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Jason Interview


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sorry if it's already been posted but I thought it was a good read

QUOTE (Rythm Magazine December 2007)



On the eve of the historic Led Zeppelin reunion gig, Jason Bonham tells Geoff Nicholls how it feels to fill in for a man who was both a legend and his dad.

When Rythm magazine spoke to Jason bonham last year, he was touring with Foreigner, playing better than ever and well clear of his personal struggle with booze. Life as a drummer spent in the shadow of his universally worshipped father has sometimes been tough. But he's never resented his dad - on the contrary, he absolutely adores him and his legacy. And now after 20 years he's been gifted another chance to pay tribute to hsi father's legend and to show off the undoubted talent handed down to him. This time he's truly read yand able.

Last winter, jus tas Jason finally got time off from Foreigner duty, he took to his other great love, dirt bike racing, and promptly broke his wrist - not a good thing for anyone, never mind for a drummer. On recovering he went straight back to work with Foreigner and then, in February, sat down for a momentous, air-clearing dinner-date with Robert Plant. A couple of months laterthe unthinkable happened: Led Zeppelin were reuniting for a one-off show in aid of Atlantic supremo Ahmet Ertegun's Education Fund, and the man to play the gig was Jason.

Speaking from his home in Florida, Jason is obviously excited, proud, emotional, and definitely apprehensive as he sits on the threshold of his destiny. "I still keep thinking, 'is it really going to happen?'" he muses. "It's something I've dreamed about since I was 15 and realised I would love to play drums in Led Zeppelin. I played with them in Madison Square Gardens when I was 21, I'll be 41 now. I get a second shot."

So, Jason how did it all come about?

"Robert (Plant) and I went out for dinner in February, socially, because we hadn't been that close for years. There was no talk of a Zep reunion and we had a really deep, heavy conversation going back to the moments before dad died. It was a beautiful but sad experience, to watch somebody that loved dad dearly, his best friend, choke up and tell me something he probably thought he would never have to. We needed to speak frankly, gloves off. I spoke my piece and he answered back with his version, which was not pretty for me. But at the end we walked out stronger and definitely mates."

Was this about 'Why weren't you there for my dad?'

"Not so much that, more about afterwards, 'Why didn't you ever call me? Your name came up so many times when I was in rehab'. And he said 'Why? Because I wasn't going to put the band back together? Because you wanted to be in the band?' He said, 'It was never the fact you weren't good enough, Jase, it was dealing with your mess'. Afterwards, my love and respect for him was greater than ever. Then, two months later, I hear we're gonna do it."

How was the first rehearsal?

"It was a magical and emotional day. June 10th. We'd been emailing back and forth, 'What shall we start with?' When we got there we did songs not on my list. Typical! 'Houses of the Holy' and 'Custard Pie'. Then we did 'Kashmir', which was phenomenal, and at the end Jimmy shouts, 'Well done, Jason, come here, give me a hug'. And Robert goes, 'Yeah! Sons of Thunder!' It was really touching, something I'll never forget. Jimmy said, 'That sounded as good as any time we played it, but it's you, not your dad. you play the signature part, but that's all you, don't cut yourself short."

Relief all round then?

"Yeah. It's been at the back of my mind for years - am I really good enough for this, can I really pull it off? People said, 'Why did they (Page and Plant) have Michael Lee?' And you start thinking, 'Maybe I couldn't do it'. So just the chance to get another crack, and not take it for granted this time. To go in prepared, homework done.

"Then we did 'No Quarter' and that had such a great, loose feel. We jammed the middle section like they used to. Robert and I looked at each other and there was a magical moment - 'Wow, this is good and it's just the first run through'.

"After that they said, 'Hold on a minute, we're going off for a chat,' and they came back and said, 'We're going to do this thing, would you like to do it?' And the rest is... er... coming together..."

In a way they auditoned you...

"Kind of. They said, 'When we come back in August...' and I said, 'You mean I get the chance to do this again?' They looked at me and said, 'You're the reason we want to do this again, you're making us feel it's worth pursuing'. So that was a great feeling. I must say, they were inspiring me - I mean, John Paul Jones! I'd forgotten what it was like to play with him, but I'm honoured.

"Like (I said) in the last interview we did, I want to be known as more than just John Bonham's son. Because being in the room with them I do feel like a kid again. But after that first day I might have walked in a boy, but I left a man. The feeling they gave me at the end was they weren't these giants that I remember - I was talking eye-to-eye with them, musically."

Could or would they have done it without you?

"From what I was told, it was never, ever going to be anybody else. They didn't have, because they could get anybody. But if they're confident enough to walk out on that stage with me in the engine room stoking the fire, then fair enough. It would be great to do a warm-up gig though, and by the time this comes out maybe there will have been one. Can you imagine if we just turned up?"

At JB's in Dudley!

"I think Robert might have already mentioned it, actually! That might be on the agenda when I go back - any chance of a quickie? I'm sure we'd all like to."

Inevitably there are doubters...

"I've read the internet comments and I agree with some - this isn't Zeppelin - and I thank them because I am also my dad's biggest fan. But comments like 'Jason's style is completely different, he plays with Foreigner, it's straighter' - I wanted to answer back, 'Do you understand how hard it is for me to play so restrained with Foreigner?' People sometimes say, 'You're safer now than when you drunk two cases of beer and snorted Peru!' But that was then. In some ways I'm better now than ever. Playing with them (Zeppelin) it's not all about the chops. You have to have grown up with them. It's not just about what was on the albums and bootlegs, because each time is still going to be different and I know exactly where they're going when they go off on a tangent."

If you couldn't do it, who would you nominate?

"If I was going to Zeppelin, I would want it to sound like Zeppelin, not like Zeppelin with Neil Peart playing drums, although he's an amazing technician. I wouldn't choose a rock guy, it would be someone who can swing with more of a jazz feel and - you know what? - Dennis Chambers. I think he would 'get' it, where a normal rock guy wouldn't."

Not Dave Grohl then...

"Dave loves Zeppelin and dad, god bless him. But supposedly he said, 'They've probably asked Zak Starkey already'. Well I know Dave, he came to see me play and now he's said, 'Of course Jason should do it, he's an awesome drummer'. So thanks, Dave. See you at the show. Tommy Lee wants it too. And I went to see The Who, and I want that gig as well. I thought Zak was brilliant and I was really bummed, thinking, 'Ohhh, all that space'. You can't show off your drumming unless there's the space."

And, of course, the Bonzo sound to fill it...

"I just hope it comes across. That's the one thing I'm nervous about and I'm doing loads of preparation with the soundman, playing him stuff, saying, 'This is what you have to go for - for these fills, you must have an open sound'. I could be playing with the greatest gig of my life, but if it doesn't come through the PA it's gonna suck.

"For the first rehearsal I sent over the stainless steel kit, Ludwig got me one. For me it was a big deal to get that sound, because that's half the battle. I wanted it to be familiar for them as well as me. The monitors were happening, it's virtually a PA both sides, with Robert blasting through. And I was loud! Down with the in-ears! I'd forgotten what it was like to play with speakers."

How closely do you stick to your dad's licks?

"I hope when I do certain fills it's like something he would have chosen from his book of John Bonham fills, something he would have played in that moment. But it's like you have a great painting and you have to copy it, but you've seen different versions. You can take from each. So there might be a fill from a later song that I'll throw into an earlier song. I occasionally put something from Presence in a Led Zep I song. It's like a time machine - go back and use from the future."

You said this time you'll be prepared...

"There are various bootlegs I like, given to me by fans, where obviously dad was on fire. For some people it might have been overplaying, but certain songs were phenomenal. I'm focused enough to know what the key elements are. I've listened to so many versions, it'll bne a mix of all the records and tours. At Knebworth, dad played very differently. On the DVD there's a version of 'Song Remains the Same' on the menu page, and if I can get a bit of that only the die-hard fans will know what I'm doing, and they'll go, 'Oh god, he's attempting the so-and-so version,' and that will make my day. I've got my time machine, I'm allowed to go back and if someone says it sounds nothing like the album, well they're not into Zeppelin, they don't know I might be taking from, say, the 1975 Earl's Court version of 'In My Time of Dying'."

Which songs are the most challenging?

"Only because I want to play it right, 'Rock 'n' Roll'. I'm still conscious of my left hand, playing those constant eighths. If you watch the Knebworth DVD you finally see exactly what the left hand is doing. You suddenly go, 'That's why it sounds weird when you don't play it right'. In rehearsals Jimmy says straight away, 'Come on Jase, let's have a listen to a bit of that left hand'. That wasn't on my list - foolish of me to think we can get away without doing it!"

Anything scary?

"I'd love to do it, but I was dreading the moment we tried 'Good Times, Bad Times' - you've got to be kidding! I don't have the right foot of the old man and I've been practicing and even looking for old Speedkings. They never played it live though. I even read an article with John Blackwell Jr about how he strengthens his foot, so I've been doing that, and it works. I've got the pedal as tight as possible, so it's really hard to hit the drum. And when you come to the gig and loosen it off, suddenly it feels easy."

They're not going to make you perform 'Moby Dick' are they?

"I hope not! I doubt it, but then again, I'd be willing. I think I'd rather 'Moby Dick' came on from the DVD and I would join in with dad, on giant screens - dad one one, me on another - and I could figure out a whole section so we played together."

Led Zeppelin with Jason bonham play the 02 Arena on 10 December.

Other info:

Jason's Led Zep Selection

'The Song Remains the Same'

"I've always enjoyed playing that. It has that great, bombastic and half-time feel. And the accents, then those brilliant single-stroke rolls all around the kit. It's the only one where I use the timpani. Every time we rehearse trhere's more gear arriving. Jommy says, 'What next, the bloody gong?' Mo, I'm not doing that, but the pedal timpani are great. The Song Remains the Same movie is being remixed by Kevin Shirley - the version of the title song from that sounds great and the big fill that happens in the middle incorporates the timps. I've been wanting to do that fill for so long, and the first time we did it I turned and went to hit the timpani and my right hand hit the hi-hat as I went for it, and I lost the stick. I was shouting, 'Please can we do it again, I've got to do that fill!'"


"'Kashmir' I've always loved. To get it sounding right you have to lead with the hi-hat. With a lot of these songs- the tempo has to be right. So I will use a [digital tempo counter], not to follow it but to make sure that when I count in I'm in the right ballpark. If you were jumping out of a plane, you would want two parachutes - you'd want a back-up. I had a word with John Paul and he said, 'You don't have to, it doesn't all have to be spot on, it has to feel right as well'. At Knebworth 'Dazed and Confused' is slower than the recording, but it speeds up in the fast middle part."

Jason On That Reunion Gig

"The atmosphere is going to be like England winning The World Cup, emotions are going to be high. I keep having these visions of being there and coming to the point where we do a certain song, which will remain nameless, and trying to figure how to get through the start of it without breaking into tears. I get a chill now thinking about the atmosphere and the noise when the lights go down, and thinking any minute now the three remaining members of Led Zeppelin are going to walk on stage and play after 20 years and with the drummer's son. I have this out-of-body experience. A friend said, 'Do you know what you are going to do? This is the most sought-after drumming gig in the world and you are the drummer'. This friend's the one who has been pushing me to really go in prepared: 'You don't get a second chance at this. You go in there and show them there couldn't be anyone else doing it except your old man if he was alive.'"

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Thanks, that's wonderful!

"I think I'd rather 'Moby Dick' came on from the DVD and I would join in with dad, on giant screens - dad one one, me on another - and I could figure out a whole section so we played together."

What a great idea... though I don't think I could get through that without bursting into tears, just to see it and hear it.

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A friend of mine was right at the front at the O2, and said Jason was tearful during and after Stairway, so maybe that was the undisclosed tune.

Agreeing with SunChild, how unbeliebably moving that would be to see father and son playing together...I am getting a little choked up just typing those words :'(

Jason's interviews are always interesting, informative and he always speaks lovingly and with complete admiration for his dad. This interview also has some lush accompanying photos :wub:

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I finally got a chance to watch the 02 via 3rd eye and I'm so happy for Jason Bonham - He played so, so well. (His performance on Rock and Roll was awesome!)

It was touching to see the members of the band acknowledge how well he played

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Just picking up on what Jason says in this interview about his doubters, and that fact that he has to be more restrained whilst playing with Foreigner; As much as I love Foreigner, and Jason playing with them, I have always thought their musical style is too "soft" for him to shine and show off his talents to the max. I urge anyone to listen to (CD ~ You Are Here) and watch (DVD ~ Showtime) Jason when he was in UFO. He totally rocks, and looks right at home. I would love for him to return to heavy rock sometime in the future. :)

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Just picking up on what Jason says in this interview about his doubters, and that fact that he has to be more restrained whilst playing with Foreigner; As much as I love Foreigner, and Jason playing with them, I have always thought their musical style is too "soft" for him to shine and show off his talents to the max. I urge anyone to listen to (CD ~ You Are Here) and watch (DVD ~ Showtime) Jason when he was in UFO. He totally rocks, and looks right at home. I would love for him to return to heavy rock sometime in the future. :)

Me too! :D

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