

WORDS: Olaf Tyaransen

He turned down a $200 million Led Zeppelin reunion to chase his muse to the murky depths of Apalachian America. So has cock-rock legend ROBERT PLANT mellowed with age or is something else going on? With his extraordinary new solo album just out, the Golden God of seventies' hard rock talks about growing older, the messy demise and brief rebirth of Zeppelin and explains what the future holds. Hint: it has something to do with laying hedges (and no, that isn't a filthy euphemism!).

Wearing blue jeans, a leather jacket, a woolen hat and battered snakeskin shoes, bone fide rock legend Robert Plant strides purposefully into the residents lounge of the Clarence Hotel and challengingly looks your Hot Press correspondent square in the eye. "So you're the guy who wants to know all about my life, are you?" he demands.

"Em... yes," I reply, somewhat taken aback at his direct manner.

"Well, let me tell you," Plant says, stabbing a finger. "I'm 62 years of age and I woke up yesterday morning and realised I'd got these stranger voices coming out of my trousers."

His record company PR and I exchange nervous glances. This is not quite how I envisioned my encounter with the former Led Zeppelin frontman beginning. "Anyway," Plant continues. "I went to the doctor this morning and told him about these strange voices in my pants. He took a look and then said to me, 'I wouldn't worry about it. At your age these things are to be expected. You're just talking bollox!'."

Boom! He bursts into laughter and shakes my hand. "How's it going, mate?"

Whatever about his talking genitals, Plant look pretty damned good for a 62-year-old rock star. His face is lined and wrinkled but, when he removes the headwear, his lion's mane hair is as impressive as ever (id a little greying at the roots). Last night he and his new musical cohorts the Band Of Joy – featuring Patti Griffin as his female vocal foil – wowed a packed Olympia with a ninety-minute set drawn from a menacingly mixed palette of country, blues, folk and Americana (with a little Zep 'Rock And Roll' thrown in at the end).

Much has been made of Plant's decision to make dark and obscure country music rather than pick up his share of the $200 million reportedly offered for a Led Zeppelin reunion tour, but watching him cavorting around the Olympia stage it was obvious that the man is far more interested in following the muse than the money. Then again, with a fortune estimated at around the €80 million mark, he can easily afford to do what he wants. While he's been consistently musically active throughout the post-Zep decades, in recent years he really seems to have found his groove, first with Raising Sand, 2007's Grammy-winning, multi-million selling collaboration with vocalist Alison Krauss, and now with the further exploring eponymous Band Of Joy album.

OLAF TYARANSEN: Congratulations on the gig last night. Did you enjoy it?

ROBERT PLANT: It was a great show last night. I think we are now Siamese sextuplets. Everything is interplanetary when we're playing. There's just many beautiful gaps and spaces and filigrees. The dynamics are amazing. I could never have imagined this really.

You seem to change bands fairly regularly. Do you get on well with musicians generally?

Well, there's always an amount of tension, you would say. I think in the past my whole guise – or my projection – has not been quite as focused as this. I'm far less confused than I used to be. Because the transitions are made. I've moved through this beautiful gossamer, if you like... I wouldn't say away from rock 'n roll, but perhaps more into the root of rock 'n roll. The absolute root where Bob Luman met Lefty Frizzel met Scotty Moore. The whole deal about this is not to over-masculinise it.

What? Move away from cock-rock, sort of thing?

Well, it's not even that, really. Who do you blame? Elvis? Johnnie Ray? I don't blame anybody. I think it's just there are different times in your life where you see projecting your music and writing it and stealing it and whatever it is. They all come from different places. You either mature or grow old or go crazy. It's just the different seasons of your time. So the tension is there, but I've never got on with people they way I get on with these guys. There's no ego anywhere, and yet there's absolute sublime moments, which some people might feast on to the detriment of those around them. I mean, did you see Justin [Adams] and Juldeh [Camara] last night?

No, I actually missed the support act.

Ah, you were mad to miss them! Crazy to miss them! Juldeh is from Gambia and plays a one-string fiddle, and he always says, 'I was really goof tonight'. But from a Gambian viewpoint he's absolutely spot-on – it's not ego, it's just fact. And the difference between fact and all those insecurities and ego and shit that filter through popular music is a very fine line. The Africans know when they're good and when they're shit, and they can say it. With us, we kind of cough embarrassingly and go, "That was alright'.

Band Of Joy was one the names of your first bands before Zeppelin. So are you coming full circle?

No, I just think there's no way out [laughs]. Well, maybe so, yeah. I mean, I've been asked this question quite a lot and in truth I suppose I would say that when I was 17 or 18 with the original group, I wasn't prepared to compromise for anything – and that's what go me my gig. When Terry Reid turned down the job with Page and Jonesy, and he recommended me, I got into that zone because of being the way I was. And so I've taken that zone all the way through these sort of transfigurations, if you like. There was no kind of rock area that interested me, so I could just set sail again with something similar to the attitude I had then I guess. Fuck it, just let it go! Just do anything and everything. Mind you, in a way I suppose I've always done that anyway. I mean, I could've had a fantastically prominent career, if you like, as one of the more mature members of the music fraternity. But I'm almost like some midnight creeper that sort of nips in an bites people's ankles every 18 months.

You're pretty much a living legend of the rock firmament. Do you carry that awareness around with you in your day-to-day life?

Ha! [roars laughing] No, of course I don't. I mean, fucking hell, if I needed to do that or if I was overly aware of it, I think I'd be playing four nights in Wembley Stadium with some other people. I'm just blessed you know, I couldn't be in better company.

Do you still live in Wales?

Most of the time probably, yes, because I've got a beautiful running dog who's looked after by my next-door neighbour – who was the guitarist in the original Band Of Joy. We played here actually for Denis Desmond in the Priory of Brion, that was the guy who looks after me dog. But yeah, I go back there a lot. But I'm also in Nashville a lot.

Are you ever to be found playing impromptu gigs in small Nashville bars late at night?

Nah. Well, I mean, I don't know. I'm sure if we were all out together and there was a harmonious combination of people or a great band playing... I don't have a problem with that or I don't see any reason not to. But I've always been neurotic about my voice. I don't want to overcook it. Tonight we're playing in Belfast and tomorrow we're finished. And that'll be five gigs and a TV show and a day of rehearsing in eight days. So in the old days I would've lost my voice by now. But now I'm singing differently.

Of course, in the old days you would've been screaming your head off...

Yeah. A pointless exercise [wry smile].

Is that why you turned down the Led Zeppelin reunion? All those high notes?

Ha, ha! It would've been more demanding. But also, I want to get into melody, and I really want to maintain my condition, almost as a student, believe it or not, a 62-year-old student. And that's what I'm doing with these guises. I mean, Buddy [Miller, producer] has got 84,000 entries on his laptop. So when that bus is trundling through Kentucky, there's one hell of a party going on on that bus. If we did, if we cared to, we've got the next four albums already ready to record.

The new album sees you covering a lot of obscure old Blues and Americana, and there's even a Richard Thompson number in there ["House Of Cards"]. But how about writing some new material yourself?

The thing about writing new material with people is that it can be a very naked experience to bare yourself. You can be quite shy about it, you know. I am. I'd only ever written one song before I joined Led Zep, and then I co-wrote a hundred of them. It's all about the circumstances and the vulnerability and the exposure. But of course from the age of 20, from the way I saw things, and the way I wanted to express them, grew with me as I became more mature. So where am I now? I'm listening to Townes Van Zandt and Leonard Cohen going, 'Fuck me, these lyrics!' Where do you go from 'Bird On The Wire'? How can I get anywhere near that? It's certainly got nothing to do with squeezing any lemons anyway! You know what I mean? So times change and go. But then again, I've a lot of observations that I make. I'm pretty alert. Maybe today I'm a little tired, but I'm alert enough to have something to say. Especially as Tony Blair is still walking the planet free.

Not to mention Bush and Cheney.

And Rumsfeld, yeah. I listen to a lot of black AM radio in Nashville, and it's the sort of subterfuge of the glorious white supremacist trying to create havoc there. But whether or not in my time, I can actually add to anything that anyone else is already saying about the disgrace of our times, I don't know. What can I sing about – love? Well, I'm still learning.

You reportedly went into a studio in Nashville with Alison Krauss to do a follow-up to Raising Sand but abandoned the sessions after a couple of weeks. What was the problem?

Alison is one of my best friends on the planet. She's really a great, spectacular, quite profound and also incredibly funny person. We didn't have a problem, we just didn't have the material to suit our, em, melding. Because she and I, we really have to have the right songs to sing. And we just didn't have them.

Did you feel perhaps under pressure after the massive success of Raising Sand?

Nah! Fucking hell, otherwise where would I be? There's no pressure anywhere. I mean, the whole deal about my life is it's a life. It's not governed by anything. There's no predictability about what I'm going to do next. Although I do feel like I've found my place now. Like the absolute spectrum of possibilities in this combination is so fucking wide, so broad. It's like you can get tired of shit quite easily I think. People fake it. There's so many people faking in this game. But if you're going to to fake it then you might as well sell cars. I don't have any criteria to live up to. I'm so far away from where I was when I was 30. I mean, it's like a million miles. Mind you, if I hadn't had all that stuff going on until I was 30, you wouldn't be talking to me. The past creates the present.

A lot of younger readers wouldn't necessarily be aware of Led Zeppelin. What you mind explaining what the band was to you?

I don't know what it was. It was a roller-coaster of very, very rootsy sources, with four people coming from different parts of the musical globe and occasionally creating spectral music – from the sort of 'Kashmir' and 'In The Light' and all that stuff, the beautiful stuff, compared to 'Custard Pie' and the kind of real raucous material – but there was ingenuity even in the tougher stuff. The worst thing in the world, I suppose, for anybody is to get typecast by a media that's short on words. Hot Press is respected and all that sort of thing so obviously there must still be a reasonable amount of journalism that just doesn't live on cliché, but I mean you could see how easy it is... when I read reviews. When I was working with Alison it was like 'beauty and the beast'. Now it's like the guy who turned down so many million to do... nothing. It's like all these kind of clichés. So Led Zep – the miscalculations and misinterpretations are quite vivd and very funny. But thank God I wasn't in Genesis or I'd be called 'prog rock' now. And that's something you can never get round!

What was the maddest moment of the Zeppelin years?

Waking up!

Waking up?

Well, it was always a surprise [smiles].

What was the lowest moment?

Losing John [bonham, drummer] I guess. Or knowing that sooner or later, something was going to happen. Something had to give.

Given the kind of music you're making now, did you feel a sort of musical emptiness about some of Zep's rockier stuff?

No, because I never knew where it was going to go. In a way, when John passed I had a really blank canvas and I just threw in so many different attitudes at it. And I think that was always the way it was in Led Zeppelin too. We just threw ourselves at projects and at personality... You know, the functioning of four people together for about ten years in a hell of a deal. And the malfunctioning is even more of a deal. So everything runs its course. I remember when The Beatles were collapsing, it was so evident that it was happening. And on the one hand you've all the fans who didn't want it to happen, and on the other hand it needed to happen very quickly – because it was gone. But then again, if you read between the lines, they had that problem that we're free of now at this age – or I am. That kind of ego and competitive stuff. I mean, when George Harrison came out with All Things Must Pass after The Beatles, it more or less was the album that The Beatles should've made years before. It was so spectral and beautiful. But there was obviously a hierarchy in The Beatles.

Was there a hierarchy in Led Zeppelin?

Zeppelin wasn't like that really. If anybody had an idea that was great, we pursued it. And of course we needed to. There was a good pulse to Zeppelin up to a point. But then we were maturing, and you can't always fit the composite bill, the requisites of being a four man rock band. I mean, over here, Bono and the guys, they've negotiated the same thing, but they've actually sailed through it. And it's not been easy for them, even though they've had massive international success.

It probably helped that U2 agreed to split the money evenly from day one.

That's fair enough, yeah. That's an important issue because it can breed all sorts of rancour. But on the other hand, what's more important is do people still mean it? Or is it just that kind of beautiful pacifier? Which I think a lot of my contemporaries are living with. Just doing it.

In a recent interview, you joked about being so broke in the early days that you had to steal milk from doorways and siphon petrol from cars.

Yeah. Tasted fucking awful.

It must've been a long time since you've had to do anything like that.

I still steal [laughs]. It's been a long time since everything when you're 62. But what a gig! What a blast! And on Saturday, my other obsession will be Manchester United [talks at length about his love for Wolverhampton Wanderers].

To be honest, football doesn't particularly interest me.

Well you haven't lived yet. Especially when it's tribal.

It's actually the tribalism that puts me off.

Well, that's what puts me on. Because all my roots, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, were band leaders in the Black Country, it was all brass bands marching. The whole thing about being in a band, or being part of a unit, is it's quite tribal, you look after each other. So it's a natural progression to being a saddo like I am [laughs].

I noticed you only had a beer during the encore last night. Do you drink much these days?

Well, what are you gonna do? If I have an alcohol problem, it's not getting in the way of anything at the moment. Obviously I don't, otherwise I wouldn't be talking to you now. Although I was still drinking Guinness at 3 o'clock this morning. But if I'm not going to drink a Guinness in Dublin, where am I going to drink it? And the U2 boys sent me some champagne and Guinness, which I thought was very stylish. But I never drink before a gig. I leave it until the encore. But I don't think I ever really caned it at all. I was immune to penicillin a few times through accidental liaisons, but that's about it really.

You seem to be in pretty good shape. Do you go to a gym or exercise much?

I play tennis a lot. There's still some pulse going on in there [laughs].

What's your ambition in life now?

I think I've really found the home of the heart with these people. And the project itself could be quite amorphous, really. The Band Of Joy is and has to be exactly that. So one day we add somebody to it, or somebody goes off somewhere and does something fast, maybe somebody else will come in. It doesn't have to be hard and fast. But the way we are now – you've got three people who've got solo careers here, and people are saying, 'Hey, this is so good that I'm gonna put that on the back burner for a while just keep doing this'. And that's the most honest way to be, you know. If you don't sign pieces of paper that adhere you to other people, you just do it as long as it feels good. But in terms of other ambitions, I've booked a little course at the beginning of January before I go to see Patty and Buddy to write. I'm gonna do this little tiny course in hedge-laying.

Hedge-laying?

Yeah, laying hedges. You know with a little billhook? The weave that you create. I used to it when I was young. A farmer used to teach me to do it. It's a great art.

Do you have a lot of land in Wales?

No, I don't really have land. I have access to everyone's land with my dog. I can walk until I have to sleep without anyone objecting, as long as I don't tread on the crops. I can walk from my place to Julian Cope's without anybody interfering.

Is Cope a near-neighbour?

No he doesn't live near, but he's a kindred spirit.

What's your opinion of shows like The X-Factor?

I don't pay that much attention. It seems like it's music for people who even know what they're listening to.

Do you think that music is losing its mystique?

Talking about it is taking away from the mystique. Being with you is taking away the mystique. Because once upon a time there was no talking. How many interviews did Elvis do? None. How many times has the King of Ireland done an interview? Yer man Van [Morrison]. He probably knows where to get some good white wine, but he's not spilling the beans [laughs].

Van's a notoriously difficult interviewee.

He's a prodigious character. So long as he's happy. I would like to hope that he's happy. Actually, I played with him in Ireland a few years ago. I opened a show for the King of Ireland. That's a good theme for a song.

Incidentally, speaking of Morrisons, did you know The Doors' Jim Morrison?

Yeah. He was propagating his own myth. Pretending he knew nothing about the music, and that he was in fact the Lizard King. We played with him a few times. I saw him fall off the stage. He went to seed very easily. A shame, really. I still think of amazing moments that he had. But that was a much more kind of tangential time musically – said the old man with the silvering beard [strokes chin and grins]. There was great music. And there was radio that supported great music. But here's the winnowing of an old man... so I must away.

**********

Band Of Joy by Robert Plant & The Band Of Joy is out now on Decca.

Edited by Triplet Kick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unbelievable interview. Loved it. So much detail from Robert. Not used to him swearing so much. Don't usually read or hear that from him much. He knows so much about music. I think it was Dan Aykroyd who said that Robert was the most interesting person he had ever met. Mostly was in regard to how much he knew about music in roots and blues music. And he's carried that on with the Band of Joy...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks people. Transcribing that was one of my many ways of procrastinating instead of doing some real work. :rolleyes:

@SuperDave - that's an interesting quote from Mr Aykroyd. Dan's someone who's hung around some very wild and wonderful characters himself.

Yeah, it's a really good read and the journalist is a good interviewer: asking good questions, being objective, and not putting the heat on too much. I think Hot Press got the interview because it's generally held in good regard by musicians. One thing I like about this article is how Plant basically gives his reasons for his current direction. Even if some folk may dislike his decision not to reform Zep, I find it hard to fault the man's reasoning - his intuition - about where his muse is taking him. Especially as a winnowing old man...

Lastly, my proofreading skills have spotted an error in the reply to the fourth last question. Please note the following:

ERROR: "I don't pay that much attention. It seems like it's music for people who even know what they're listening to."

SHOULD READ: "I don't pay that much attention. It seems like it's music for people don't who even know what they're listening to."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks people. Transcribing that was one of my many ways of procrastinating instead of doing some real work. :rolleyes:

@SuperDave - that's an interesting quote from Mr Aykroyd. Dan's someone who's hung around some very wild and wonderful characters himself.

Yeah, it's a really good read and the journalist is a good interviewer: asking good questions, being objective, and not putting the heat on too much. I think Hot Press got the interview because it's generally held in good regard by musicians. One thing I like about this article is how Plant basically gives his reasons for his current direction. Even if some folk may dislike his decision not to reform Zep, I find it hard to fault the man's reasoning - his intuition - about where his muse is taking him. Especially as a winnowing old man...

Lastly, my proofreading skills have spotted an error in the reply to the fourth last question. Please note the following:

ERROR: "I don't pay that much attention. It seems like it's music for people who even know what they're listening to."

SHOULD READ: "I don't pay that much attention. It seems like it's music for people don't who even know what they're listening to."

Thanks Triplet Kick,

Very interesting read! Know what you mean about transcribing - been doing a bit myself lately. Still, needs must..

Issue 10 of The Lemon Tree currently being assembled - check out the website!

Liz Hames (Editor, The Lemon Tree fanzine - The Unofficial Robert Plant fanzine)

www.lemontreefanzine.org.ukpost-16030-043200400 1290803073_thumb.pn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about that! I didn't realize The Lemon Tree Fanzine was still a going concern. I'd say the new issue (#10) is a must have once it is published.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It looks like Robert has a lot of interest in U2, recently. This is the second interview in which he references it. He talked about the huge logistics in a U2 gig last time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It looks like Robert has a lot of interest in U2, recently.

@Mariuca - I can only guess why Plant referred to U2 in this interview: while in Dublin he stayed at the Clarence Hotel, which is owned by Bono & The Edge.

Musing further, U2 have been one the biggest rock bands for decades - like them or not - and seem to have transcended problems that have sunk other bands of similar stature (such as Zep). They've kept the same four members, have had the same manager since the beginning, haven't fallen into drug addiction, have built up a huge empire around them... I reckon that Plant would take a look at U2's career and think one of two things: "that could've been me" or "there but for the grace of God go I..."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...