Led Zeppelin 2: Ian Lee


You all started in as side musicians or independent artists with original music, so how did you make the decision to join a cover band? Why stay in a cover band that only covers one artist?
IL: As silly as it sounds, I’m not sure there was a conscious decision of “let’s start a cover band.” On the contrary, as we were all original musicians writing and recording and touring, I’d say none of us had a plan to be in a “cover band.” There was a tradition around Chicago of original bands putting together a set of another band for Halloween each year and that kind of sparked things, but it was basically something fun to do once a year. After a few years of that, a couple of factors became obvious. 1. The shows were incredibly fun for both us and the crowds. And 2. It took just as much if not more work to put together a set of Zeppelin songs as it did rehearsing for our respective original bands we had.

So at the beginning, it was something done for fun and we had lots of that playing the music that really sparked our desire to be musicians in the first place. The challenge of Zeppelin music is probably the key factor as to why we stuck with it. They set a very high bar.

Like Beatle cover bands, there are numerous Zeppelin cover bands. What makes Led Zeppelin 2 stand out from the others?
IL: First, let me say for the record that we’ve never paid any attention to “other Led Zeppelin bands.” That sounds arrogant, which, if you name your band “Led Zeppelin 2,” we obviously are. But in truth, none of us have ever seen another cover band. My opinion of what makes us at least unique is that we have all spent years writing, recording and touring behind our own music. When you spend years building any original band, you develop an intensity about putting your music across to an audience. We’ve all done shows for years opening for bigger bands as we built our own bands up. When you’re in that position, you have to deliver your music to an audience that most of the time doesn’t know who you are. So that’s where we came from.

Now, when you add Led Zeppelin music to that mix, you end up delivering that music with the intensity it was meant to be delivered with. When I first heard Zeppelin, I was blown away with the power of their delivery. I think that’s what we feel is most important to deliver, because that powerful delivery is what is most lacking in today’s music scene.

Did any of you meet any of the original Led Zeppelin band members? Did you get their approval or critique?
IL: We heard a story from a friend of ours who owns a club in Austin that Robert (Plant) saw our poster and made the joke “interesting name.” Otherwise, just rumor.

Tell me your favorite Zeppelin song – the one you enjoy performing the most?
IL: Since I play drums, my personal favorite is “Misty Mountain Hop.” I love Bonham’s groove in that song and it’s a blast to play. When you get to dive into their music, there are so many cool parts to every song that you’re always going to find little nuggets to keep them fresh. At different times, I have other songs that I love most, but that one is my stock response. This week at least!

Do you ever “go off script” with a song? Like adding a tweak to a guitar solo not heard in the recorded “Stairway To Heaven.”
IL: Every night! Which is really in keeping with Zeppelin’s live aesthetic. They went “off script” every night! It’s a fine line to walk, but our approach is generally to maintain the arrangement of the song and take liberties with the soloing. My opinion is that’s what helps us come across as fresh. It’s maybe a bit presumptuous to say, “this is how Bonham would have expanded on this,” but that’s what ALL bands who came after Zeppelin do. They interpret and take elements that “sound like Zeppelin” and make them new. We just happen to do it in the context of their songs. Our goal is to create the excitement of “live” Zeppelin. And that was filled with improvisation and taking liberties with the songs.

Would the band ever write and perform original songs in the style of Led Zeppelin? (Again, I’ve heard some Beatle cover bands do this.)
IL: We’ve kicked it around. Not ruling it out, but no plans in the immediate future. We very much feel that keeping these songs alive in this live format is very important. Early on, a friend of ours pointed out “the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a cover band” meaning they didn’t write the songs they play. We feel that it’s a new idea to create a show like ours keeping Zeppelin music alive for future generations. Hopefully one day, what we’re doing will be viewed the same way as a top symphony is. The music of Zeppelin is certainly as important as Beethoven or Bach. In a cultural sense, maybe even more.

Do you party like the old Zep as written in the Stephen Davis book “Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga”?
IL: Hate to give a boring answer here, but I doubt that anyone can still party like Zeppelin did in their hey-day. We like craft beers and we may make a mess of our deli trays once in a while, but that’s about it.

Well I’m sure the show won’t be dull! Thanks so much Ian.