Immigrant Song

An Interview with Paul Hammond on Channeling the Majesty of Jimmy Page and Life on the road in the Nation's Foremost Led Zeppelin Tribute Band

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, National Music,   From Issue 794   By: Robert E Martin

24th July, 2014     0

Of the many legendary rock ‘n roll outfits that have left a musical mark for posterity, Led Zeppelin are arguably one of the most influential and revered bands to withstand the test of time.

And while there are many Zeppelin Tribute bands that have surfaced upon the musical scene over the decades, from the bombastic and epic to the folksy and mystical, Get the Led Out (GTLO) have captured the essence of the recorded music of Zeppelin and managed to bring it to the concert stage, performing to audiences hungry and eager for an authentic live Zeppelin-type experience.

On Saturday, August 16th, this Philadelphia-based group known as Get the Led Out will perform at Saginaw’s First Merit Event Park at 7:30 PM. Consisting of six veteran musicians intent on delivering the essence of Led Zeppelin live by utilizing the multi-instrumentalists at their disposal, GTLO re-create the songs of Led Zep in all their depth and glory, including even the studio overdubs in their concert performances that Zeppelin themselves never performed.

Free of wigs or fake English accents, GTLO brings what the audience desires – a high energy Zeppelin concert with an honest, heart-thumping intensity. Dubbed as ‘The American Led Zeppelin’, GTLO offers a strong focus on the band’s early years and also touch upon the deeper cuts that were seldom, if ever heard in concert. They also include a special acoustic set with Zep favorites such as Tangerine and The Battle of Evermore being performed in its original instrumentation with guest singer Diana DeSantis joining the band.

GTLO has managed to amass a strong national touring history, having performed at major club and concert venues across the country. Whether displaying the passionate fury of Led Zep’s blues-soaked and groove-driven rock anthems or the softer acoustic material, it is their attention to detail and nuance that makes this band unique.

Recently I caught up with GTLO member Paul Hammond to discuss the mysteries of Led Zep and the magic of what his Tribute band is striving to recreate.

Review: Please give me some of your personal background and how you became involved with Get the Led Out.

Hammond:   My Father was my biggest musical influence in my earliest years. He would get all the rock and pop vinyl records when they first were released so The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and many, many other bands of the mid-late 60's and 70's were all very familiar to me as a young child.

He taught me to play the blues at the age of eight, and then I was self-taught until the age of 12, which is when I took 3 years of formal guitar lessons. I was taught jazz chord theory, standard notation, jazz standards, and the rock music of the day, which was Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, the list goes on and on. So I ended up playing in middle school and high school bands, teaching guitar, working at a music store, then eventually meeting Paul Sinclair who had a band I joined to write original music with. We had varying degrees of success in the music business, and I ended up working for recording studios. Sinclair and I built our own, and focused on recording, eventually becoming mastering engineers.

We were doing a local bar gig some years back playing Aerosmith and Zeppelin songs and some local musicians contacted Paul Sinclair and asked him if he wanted to do a Zep tribute band. He wasn't interested in the look alike concept they wanted to do, so he brought me on board to be able to play the layered overdubs of Jimmy Page's studio recordings.

Review: How long has GTLO been around and what do you feel distinguishes it from other Led Zep tribute bands working the circuit? 

Hammond: Get The Led Out has been around since 2003. We are the only Zeppelin band that performs the music as was presented on the original recordings as close as humanly possible. We don't dress or act the part, so we are essentially a Led Zeppelin cover band. The level of our show also distinguishes us from other LZ tribute bands, as we go to extraordinary lengths to do what we do, some of which was recently documented in an interview I did in June 2014 issue of Guitar Player Magazine. If we have to change tunings and instruments ten times during a show we do it.

Review: Let's talk about the phenomenon of Led Zeppelin itself.  What do you feel are the qualities about their music that makes it stand out from other definitive rock bands and musical artists of the 60s & 70s; or for any generational period, for that matter?

Hammond: Well, they were the best of the best when it came to melding multiple styles of music into a form that appealed to so many people from so many different walks of life. You had Delta blues, Chicago blues, Motown, funk, classical, Celtic folk, and more, all treated with a new style of rock ranging from light to heavy. There was something in there for everyone, and there still is. We often say at shows before we go on how it never gets old. That's because there's a certain level of excitement to the music, and our band project, that translates to the listeners.

Review:  How much time does GTLO spend on the road touring; and are there any particular shows or moments that stand out in your memory as definitive moments?

Hammond: GTLO is essentially constantly on tour, doing short stints in various cities on short runs, and then doing longer tour runs of the two to three weeks on the road duration. This fall we'll be out for a month traversing the US to California and back, including a performance at Red Rocks in Morrison CO, which is definitely a high point in the band's career! There's been so many high points and definitive moments that to pick one would be a disservice to the others. Every show has its special moments.

Review: What do you feel is the most challenging component involved with being in a tribute band such as GTLO?

Hammond: Fending off the groupies… but no, seriously, it's not that difficult because of our musical and professional backgrounds. Maybe recalling the fine details and intricacies of a song when we bring it back into the show after not performing it for a while. But it's much like a bike; you get back on it and ride. Interpersonal relationships can be very taxing on a band, but we are fortunate that with this line up everybody gets on very well with each other and cares about the health and well being of everyone involved in the project.

Review: Do you have any preferences in terms of musical periods that Led Zeppelin carved their terrain and shaped their sound?  Do you have a favorite album out of their canon of material?

Hammond: I do love Zeppelin III as it showcases so much of their varying styles of music. It's hard to pick a favorite, though. The Rover is one of my favorite songs. Paul Sinclair cites Zeppelin II as his favorite - ask each member and you'll get multiple different answers!

Review: How long do your shows usually run and are the set lists different each night?

Hammond: Shows typically run 2.5 hours and yes the set lists are different every night. In fact we are doing a four-show run at a theater and every night is a different set list. Will have to put my thinking cap on...

Review: Led Zep was as notorious for their lifestyle on the road as much as they were for their groundbreaking sound.  Do you find any similar after-show by-products evolving out of the sound that you faithfully create onstage?  Or are all of you guys in bed by midnight?

Hammond: From some of the fans maybe. I'm the early to bed type so by the time the show is over and after we meet fans I'm pretty wiped out. Also we don't allow any kind of excessive behavior that would have a negative impact on the band, if that happens there are a few warnings and then you stand the chance of being fired. What anyone does on their own time is up to them, but just like any job, you really can't screw up.

Our singer Paul Sinclair is a no nonsense kind of guy, and that translates to the project being very professional and well received. An occasional visit to the local pub after the last autograph is signed and all the gear is packed up isn't necessarily out of the question though, as long as it's not out of control.

Review: Feel free to add any additional thoughts on any topic that I may not have touched upon.

Hammond: We all really love the music first and foremost, and are all very thankful for what we have been able to accomplish. Being able to share the greatest music of all time (at least to us, and many others) at this level with fans all over the USA is a dream come true. With that in mind, we are going to keep that dream alive for a long time. Cheers, and Thanks!

Tickets for Get the Led Out at First Merit Event Park on Saturday, August 16th are available at The Dow Event Center Box Office, Ticketmaster.com or by phoning 800-745-3000.

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