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Myles Kennedy interview 12-16-09

In the months that followed Led Zeppelin’s December 2007 reunion concert, rumors were rife that the band would extend beyond the one show and that a tour was possible. When reports in 2008 claimed that the group’s Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were rehearsing with Jason Bonham, there was no mention at the time of a singer joining them. It wasn’t until later that one name surfaced, that of Myles Kennedy, the lead singer and guitarist of Alter Bridge. The press assumed Kennedy was being brought in to replace Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin. The reality was that an entirely new group was being considered, albeit briefly. No official update on the progress of rehearsals was released until after consideration of forming a new group had ended.

Kennedy was initially silent on the matter of having taken part in these rehearsals for months. When he publicly broke his silence, all he said was that he was grateful for having the opportunity to rehearse. It wasn’t until Dec. 16, 2009, after one full year had passed since those rehearsals, that Kennedy opened up to me about this subject and provided details he hasn’t even repeated since. My interview with him centered first on a live DVD being released by Alter Bridge as well as studio sessions for Kennedy's solo project, but he quickly allowed me to elicit his most candid and extensive on the Page-Jones-Bonham-Kennedy rehearsals to date.

SS: When you were a kid practicing in front of a mirror with your tennis racket in hands instead of a guitar, pretending to be Jimmy Page, were you also singing at that time?

MK: Not really. I knew I could sing. Actually, at a Sunday morning church sort of deal, I might sing once in a while, but I was kind of self-conscious, ironically. I was a little too shy, I guess. I did do one show when I was 16, and that was the only time I sang for about five years. Strangely enough, it was “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin. That was the song I sang for this big kind of battle of the bands, and this band I was in had four different guys who sang. So we played four or five different songs, and they elected me to sing that song, and it was fun. It went well.

But I really was strictly a guitar player. That’s all I wanted to do. I felt like being a singer was -- I don’t know. At that time, I wasn’t ready to fill those shoes. It wasn’t until I got into my early 20s that I became much more of a songwriter, and I was trying to find singers that would be able to help see the vision through with the songs I was working on, and it just got really difficult to find, especially in the small town that I lived in, you know, there was definitely a finite amount of singers and musicians. So I just learned to do it myself, and I’m grateful that’s something I cultivated because as the years have gone on it’s helped me to continue to work in this business.

SS: About a year ago, when you’re in a rehearsal room with Jimmy Page... and John Paul Jones... and Jason Bonham, right?

MK: Right.

SS: Did you have a guitar on you at the time?

MK: No, I didn’t. Actually, I didn’t. I did that without a guitar, which I’d done before, when I first came down and did the Alter Bridge thing, and that was my first experience of fronting something without a guitar, which I’ve learned to do but it was difficult at first because it becomes an extension of you. It’s like your wubby. When I got over there, I was just singing, and I don’t even know if at that point they knew I played guitar or not, but I was just honored to even be standing in proximity to those guys, so I was not complaining.

SS: You’d worked with Jason a few years before. Did you know him, having been together on the set of the movie Rock Star?

MK: Yeah, I knew him a little bit, and Rock Star was shot in either 2000 or 2001, and I hadn’t spent a lot of time with Jason. On one occasion between takes, I walked up to him and said, “I just want to tell you, your father’s legacy and what he did was the most important part of my musical development. That band meant so much to me and still means so much to me.” I was kind of nervous about conveying that to him. I didn’t know how he would react. He was so gracious and so appreciative about that, and the little bit I talked to him, I could sense just how proud he was and he was very, very cool. So fast-forward to eight years later and I get a text basically out of the blue: “Hey, can you give me a call? I have a favor to ask you.” And next thing you know, I’m standing in a room with those guys. It was pretty surreal.

SS: So it was Jason who contacted you?

MK: I think Jason got the ball rolling, from what I understand, and sold the idea to the guys and -- [sighs deeply] -- yeah, to this day, I mean, I think about that quite often. I owe so much to Jason. I’m so grateful that he helped get that thing going.

SS: I was just reading that they were definitely working on some new music. Were you involved with any of the songwriting there?

MK: That was -- that was, um -- yeah. There were two -- a couple songs that I remember. For me, that was the biggest thrill because these were songs and pieces of music that no one had heard, and I’m standing in a room and putting my melodies and lyrics to it, and it was -- for me as an artist, I don’t think anything will ever quite compare to the feeling that I got from those moments. It felt like you were kind of a part of history for a few minutes there, you know? You’re, you’re -- it was just amazing. It’s hard to even put into words, Steve. It really is.

SS: The Alter Bridge DVD ended up being filmed in Amsterdam, but there had been plans to do it at the Brixton Academy show in London. So you did do some shooting there, but it was mostly backstage or something?

MK: Yeah, we were supposed to do the whole shoot there. That was initially the plan, and I can’t remember. Something happened. It was a production issue where they couldn’t get everything that they needed there on time, so we told the fans that the shoot was going to happen at Brixton, and for whatever reason we were only able to capture certain elements of that show. We only had X number of cameras, and the audio was only going to be of a certain quality, so it ended up not being the actual shoot, which actually was kind of a bummer because I remember that night was very special. It was actually a real good night I would have liked to have seen documented. But fortunately, Amsterdam seemed to go wonderfully as well. But, yeah, that was the initial plan, to do it at Brixton.

SS: And I just needed to confirm with you, I’d got a report from an anonymous source who’d heard that Jimmy and John Paul were there, and I wasn’t sure about Jason too, or what. But were they?

MK: Yeah. Jason was not, but both John and Jimmy were in the audience, so that’s certainly -- I came to find out later, actually, that they were there and I confirmed reports as well. So it was -- man. That’s pretty mind-blowing. When the whole band found that out, everyone was just, like, speechless. When you’ve got half of Led Zeppelin at your gig, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

SS: You were still under consideration at that point?

MK: Yeah, yeah, I was still being considered. That was back in November 2008, if my memory serves correctly. After a while, all those dates kind of bleed into one.

SS: Obviously, nothing came to fruition with them, and Jones went on to working with Them Crooked Vultures. Did he use any of the rehearsal material?

MK: No, nothing that I remember. But I actually had the opportunity to see them play. About a month ago, three weeks ago, he sent me an e-mail and invited me to come to a show. I was actually in the middle of recording all my guitars and whatnot for my solo record … in the middle of a very remote area of Idaho. And I got this e-mail, and we worked it out so that I could have a day off, so I flew down and saw him in Portland. It was just unbelievable. I’d gotten the record. Like yourself, I’m assuming, I had done the whole pre-order thing. I was so excited. I just couldn’t think of a better lineup for him to be out playing with contemporaries. I have so much respect for Josh [Homme] and Dave [Grohl] -- love the Queens of the Stone Age, love the Foo Fighters -- so I just thought this was gonna be amazing. And they definitely did not disappoint, both with the record and live. Live, it’s even better, to stand in front of John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl and watch what those two do as a rhythm section. I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever witness a locked rhythm section like that [again] in my lifetime. I think that’s as good as it gets, so I’m so happy for John. He’s out playing rock and doing it like no one else can do it on the bass, and I think it’s a very special lineup and every rock fan should witness that. It’s great.

SS: I’d probably be remiss if I didn’t ask you to comment on Jimmy Page as a musician. What are your impressions of Jimmy?

MK: He’s a genius. For me, he’s hands down my favorite guitarist of all time. He’s my favorite rock composer. I think he’s brilliant. Standing in the same room with him is... I think if somebody had told me I was going to have the opportunity to do that at one point in my life, I probably would have thought it was going to be very scary because he’s so good at putting off this very mysterious -- he’s such an enigma, you know? But standing in the same room with him, I learned very quickly he’s very good at making you feel comfortable.

Both he and John are. That was the thing that helped me the most. It was a very good atmosphere. They were very approachable and down-to-earth and normal in that context. So it helped a lot, and it helped me to enjoy it. That’s all I wanted to do. Like yourself, we hold that band in such high regard that I just wanted to savor every minute and enjoy it, and they made that very easy. And so, I think that my memories of Jimmy and John will always be very fond ones.

SS: I just read this morning that he’s putting out some new stuff next year.

MK: That’s good to hear. I’m so glad to hear that because there are so many of us who want to see him out playing. We get to see John out. Now Jimmy needs to do the same thing so we can, you know, continue to feed off the masters.

SS: I’ll probably see you in the record store in March or April, or whenever it comes out.

MK: We’ll be the two guys camped out in the front with our sleeping bags, waiting for the new stuff.

SS: It’s been a real pleasure getting this from you, and thank you for not hanging up on me.

MK: Oh, no, no. I wouldn’t do that. And thank you! Thank you, from one Zeppelin fan to another, thanks for doing all you do because I know you are very passionate about that band. It’s very important, and I appreciate that.
Exclusive interview: Myles Kennedy thrilled to have written with Zeppelin members

Published December 16, 2009 on www.LedZeppelinNews.com

Photo credit: Albe Serra, Barcelona, Spain, June 2008

Singer Myles Kennedy has opened up to LedZeppelinNews.com in an exclusive interview about his experiences writing music a year ago with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham. The interview was conducted on Dec. 16.

Kennedy, who sings and plays guitar with the band Alter Bridge, first confirmed in January 2009 reports that he had spent part of 2008 rehearsing for a new, unnamed band to be formed with three-fourths of the trio that had recently performed as Led Zeppelin for one night in London. By the time Kennedy spoke up, the project had only recently been called off. All he was comfortable saying about it at the time is that he was "very grateful" for having had the experience.

Now that a year has passed since the project fell by the wayside, Kennedy has thoroughly answered a set of specific questions provided exclusively by LedZeppelinNews.com, seeking details about that collaboration.

The occasion for this interview was the release of the first live DVD from Alter Bridge. While unfinished business has prevented a deluxe edition of the Live from Amsterdam set from being released in stores so far, Kennedy says the fan reaction to a version being sold online has so far been positive, as was the fan reaction during the concert.

Filmed during a concert in Amsterdam on Dec. 7, 2008, the DVD shows the audience enthusiastically singing along to Alter Bridge's tunes. In the interview with LedZeppelinNews.com, Kennedy attempts to put into words the kind of rush he gets from hearing an entire audience singing back to him lyrics and melodies that he helped to create. He also discusses the onstage experience of singing cover songs like Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" in a live setting.

As one can tell from viewing the DVD, Alter Bridge concerts provide a wide range of dynamics, from hard rock to solo acoustic material. Asked to name some of the musical influences on having such a diverse set, Kennedy signaled he and his bandmates are all influenced by Led Zeppelin, "the greatest of all time." A former session player who worked on heavy metal and hard rock in his earlier years, Kennedy said bands like Metallica, Slayer, Tesla and Journey have all impacted Alter Bridge songwriting.

A slightly earlier Alter Bridge concert date other than the Amsterdam show was originally planned to be the time and location for the DVD shoot, and that was on Nov. 8, 2008 in London. Kennedy says he recalls that show, held at the O2 Brixton Academy, as being a particularly thrilling night and one he wishes could have been documented on video. It was only after that concert that he learned Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were in attendance, obviously checking him out as their group with him was still under consideration at the time.

By the time Alter Bridge went on the tour that saw them play in England and mainland Europe last November and December, Kennedy had already been rehearsing for months with Page, Jones and plus Jason Bonham. He says he is grateful to the drummer, who was an acquaintance of his from years earlier, for calling him to England to take part in the rehearsals.

In helping to craft some new material with the trio, Kennedy contributed both lyrics and melody but not any guitar. It was his voice they wanted, and he says he wasn't even sure if they even knew at that point he could play guitar. Kennedy spoke about being in his comfort zone singing and not playing guitar while also being recognized as a guitarist, such as when his Alter Bridge bandmate Mark Tremonti asked him to contribute a guitar lesson to a DVD project of his.

Since plans for the prospective band joining Page, Jones and Bonham with him fell through by the end of 2008, Kennedy has remained positive about his experience and continued writing new material. He says he has finished work on a solo album and is considering releasing it independently next year.

Solo work is not all that's in his future. Now that the Creed reunion tour is complete and his Alter Bridge bandmates are once again freed up, they have been in Florida writing material they intend to begin recording in February. He says he was surprised whenever he hears it reported that his group had broken up, although he does believe hardcore Alter Bridge fans are aware the band has always intended to continue making new music following the Creed tour.

Early this year, Jones was secretly rehearsing and recording with a new band of his own, Them Crooked Vultures. Kennedy says he was already a fan of Dave Grohl's work with the Foo Fightersand Josh Homme's work with Queens of the Stone Age, so it made sense to him that their collaboration with Jones was going to be a good one. He says he received an e-mail from Jones inviting him to come see Them Crooked Vultures live, so he attended their Oct. 24 concert in Portland and enjoyed it immensely. Asked if Jones recycled any of the material from his rehearsal sessions with Page and Bonham, Kennedy says he doesn't recognize any of the material.

He is also highly complimentary of Page, adding that while he was at first nervous about being in the presence of such "genius," both Page and Jones were able to make him feel comfortable in their working environment.

When LedZeppelinNews.com informed Kennedy during the interview that Page had just announced his intention to release some new music and play it live next year, he said he couldn't be more pleased that both Page and Jones would be giving fans the opportunity to "continue to feed off the masters." He says he looks forward to hearing Page's new work.

At the conclusion of the LedZeppelinNews.com interview, Kennedy had kind parting words for the interviewer, Steve Sauer.

Play the full interview audio here:
Myles Kennedy interview 12-16-09.mp3
Steve Sauer,
Dec 16, 2015, 1:52 AM