Friday, May 17, 2013

Grant Ventura

Editors Note:
Charles Caleb Colton is famous for saying "Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery". While some may argue the pros and cons of this, Grant Ventura, lead singer of the Led Zeppelin tribute band, 'Zeppelin Live Australia', not only flatters the legendary band's music, but also adds his own uniqueness and genuine love of the music to enhance it.

You may be thinking “oh great, just another cover band”. ‘Zeppelin Live’ is far from your typical cover band. They pay tribute to Zeppelin, adding their own style and personalities to each performance. They do not just ‘cover’ Zeppelin. A ‘Zeppelin Live’ show consists of over 90% of all Zeppelin material. The boys play every note. No backing tracks are included in their shows. Each concert contains the Zeppelin classics that we all love and guitarist Andrew Armstrong even picks up a bow, the doubleneck and manipulates the theremin in true Jimmy Page fashion.

I believe this description taken from their personal website will quickly sum up what ‘Zeppelin Live’ is all about 
The Led Zeppelin Show is Australia’s premiere and most authentic tribute to Led Zeppelin. Complete with costumes, stage presentation, authentic instruments and equipment the same as Led Zeppelin used on stage, The Led Zeppelin Show captures the electricity and live experience of a Led Zeppelin concert.”
I’m fortunate to be friends with Grant due to our mutual admiration of Zeppelin. When I decided to honour the Led Zeppelin tribute bands that are out there performing and keeping the legacy of Zeppelin alive, I immediately thought of Grant and his band. Since logistics make it impossible to sit with Grant, I sent him a list of questions about his band and their love of Zeppelin’s music. The following article is based on those answers

LZ~UFP: Please tell me when 'Zeppelin Live' formed and the current line up of the band.

Grant Ventura: Our band, ‘Zeppelin Live Australia’ formed about ten years ago in Sydney. We have had several lineup changes (and a few 'ring ins' to cover births of children) but the regular crew is Andrew Armstrong (guitar/Theremin/vocals), Luke Coiro (drums and percussion), Luke Bjazevic (Bass/keys/mandolin/vocals) and Grant Ventura (Lead vocals/harmonica).

An Aussie Greg Photo
Editor’s Note:
Everyone can recall where they were the first time they heard Led Zeppelin. My first memory was sitting in a highschool music class, with my alto saxophone in hand. The teacher came in with an old reel to reel machine and pressed play. For the next eight minutes we all sat there mesmerized at what this piece of music was coming out of the speakers. When it was done he looked at all of us and said "You are all going to learn this". We looked at each other puzzled yet eager to learn this masterpiece. I can proudly say that by the end of the semester I could play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on the sax.

LZ~UFP: What was your first exposure to Zeppelin, and what was it about their music that made you want to perform in a Led Zeppelin tribute band.

Grant Ventura: "My first exposure to Led Zep was hearing 'the Immigrant Song' on commercial radio as a child. I recall walking past the radio to hear this banshee voice, wailing out during the song's introduction. I was transfixed. I never did find out it was Zep until years later when I purchased the third Zep album. As a teenager, I had some cool relatives that laid a few albums on me. The first was 'Houses of the Holy'. I was hooked and have been ever since.”

LZ~UFP: Taking on the role of lead singer in a Led Zeppelin tribute band comes with a great amount of responsibility. Could you measure up to the powerful wails by Robert Plant? Would people accept you trying to belt out those classic songs? Grant, how was your very first performance and what were the reactions like from the audience?

Grant Ventura:  “First performance of Zep was hilarious. We had a support gig with an AC/DC band. Before we played a single note, the fire alarm went off and the Fire Brigade cleared us off. The crowd was pretty small after that. I loved the energy of the music and playing it live gave me the chance to experience it firsthand. All of the songs are challenging. I love that !!!”

An Aussie Greg Photo
LZ~UFP:  Zeppelin was one of the first bands to not necessarily change their set lists every show, but the way they performed their songs. Jimmy has mentioned many times that improvising was key to Zep’s live shows. Never wanting to play the same solo, or sing the song the same way each time. By following this rule, Zeppelin always gave fans something new and fresh each show, even if you had seen them the night before. With this in mind, from your first show to recent shows, have you tried to change up the performances, and if so, how?

Grant Ventura: “Some of the songs lend themselves to improvisation. 'Whole Lotta Love' springs to mind. Often, we just say to each other..."see you on the other side" and see what happens. Sometimes, you can hit a 'bum' note or forget the arrangement. This often leads to some improvisation. The band members, for my part, are so competent and talented that if this happens, we always can rectify. It also is kind of fun and we get to laugh at ourselves a bit. Guaranteed something will go wrong every gig or the gremlins will mess with the instruments. All part and parcel of playing music live.”

LZ~UFP: What three songs must always be on the set lists?

Grant Ventura: “There are several 'must plays'. 'Rock and Roll', 'Kashmir' and 'Stairway'. I recall one night (I won't say where), the keyboard died and we did not play 'Stairway'. We got bailed up in the car park after the show by a very angry woman of impressive size who actually screamed and threatened us that if we did not go back and play the song, she'd do us damage. She eventually got carted off by the Police.”

An Aussie Greg Photo

LZ~UFP:  While ‘Stairway’ is a must have on any set list, are there any Zeppelin songs, that you would love to have in the setlist, but for whatever reason, they're not?

Grant Ventura: “Two songs we would love to play but rarely do spring to mind. 'Fool in the Rain' has a lot of overdubs and the West Indian steel drum solo. We simply do not have the room on stage to do this, much is the pity. 'Battle of Evermore' has been performed by us with an amazing vocalist, Bel Nippler doing the Sandy Denny part. It is a big favour to ask this busy lady to sit around all night to do just one song. Again, a crying shame.”

LZ~UFP: It’s everyone’s dream to perform in front of Jimmy, Robert and John. I was curious what song you would want to perform if you had the opportunity to do so.

Grant Ventura: “If I was to perform one song, I'd say our version of 'Since I've been Loving you' would be my choice.

LZ~UFP: A great choice, as that is one of my all time favourite Zep songs!

An Aussie Greg Photo
LZ~UFP: Zeppelin has been so influential to many bands and artists, Have you ever seen any of the solo tours by Jimmy, Robert & John, or any of the Zeppelin "reunions" ( or if you were lucky enough to have even seen Zeppelin), and if so, did it make you want to even more perform in your band? Are there elements from those shows that you took home and added to your own shows?

Grant Ventura: “I have seen Robert and Jimmy do the 'Unledded' show. Amazing. We added a few acoustic songs and changed a couple of arrangements as a result of that gig.”

An Aussie Greg Photo
LZ~UFP: Do you ever wonder what goes through the mind of a singer on stage? I do. So, Grant, describe what it was like being up there in front of an audience. Do you think of anything in particular, were you nervous about what the audience would think of your portrayal of the Golden God and his band?

Grant Ventura: When I am on stage, I really just go into a space where all I am thinking about is the next line, word or song. I used to get nervous. I don't, now. The talented musicians alongside me make me feel confident and assured.”

LZ~UFP:  If you could look ahead Grant, into your future, what do see in the future of ‘Zeppelin Live’?

Grant Ventura:  “I'd like to think we can do the Zep show and continue to write original music. All of us do other shows as well as Zep.”

LZ~UFP:  When not in front of the microphone belting out Zeppelin classics, is there anything else you do that have a passion for?

Grant Ventura: “I also do a bit of acting and voice over work as well as some professional photography. In Australia, the relatively small size of the market and vast distances between major cities means you have to be a master at many trades.”

An Aussie Greg Photo
LZ~UFP:  Would you consider taking 'Zeppelin Live' worldwide to perform and keep the legacy of Zep alive?

Grant Ventura:  “Just ask us nicely!!!”

LZ~UFP:  When you ask anyone what their favourite Zeppelin song is, it's very difficult to pinpoint one song. Does each band member have a favourite song?

Grant Ventura:  “As for our favourite songs...We argue this point constantly. It really depends on when you ask that question. The music is so complex and varied it is a little difficult to pinpoint one song.”

LZ~UFP:  Thank you so much. I appreciate you taking time to answer these questions and giving me a peak into your band. I am very honoured to do this interview with you. Thanks Grant.

Grant Ventura: “Thank you for asking me to share this. Anything I can do, just ask.”

An Aussie Greg Photo
Editor’s Note:
As I read through the questions and answers for this article, I discovered that I learned more about ‘Zeppelin Live’ and it gave me a greater appreciation of them for what they do and why they do it. They are not out there to just make money off the legendary band, but to honour the members and the music with their own style and personality. They get out there on those stages playing the music they admire, respect and love, all while having a great time and giving the audience an amazing show.
I want to specially thank Grant for being so generous with his time and for answering all the questions that I had sent him. I discovered how much of a fan Grant is of the music of Led Zeppelin like many of us are. As he continues to perform with his bandmates, it’s just another way that the fans, are keeping the legacy of Led Zeppelin alive, 33 years after the band called it quits.

Special thanks to Grant Ventura for the interview.
Would also like to thank Aussie Greg for use of the photos. Greg is an amazing photographer. Check out more of his work on the official 'Zeppelin Live' website. You can also check out videos on his Youtube Channel.


Zeppelin Live official website

Zeppelin Live Facebook Group

Aussie Greg's Youtube Channel

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Special thanks to our consultant Birdie. Check her page out: Bluebird Reviews