John Bonham, of Redditch, Worcestershire, England, is the son of a carpenter and is undoubtedly one of the greatest drummers the earth has ever been pummeled by. Bonham grew up swinging hammers and laying bricks, instilling heaviness into his hands and limbs. His friend Robert Plant recruited him to play in the band Led Zeppelin, and with them, his ancient futuristic meter was set into stone. Bonham's playing is multidimensional—innovative with stamina and feel. His inhumanly hefty and fast right foot pounds out a two-ton stomp. You hear it and know it's Bonzo Bonham. Live, his solos go on for 25 minutes, incorporating an effected orchestral timpani drum that hooks cables into hovering alien crafts outside the venue and brings them in for landing.
Led Zeppelin are rehearsing at guitarist Jimmy Page's mansion in Windsor. I'm excited to hear new songs, like "Poor Tom," off their forthcoming album Coda. John Bonham spoke. It took seven separate managers to connect the call. Bonham said he was outside, in a field, and that the sun was out. The reception was surprisingly clear.
What have you been up to, John?
I've been playing lots. Feeling good. I had a rough time there for a bit, but everything's under control now. This place where I'm staying is so far out here, it's hard to get drum parts. The roads to get here are nuts. I discovered fro-yo a couple months ago, and it's blowing my mind. The Reese's/graham cracker combination is tops.
Who are your favorite drummers? Could you talk about how you get your sound?
Max Roach, Gene Krupa, and Buddy Rich. I think you gotta spend time with your drums. Learn to tune them. I use a 14-by-6.5-inch Ludwig Chrome Supraphonic 402 snare. I keep the bottom heads tight. My kick drum is 26 by 14 inches, and I don't like a hole in the front head. The large amount of air needed to move through the shell has to travel very quickly to properly excite the resonant head.