Gary James' Interview With Jah Paul Jo Of
Just when you think you've seen and heard it ail, along comes a group like Dread Zeppelin. Here's a group that's famous for covering Led Zeppelin songs, sung in the style of Elvis Presley (by their lead singer Tort Elvis), with a reggae feel. Dread Zeppelin records for I.R.S. Records and their newest release is "5,000,000".
We spoke with Dread Zeppelin guitarist Jah Paul Jo, or Jo for short.
Q - Jo, you played in Syracuse last fall, at a place called the Pump House.
A - I remember the Pump House. That was a lot of fun.
Q - This group does a lot of road work. What kind of venues are you playing?
A - Well, we're playing everything from like 2,500 seat places to 500 seat places in the areas of Canada, where we've never been to. Last night we played in a place that could hold only 500 people, but we did two shows. We were just in Vancouver and we played in a hall that held 1,500 people. That was really a nice concert hall. So, it really varies. Most of the time we're the headliners, so they're all our own shows.
Q - Have you been overseas yet?
A - We've been to Japan. We've been all through Europe and England, two times as a matter of fact.
Q - And what's the reception been to the band?
A - You know, it's been fantastic. I'm really thrilled that it's that way. I'm always waiting for the first place where they won't quite get it. Most of the places it seems to be really good.
Q - Jo, who came up with this whole idea of putting a group together called "Dread Zeppelin?"
A - Well you know, strangely enough, and this is according to Tort Elvis, Elvis Presley came to him in some sort of vision, as he described it to us. I don't think he came personally, but maybe through a vision, and said, "Do Zeppelin music, reggae style the way it's supposed to be done." We met Tort Elvis when we were in a band called The Reggae Blades, everybody in the band except Ed Zeppelin. We were driving along in Temple City, California, which is where most of us live and we were rear-ended by a milk truck. Now this was driven by Tort Elvis. I don't know why he lost control of his vehicle like that, it was very unlike him, but he got out and said, "This is just like a vision I had, that I would meet some reggae musicians." He hit us with the idea and we said "sure we'll do it," 'cause we weren't doing much else. And, since then, everything has gone completely the way he says, so we don't question it. I mean, if he says he had a vision by Elvis to do something else, we'd do that. But, so far it's worked out pretty good.
Q - This is the story you give people?
A - This is the story. This is it.
Q - Is everyone in the group a fan of both Elvis and Zeppelin?
A - Yeah, very much so. In fact, fans of reggae music as well. You know, a lot of people ask me, "Are you making fun of Elvis? Are you making fun of Led Zeppelin?" And we say, "No, because we are big fans." In fact, Robert Plant himself really likes the stuff, which is very flattering to us. He hears it for what it is, which is fun and a tribute, but it's meant to be funny and entertaining as well.
Q - Has Robert Plant ever seen the group?
A - He has seen the group a couple of times, but we didn't meet him at those shows. He kind of comes incognito, I think and then we hear he was there. He always takes off quick. We've seen him on magazine covers wearing our t-shirts and talking about us on TV. Tort Elvis has spoken to him on the phone, on the radio, Nightline, it's syndicated across the US. We know he really likes the group and it's very flattering.
Q - Do people ever get upset with Tort Elvis' portrayal of Elvis on stage?
A - Well you know, they don't really when they see him. There's a funny story to that. I have a friend whose girlfriend was just in love with Elvis and was like one of his biggest fans. She didn't want to come see us play and then he finally talked her into going. She didn't really want to go, cause she figured she would hate it. And after she saw it, she said to me, 'You guys don't really make fun of Elvis. You make fun of people who make fun of Elvis." I thought that's perfect.
Q - Why are you known as "The Prince of Peace and Love"?
A - That's kind of like my own little self title I made up. I think as long as I'm gonna travel around the world, I'm spreading the gospel of peace and love.
Q - Who decides what songs the band will record?
A - That's almost like we do it by committee. A lot of the stuff we have done 'live' for awhile. On this new album we wanted to do "The Song Remains The Same" because it kind of fit in with our whole thing of "I Had A Dream". That's why we did that one.