Robert Plant

The singer talks break-up, heart­break, new mu­sic, be­ing a jour­ney­ing spirit and why he’ll never write his mem­oirs.

Classic Rock - - Contents - In­ter­view: Mar­cel An­ders

The singer talks about his new al­bum, re­la­tion­ship heart­break, be­ing a jour­ney­ing spirit, press spec­u­la­tion…

De­spite hav­ing a ca­reer out­side Led Zep­pelin that is three times as long as the one he had in that band, tak­ing in 11 solo al­bums and the ac­claimed, Grammy-win­ning Rais­ing Sand with Ali­son Krauss, it is as the singer with the once world-con­quer­ing Zep that Robert Plant – doubt­less of­ten much to his cha­grin – will for­ever be best re­mem­bered.

His lat­est al­bum is the just-re­leased Carry Fire, again recorded with his some­what aptly named band the Sen­sa­tional Space Shifters.

On most of your al­bums, you of­ten re­fer to places you’ve been to. Carry Fire seems to be about the pe­riod of time you spent liv­ing in Austin, Texas.

Three years, yeah. Austin was just the door, the por­tal for find­ing that there’s so much more to… Austin. Ev­ery­body knows it’s a great demo­cratic, lib­eral cen­tre of stuff, but take the roads west from there and you turn into Co­manche coun­try. And then you re­alise that there was a whole weave that’s been moved out of the way; a whole way of liv­ing, a whole un­der­stand­ing and a re­la­tion­ship with the earth that has been su­per­seded. And I found that by liv­ing there. I didn’t even know what I was go­ing to find. I didn’t look for any­thing, but then I found this sort of re­mark­able lure to­wards the majesty of the Co­manche na­tion.

You still travel a lot. Is that in your blood, is that what makes you who you are?

Yeah. Well, I’ve got ac­quain­tances in the form of friends and I’m ac­quainted with beau­ti­ful places as well. The mo­tion in me is to work, to sing, to write, to learn, and so I do re­turn to cer­tain places. And I feel the changes, and it’s a great lib­er­a­tion for me.

Did you leave Austin be­cause of your breakup with (singer-song­writer) Patty Grif­fin (in 2014), or be­cause of your ex­pe­ri­ences with the US ju­di­ciary?

Are you re­fer­ring to that lu­di­crous [Stair­way To Heaven] trial? I won’t go into that [laughs].

Sorry, mate.

But you split up with Patty?

I did, yeah… And if you lis­ten to the al­bum you can hear me pour­ing out my heart to who­ever’s in­ter­ested. Cos that’s what I do. And it’s not easy to do that, be­lieve me.

Okay, so let’s say in­stead that you left Austin be­cause you missed the misty moun­tains. That’s bet­ter! And I did. That’s what brought me back, re­ally. That and fam­ily hu­mour.

You’re so pas­sion­ate about his­tory, and yet not a bit nos­tal­gic about the mu­sic that you’ve created in the past. Why is that?

Cos I pre­fer to move for­ward. It’s as sim­ple as that. I don’t want to be stuck in the past – like so many of my con­tem­po­raries.

There are few peo­ple at sixty-nine who still write new ma­te­rial and go on tour. What makes you get out of bed and do that?

Well, my eyes are open. It’s al­most like some­times I feel like I’ve just been born. When an an­i­mal is born, the mother licks the eyes of the baby – with cat­tle and sheep and stuff – and the eyes open and the fo­cus comes in. Some­times it feels like that. I’d go to places and I read it dif­fer­ently, and re­la­tion­ships and friend­ships… The ebb and flow of life is spec­tac­u­lar. I wouldn’t like to be stuck in one place for too long, oth­er­wise I might lose this trick I have.

What is the trick?

I have no idea, but I don’t want to lose it.

The song Heaven Sent on Carry Fire is like the an­them of your be­ing, isn’t it?

Yeah, ex­actly. Spot on.

Are you a rest­less, jour­ney­ing spirit?

Well, I don’t think rest­less, but I am jour­ney­ing, yeah. I mean, I’ve got the key.

Will you ever write all that down, all you’ve done? Will you ever pub­lish your mem­oir? [Laughs] Where the fuck does this mem­oir shit come from?

Be­cause it seems ev­ery­body’s do­ing it.

Yeah, I know. I just think the whole idea of us… Once upon a time we were so­cial de­viants, pushed out to the cor­ners of so­ci­ety, quite of­ten body searched in the street by cops. I re­mem­ber walk­ing through Dear­born [part of the Detroit metropoli­tan area] with John Bon­ham in 1969, on a Sun­day af­ter­noon, when Detroit was in flames, and look­ing across the cityscape and see­ing smoke and things like that, and some peo­ple went by in a big Lin­coln Con­ti­nen­tal and they put the win­dow down slowly and spat at us – be­cause we were hip­pies. We were rep­re­sent­ing a chal­lenge to the or­der. So do we want to chum up and cud­dle up to the whole idea of go­ing to a publisher and telling sto­ries? I mean, what – who – for? Those sto­ries are locked nicely be­tween my two ever-grow­ing ear holes. So fuck it. There’s a lot in there, and that’s where it’s stay­ing.

On the new al­bum there’s a cover of Blue­birds Over The Moun­tain that you recorded with Chrissie Hynde of The Pre­tenders? How long have you known each other?

About thirty-five years, forty years. Just en passant. I like the sweet­ness of the song. It’s cute, and it’s a song I used to sing when I was a kid, be­fore I was a singer. It’s a sort of nurs­ery rhyme.

You’ve an­nounced live dates in Amer­ica and Aus­tralia. When are we go­ing to see you in Europe, sum­mer 2018?

Yeah. They’re work­ing on it now, talk­ing to peo­ple in Is­tan­bul and Beirut, and we’ll make our way round to you guys, I hope.

With the Sen­sa­tional Space Shifters you al­ways play some Led Zep stuff. Any idea what it’s go­ing to be this time? Ear­lier this year you did Kash­mir with Nigel Kennedy.

Yeah. It’s not a song I would nor­mally do, but I mean, when else to do it but with an orches­tra and Mad Man Kennedy? It was good. It was great to have an orches­tra around on it. Re­ally good. How do you keep up with what’s go­ing on in mu­sic?

I don’t. Things just come past me. If I was a DJ on the ra­dio, I would get all the new ma­te­rial I could ever wish for. Sadly I’m not, so some­times I miss things com­pletely. It’s a big world, mu­sic, now, and some of it gets to me and some of it doesn’t.

But there’s very lit­tle go­ing on in rock mu­sic th­ese days, wouldn’t you agree?

Well, that’s a bit of a bless­ing.

How do you mean?

Well, I think it ran out of steam a lit­tle bit, didn’t it? Kind of. It prob­a­bly peaked, did what it had to do, and now the hy­brids of rock have be­come like Them Crooked Vul­tures and peo­ple like that, which is good mu­sic but it’s not rock. Well, maybe it is rock. Maybe my idea of what rock was prob­a­bly was a bit lost in trans­la­tion. What do you think about the ru­mours that keep popping up about a Led Zep reunion tour in 2018?

It shows you that peo­ple have noth­ing else to write about, ob­vi­ously. And that’s kind of sad. All th­ese mag­a­zines and in­ter­net plat­forms should be sup­port­ing new mu­sic and help new mu­si­cians to find an au­di­ence, in­stead of dwelling on the old crap all the time. It’s like there is noth­ing new and ex­cit­ing out there any more, when in fact there is. So stop liv­ing in the past. Open your ears and your eyes. It’s not that dif­fi­cult, is it?

But don’t you find it amus­ing some­times to al­ways be read­ing in the press about your fu­ture plans?

It is kind of funny, I have to ad­mit. But, hey, there’s bet­ter ways to en­ter­tain your­self, be­lieve me.

“The ebb and flow of life is spec­tac­u­lar. I wouldn’t like to be stuck in one place for too long.”

Carry Fire is out now via None­such/Warner Bros.

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