A&E » Arts

Whole Lotta Led goes local

Whistler's hard-rocking foursome share their favourite Led Zeppelin tunes and highlights from their eight-year reign



Who: A Whole Lotta Led

When: Saturday, Dec. 4, 9 p.m.

Where: Merlin's

Cost: $15


Meet Whistler's favourite hard-rocking Led Zeppelin cover band: Whole Lotta Led. Featuring Phil Richard on guitar, Tom Rimmer on drums, Mike Wilson on bass and Greg Reamsbottom (one half of the Hairfarmers duo) on vocals, this foursome will transport you all the way back to the '70s era of psychedelic-infused rock with their incredible live set. Before they kick off the 2010-2011 season with a show at Merlin's on Saturday, the group sat down to answer a few questions for Pique readers:


Pique: Tell me about your first memory of hearing Led Zeppelin...

G.R.: On the radio when I was about 11 years old... the song was Dazed and Confused and it really grabbed me. I ran out and bought the album that day and listened to it non-stop for weeks.

P.R.: I remember seeing graffiti all over school: LED ZEPPELIN ROCKS and being oblivious to what it meant. I thought to myself: "What is the purpose of spray painting this on the school wall?" But it all came clear when I heard Stairway to Heaven on the school lunch radio program and asked a friend, who is this? He replied "Led Zeppelin." I was enlightened...

T.R.: Sitting in my mom's basement with my brother and his friends who were older by a few years watching The Song Remains the Same movie and being amazed at how sexual the band was with Plant in his tight pants and the grind that they had going. I was impressed beyond belief.


Pique: They were all about fusing rock with psychedelic and blues influences and it seems like people of all ages, to this day, appreciate their music. What exactly is it about their sound that's so timeless?

G.R.: No one else approached the fusion of blues and rock like Zeppelin. It's timeless because it's very powerful and mysterious music with an undercurrent of danger and sexuality, which is always interesting. You want to hear and learn more about it.

P.R.: Unlike Pink Floyd, Zeppelin did not fuse much with psychedelic effects, too much. They just kept everything pretty well up in your face. It was the first time anyone had taken a regular blues format to the next level, in decibels and heaviness, of course. It was revolutionary and continues to inspire musicians to this day. I remember hearing an interview with Eddie Van Halen stating that the solo in Heartbreaker made him quit drums and pick up a guitar; that says a lot, I think.

T.R.: I hear dirty blues with great improvisational embellishments that added a psychedelic feel; it's timeless because it's rooted in blues, which everybody can listen to and understand. I love it because you can play it passionately and that passion comes through in the performance.


Pique: Name your top three Led Zeppelin tunes to listen to.

G.R.: The live version of No Quarter, When the Levee Breaks, and In the Light.

P.R.: It's hard to choose from so many awesome tracks, but I would have to say: No Quarter (live from Madison square), The Rain Song and Braun Y Aur.

T.R.: Zeppelin songs I listen to and groove to: Achilles Last Stand, Battle of Evermore and anything from Led Zep 3 .


Pique: Is it at all intimidating to be covering such a legendary group?

G.R.: Yes, to a point because you want to play it really well, but that's what makes it exciting as well. In a tribute band you always have the chance to one-up yourself and do it just a little bit better every show.

P.R.: Intimidating? Actually the second show was intimidating cause we had to be as good or better than the first... But any show we play now, I can't wait to start and get that crowd hopping.

T.R.: No, it's more of a challenge to pull off some of the songs so they sound right and don't sound contrived.


Pique: Technically, Page & Co. were pretty incredible, so it must have taken some practice to master some of their tunes. Were there any that were particularly challenging to add into the repertoire?

G.R.: Achilles Last Stand is probably the toughest arrangement.

P.R.: Achilles Last Stand was the hardest, I think. I had printed out the structure of the song for the band to rehearse. Greg looked at it and his jaw dropped. He looked at me and said, "This looks like a computer virus."

T.R.: Achilles Last Stand and The Song Remains the Same, the latter being one long guitar solo, so Phil never has a chance to rest.


Pique: What would you say is the most requested song?

G.R.: Stairway to Heaven is still right up there! Ramble On.

P.R.: The two most requested songs are usually Stairway to Heaven, of course, and Tangerine.

T.R.: Ramble On or Stairway To Heaven.


Pique: You guys have developed a pretty loyal following over the years, since playing that first gig at The Boot back in 2002. Who do you think is the biggest Whole Lotta Led fan in Whistler?

G.R.: Husky Ray is great; no one has seen more shows than him. But there are many other loyal fans that come to lots of shows and we really appreciate it. You know who you are!

P.R.: The biggest fan is without a doubt Husky Ray. He has missed only one show in Whistler and has come on the road with us everywhere. He's like the roadie, but doesn't get paid (except for a few wobbly pops, that is).

T.R.: ( Name deleted ); she is almost always there and at an outdoor gig in Pemby once, she was topless most of the night. If that's not a fan, I don't know what is.


Pique: In almost eight years of performing in Whistler, you must have some thoughts on our local music scene. How do you think Whistler's live music scene could be improved? Or do you think it needs to be?

P.R.: The scene here is quite colourful, I think. There are a lot of musicians and bands to cover the whole spectrum. Want reggae? See Kostas. Want classic rock? See The Hairfarmers.
 Want heavy metal? See Whisky Shivers and many others. Want punk? Too many available...

T.R.: I think Whistler's music scene can only improve with new blood. There seems to be an emergence of young talented musicians in Whistler, which will drive the level of performers up. I think the only thing missing in this world-class resort is a proper venue to have A-list bands come up here. Most of them travel to Vancouver - why not bring them to Whistler? A venue the size of the Commodore in Vancouver or the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon would be unreal. With a dedicated sound system, lighting rack and the proper professionals to run it, Whistler could be a year-round attraction with music. The Celebration Plaza site will be OK for live music, but once again, it's facing a lot of residential places, so the hours of performance will be limited. People like myself will travel a long way to see the right band. But I won't go to Whistler to see the same old patio players and lounge acts that the town has so much of.


Pique: Almost all of your shows are sold-out affairs. Tell me about one of the most memorable gigs you've played.

G.R.: Pemberton Festival was off the hook. After the fence came down and thousands of people poured in we had the RCMP tell us that we had to stop playing - too many people, liquor laws, etc... I explained that if he pulled the plug he'd probably have a riot on his hands, so he said, "OK, just play something mellow." We launched straight into The Ocean... hahaha... Not exactly mellow, but fun as hell, and we got to finish the show! Also one sold-out show in Nelson at the Royal where by the end of the night the bar looked almost de-constructed!

P.R.: No competition there: imagine 10,000 Nine Inch Nails fans hearing live Zeppelin from across the Pemberton festival grounds, and just leveling the perimeter fence to rush the stage and crowd surf. It happened! I was there, man. It was almost like having NIN open for us...


Pique: What's the craziest thing you've ever seen someone in the audience do during a show?

G.R.: Ummm... I really shouldn't say.

P.R.: Well, in Nelson the singer for BCDC managed to fall into seven different tables. I guess he was having a grand time.

T.R.: Besides the common sight of Johnny Thrash getting naked and dangling from the light rack at The Boot years ago, a friend of ours who has a really hot wife was in the crowd at Dusty's one time, and some guy obviously said the wrong thing to her. Like a pit-bull, he turned to the guy and punched him three times so fast he had no idea what happened, until he noticed his nose was broken and he was bleeding pretty hard.


Pique: Now, you guys are getting ready to kick-off yet another season in Whistler with a show at Merlin's. Any predictions for the 2010/2011 season ahead?

P.R.: My prediction is: awholelottasnow... and better performances with the usual awesome crowd.

T.R.: Lots of snow regular gigs and sun.

G.R.: My crystal ball is broken...


Pique: Anything else you'd like to add or mention?

G.R.: A good friend from Vancouver, Heather, was a big supporter of this band. She would often convince a bunch of her friends to drive up to Whistler to see us and enjoy the town... they were always up near the front dancing and having a great time. Heather and her friends had already made the plan to attend this show as well, but sadly, she died as a result of a climbing accident on Nov 26. I'd like to dedicate this show to her. Heather Gray, this one's for you.