David Fricke of RollingStone.com recently conducted an
interview with LED ZEPPELIN bassist John Paul Jones. A
couple of excerpts from the chat follow:
RollingStone.com: What were your feelings the day of
the show, in the hours before you went on stage?
John Paul Jones: I tried to keep the enormity of it
all as far away as possible, until the last minute. I
sat around playing banjo all day. It calms me down.
For every show we've ever done, there is always hype,
expectancy. For us, it was just "Let's get on and do
it." Obviously, it was quite a reception when we did
get out there.
RollingStone.com: There was a dramatic quality to
opening with "Good Times Bad Times" � the first song
on LED ZEPPELIN's first album.
John Paul Jones: That's the hardest riff I ever wrote,
the hardest to play. But it was a good starter,
because everybody had to focus. We soon figured out in
rehearsals what the first three numbers would be
("Good Times Bad Times", "Ramble On", "Black Dog") and
that we would play them straight through.
What gave us confidence was the week before [the
show], we did a full production rehearsal, with the
full screen set up. That was really good. It was a
smaller room, and you could hear everything, which is
the only thing I regret about those stadiums � you
don't hear all of the subtleties. The groove is much
tighter in the small room. I can only wish we could
play 2000 seaters forever, because that's where it
sounds great. But the excitement was there on stage
[at the O2 arena], as it was in the old days.
RollingStone.com: At soundcheck, I was surprised to
hear you, Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham play
instrumental versions of "Good Times Bad Times" and
"Ramble On". It was like hearing ZEPPELIN in dub � the
subtleties and interplay that go into the background
when Robert Plant sings over them.
John Paul Jones: He didn't do that much singing in
rehearsal. Robert wanted to protect his voice. We did
a lot of the songs instrumentally for quite awhile,
especially when he was out doing promotion [for
"Raising Sand", Plant's hit album with Alison Krauss].
And it was really good for us. It was us getting used
to each other, which you have to do in order to bring
this off. You want to be tight. But I like to be free
in what I do. I hardly ever play the same bass line
twice. Even in songs where it's mapped out, like "Good
Times Bad Times", I swap it around a little bit. We
all enjoy the freedom to do that. In order to have
that freedom, you have to know each other so well.
RollingStone.com: How would you describe Jason's
playing during the show? He was very much his father's
John Paul Jones: A lot of the fills were not what his
dad did at all. He's as fearless as his dad, that's
for sure [laughs]. But he did an amazing job, when you
consider that he had to answer to every drummer in the
world after that show. With that sort of pressure, to
bring all that off was astonishing. "Kashmir" was
absolutely wonderful, the way he led in and out of the
choruses and bridges.