Growing up in England, it took a while for Jason Bonham to fully understand the fame of his father, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.
"Not to be harsh about it, but nobody in England really gave a s—-," Bonham said with a laugh. "It's true. In England, they were just guys. My dad would go down to the local pub with the farmers and locals and they'd say, 'There's the long-haired guy again. He's a drummer in a rock band. Make a living out of that, can you?' I can see why they never could have lived in America. They could never have normal lives here, but they could go home and be normal people."
For most of the '70s, Led Zeppelin ruled the hearts of American teenagers. But tragedy stopped the band in its tracks. On Sept. 24, 1980, the elder Bonham started the day with four quadruple vodkas and continued drinking throughout the afternoon. That evening, he died in his sleep. He was 32 years old. Jason was just 14.
Jason Bonham went on to pursue the drums himself and joined the surviving members of Led Zeppelin for a one-off 2007 concert paying tribute to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. The show sparked talk of an LZ reunion that never panned out, nor did plans for Bonham to join guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones with a new vocalist. Instead, Bonham put together a tribute group, dubbed John Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, and a multi-media show that hits the State Theatre tonight.
We spoke to Bonham last week and here's what he had
to say about his father and his current tour.
ON TAKING UP THE FAMILY BUSINESS:
"My dad was the one who put the drumsticks in my hands at a very early age. But I got very heavily into motocross when I was 10. I saw a motorcycle when we were on vacation in the south of France and fell in love. The first time I ever noticed we were a little different was when we turned up to my first race with my bike attached to the hitch of a Rolls Royce. But after dad's death, I wanted to carry on the family tradition and I have ever since."
ON THE SHOW'S MULTI-MEDIA ASPECTS:
"I center the concert around archival footage. Some of it shows dad as a child, where we're from, what our home life was like. My mom went through all this footage. She has tons and tons of stuff that she's never let out before. I hadn't seen some of this stuff myself. You see my dad as a prankster and a joker. The fans love it. And at one point, I play 'Moby Dick' with my dad. We split the screens and we play together. It's a bit strange. Now, I'm the 44-year-old playing with my 20-year-old dad."
ON LIVING WITH HIS FATHER'S LEGACY:
"It is hard to have your own identity when you dad is John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, but I accept and love the fact of who my dad is. I understand that my dad is the greatest, I just try to play to the best of my ability."
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF PLAYING WITH LED ZEPPELIN AGAIN:
"If you had asked me in 2005, when I had just joined Foreigner, that I would leave the band in 2007 to play with Led Zeppelin, I would have said you're nuts. When Ahmet passed away, I had a feeling they were going to do something and they did. I don't know if it will happen again. I had a great time with them. It was one of the greatest feelings in the world to be in that seat."
ON THE MOMENT BONHAM FINALLY DID FIGURE OUT THE SCALE OF HIS FATHER'S SUCCESS:
"I went to the 1977 show in Tampa, where there were 86,000 people there. I looked at him and said 'Who else is playing? Are the Stones here?' But it was just them. That was a moment to remember."
Ross Raihala can be reached at 651-228-5553.
What: Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, a tribute concert and multi-media show
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis