An Interview with Jason Bonham
May 1996
By: Bruce Deerhake & Mike Houpt
with additional questions by Hugh Jones
Click on any image to get a better quality, un-cropped version. Click on the audio buttons to download .wav files and hear Jason tell it in his own voice!

BD: What are your thoughts on the current Page/Plant collaboration?
JB: It was nice to see Robert and Jimmy back together again. I actually went to the Unleded recording. It was good, actually, there. I hear the shows actually went down alot better. I got a couple of bootlegs, actually, professionally shot video, which was pretty good. I just felt a bit disappointed that John Paul Jones was not involved. If they were gonna do something together again, I'd like to see John Paul Jones up there, regardless of who played drums, ya know, just to make it little more like the real thing. But maybe they were trying to do it their way, ya know, Robert's way, I don't know.

BD: Were you disappointed that you weren't asked?
JB: Ah, no, not really. Cause, I don't look at it like I have a God-given right to do it. I feel very confident in myself that nobody else plays the drums as close to my Dad as me, basically because I was taught by him. It's like when you are learning to drive a car, and someone is teaching you, you always have those mannerisms of those people who taught you. But no, it didn't bother me, I was just more concerned that John Paul Jones was not involved. But I've always thought of them as dear friends of mine, they're my uncles, really.

BD: Was it your Dad that primarily taught you to play drums, or did you have other teachers?
JB: Primarily it was my Dad. Actually I don't remember being taught. I only remember one incident where he put on the juke box "Turn it on Again" by Genesis - it has a little time skip in it. He kept saying "Play this, play this." So I kept playing it and he said "No wrong - do it again, do it again!" I really don't have any memory of him sitting down and saying "Do this." I was 14 when he passed away, I just turned 30, so I've had 16 years on my own trying to get my own kinda thing going. But still, fortunately, he's the backbone. Some people say that I'm trying to sound like him, no I'm not trying to do anything like that - I just end up playing like that - it's the way it comes out. I tried hard at one point to try to steer away, everytime I spoke to the people I was getting into, people like Picarro, and all these other guys, they all said, "Well, I got that from your father." So I went aw f*%# it, I'll just carry on doing just exactly what I'm doing then!

BD: What other bands are you into these days and over the years what have you liked?
JB: Over the years? Oh God, how long have ya got? In the very early days when I started playing music in bands, I was a big Foreigner, Journey fan. I loved all that, the big AOR (Album Oriented Rock) sounding stuff. All the bands we were in, we were all into the singers like Steve Perry or Lou Graham or something like that. We wanted to write "Jukebox Hero" over and over again. I was into Police. When I was about 12 my Dad actually got me into the Police. I was really into that. I got my hair al l cut like Sting - actually, pretty similar to how it is now, really. Ah....I'm going back in time, I'll be in the womb before ya know it, who's ever's womb, I don't know. Then after my Father died I went into a weird phase, went through the whole different cycle of heavy metal to punk to new romantic to new wave to you name it. Then once I got into bands I kinda stuck into the rock thing. But now, the things I listen to now, I've really had an open ear to anything, really. My CD collection goes Tasmanarcher & Abba to Prong, Megadeath, Bile, Ministry, and all that type of stuff to rave, dance stuff to like Prodigy and things like that. So I don't have a set of things that I listen to. At the moment I listen to alot of Bush, the new Soundgarden, which I just got the other day, which I really like - it's gonna be a big album. Oasis, I like, Spacehog, Smashing Pumpkins, ya know, alot of the new wave stuff.

BD: I noticed in soundcheck that you play some mandolin, what else do you play?
JB: Actually, I basically fake it, really. It's tuned to an open chord, and I have to change positioning twice with my finger, it's not a difficult thing - but it's just an added thing I've always wanted to do on stage, to show another side to me. So I 'm not just an idiot who plays the drums, I wanted to do something else, as well.

MH: You were also playing a little on keyboards, as well
JB: I write alot on keyboards. "Wait for you" is a song that came upon keyboards. I'm self taught, I just pick at it and "that works, oh that works, that doesn't work, oh that certainly doesn't work."

BD: Do you like being the leader in a band, such as Bonham, or do you prefer being in the background in bands like Airrace?
JB: I like being the boss in some ways, cause I know what I want out of life, and I know what these guys are capable of. I believe in everyone of them, that they have a God-given talent that needs to be expressed and shown out. Hopefully I can just try and grab it from them and go "Look, if you just do it like this, it will really work." 'Cause I've been in the business quite a while now, really in some ways. And Tony's (guitars) kind of new and John's (bass/keyboards) been around with me all the time and we kinda work together with them. But the great talent, he's got a great voice, Charles (vocals) does, and Tony's a great guitarist. So hopefully when we start writing this album, I think alot people are gonna be shocked about what's gonna come out like.

BD: So you are shooting for a January (1997) release date?
JB: Yeah, definitely

BD: Do you remember getting on stage for the soundcheck at Knebworth?
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fileJB: Ah, vaguely, yeah. Soundcheck was on a Wednesday, and we flew up there in a helicopter. Ah, actually, that's a lie, me Dad and I drove up, at God knows what speed we were doin'. We were doin' (Jason makes fast car engine noise). Didn't get stopped by the police. He (his Dad) said "Do you know "Trampled Underfoot?" I said "Yeah" He said "We're gonna play it." So I just got on the drumkit, and Jimmy went "Right, ready, ready" And Jonesy started off, and Jonesy knew it was me. Robert and Jimmy did not, actually didn't look around for a while. So it was like (Jason makes drum and guitar noises with his mouth and hands/legs). Yeah, it was great fun!

BD: I heard that Jimmy freaked when he turned around (and saw it was Jason and not John)?
JB: He's like "Where's John then?" Because he saw my Dad out front, and he went "Well, who's playin'?" It was kind of funny!

BD: Where you ever at any Led Zeppelin concerts or recording sessions?
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fileJB: I was at Presence. I woke up when Robert was going "Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah Yeah" He was in the studio, with his wheelchair and his cast. Cause that was the time he was all beat up. (Car accident) At Musicland. Then I got up and played to them then. Jimmy and John Paul, and Robert singin', just jammin' this blues thing and I played the kit. Other gigs - 1977 Tampa, I went to see them at Tampa, when they got rained off - ya now, the crowd went crazy and rioted. I just played there, actually, the Supercross. And it rained after the third song (just like happened to Led Zep)! And we were going "wheeeeeww" 'cause Tony's all into the karma thing. He's in the "spiritual world" and all this. I said "Listen, Tony, if it rains after the third song, I'll bow down to you." He sent me a fax the other day, when I was back at home, and he's like "You owe me a bow!" Because it did, it started to rain after the third song! I couldn't believe it, but we carried on. It was great just to be in that "same spot" and looking across and ........God.......

BD: I got a bootleg of that Zep show
JB: I got quite a few of them myself. I get them from several people - basically that's all they collect is Led Zep & one has Grateful Dead, maybe a few Beatles - that's all they have.

BD: I hear from Chuck that you are going to be a Daddy!
JB: Yeah, again! I have a 3 year old daughter, Jaz Ellen Bonham, she'll be 3 on June 23. My wife is Jan Ellen Bonham, she's due about October 20. So I'll be back home for that, I hope. I'll try and fit that into the schedule somewhere! I was just on the phone to her, she's doing okay. I mean it's been hard for her, I've only seen her two weeks of her pregnancy, so. I get back and see her for 4 weeks, then I'm back away for another 12. So it's kinda tough. It's tough on my daughter, though mainly. She's been going to the nursery saying "I haven't got a Daddy anymore, he's gone to America and doesn't come home!" I didn't remember my Dad being away that much, so I believe it won't affect her that much.

BD: How's your mother?
JB: She's fine. I haven't spoke to her for a while, since I've been away, she's been on holiday, as well. I must call her tonight, actually.

BD: She is where you get your blonde hair?
JB: I'm not! I'm dark hair. I just "wheww" (runs fingers quickly, back through his hair). No, I was blonde as a child, so that's why I've carried on.

BD: Yeah, you were blonde in your movie debut, you probably don't remember doing that do you?
JB: Yeah (I was blonde), but maybe not so vivid. I don't actually remember doing that one. Actually, I was a toy drum picture boy, once, not many people know that. In an English toy company, and on the box, I had to go to this photo session, my first session! Not as a drummer, but just as a model, playing this little drum kit. And I got 10 pounds which was about, then, only about $50. For like an hour's session of sitting there, pretending to play the drums, as a little kid. I must find one, I think one of my Aunties has one of the boxes.

BD: I saw your tour schedule - you get like 4 days off in 2 months!!
JB: I've been lucky, I mean being the boss of the band, and having to do some of the radio stations, in the schedule it means that I sometimes have to fly, just so I get there on time (Note - the band is currently traveling along with one roadie (5 people total) in a large mobile home, pulling a small U-Haul behind) - oh what a shame, boo-hoo, what a shame for the rest of the guys. Well actually, when there is one less guy on the bus, it is even more comfortable.

BD: But can you find sanity or peace, or do you even need it?
JB: You try to, you just get into the gig mode, the vibe and the whole thing. I mean we got six (nights) in a row! Tonight is the second of the six in the row. This is the first time we are going to test this six-day week. If we can do this, then next tour, we may be doing six every week. Then after doing three weeks (18 shows), have 3 days off, and then do three weeks (18 shows) again. 'Cause it's cost effective.

BD: What's the process that you are going to write songs for this upcoming CD?
JB: Anyway that we can! We'll just work on ideas, and sometimes myself and John will just sit down and just strum on acoustic guitar and come up with a melody or just myself and Tony or we'll just be in a rehearsal room and just start jammin' an idea, Chuck will start singing and "yeah, yeah, try that" - we've been doing that, and it's been working out pretty good. Whichever way it works - we'll do it.

BD: What other hobbies do you have besides motorcross and rock and roll?
JB: That's it! As soon as I get home on the 18th, I'm going to hitch the trailer up to the car and go away for a little family vacation for a week - we have this 27-foot trailer home. I get back on a Saturday, get the bike ready and go out racing on Sunday. I go racing three times a week and I go practicing three times in the week - I have a personal trainer that I go out with and have him beat the crap out of me - 'cause I haven't been for a while. I did it for a month, in January, before I left, I told him I'd only be gone for a couple of weeks, about 5 or 6 weeks maximum, it's now almost June and I haven't called him! But he owes me anyway, cause I paid him. But he's a great guy. I enjoy it. I enjoy a totally different lifestyle at home - non rock and roll. Motorcross is my music substitute, really.

BD: Tell me about this thing at Electric Ladyland Studios, later next month (June 1996).
JB: We're gonna record the Zep Set and make it available on CD in Japan and Australia - a thing for charity. I'm sure you'll be able to get it in America as an Import. It's like a Big Brother scheme, where they take underprivileged kids out to ride motorcycles, and take them out to see the supercrosses. I feel, ya know, that I want to record it, just for prosperity, but if I put it in some way that people go "Oh yeah - he's just doin' it for the money," whatever - I'm not. It's not for that. I think it would be a better way of explaining to people - it's going to charity. I just want to record it because I think we do a good job at it. We're trying to get Steve Thompson to engineer and produce it for us, as well, I also think he may be doing our record, as well.

BD: Is Bob Ezrin still involved with you guys?
JB: No. Steve Thompson did things like Blues Traveler, did the first Guns album, "Appetite for Destruction." It's Steve Thompson and I think Michael Barbiero - two guys work together. He's a good guy, Steve.

BD: How did your Dad, get his nickname, Bonzo?
JB: Actually, that's something I don't really know. They used to call him "the beast," as well. I never really know how he got Bonzo - quite strange - have to find out on the Internet!

BD: It's been asked before, I don't think anyone knows there, either!
JB: You'll have to ask Jimmy or Robert that one or Jonesy. I'll have to find out. I'll find out and give you a call.

BD: You'll have to tell Phil (Carson, Jason's manager), he knows how to get a hold of me. Phil's a good guy, isn't he?
JB: Yeah, he is a good guy. Everytime he's believed in me and has done something with me, we've seemed to have done well. So, fingers crossed again. He's works his ass off for this. Yeah, Phil's been around, Zeppelin and stuff. He's got lots of interesting stories he tells. He was with them when they went to Osaka, and all that. He told about some of the things they did. They had thrown like scraps of Japanese food all over what they thought was Jimmy, as the curtains came back, it wasn't, it was Peter (Grant), and oh no, GRRRAAAGH, this raging bull came running down, my Dad just ran and shut one of the doors and held it shut. Robert jumped on top of Phil (to help hold the door shut) and Jonesy just slipped into the bunk like nothing was happening. Peter just came running down, looking for who had done it. I can't tell it like Phil - he tells it in a real good way.

BD: What was it like playing in Woodstock II?
JB: That was great, yeah! I enjoyed all the shows with Paul (Rogers). In England we toured, it was great 'cause I got to tour with one of my heroes, Steve Lukather, from Toto, and many, many albums he's played on - the list goes on. We really became close friends, that guy is the most amazing guitarist. It was just great to work with Paul. The guys from Bonham were basically John and Ian (Hatton - former Bonham guitarist) and myself, doin' all the really old Free stuff, as well, "Travelin' Man" and stuff like that, Bad Company, and then all the Muddy Waters stuff as well. So we had a great time, and it was good fun working with Paul. And ya know, the album (A Tribute to Muddy Waters), I was really proud of the album, as the way I played on it, especially since it was a bunch of one-takes - 'cause Paul's such a great singer, he does it, and then he goes "Yeah I like my voice on that", and ya go - "Oh I see it - that's it, I don't get another run through!" There was about 6 one-takes and the rest second takes, there was nothing past two. You have to be on the ball - he doesn't like mistakes - 'cause he's so perfect - he's amazing!

BD: Jason, I want to thank you for taking the time out to chat with us.
JB: Well, thanks for waitin' for me.

Read Jason's Official Bio and Concert Schedule

 Go To Buckeye's Led Zeppelin Home Page

Last Update: 3 Jul 1996