JASON BONHAM Says He Was 'An Olympic Drinker' Before Finally Getting Sober More Than Two Decades Ago
March 12, 2023
Jason Bonham, son of legendary LED ZEPPELIN drummer John Bonham, spoke to the "Scars And Guitars" podcast about how he managed to kick the bottle more than two decades after his father died from alcohol poisoning. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I've been a good boy and sober for 22 years. And I never imagined I'd be saying that, because I loved a good [drink], like everybody else, but actually I liked a lot more than just one or two. I was an Olympic drinker… So I never imagined going out and playing music straight… But I actually really enjoy it… I still play in bands where they would drink, and then the next day they go, 'What a show. Great show last night.' And I'm going, 'Was it? Are you sure about that? You checked out about six songs [before] the end.' And they'd be, like, 'Did I?' 'Yeah.'
"So I've just been fortunate enough to realize it and then to have people around me that were okay with it," he continued. "It's amazing. The people that definitely had a problem themselves I didn't see ever again; they kind of thought of me as a threat, 'cause I was straight. And the people that were okay and never, ever doubted their drinking, I can still hang out with them, and they drink and they don't feel guilty. I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable just 'cause I drink… For me, it was best not to drink… So I've been playing music longer sober than I have been drunk."
Asked if he managed to stop drinking overnight or if it was a gradual process, Jason said: "I wouldn't say it was overnight. I went on a bender, and I was, like, 'Woah. How am I gonna get back in favor with the missus on this one?' I'm, like, 'Shit.' And I've had a couple of moments where I woke up in hospital. She didn't really know about it at the time. And the doctors would go, 'You're lucky to be alive. You passed out. You hit your head. You did this and that. We found all of these things in your system.' And I'd make a joke of it. I'd go, 'Well, that's the last time I call that guy. He told this was…' 'Cause I was a bit embarrassed. When you wake up and you've got things all over, and they're going, 'He's coming to,' and you're going, 'How did I get here? I was meant to be on a plane a minute ago. Why aren't I on a plane home?' … I was just coming back from going to Cabo San Lucas. It was the first time I ever played with Sammy Hagar. It was the first time, so '97. And it took me another four years to not take that so seriously — another four years before I went, 'Yeah, you know what? I'd better get my shit together.' It took more of a collapse of music generally in my life… for me to suddenly realize, 'I have a problem.'"
Jason also talked about going to a rehab facility catering to musicians in the United Kingdom that eventually helped him get sober. He said: "My wife drove me from Manchester all the way down to London, and I checked in. And they went, 'Oh, who you wanna see? Eric or Pete?' I'm, like, 'What? What do you mean Eric or Pete? Oh! Clapton or Townshend.' … So, I had Pete; Pete was my go-to guy when I got sober. So I had the best sober guy in the world, and he would tell me stories about my old man, and he used to pick me up and take me to meetings. And he gave me my start. And I thank him to this day that I had somebody like him to explain it in a very different way. It wasn't, like, the taxi driver from down the road. And there's no disrespect from going and listening to one of those guys talk, but I couldn't relate to the taxi driver… But somebody like [Pete], I could relate to… And I managed to stay sober from that moment on. So, I'm very grateful."
John Bonham died suddenly in 1980 at the age of 32 after choking on his own vomit, following a night of heavy drinking. Within the previous 24 hours he had consumed around 40 shots of 40 percent ABV vodka.
Jason is currently promoting his band JASON BONHAM'S LED ZEPPELIN EVENING. Bonham and his band perform music from throughout LED ZEPPELIN's career.
Bonham spent nearly a decade touring as JASON BONHAM'S LED ZEPPELIN EXPERIENCE before changing the band's name to JASON BONHAM'S LED ZEPPELIN EVENING. Bonham later explained that the switch was prompted by a request from the LED ZEPPELIN camp, who wanted to use the "Experience" name for a project involving the archive of ZEP live recordings.
Jason launched JASON BONHAM'S LED ZEPPELIN EXPERIENCE two years after taking part in LED ZEPPELIN's one-off performance in 2007 at London's O2 Arena tribute concert for friend and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. The rare live set, which saw Jason behind the drums in place of his late father, was released in 2012 as "Celebration Day".
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