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Jason Bonham on Dad John Bonham and Playing With Phil Collins: He's 'One of My Real Heroes'
Bonham was Collins' drummer during secret rehearsals during August of 2014, when the Genesis frontman was determining if he was capable of playing shows after dealing with back and neck issues. Collins wound up opting against it, instead having surgery this year so he can hit the road in 2016, but Bonham is still buzzing about the experience nearly 15 months later.
"We got together for three weeks and I had an amazing time," the song of Led Zep's late John Bonham tells Billboard. "It was an honor to be chosen by one of my real heroes. Other than my dad I would say Phil is probably my No. 2 guy to go to. I"ve been a huge fan since Abacab, and then of course his solo stuff. It was like playing in front of my dad -- another moment that felt like you're playing in front of your dad in the weirdest kind of way. You're playing in front of your heroes. My wife just kept telling me, 'Don't keep looking for approval. He's hired you. He knows what you can do. Just give him your best.' I had such a good time with it."
Collins assembled his usual touring band for the sessions, which made Bonham -- who flew in after playing a show with Sammy Hagar and The Circle the night before -- the only new musician on deck. "Everybody else was the same guys he's worked with for years, so there was a lot of pressure," Bonham recalls. "I don't read music, so I had to learn everything. You think you know songs, but you don't know them until you actually play them, so I had a lot of learning to do." Collins was able to keep the rehearsals secret until a few weeks ago, when he announced plans to tour again in 2016. "My social media blew up after that," Bonham says. "It was, 'You've been holding out on us. You ARE gonna work wtih Phil Collins!' Even Sammy called me and said, 'Is there something you need to tell me?'"
The truth, however, is that Bonham doesn't know. "I haven't heard anything," he says. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I feel great that I had the three weeks just trying different things and got to play with him. To be able to play 'In The Air Tonight' was one of my bucket list things I didn't think I was ever gonna be able to say I did. So if that's all there is, I'm happy."
Either way, Bonham isn't wanting for things to do. He's currently on the road with his Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience show, while 2016 is shaping up to be a big year for The Circle, which also includes former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and Hagar guitarist Vic Johnson. The group, which formed during 2014, released a live album and DVD this year and is currently lining things up for the new year.
"We're gonna go in the studio and probably do some original music and then look to do a lot more (touring) than we've done so far," Bonham says. "This year we were only working a few shows a month, just here there and everywhere. There wasn't a real tour. I know Sammy is talking about going out and doing a real tour, so I'm looking forward to it. They are such great people to play with and be around, just very, very positive. It's a whole different vibe to Led Zeppelin; too many people smile in this band. And I get to be just the drummer, so it's nice to get up there and play. When I do the Led Zeppelin Experience I feel sort of responsible and it's a more nerve-wracking gig. With Sammy and those guys I just get to play drums and have fun."