There isn’t a damn one of us who hasn’t played a Led Zeppelin cover or at least a riff or two. There’s something innate in most musicians that draws us to them. Perhaps it’s the sheer variety of styles they explored. Perhaps it’s just the overall coolness. Maybe it’s some kind of hypnotic suggestion buried in the iconic four symbols representing Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant. Whatever it is, Led Zeppelin’s music continues to be relevant to new generations nearly 50 years after the release of their first record. Jason Bonham was only 14 when his father passed away, and he continues to maintain what is effectively an ongoing dialogue with his father’s creative legacy. In January and February 2018, he brings the sensibly-named Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience to Australia and New Zealand.
“For those who don’t know, it’s something I started seven years ago as kind of a one-time deal,” Bonham says. “It was meant to be part of my way of expressing my love for music and expressing myself with a tip of the hat to my father. Soon after doing the 28 shows that we did with an orchestra, everyone said, ‘You’re not going to stop now, are you? You haven’t been here, you haven’t played there…’ And so I said, ‘As long as you guys want me to do it, I’ll do it.’ It’s really fan-based. It’s not us and them; it’s about love for Led Zeppelin, and that’s how it’s grown, as a very honest, natural, fan-based show. You guys all knew him as Bonzo; I knew him as dad, and there’s a great interaction.”
Having grown up with this music his entire life, it’s interesting to hear how Bonham relates to the Led Zeppelin catalogue. “Do you find stuff that you hated when you were 17 that you really like now? It was kinda like that for me. There was stuff that I just didn’t get, but it wasn’t the music evolving but myself, my way of listening to what I was hearing, what to be influenced by. It was like someone took my earplugs out, like, ‘I never noticed that before!’ As you get older you get wiser on everything, and musically it’s the same thing. I never imagined being 51 and being in the busiest demand of my life, playing in three bands [Black Country Communion, The Circle, and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience], doing soundtracks for movies and everything. If you told me years ago that I’d be doing all this stuff at 51, I’d have said, ‘You’re joking, I’ll be retired by then.’”
Bonham takes inspiration in this from his bandmate in The Circle, one Mr. Sammy Hagar, who just turned 70 but seems to still have the same vocal range and the same enthusiasm for performing that he’s always had. “His energy is huge and he’s still like a big kid when it comes to the music side of things. When I get to that age, I hope I still have that passion for it.”
The Circle also features former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and Hagar’s Waboritas band guitarist Vic Johnson. “We all have different musical influences we grew up with at different times of our life,” Bonham says. “I first saw Michael playing at the Monsters Of Rock concert when I was 16 years old and he was with Van Halen, and it was just amazing. One of my favourite songs to play with Michael now live is [Van Halen’s 1991 track] ‘Poundcake’. So many great songs. ‘Finish What You Started,’ ‘Judgement Day.’ I loved Alex Van Halen as a drummer so regardless of whatever went on between those guys with their personal shit, I’ve gotta give credit where credit is due. I’m a big Alex Van Halen fan, and whenever I play those songs I try to channel my inner Van Halen, and Sammy and Mike say Alex always tried to channel his inner John Bonham, so it’s a full circle.”
Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience will tour Australia in January 2018.