Jason Bonham, son of the late John Bonham, filled in for his father during Led Zeppelin’s 2007 one-off reunion concert at the O2 Arena in London. With the release of Celebration Day (the concert on DVD, CD, Blu-ray, vinyl and digital), he talks about playing with the iconic rockers, as well as touring his own multimedia salute, Jason Bonham’s Led-Zeppelin Experience.
The Led Zeppelin reunion show was one of the most anticipated and analyzed concerts of all time. What was your highlight?
Kashmir, I think. I felt so relaxed. That’s the point I kind of stopped looking at the guide book, as it were. I just went for it, in my own way. It was coming from inside me, rather than remembering what Dad did.
When you play a Zeppelin song, how tough is it, balancing your own style and instincts with what your father did?
I always make sure I’m doing what needs to be there, and what my dad had done previously. I remember in rehearsals for the London show, I got quite obsessive about it. Someone asked me if I was enjoying myself. I said “not really.” I was trying to replicate every fill that Dad did. Then someone said, “Why don’t you just be Jason, and if you do that, John will come naturally.” After that I relaxed. It was night and day. Robert [Plant] turned around immediately and said, “Where have you been?”
What was the motivation behind your Led-Zeppelin Experience show?
I originally did it more for me, as closure. It was going to be 30 shows for the 30 years he’d been gone. But fans told me that I had to do more. I heard heart wrenching stories about fans who had tickets for the 1980 show in Montreal, the first concert that didn’t happen, when my dad died. They’d be in tears. It was hard to deal with sometimes.
Hard to deal with, and yet rewarding, I imagine.
It made me realize that it wasn’t about me any more. There were a certain amount of people who were looking for closure as well. They lost my father as much as I lost him. People tell me that. So, I enjoy it. But I don’t imagine continuing doing it for another 20 years. I always thought that when this DVD did come out, that would be the swan song for the Led-Zeppelin Experience. But, we shall see.
With the release of the DVD, people are wondering about an actual Zeppelin reunion tour.
It’s not up to me. Robert tells me, “You play great, Jason, and you’re just like your old man, but you’re not your old man, and what the four of us did was a long time ago.” If they ever did do it, I’d love to be involved. But I don’t think it’s in the cards.
The trailer for the DVD hails Led Zeppelin as the greatest rock ’n’ roll band in history. Do you believe that?
When my dad was playing with them, yes. Led Zeppelin was Led Zeppelin when John Bonham was on drums. It’s timeless. One of the reasons I do the Led-Zeppelin Experience is because I really didn’t get the chance, while he was alive, to understand how great my father was. I never got the chance to tell him.
As his son, how objective can you be, as far as judging his talent?
I don’t think I’ve ever met a drummer who didn’t tell me that my dad was an influence. He’s a tough act to follow. But to give me the opportunity to play drums and make music, what a path he led for me. I’ll take it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.