Percy's Progress

By Kerry Doole
Printed in June 1990 Music Express Magazine

Kerry Doole: Congratulations on Manic Nirvana. Are you pleased with the initial response to it?

Robert Plant: Yes, it is happening. It seems as if people have got the picture now.

Kerry Doole: Do you now expect the unexpected from Robert Plant?

Robert Plant: Maybe it would be a relief it I just behaved myself and stuck to the corporate repetition. I've got to be known as a chap that likes variety, for my own sake, never mind anyone else's This is crucial to me.

Kerry Doole: Does your young band revitalize you?

Robert Plant: I don't know if it's a revitalization process, but it is certainly a mutual stimulation. I poster them with scions were still alive and playing in Europe; it was captivating. But with Otis Rush I was so relieved that at last I could sit down enjoy somebody playing the music I love, instead of just going 'Well, at least I saw Muddy Waters back when I was a kid.'

Kerry Doole: You Sound as much a fan of music as ever. Does it surprise people that you know about a band like Ministry?

Robert Plant: Well, I saw Ministry at The New Music Seminar about six years ago. Back then, they had about need as much color as we can get. It's good to see Lenny Kravitz on magazine covers, even if we focus of his work has yet to be tuned in. Just get away from that little road, please!

Kerry Doole: With your own production work on Manic Nirvana you have a contemporary edge via sampling. Is that side of things fascinating to you?

Robert Plant: I'm a jackdaw (European crow). I steal from here, there and everywhere. In my musical world, I use sampling as a parody, a send up.

Robert Plant: I Thought it was a bit tired. If you're going to do something, you have to take it somewhere else or improve on it.

Kerry Doole: So you're still a soccer as well as a music fan?

Robert Plant: I don't think these things are supposed to drop off with age. I'm not going to lose anything I've got right now, including my hunger and my zest.

Kerry Doole: Along, with those passions comes your overt lustiness. That is somewhat sneered these days. Does this new Puritanism piss you off?

Robert Plant: It doesn't matter what is in or out. I just can't sing or express my conon The Mission's new album ('Amelia') deals with child-molesting, but it's so over-dramatized it makes me feel a little ill. I much prefer to deal with the area in which I'm unfortunately less at home in, and that is my emotional lifestyle. I haven't created that so I can write lyrics like 'Anniversary' or 'She Said (which depict the 'ragged grey defeat' of his broken marriage), but I've been in the middle of a kind of ludicrous hurdy-gurdy for about the last three or four years.

Kerry Doole: Thn't Percy Bysshe's last stand, y'know! ("Percy,' being an English euphemism for man's favorite appendage, has long been Plant's nickname.)

Robert Plant: When I hear Nina Simone singing about love, or Howlin' Wolf, Gene Ninvent, Robert Smith, or Kate Bush - that song about putting her lover's love between her breasts ('The Sensual World') - that's marvelous! You know, I wanted to be seduced by a by a song instead of informed, or instead of that common or garden situation or 'lick my love pump.' That's f**ckin' sad as hell, the heavy metal idea of the real man. I don't deal in that currency.

Kerry Doole: A new song arousing interest is "Tie Die On The Highway." That comes across as being nostalgic for a time when there was a more communal spirit around.

Robert Plant: I think there's scope for that again. Every Thursday! There's nothing wrong with just allowing oneself to be vulnerable, to break down some of the social guarding that is everywhere. I find people don't want to commit themselves, or leave themselves open to ridicule. Every Thursday we could get ride of that stiffness, in the middle or our climbing the social ladder.

Kerry Doole: Parallel to that is "Liar's Dance," which rails against greed. Does that refer to your musical peers?

Robert Plant: No, it's really just about judge corporations and the planet. So much is going on where people are going 'Well, f**k it. Only another 40 years and we'll all be dead anyway.

Kerry Doole: On to the inevitable question. With the mega-dollar at stake, is there any temptation to saddle up the old Zep warhouse one more time?

Robert Plant: Well, what would you do? Would you be proud of Manic Nirvana if you'd come through those years?

Kerry Doole: I agree there's scope for pride there, but I can imagine the pressures on you from people who may have a personal stake in what you could be doing.

You mean the sycophants, the little satellites that spin around? Yes, they're all spinning around the possibility, which is hilarious to watch. That's food for at least another two songs! The whole process (of discussing a reunion amongst the surviving members) is honest, and even a little frivolous. So even though "Tie-Dye" does harken and gesture, there's also a sense of humor and parody which make it perfect for me. I couldn't go on and reinvent the spirit of the huge monster that was, because I couldn't feel comfortable. I don't know the guy who sang in Led Zeppelin. I see some very funny pictures of him, then I see rock's vile offspring trotting behind in lurex pants and leather gloves with the fingers cut off.

Kerry Doole: So you would disown some of the children who consider themselves your heirs?

Robert Plant: It's something to laugh at. The thing is that these guys fill a hole now that needs no reasoning. They don't need a "Kashmir" or "In My Time Of Dying." Those things are just a little nuance away from straight rock 'n' roll. Now it's all just entertainment; there's nothing quirky coming out.

Kerry Doole: Observers at the big Atlantic Records 40th anniversary show in 1988 felt you showed more fire with our own band than with the reunited Led Zeppelin. Do you agree?

Robert Plant: That has to be, because this is the only thing I know. If I don't know the guy who did that old stuff, and I can't remember honestly absorbing the euphoria, then it's not been well-earned. Anything my psyche, being and ego absorb now is because it is current; it's what is happening to me now.

Kerry Doole: Do you fell more fulfilled now than you did in the heyday of Led Zeppelin?

Robert Plant: That was so far back I can't tell you what it was like. It's like some Kurt Vonnegut tale where you shoot from Saturn to the moon and you assume a different kind of persona. I'd love to be in the same room as that guy from Led Zeppelin, to listen to him doing an interview 15 years ago. I do know that the work we did was occasionally very good. But, unless there was something new to sing, some celebration of now....

Kerry Doole: Zeppelin weren't really critically fashionable at the time. Did that cause any resentment.

Robert Plant: I don't think so. We got what we deserved from the media. When you attach record company execs to coat hooks backstage and tell them not to move, or bring a journalist form England to Carnegie Hall and then two hookers corner him in his room and say he can't review the concert because he's been a prat, then you get the press treatment as a result. But there were a lot of turkeys around then, the executive genre was even worse than it is now.

Kerry Doole: At least there was some spontaneity and flair within the industry then.

Robert Plant: Well, I feel Manic Nirvana has flair, because I don't really care. I don't have a conscience, musically, so I can do whatever I like. I'm not responsible for people's dreams, which I would be if I wore that other hat. So when I go, 'Wooh, Nirvana!', it means I'm having a great time and what the f**k can you say. It's pop music, and it has a whole lot of heart and soul. It doesn't need a revival of anything else.

Kerry Doole: So you're finding it easy to write now?

Robert Plant: Yes, and we're having fun. There are tunes that didn't make this album that are very interesting, very wacky. We may start becoming the next Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians!

Kerry Doole: Who are you listening to these days?

Robert Plant: I look for music to give solace and fire, fire on the wire. My list goes from Talk Talk to Prince to Blue Aeroplanes to (classical composer) Vaughan Williams.

Kerry Doole: Will you kick it in the head when you stop getting a rush from your own or other people's music?

Robert Plant: I like all my musical times to be vivid and exciting. There are a lot of people I know - they circulate not far from here - who treat it as more of a mundanely, a profession. As the song said, I'd rather drive a truck.

Kerry Doole: Or be a chartered accountant, which I gather was your intended career?

Robert Plant: Yeah, I was an articled clerk. If I couldn't sing or didn't have the heart anymore, I'd rather be a gardener, or drive coast to coast. There'd be nothing in the back of my Buick but dreams. I'd drive e them with me to new locations and pretend there'd be some house lights going down somewhere.

Kerry Doole: So where do you hang your hat these days?

Robert Plant: I've got a flat in London, and I live there when I'm not working or whoring myself doing all this press.

Kerry Doole: Thanks a lot!

Robert Plant: No, it's not your fault. It's nobody's fault; it's like the thoughts of Chairman Townshend or something (presumably a playful jibe at Pete's verbosity). Maybe I'll go to Santa Fe, New Mexico after this. Commune with the armadillos. See you there.

Kerry Doole: One last thing I have to ask. Is it true you were spotted in a London pub heckling Dion?

Robert Plant: How did you know that? I was telling him to get the f**k off the stage. He was terrible. He's such a remarkable singer, a tremendous talent, but he was going off into this Mellencamp the Third genre. I wasn't asking for memorabilia - otherwise I'd lead a Led Zeppelin reformation - but he needed to showcase that voice. He's one guy I'd like to help do just one track. I'd seen him before at The Bottom Line in 1972, but he wasn't that well at the time. When you have an affair with a thing as consuming as that sort of drug (heroin), from my slight experience with it, you tend to get very much into what you're doing, that noise in there. Yes I was heard shouting, but I couldn't stop myself. I don't stand there going 'Excuse me, know who I am? I want this.' I just really want him to excel, because it was it only gig in London. (At this point, he animatedly hops around the rooms, clicks his fingers, and launches into a spot-on imitation of an out-of-form Dion singing "The Wanderer.") I'm the kind of guy who likes to roam around' - I thought, f**k off!' But he's a stunner; I've got to take the hat off to him.

Kerry Doole: And to you Robert!