Get The Led Out - The American Led Zeppelin
An interview with bassist Billy Childs
by Aaron Manogue
Get The Led Out, the American Led Zeppelin
Cover bands are everywhere. It’s just the nature of the music industry beast. You can walk into any local bar on any given night and see a cover band do their best impression of their favorite songs. But I was lucky enough to come across a different kind of a cover band. One so absolutely spot on, if you close your eyes you might actually think they’re the real deal. Get The Led Out is a band that covers one of the most amazing bands in rock history, Led Zeppelin. That’s right, there’s a band that covers note for note, word for word and even mistake for mistake of Led Zeppelin’s recorded music. And on Friday, September 7th, they’ll be coming to Madison to play the Barrymore Theatre. Maximum Ink’s Aaron Manogue caught up with bassist Billy Childs to talk about their music, their performance, and the mighty Led Zeppelin.
Maximum Ink: What drove you to wanting to be part of Zeppelin cover band?
Billy Childs: GTLO isn’t one of those “impersonator” bands. What we do is recreate the studio cuts note for note, with proper instrumentation, etc. The stuff is pretty intricate and really a challenge to do as it takes so many players, due to all the overdubs and parts. More like a small orchestra than a rock band at times. That was interesting to me and seemed like something I would be good at and enjoy. It’s very disciplined, similar to following a blueprint. I’ve also known a couple of these guys forever, back to the Britny Fox days and way before, so that’s always a plus. It’s also something I’ve never done before, and I like branching out and doing different things.
MI: What was it like to hear Led Zeppelin for the first time for you? Were you ever lucky enough to see them live?
BC: I bought the third album and loved it as a kid and then I went and got the others. That third one is still probably my favorite, at least tied with Physical Graffiti, and no, I’ve never seen them.
MI: How much pressure is it to replicate some of the greatest musicians of our time like John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page night in and night out?
BC: I’m glad I only have to do one! The reaction that the crowds have on an emotional level is what adds the pressure to this. With this, all we have is the music. When you’re an original act people are just happy to see you, the person, in addition to the music. We don’t have that, but what we do have are great players and many great tunes to choose from. So, the music is everything to us and I think that is what evokes such an emotional response. These guys told me, a few years ago about this reaction from the fans, and it really is surprising. I’ve seen a lot of tears from people telling me they never thought they would hear these songs performed like this. That was unexpected and added a whole different importance to this for me. Life can be a bitch as we all know, and if we can make somebody that happy for even one night, that’s a big thing to me.
MI: It has to be an honor to be dubbed “The American Led Zeppelin.” Tell me how you felt when you first heard the band called that.
BC:I just think it’s a pretty cool thing. I don’t know where or when that started, but yea, I take it as a compliment and it just makes you want to deliver as promised that much more. Expectations are what create pressure, and pressure can be channeled very effectively in this medium if you’re familiar with it. Speaking for myself, I seem to thrive on it. When there’s no pressure I tend to get lazy!
MI: You play a two hour set every night. What are some of the highlights that audiences have enjoyed?
BC: We do so many of these songs, I’m sure many enjoy different things. We do all the big tunes, obviously, but also go into the lesser known songs. Those are the ones I like the most, and when you’re dealing with a band like Zep, everybody knows everything anyway so it’s hard to go wrong as far as selection. We do them all, just not all on the same night, so you never really know what we’re going to play. Keeps it interesting for us, and them.
MI: You guys are known for getting every last detail correct when playing Zeppelin’s music. What was the hardest thing for you to get down exactly right?
BC: Well, speaking about songs, as I say we do them all, each one is kind of a standalone piece and has to be addressed that way. Technical changes occur all night on almost every song. It’s all out of view but our backstage is a very busy on, lot of guys, lot of changes, and none can be missed. Our techs are really on the money and without that, this probably would be impossible. It’s just very complex for a rock band, really. Speaking for myself as a whole, the hardest part was losing the versions I had played before, and relearning them correctly. Sometimes bad habits are a bitch to break. But really, to be honest, I have long-term memory on most of this stuff, do learn fairly easily, and style wise it’s right down my alley. With all that in mind it wasn’t really a big stretch for me. This is really more of a collection that has many moving parts, so that is really the challenge. For us, five things can’t go right and that’s great. It’s more like one hundred and five that have to be there with us.
MI: How far do you guys go to replicate Zeppelin’s stage show?
BC: I think we have a gong, and the drums are green. Outside of the correct guitars and amps, which are all vintage and as close to the actual instruments as we can get, that’s just not what we do. We do look like a rock band, just not that one. Look, that impersonator thing works great with Sinatra, Elvis, etc, but not so much with a rock band, at least to me. We spend our time getting this stuff one hundred percent accurate, we’re not at all interested in dragon pants or blonde wigs and I don’t think any of us would be here if it was about that. There are a lot of those bands and that’s cool, we just view the whole thing from a different perspective. Separating ourselves from that is a challenge for us as we so often get lumped in with that, but really, we’re more like the Fab Faux, or the Australian Pink Floyd in that all we try to do is give you the album cuts, exactly as they were played with all the bells and whistles, parts, overdubs, and even the mistakes. That being said, we do have very good stage chemistry, and it’s a very good show. It just doesn’t look like Zep.
MI: You guys are playing the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, WI on September 7th. Madison is known for being a great music town that is very eclectic. How excited are you to play for Madison?
BC: I love Wisconsin, the people there have always been so cool to me it stands out. Maybe I was lucky and just met the right people, but so many times, all over that state left me with the feeling that the people are nice and genuine. If you just live there and haven’t traveled much, believe me, you live in a very cool place. I could live there if it wasn’t so damn cold! I even had a part in an indie movie about three to four years ago with a guy from Wisconsin. He knew it was something I always wanted to do, so he wrote me a small part. Just can’t say enough good things about my experiences there, and very much looking forward to going back.