The Rock Pit Interview

Mark Diggins talks to Joseph Calderazzo

Mark: This year is 10 years for the ’Whole Lotta Love’ show, it’s a long time, how does it feel to have made it this far?

JC: It’s really good. We actually started twelve years ago in a tiny little room in Kings Cross; I used to run an acoustic music night there every Tuesday night. It was a room that held probably 80-100 people, and it was in the back of a bar. It was for original artists, who would come in and do their songs, I had some great artists come through, John Butler and Pete Murray played there, and all these great people, before they became famous. I had this idea of getting about sixteen artists together all on the one night, just for fun, and I thought of getting them all to do a Beatles song, in their own way, and that would glue it all together. So, we did that, and it was a really successful night, and good fun. We ended up doing a couple of Zeppelin shows, totally unplugged, with a couple of violins, a viola and a couple of cellos and it was really cool, and that’s sort of how it started. It started more as a Zeppelin unplugged vibe, and then we took it to The Basement, which is still a small venue, but we were able to go electric, and since going in to the theatres, we’ve been able to bring in multimedia and more musicians, more percussion, more strings sometimes, keyboards, so it’s been able to grow really well. I never thought it would end up in the theatres, and lasting ten years!

Mark: It is an amazing show, and of course Zeppelin is an amazing band, that people still love. Is there any pressure to do something a bit different for the anniversary year?

JC: No, we’re not really doing anything different; we’ve got three new songs, which is good. We don’t really change the repertoire that much, because it’s so good to start with. We have a couple of new singers, but only because the others were unavailable, both out of Melbourne, one is a girl called Dallas Fresca, who’s quite the rock chick, and she’s just finished touring Europe, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in action. The other is a guy, called Jimmy Couples, who was a contestant on the reality show,”” The Voice”, and he’s a real rocker too, he’s right in to Zeppelin! He will be great, and so I’m excited about that too.

Mark: Is Dallas taking over from Natasha?

JC: No, Natasha will still be there, she’s really good.

Mark: As artistic director, what are your main duties, and how have they evolved over the years?

JC: I guess, as creative director, it’s essentially up to me to choose the singers, choose the musicians, the songs and marry up the singers to those songs, and then get the set list in order so it becomes a musical journey. I also look at the lighting and how the multimedia is going to work as well. It’s pretty much the whole thing really. It’s changed in that the bigger it gets, the more people are involved, more crew and all that sort of stuff. I’m still doing things like booking flights, hotel rooms and transport.

Mark: So, you get to do all the glamorous stuff as well?!!

JC: Yeah, that’s it!! Actually we have a book keeper this year, so, I’m just feeding her the information, and she’s been doing the bookings, but yeah, the publicity stuff is taken care of by my business partner, Martin, so I don’t have to concern myself too much with that, as that’s quite a big job as well. You have to get the word out, and people come up to me and say you should have advertised, and I’m like, man, we just spent a fortune on advertising!! So, not everybody sees it, and I don’t know how you get that right! That’s a whole other animal!!

Mark: Yeah, I think the world would be a different place if we all knew how to do that! Do you know if any of the members of Led Zeppelin are aware of the show, and if so, have you had any feedback?

JC: I don’t know, and there are probably millions of Zeppelin tribute bands in the world! Some of them do the whole “copy” thing and are probably really good and tour constantly, but as for the band I’m sure they are aware of that, but as to being physically aware of mine, I don’t really know. There’s a good chance Jason Bonham might, because he was going to tour here last September, but it fell through, and that was our run too. I don’t think it really matters to me whether they know or not, but I suppose it would be nice if they saw it and said this is really good! It would be a great testimonial. We are doing our own thing; we are sort of moving away from the Led Zeppelin thing, and doing a cross between Led Zeppelin and the Plant/Page from the early nineties.

Mark: I think that’s the appeal, and that’s what makes it stand out from the crowd. Last time I looked there were about 2-300 cover bands in the States alone, but there’s no one doing this sort of show, as far as I can see.

JC: Yeah, I think it is different and quite unique.

Mark: Let’s talk about Led Zeppelin for a bit, as that’s what draws most people in! What is it that makes their music so timeless, do you think?

JC: I really don’t know. I think it’s very powerful and very passionate. I think any music that is passionate is going to stand the test of time, look at the classical stuff, Mozart and Bach, that’s all powerful and passionate music. Maybe that’s what it is, I mean I don’t know, it’s definitely all from the heart, Zeppelin music was never contrived, it’s so honest, I think that’s what it is, something that people do relate to. It’s your heart and soul where music hits.

Mark: I think you’re right, and I think for me it’s the fact they never seemed to follow any fashion, and were never afraid to incorporate many different styles in to their music. You could never accuse them of just being a hard rock band!

JC: Yes, that’s something I find appealing about their music as well. It means when you are doing a concert, there are a lot of things you can do within that concert to make it interesting. I have seen some tribute bands, and they just do the hard rock stuff. And I get really bored with that, and I feel they have missed the point of what Zeppelin’s about! There’s all the orchestral sort of stuff, the mandolins, and once you put all that together, it’s pretty exciting.

Mark: One of the hard questions I was going to ask you was if you were going to recommend a Led Zeppelin album, as an introduction to them, what would it be for you?

JC: Maybe” IV” would be the best one to introduce people to them; I’m not saying that’s my favourite album, but that’s the answer to your question. But, I think that one because it’s got most of their “hits” on it.

Mark: I don’t know if you saw recently, but Robert Plant was a bit cryptic when he was interviewed recently, about the Capricorns? He was asked as always, if there was any chance of a reunion, and he sort of vaguely alluded to the fact that he might be open to something along those lines, but you’d better ask the Capricorns.

JC: I think they will do a tour, I heard that they were auditioning singers as well, and Miles Kennedy auditioned, he didn’t get the gig, but, I read somewhere he said it was one of the greatest experiences of his life! I think they’re probably doing what they do because they have always been brilliant at marketing and stirring up interest, they always do it in a very cool way! If you read their books, they had great ideas, like Stairway to Heaven, was never released as a single, despite the fact it was played on American radio a million times, and the record company insisted on it! And Led Zeppelin IV, they didn’t want their name written anywhere on the album, and the record company said you can’t release it without your name on it, but they did and these things worked really well! So, who knows, it might be that sort of vibe!

Mark: Could well be! I’d certainly pay to see it! As a musician, what inspires you, there must be easier day jobs!?

JC: Absolutely! I don’t know, it’s just a decision I made years ago, that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I stuck with. It’s hard, but it’s rewarding, if you go for easy the rewards aren’t as good, and you’re not doing what you are passionate about. It’s definitely not all glamour or fun, there are some real down sides to it, and it can be a really hard life. But, I wouldn’t change it, I love it, and I’m happy.

Mark: Who do you think have been your most enduring influences over time? Who’s the one artist that has stuck with you over the years?

JC: I don’t think there is just one, it’s a combination, I do different styles in what I do, and so it’s a combination of them that I have picked up over the years. I do quite a bit of jazz as well, I do a few jazz gigs, and I really enjoy that and that’s like a whole different language almost. I really like doing acoustic gigs as well; I do a few with Natasha Stewart as well, we do some great stuff when we get together. I do different things, and that keeps me evolving, if I had to do the same thing all the time, I don’t think I’d be doing it. I would get bored, that’s why I like the Zeppelin show, as it’s once a year, actually it’s been eighteen months since we last did it, and we only go out and do five or six shows, so every time we do it, I get really excited about it, and it’s a real highlight for me. I think variety is the answer!

Mark: You mentioned before, Led Zeppelin IV, wasn’t your favourite album, so I guess it’s time to ask, if you could have been a fly on the wall when they were recording any album, what would it have been for you?

JC: That’s a good question! It would have to be something early; I’d say Zeppelin I, the first album. The recording techniques would have been pretty basic, and it would have been great to see how Jimmy Page worked as well, as he produced all that stuff. That’s not to say that’s my favourite album either, but that’s the fly on the wall answer!

Mark: We’ll save that question for next time!! Finally, the question we ask everyone, what is the meaning of life?

JC: Did you want the short answer, or the more in depth answer?!! Be good to one another, and love each other, there’s a good short answer! I’ll go with love one another.

Mark: That’s great, mate, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I loved the show when you came over to Perth; but I know how hard it is to get here: good luck with the shows.

By Mark Diggins April 2013

Sludge Factory Interview

Robyn Morrison speaks to Joseph Calderazzo about a Whole Lotta Love

This year is the tenth anniversary of the Whole Lotta Love Led Zeppelin Celebration. From its humble beginnings, the show now moves to amazing venues like the State Theatre in Sydney and the Palais in Melbourne. It’s something creative director Joseph Calderazzo could only dream of when he first started this venture. He explains to Robyn Morrison what the tenth anniversary shows will involve and what this year means to him.

“I actually started this about twelve years ago at the Iguana Bar in Kings Cross (Sydney). I was running a regular Tuesday nightclub there. It was all done in acoustic mode due to volume restriction. While I was doing that, I had an idea where I could get a special night together so I decided to do THE BEATLES show, then it moved on to doing ZEPPELIN as well. I never imagined I’d be doing this at the big theatres and taking it interstate.”

The burning question for a show such as this is how do you decide on a set list to pay tribute to such an iconic band? “I mix it up a bit,” says Calderazzo. “I’ve actually got three new songs in it this year. It’s hard to know what to do with that one. If we change it too much then people say they came because they saw it two years ago and we missed out on the songs they wanted to hear. Then there are those who say it’s the same show again. It’s so hard because there are so many essential songs.”

With such a huge production and a myriad of singers, Calderazzo explains they start preparing about six months out from the event. “There are five dates and they’re not consecutive shows. Getting people to be available, you definitely need to book well in advance.”

With so many talented artists, it was difficult for Calderazzo to narrow down the highlights, but he did mention a couple of performers that were unmistakably a high point. “Having iOTA do two of the shows was a highlight, only because he’s so special. He comes in with his own thing and does it that way. The first year he performed at The Basement (Sydney), a lot of the people didn’t know him. He converted a whole room of people in a matter of minutes. Having David Campbell was good as well. He really nailed it. He’s a great rock singer.”

We’re all aware of how popular LED ZEPPELIN is but what is it about these Whole Lotta Love shows that makes audiences keep coming back year after year? “I like to think it’s because I’m doing it for all the right reasons,” says Calderazzo We really love the music and all the people I gather around me really love LED ZEPPELIN. People know whether you mean it or not. If you’re doing it for any other reason, people see through that.”
If you haven’t witnessed this show before, you really should make an effort this year. One of your favourite bands in a spectacular performance by talented musicians. You really can’t go wrong.

Australian Guitar Magazine Interview

Paul Southwell in conversation with Joseph Calderazzo

Australia’s own Whole Lotta Love Led Zeppelin celebration will hit their tenth anniversary this year. Helmed by proven and highly capable director Joseph Calderazzo, Australian Guitar’s Paul Southwell managed to chat to the busy man about all things Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin has such a vast back catalogue. How do you pick and choose songs?
That is really hard and to get that right I think we’d need to do three nights. It is only a two and a half hour show. We’d probably get about 19 songs in as some are quite long. It comes down to picking the song that is most representative of particular styles like folk with “The Battle Of Evermore” to being kind of pressured into doing “Stairway To Heaven”. We have to do “Kashmir” and then “The Rain Song”. We use strings in the last half and that takes it to a different level within the journey. It is only three strings but it is just enough. There is a lot of great string stuff with Zeppelin such as “Four Sticks” and of course “The Rain Song”. We try to cover all of the elements that made Zeppelin what they were.

Have there been any copyright issues with Zep’s management?

No, it is just a cover band so there have been no issues. At a theatre level we have to pay APRA, we have to list the songs we are doing, they take a percentage of the box office and that goes back to the writers. If you are playing it in a pub, you don’t have to worry about that because there is a copyright fee that gets paid by the pubs. Stuart Fraser from Noiseworks will be laying guitar with us and he’ll do it the way he does it.

You’ve got a stack of different guitars in the show. Do you go to great lengths to replicate what was used by Led Zeppelin such as a Telecaster for “Stairway”?
We do use a lot of guitars but that is more about the tunings generally. A Tele for the solo on “Stairway To Heaven” just sounds right. The whole vision for the show started 12 years ago with a weekly music night for original artists to play in acoustic mode. I decided to get a bunch together all on the one night to do a song by a particular band. We did a Beatles thing so I extended that to Zeppelin. So, original artists came in with their own sound and gave it their own style. It is a cover band but our creative direction is about doing the songs with integrity but still putting our own thing into it. Getting back to the guitars, we are not trying to get every guitar that they used like double necks and Danelectros. If somebody has a 12 string Fender electric or similar then we’ll use that.

I seem to remember Jeff Martin had a B-bender Tele which was pretty cool.
Oh, that was amazing and he had the double neck as well. It is great to have that. He used the [violin] bow and the Theremin as well. He is a student of Jimmy Page. It was great to have him in the show with all of that. If people come along with that stuff, it is part of what they do and that is awesome, which was the case with Jeff Martin. We try to do it all in our own way but we do have a lot of guitars because there are lots of tunings.

For the tunings, have you gone back and looked at transcriptions?
No, I do it all by ear. I can usually figure out tunings with the opening chords. Most of the open tuning stuff is basic. Once you’ve got the tunings down, where you put your fingers down is in obvious places. Keith [Richards] from The Rolling Stones wrote on open G tuning with five strings, not six. He is a creative genius but the logistics of playing is easy. “The Rain Song” is the tricky one and it has taken me years to get that.
Has it been difficult to get a drummer that does what John Bonham did because his playing and groove was so unique?

Yeah, he was unique. We’ve used a few guys but Gordon Rytmeister is the guy that we use at the moment. He was brought up on Bonham so he gets it and he gets a pretty big kick drum sound. Before Gordon, there was Peter Drummond, who wasn’t brought up on Bonham but on all of the drummers that were influenced by him. Mick Skelton is another guy that I have seen do other stuff and he is very much like John Bonham in how he plays. There are guys influenced by it that have got it in their DNA.

Danielle Bentley, Cello

Danielle Bentley, Cello

Dr Danielle Bentley is a cellist, academic, writer, poet and curator. She has performed in countless tours, concerts and recording sessions around Australia with acclaimed classical and popular music ensembles and artists.These include: the Paris Opera Ballet, Opera Queensland, Opera Australia, Australian Ballet, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Camerata of St John’s, Olivia Newton-John, Pete Murray, Harry Connick Jnr, Kanye West, Missy Higgins, Xavier Rudd, Kristen Chenoweth  – to name a few. Since 2002, she has run Bentley’s Agency which provides music for corporate events and weddings.

Danielle curates and manages Restrung Festival, which was the topic of her PhD exploring cross-genre string music and festival curation. She was Festival Manager for Queensland Conservatorium’s Crossbows festival in 2012, and Manager of the International Music Council’s 5th World Forum on Music at Queensland Conservatorium November 2013.
Adrian Keating, Violin

Adrian Keating, Violin

With a repertoire of over 100 Operas and Ballets, Adrian Keating is a Principal Violinist with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, and has achieved an International Masterclass for Conductors in St Petersburg (2005).

Adrian performs and arranges regularly for many of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, led ‘The Sydney Opera House Orchestra’ for Sir George Martin’s ‘All You Need is Love’ tour; and has booked and led orchestras for Al Jarreau, Sir Cliff Richard, and Rod Stewart.

In 2007 Adrian provided the Sydney Lyric Orchestra for the Paris Opera Ballet and has provided Orchestral services for Jose Carreras, Tina Arena, Opera in the Vineyards, ‘PSYCHO – with Orchestra’, and Tim Woods Entertainment. For CCEntertainment, Adrian arranges and leads the ensemble music for the ‘Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love’, and ‘Beatles – A Day in the Life’ homage performances.

Pin It on Pinterest