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 playing 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.
By Paul Southwell, courtesy Australian Guitar Magazine.