Bonham tours behind The Disregard of Timekeeping and Jason reflects on his dear old dad



By Steve Newton

In September of 1980, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died of a heart attack attributed to massive quantities of alcohol. A year before that tragedy–which stopped the much-loved band in its tracks–Led Zeppelin performed a major outdoor concert at Knebworth, England, and Bonham’s 13-year-old son Jason was given the privilege of jamming with Messrs Plant, Page, and Jones during the band’s soundcheck.

“Nobody knew it was me!,” chuckled the young Bonham, on the line from Toronto last week. “Jimmy just turns around and goes, ‘Oh, where’s John?” And Dad was watching from the front.”

Last year Jason had the opportunity to relive that experience when he filled in for his father at a Zeppelin reunion of sorts that highlighted Atlantic Records 40th anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden. The drumming chops that Bonham Sr. had been teaching Jason since he was four years old–when he bought the youngster an exact replica of his own kit–came in mighty handy, as they did when Jason Bonham played with his dad’s former pal Page on the latter’s Outrider album and tour.

Nowadays, the 23-year-old rocker is touring with his own band, simply called Bonham, which brings him to the Pacific Coliseum this Friday (December 22) as opening act for the Cult.

The album that Bonham and his bandmates will be drawing tunes from, The Disregard of Timekeeping, is currently well-embedded in the Billboard top 40, and has sold a half-million copies since its release last September.

Bonham says that the title of the band’s debut album came from a couple of different things.

“One is the way my father taught me how to play drums, and the way he played, which was to disregard the timekeeping–throwing the rhythms around and putting a few surprises in there that shouldn’t necessarily be there, but that somehow work.

“And the other one is that I just got sick of hearing drum machine after drum machine on English radio with all the Stock, Aitken, Waterman blasting out–it’s like everyone forgets about the real heart of music. There’s four hearts beatin’ in this band, and we just try to create it live.”

Joining Jason in the Bonham lineup are vocalist Daniel MacMaster, bassist/keyboardist John Smithson, and guitarist Ian Hattan (who previously toured with Robert Plant in the Honeydrippers). MacMaster, the youngest member at 21, is from Barrie, Ontario, and connected with Bonham through Bad Company vocalist Brian Howe, who heard MacMaster’s demo tape while doing a radio interview in Toronto.

Although there are strong shades of Robert Plant’s vocal style in some of MacMaster’s performances on Timekeeping–particularly the first single, “Wait for You”–Bonham says he wasn’t looking for a singer who could recreate the former Zepman’s pipes.

“The first time we heard him he sounded nothing like Robert. His voice is so versatile from bein’ in bar bands, doing a lot of different covers all the time. So I think he’s stil just finding his own voice, and that the next record’ll definitely be more him. Robert Plant was one of his main influences, though.”

When the band’s lineup was solidified and it came time to find a producer, Bonham considered such well-known names as Eddie Offord and Bob Clearmountain before deciding on legendary record-maker Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd).

The Ezrin connection also brought Yes guitarist and jack-of-all-trades Trevor Rabin onto the scene, to lay down the bass guitar on three of the album’s 11 tracks, which allowed Smithson to concentrate on keyboards a bit more. Rabin also arranged and performed the album’s backing vocals.

As far as today’s drummers go, Bonham picks people like Jeff Porcaro, Omar Hakim, and Mel Gaynor as his current faves. And when it comes to skin-bashers from the past, of course he’s very proud of the work his father did with Led Zeppelin.

As a tribute to Bonham Sr.’s drumming prowess–but mainly to help publicize the dangers of drug/alcohol abuse–Jason teamed up with fellow percussionists Mickey Currey, Jim Vallance, and Tico Torres on a version of the Zeppelin drum opus, “Moby Dick”. The track was recorded live in Moscow at the anti-drug Make a Difference concert, and is featured on the just-released Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell album.

Apart from the great drum sets his dad would give him–and the even better lessons–Jason Bonham says that his childhood as the son of one of rock’s greatest drummers was really quite a normal one, impromptu soundchecks notwithstanding.

“He was just dad to me,” says Bonham. “I never really looked at him as Mr. Supergroup, John Bonham. And I never even realized, until later in life, when I started coming over here [to North America] just how big Led Zeppelin really was.”


To hear the full audio of my 1989 interview with Jason Bonham subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

…with hundreds more to come

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