Bonham rolls out Zep Experience

Jason Bonham

Jason Bonham

DARRYL STERDAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

When Led Zeppelin’s reunion plans crashed and burned in 2008, Jason Bonham's spirits plummeted with them.

“I don’t think I really believed it was going to end,” admits the 44-year-old son of Zep drummer John Bonham, who took over for his late father at the band’s legendary 2007 reunion concert. “I’d worked so hard to get there and really thought everything was working in the right away. The planets had aligned and I was living that moment — and it suddenly came to a halt.

“It took me a good 18 months to pick myself up. I fell into the bin of self-pity and thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’”

Three years after that magic night, Bonham finally has his answer.

He's about to launch his own mothership: Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, a massive multi-media production that will visit 30 North American cities this fall — including more than a dozen Canadian stops (see full list below) — to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his father's alcohol-related death in 1980.

In the midst of a press blitz to promote the tour — I was his 17th interview of the day, and it wasn’t even noon — Bonham spoke emotionally and candidly about Zeppelin, his father and being called fat and bald during rehearsals. Here’s some of what he had to say.

Where did the idea for the Led Zeppelin Experience come from?

It came after I played the show with Jimmy (Page), Robert (Plant) and John Paul (Jones). Once that all stopped and people knew it wasn’t going to happen, the company that did The Beatles show Rain contacted my management and said, ‘Would Jason be interested in putting together a Zeppelin show?’ And I said, ‘No, not at all.’ They said, ‘At least come and see Rain before you make your final decision.’ So I went — it was the least I could do without being rude — and a light bulb went off. I thought, ‘I could do this, but in a way that makes it a personal thing.’ I have lots of memories of Zeppelin. And I know the joy it gives fans when I tell them stories. I see their faces light up. And it went from there.

What can you tell me about the show?

It’s more than just a band going on. There will be no wigs, no outfits, no dragon suits. We’re not trying to emulate anything. We’re trying to convey my life and my experience with Led Zeppelin. So without giving away too much about the whole thing, there’s a certain amount of music and some storytelling. You’ll see old movies of me as a child with Dad, playing the drums. There are some funny moments, some sad moments — just a personal trip into my life. And it celebrates Dad’s life. It’s just a little reminder that it’s been 30 years since he went.

Are you going to play Moby Dick?

Dad and I are going to do it together. We’re creating it from the two main video and audio choices we have, which are the 1970 Royal Albert Hall show and The Song Remains the Same movie. It’s going to be a challenge, making sure everything runs smoothly in sync. I’ll also play with him on When the Levee Breaks. That’s one of the hardest songs to replicate, so rather than fight it, I thought, ‘Come on Dad, let’s play this one together.’ We’re editing footage of him playing and cutting it so that he’s looking at me. I’m really looking forward to that.

How has it all been for you emotionally?

It’s been very tough. I’m going to sound like a crybaby, but I get choked up trying to explain it. This is very dear to me. And one of the reasons I won’t be telling stories live is I don’t think I’d get through it, especially with people cheering. I’d be in bits. I’m choking up now just talking about it. It’s just the way I am. Even when we were rehearsing Stairway to Heaven for the (London show), we came to the drum part and I kinda got choked. Robert saw I was sad, so he joked, ‘Erm, you’re not going to do that on the night, are you? Because there’s nothing worse than watching a fat bald drummer cry.’ Jimmy went, ‘Have some compassion, Robert.’ And he said, ‘Well, he’s stupid, blubbering over a bloody song.’ But it was just his way of lightening the load. Robert felt the heaviness — he just recently said the whole thing was too heavy for him, and that’s part of the reason he couldn’t go on with it. Now I get it.

Were you concerned about what they would think of this?

I was fearful. But Robert was really supportive. He said, ‘Listen, you don’t need an excuse to do it. But do it with a smile on your face.’ When he said that, that was it.

What about Page and Jones?

I haven’t heard from Jimmy or John for quite some time. I’m sure they know about it.

You’ve said you rehearsed with them for months after the reunion show while you tried to find a singer — but it ended with a disagreement between Page and Jones. What happened?

It wasn’t so much a disagreement. It was that they agreed to disagree about what the direction should be and what we should be doing. But it was a very respectful, mutual kind of thing. I just had a great time jamming with them. Just playing those songs, I could do that for the rest of my life.

You must know you’re going to get grief from the purists for the show.

On yeah. But it’s my father and the music he created. And if I thought this was being done in a disrespectful manner, I wouldn’t do it. If Jimmy or John Paul Jones or Robert said, ‘Please don’t do it,’ I would stop immediately. I would respect their wishes. But it would have to come from them.

darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience — Canadian Tour Dates

Oct. 08 | Dawson Creek, BC | Encana Events Center

Oct. 09 | Prince George, BC | CN Centre

Oct. 12 | Edmonton | Northern Alberta Jubilee

Oct. 13 | Red Deer, Alta | Emmax Centre

Oct. 14 | Calgary | Southern Alberta Jubilee

Oct. 16 | Regina | Brandt Centre

Oct. 17 | Winnipeg | MTS Centre

Oct. 23 | Montreal | Metropolis

Oct. 25 | Quebec City | Grand Theatre

Oct. 27 | Hamilton | Hamilton Place-Great Hall

Oct. 28 | Kitchener | Centre in the Square

Oct. 29 | Toronto | Sony Centre

Nov. 29 | Vancouver | The Center PAC


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