Speaking with Jason Bonham doesn’t seem quite real. Ever since bro-ing down with the 45-year-old drummer backstage at The Warfield Theater in San Francisco earlier this year after a mind-blowing set with the Led Zeppelin Experience, it seems he’s been dodging us. Squirreled away in his hotel room in Stockholm before laying it down tonight with Black Country Communion, Bonham is over the moon at the reception thus far for Black Country Communion 2, especially since the blues-based hard-rockers (featuring guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa) never got to tour behind their 2010 debut. It’s also been the perfect antidote to the misfortunes of Led Zeppelin Experience, whose thunderous roll ground to an abrupt halt this summer. After BCC’s European jaunt wraps this weekend, Bonham is back stateside with LZE all Rock-tober long to finish what they started.
The singer [James Dylan] got pneumonia with three shows to go. At one point the promoters wanted me to just grab somebody else. I said‚ ‘Do you know how hard it was to find somebody that can sing this well and sound the way he does?’ You can’t just pluck another part off the shelf and plug it in. So for me cancelling was the only way to do it. Obviously James was upset that we were coming to the final shows, ending at the Greek Theater, but it’s been nice to know that when we come back that’s going to be the start of the tour, so at least we get to do it again.
Jason Bonham LE [Led Zeppelin Experience] represents what Led Zeppelin meant for me. I thought the whole thing was going to settle down on the last tour, actually, but when my dad’s ex-personal assistant came out on the road, he just said, “You should keep doing this every year. What better way of showing your appreciation to the fans than going out there for three hours and play from the bottom of your heart?” So we try our best to do it the best justice we can. We’re not Led Zeppelin, but we never claimed to be.
It’s a strange thing doing “Moby Dick” along with [the archival video of] dad because in the first footage I used of him, dad’s 22 years old, and here I am 45. So I’m going “Oh, God, I’m the old man now playing with the kid,” so no wonder it’s difficult to keep up with him. Plus it’s something we never had a chance to do together in real life, so it’s a very emotional thing still no matter how many times I’ve done it, which is 58 times now on the road. I’m getting pretty good at being synchronized with him. One of the easier ways of doing it other than just listening to him is I’ll watch him while we’re doing it. I have a monitor so I can really feel and see when his downbeat is. And that’s been just so much fun to do.
Most of the arguments we have [as a band] is what songs we’re going to do — it’s not an obvious choice, you know? It wasn’t like Led Zeppelin had a bunch of hit singles. You can obviously deal with favorites that stand out like “Black Dog,” “Kashmir,” “Whole Lotta Love,” but there are whole other areas like, “Should we represent this? Should we do this era?” I want to represent every album.
We recently found more [archival] footage of me and my dad. I don’t know the exact dates, 1970-’71 it must’ve been, but it’s never been seen before. So now there’s much more I can do to personalize the show. But it’s always been a work in progress, basically from when I started it to now with the letters from fans, in the e-mails, and the Facebook messages. It’s very overwhelming to be honest with you. It’s a tough one to go out and do without feeling a little sad now and again, but the greatest pleasure of all is to go out there and just play those songs.