INTERVIEW: Ash Naylor on Houses of the Holy Tribute

Houses of the HolyLed Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy is a landmark album. Well, okay, all of Led Zeppelin’s albums were landmarks. But in the context of Led Zeppelin albums it’s a landmark because it marks a real shift to more of a studio-based sound. They’d always had overdubs and layering on their albums, but it was often employed to simply thicken an arrangement. This time, both Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones had home studios, and this allowed them to further build upon the bed tracks for future classics like The Rain Song, Over The Hills and Far Away and No Quarter. The results were ethereal and complex: living, breathing entities manifested as pure sound. Just try to listen to No Quarter without getting the creeps, or The Song Remains The Same without feeling the California sunlight, the sweet Calcutta rain, the Honolulu starbright that the song namechecks. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this classic album, some highly regarded musos including Ashley Naylor (Even), Danny Leo (King of the North), Stephen Hadley (Paul Kelly Band) and Bruce Haymes (Renee Geyer Band) are performing the album live in full at The Yarraville Club here in Melbourne on Saturday the 13th of July.

“It’s a lost inevitable: if you love rock n’roll music, the roads will point to Led Zeppelin at some point,” Naylor says. “Jimmy Page got lucky but at the same time, he had this talent that was just growing and growing. He started as a session guitarist, and ended up as the auteur of one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Most people do it the other way around: they start in an awesome band and end up being a session hack! But he got it right. Some of it was chance but a lot of it was sheer determination and vision. And you need all of those things to succeed in the music industry. Particularly in the late 60s and early 70s, things were changing on the spot.”

That’s particularly true of the particular musical world Led Zeppelin inhabited, where the album was such an important commodity. This was an era when radio stations would play entire sides of albums. “If anything, I compare albums to films in that era, Naylor says. “Releasing an album was an even in the way releasing a film was an event. I say was, because these days releasing a film is not an event. There are horrible action films coming out every other week and the market is flooded with second-rate entertainment these days.” Gone is the significance, the weight attached to an album or a movie when there was nothing else around to compete with it for the consumer’s attention. “We’re bombarded with choices and technology, and technology is an amazing tool but it’s also killing the experience of music, in certain ways. Not in every way, but back then you had to go to the shop, buy the record, take it home and live with it for the rest of your life.”

The band assembled to play Houses of the Holy will approach the material with a view to being a synthesis of the live versions played by Led Zeppelin during that era, and the musical personalities of the musicians themselves. “We will be adding keyboards, because I think they’re a pivotal part of that record,” Naylor says. “We will be layering to a point, but on the other hand we will be presenting the songs as they might have been presented live – within my limits, I should say. The other musicians are amazing! But once you start scratching the surface of the parts of these records you realise how sophisticated it all is!” A big part of putting across this vibe is Danny Leo, whose drumming style lends itself particularly well to the playing of John Bonham. “Danny’s incredible, and part of the magic of nailing those songs is having someone who can play them faithfully. Danny’s using a Ludwig Vistalite kit. Stephen Hadley on bass is an amazing musician in his own right and he fits this band because he’s schooled in 70s rock but he has that pop and jazz background so he’s got that whose arsenal of feels and technique that someone like John Paul Jones had in spades. Bruce Haymes’ work speaks for itself – if you see how many people he’s worked with and the kind of calibre of musician he is and the people he hangs around with… and the singers are Adam Cole from Bugdust, an amazing rock n’roll singer, as is Pat Carmody from My Dynamite, and we’re opening up the playing field by having female artists as well: Talei & Eliza Wolfgramm (The Wolfgramm Sisters) and Fiona Lee Maynard (The Holy Men) singing some songs as well. It won’t be a tribute act as such but it will be played with love and dedication.”

In honour of paying suitable tribute to those parts, Naylor will be rocking a Page-inspired amp stack and the requisite Gibson Les Paul, and is weighing up which electric 12-string guitar to use. The electric 12-string is a huge part of The Song Remains The Same, and also an iconic image of Page’s onstage presentation. Who can forget the sight of the guitarist hoisting his Gibson double-neck skyward? “I’ll be using my Fender 12-string or…” Naylor pauses for dramatic effect “…I may have access to a double-neck for the gig.”

[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]This article was syndicated to Beat magazine for this week’s issue.[/geo-in]

Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy 40th Anniversary Celebration featuring Ash Naylor, Danny Leo, Stephen Hadley, Bruce Haymes with guest vocalists Talei & Eliza Wolfgramm, Adam Cole, Pat Carmody and Fiona Lee Maynard and an opening set from Talei Wolfgramm

Sat 13 July – The Yarraville Club 

135 Stephen St, Yarraville

Dinner & Show $60 (+ bf)

Reserved Seating $35 (+ bf)

General Admission $27 (+ bf)

On the Door $30 (if available)

Door 7pm (dinner) + 8:45pm (show) 18+

Tickets: www.yarravillelive.com or PH: 9689 6033

Houses of the Holy