ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 3, 1992
By Steve Newton
In the middle of a phone interview with Jason Bonham there’s a rap on the door of the drummer’s L.A. hotel room. He goes to see who it is, a brief chuckle is audible in the distance, then Bonham returns.
“Somebody just sent me room service as a practical joke,” confides the 26-year-old skin-basher, son of the late, great John “Bonzo” Bonham, whose old band was known for playing its own little jokes in hotel rooms. Matter of fact, the Led Zeppelin crew were famous for doing other, less savoury things in hotel rooms—many of which are detailed in a new book written by former tour manager Richard Cole. The younger Bonham says he’s read parts of the sensationalistic Stairway to Heaven biography.
“If you take it light-heartedly and read it, you’ll find it good reading,” says Bonham. “It’s a funny book, because how can a guy who was so fucked-up on heroin and alcohol remember exactly word-for-word or situation-for-situation what happened back then? It’s just a load of exaggerated stories, to my mind anyway.”
Although there are no plans to release a book detailing his own band’s Holiday Inn exploits, Bonham says his namesake group has done its own share of hellraising over the years.
“We used to get a bit out of hand,” he admits. “I think a lot of people go through that thing—when you have any semblance of success you get a little carried away. But we’ve mellowed out in our old age.”
The real old fogies in Bonham are guitarist Ian Hatten (formerly with Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers) and bassist/keyboardist/violinist John Smithson, who are both 30. The youngster in the band is 24-year-old Daniel MacMaster, a native of Barrie, Ontario, who was brought to Bonham’s attention by Bad Company vocalist Brian Howe, who’d heard MacMaster’s demo tape while doing a radio interview in Toronto.
“Daniel’s a beauty, eh?” jibes Bonham, unaware that Bob and Doug McKenzie-style Canuck-isms have been passé for years. “Canadian, eh? Way to go, eh?”
While he might not be the funniest drummer around, Bonham is gaining a fair amount of attention on a tour that brings his hard-rock band to the Orpheum on Sunday (September 6) as opening act for British prog-rockers Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
“It’s very different for us to be on a bill like this,” he says, “and it’s surprising, as well, because the fans are a lot older than what we’re used to playin’ to. The audiences are like 25 and over, so it’s not really our audience, but I’m very surprised how we’re going down. We’re going down a storm with the ELP fans.”
The ELP/Bonham pairing certainly makes the show an inviting one for drum fans, since both Bonham and ELP’s Carl Palmer are proficient behind the kit. Bonham says he’s not intimidated about warming up for a percussion master of Palmer’s calibre, though.
“We’ve got two totally different styles,” he says. “He’s very technical, and I’m more of a feel, play-from-the-heart type player. So then it’s good fun, you know. He watches me, I watch him.”
Bonham and his mates are touring behind their recently released sophomore album, Mad Hatter, which is the follow-up to their million-selling debut, The Disregard of Timekeeping. The band was formed shortly after Bonham took his father’s place for Led Zeppelin’s set at the Atlantic Records’ 40th anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden in 1988.
“That’s definitely one of the highlights of my career because it was just a wonderful thing to play with those guys, and play those songs. And as soon as I walked off stage I got signed up and told to get a band together, so that’s how Bonham started.”