Beth Hart har en röst som svämmar över av känslor och äkthet. Nu har hon gett sig på Led Zeppelin-katalogen (A tribute to Led Zeppelin) och gör ett fantastiskt bra jobb. Nervositeten över hur hennes album med coverlåtar ska tas emot är dock påtaglig.
– Dude, I need you praying for me! I don´t care if you believe or not. Pray to the doorknob to your freakin´ house. Whatever you gotta do because I don´t want no motherfreakin´ trying to shoot me because they think I´m being sacrilegious with the Zeppelin stuff. Seriously dude, you gotta pray for me!
You´ve said that you need to be angry to sing Led Zeppelin. How come?
Yes. For me, since I had so much trauma growing up… I was misdiagnosed as bipolar 1 and when I started going to the psych wards in my 20´s they kept telling me that. I was doing heavy drugs for a lot of years and every time I would end up on psych wards I was always on meth and meth wasn´t even my choice drug. I ended up with a terrible psychiatrist and I´ve been with many since I was a kid and I´ve seen a lot of trauma specialists as well, but this one motherfucker knew I was rich and he was taking all my money and when I realized this, was when I sent my mother to him. I made the mistake of having my mother live here for six weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, which just made Covid and politics look like Disneyland. I made a mistake. When I put him with her and he diagnosed her with the same thing, and I know all about the criteria you have to have in order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia or Bipolar 1 or depression, so when he did that I called him out on it and said that´s bullshit. She definitely has mental challenges and definitely DSM, but I´m not gonna let you put my 84 year old mother on motherfriggin´ anti-psychotics endless stabilizers because she´ll friggin´die. That´s when I fired him. I let him go. I´ve just been working with my trauma specialist and my diagnosis is borderline personality disorder and chronic PTSD, which is wonderful because both of those do not need medication. What they do to you is a lot of therapy and then you learn a lot of natural ways to calm yourself down, but you never stop therapy with borderline. It´s like being blind driving down the street. You would never drive down the freeway being blind without having someone to navigate for you. When I got off the anti-psychotics, suddenly I could feel everything again. Not only could I feel my joy more than ever, but I could feel all my trauma and because I wasn´t working like a maniac anymore, I was struck down and I had to look myself in the mirror and I didn´t like that. I had to get my mother out of here and I had to make some major, major changes in order to survive. Here comes politics, Covid, dear old sweet mama and all my past and I get real scared. What is the mask that someone is terrified wears, it´s rage. That´s the mask. That´s the “get the fuck away from me or I will take you out” I had heard about this Zeppelin thing when I was making “War in my mind” (2019) with Rob Cavallo. It was another project he was working on. It was an 88 orchestra doing Zeppelin songs for something totally different. I don´t know what it is, you´d have to ask him because I never asked him. In the middle of doing “War in my mind” we had a choir in the room and I was just in the control room watching and hanging out and Rob suddenly said “Hey, do me a favor! Just put your cans on real quick and sing Whole lotta love for me for an orchestra thing I did!” I said “Ok!” because that was the only Zeppelin song I know. I sang it and looked over and he was filming. He said “Good! Do it one more time.”, so I did it one more time and he said “Cool, let´s get back to work!” Then we went on the road and my manager said “Rob wants you to do the Led Zeppelin record.” and I said “Are you freaking high? There´s no way I´m gonna do that. First of all, I don´t wanna get shot in the street by die hard Zeppelin fans and number two, I´m a girl. This is a man´s world and they´re gonna really crucify me. Number three, I´m on anti-psychotics and I don´t have that rage. I can´t do it!”
So what changed your mind?
Then, like I said, things changed. I came home, right. I called Wolf (manager) and said “Yo, send me every single Led Zeppelin original that Rob has taken and then send me all of the orchestration and the medleys Rob has done. I will study it and learn it. I´m terrified, but I will do it because if I don´t do it I will go crazy. I just gotta get my rage out. I got to.” What happened was, because of social distancing and everything being locked down, the trucks roll up. I have a studio here (home) but it´s not a recording studio, it´s just a rehearsal studio with my instruments and stuff for writing and all that, so these trucks roll up and my husband brought all the stuff in. Then we had Zoom so Rob was in his studio and Doug (McKean, engineer) was in his studio and I sang down two or three Zeppelin songs and then we didn´t work together for a couple of months. Then I did another three Zeppelin songs and then we didn´t work together for a couple of months. That goes on for like a year and then in the end when Rob goes to mix he says “I want you to come to my studio.” and he played for us what he´d done and he hadn´t told me, but he had changed his mind on some things. He decided to push all of the orchestra to the back of the mix and bring all of Chris Chaney on bass, killing it, and Tim Pierce just slaughtering it on guitar and that bad motherfucker Matt Laug on drums. I just did two music videos with them the other day. I meet the drummer for the first time and I walk up to him and I say… I was just at Jeff Beck´s house when I was in England and Jeff is working on a record with Johnny Depp right now and he was playing me all this crazy stuff they´re producing and it´s blowing my mind, so I get competitive and I play him some of my stuff and then I play “Good times, bad times” and I wish you were there dude. Jeff goes “Who´s the drummer?” and I just lean in and go “His name is bad motherfucker.” So when I met him (Matt) the other day I just went “Hey man, I don´t wanna know your name. Is it ok if I only refer to you as bad motherfucker?” and he laughed so hard.
Your voice is perfect for Led Zeppelin. You almost sound like Robert Plant.
Oh my god, thank you dude! I was so scared. I´m a pretty crazy bitch, but I was pretty fucking scared, man.
I love the breakdown, the middle part in “Whole lotta love” There´s an eerie feel to it and it brings something different to the song.
That´s all Rob Cavallo and he´s a genius. He´s out of his freakin´ mind. When we did the video the other night, I´m up against this glass window and I´m going off and my elbows go backwards and I accidentally break the window. At the end of the take… and there´s a large crew there and Rob had finished all his parts, but he hung around and I go “Oh my god! I´m so sorry I broke the window. I have to pay for that, right?” and Rob was like “Wait, you broke the windows? That´s fuckin´awesome!” (laughs) You gotta love the rock and roll world! All the stuff they tell you in school, that if you don´t stop doing it, you´re gonna go to jail for it, you end up making a freakin´ living out of it!
But as I said, there are so many feelings in that voice of yours.
Bless you, man! My husband, and I worship the ground he walks on, after this record got mixed, the last couple of days, every day he plays it… I´m gonna start crying now… he just turns to me and he goes “I´m just so proud of you.” That´s the shit.
You did the Kennedy Center Honors with Buddy Guy and the Zeppelin guys were there and gave you a standing ovation. Did you get to meet them?
I did. I got to talk to them a little bit. I get starstruck pretty easy with everybody so it´s hard for me. I also met Obama and Michelle Bill Clinton and Hillary. Scott (Beth´s husband) went up to talk to them and he was trying to get me to do it, but I would get a heart attack and die. Then I was next to Tracy Chapman at dinner and my heart was pounding and I couldn´t take it because I just love that debut album of hers. Brilliant songwriter and singer. Then at the gala I gotta sit at the table with Bonnie Raitt. I wanted to drink so bad. I was a hard fucking drinker. Bourbon straight up and I wanted to drink so bad, but what was so amazing about that experience, believe it or not… I grew up as a cellist and a piano player so when I was 10 I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see the greatest cello player of all time, Yo Yo Ma. After we did a show with Jeff (Beck) at Kennedy I´m at the hotel and the hotel is only for the senators, different people in politics and the artists that are playing. I´m getting ready to walk to the elevators to get changed for that night´s gala and we had been at the White House the day before, so it was a whole three-day event. I didn´t get nervous to do the show, but everything else is pretty nerve wrecking. I´m walking into the elevator and there stands YoYo Ma. He walks out and he puts his arms around me… (Beth gets very emotional)… You know how wacky artists, you just start making baby noises like “go go ga ga” He didn´t say anything else than baby noises, rubbed my back and walked away. It was the most amazing thing in the world for me. To get that respect from him, that was freakin´ huge and that just killed me. That took me out.
As a musician yourself, Jimmy Page is considered to be one of the greatest guitar players ever…
And producers. His production of that stuff was out of control. Sorry Beatles…
Yes, but after Led Zeppelin he hasn´t really put out any music of his own except the “Outrider” album and The Firm. What´s your take on that as a musician? How come a guy like Page hasn´t put out any new music?
I have no idea. All I know is that… I´m close with Jeff Beck and one thing about Jeff is this, clearly he was born as a genius like Hendrix and Buddy Guy, but all three of those people have something in common and same thing with Eric Gales. All four have something in common and it´s called addiction. Not drugs and alcohol, but it´s an addiction, really, to claim their instruments. If you hear stories about Jimi Hendrix, he wouldn´t even take a shit without having his guitar in his lap. He wouldn´t go to any parties or anywhere without his guitar, I toured with Vinnie Colaiuta and I´ve made a record with Vinnie and literally when you walk by Vinnie´s hotel room and you´re in the hallway, he´s got a set up kit in his room and he can´t stop playing. If you´re in the car with Vinnie, he´s got a stick in one hand and he´s constantly playing in his car. Joe Bonamassa is the same way. Every day he plays and with Jeff, even though Jeff is so into his cars, religiously three hours a day he´s playing his guitar. It´s like talent is five percent of it and the rest of it is that you literally can´t stop. It´s not to be rich or famous or have people suck your dick, it´s because it heals you. It´s like a drug. You take it because it takes away the pain, so when you play it takes away the pain. My number one favorite guitar player of all time is Buddy Guy. Number two is Jeff Beck and number three is Eric Gales and number four is Page. Then number five, who comes very close to number one is the lead guitar player of fucking Pantera. When I watch the LA show from 1992, it´s so ridiculous. The drumming, the guitar playing all of it. And the lead singer (Phil Anselmo), never been a fan of his massive ego, but his lyrics are genius and they´re healing for me and the performance is 100 % commitment. To me, they are the number one hard rock band of all time. Number two is probably Rammstein. I´m totally addicted to them and for number three I have to go with Black Sabbath. They used to be number one, but when I got older and I got into Pantera. My funeral… are you ready? You hire a junkie to take my body, you dig a big hole, throw me in it with a bunch of nicotine gum, a bunch of nicotine patches, I´m gonna be naked, no box, and throw in my red towel. Throw me in that fucker and you´re gonna leave me there and hope the bears will not eat me. And these are the rules: Anybody who loves me that wants to come and honor my death, they gotta rent out a venue, hire Slipknot to open up for Slayer… and my agent is the same agent for Slipknot, so Slipknot has to open for Slayer and you have to be high so you have to drink or take some kind of drug to get in and if you don´t, you´re not allowed in. I don´t care if you´re in your 90´s, you gotta take a shot of whisky or something. If you´re a recovering addict and you´re into AA, sorry, you´re not allowed in. Quite a few of my best friends are AA. I love them, but you have to have something in you and when you come in, Slipknot opens, then Slayer and at the end of the night, shown in my honor on the back screen, is the official video of Pantera´s “Walk” That´s my song.
You´ve put a lot of thought into this.
Yeah and I plan to live to be 90. This is how long I wanna live. I really only wanna live as long as my husband lives. Whenever he goes, I´m out. I´m done. I´ve got a nice plan for that one. It´s fire and blowing shit up. It´ll be awesome!
Have you ever met the Slipknot guys?
My husband has met them, but I can´t remember because I was 25 or 26, maybe a little younger and John Branigan, my agent and their agent, took me to see them. I thought they were brilliant, but I wasn´t into that thing at that time. At that time I was totally immersed in Robert Johnson, jazz, classical music and I was really into Alice in Chains. Layne Staley kills me. He just kills me and he´s one of the greatest rock singers of all time. I can´t get enough of Layne and I was also, even more, into Mad Season. I was into that record more than anything Alice in Chains ever did.
You should do a cover of “River of deceit”
Dude, every song on that album is amazing! It´s like that Tom Waits album “Mule variations” or the Daniel Lanois produced Dylan album “Time out of mind” It´s such a fine piece of work and every single song is not only brilliantly written and performed of the players, but the mix and the production is art and it´s ridiculous. A lot of times when I ride on the back of Scott´s bike, my favorite music for him to play is when he plays Mad Season. That whole record, I can´t get enough of it.
What else is going on with Beth Hart besides the Led Zeppelin album?
Well, I wrote 72 songs during the pandemic. What else am I gonna do, right? My husband and I built a “forest” I´m always into gardening, so we literally have a forest now. So gardening and a lot of songwriting. What I´m gonna do is… the moment Rob is free, I´m bringing him in and I want this record to be a long record, like 18 songs and then the following record I wanna do, maybe another original record, or I wanna do a full Baptist gospel record. I don´t wanna write any of it, maybe two songs, but I want the rest of it to be these specific that I adore from my favorite gospel singers of all time and of course they´re all black. Their freakin´ performances, their songs and their melodies and everything they do and the preaching they do in the breakdown, it´s so off the hook that music. I would love to do that following the next original record and then I wanna do a pure old school jazz record that I´ve written. The Thelonious Monk period and the Billie Holiday period, that kinda stuff.
Sounds killer and again, the Zeppelin album is awesome!
Dude, I need you praying for me! I don´t care if you believe or not. Pray to the doorknob to your freakin´ house. Whatever you gotta do because I don´t want no motherfreakin´ trying to shoot me because they think I´m being sacrilegious with the Zeppelin stuff. Seriously dude, you gotta pray for me!
I will pray to the doorknob.
Thank you! (laughs)
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Beth Hart (Press) Slayer (Björn Olsson)