After Robert Plant spent the past few years immersed in Americana with Patty Griffin in Band of Joy, he's turned his attention to blues-rock and world music with his new band, the Sensational Space Shifters.
"I have had an amazing education the last few years. The time I spent around all of those men and women was an eye-opening experience," the Led Zeppelin singer told LA Weekly. But when other members of the Band of Joy shifted their focus to new projects, Plant followed suit.
"I decided that I wanted to get back to something resembling a 'British condition.' I looked back at the Strange Sensation lineup I had worked with before Band of Joy," Plant said. "We decided to get together to try something out. It just had such a strange and unusual way about it."
Plant's Sensational Space Shifters include drummer Dave Smith, West African musician Juldeh Camara, keyboardist John Baggott and bassist Justin Adams. Plant credits the reinvigorated band with giving a new energy to his vocals. "I'm able to get the 'R.P.' voice back out there again," the singer said. "I don't have to be so concerned about making sure I am in harmony with anyone else since I'm mostly singing alone this time. I won't have to worry about Patty glaring at me when I fuck up this time!"
Plant said the "British thing" was simply "to get to a different place" in his ongoing survey of music history. "There's a historical point of reference with the people I've worked with since I began my adventures with Alison Krauss. The reference points in that world in the United States are very deep and loaded with history," he said. "Whether it's the music of the Mississippi . . . whether it's the music that found its way into Nashville in the Forties and Fifties . . . whether it's from the Carter Family or Roscoe Holcomb or Leadbelly."
He continued, "The guys I work with in the U.K. have more of an urban British thing going on. If you compare Led Zeppelin to the U.S. bands of the time like the Electric Flag, we were like a train wreck. We masticated American music, grabbed it, and swung it around wildly, as kids do."
The singer noted how much of his current band hails from Bristol in the U.K., and touched on the city's history with electronic music and the influence that has had on their own work. "There's something about it that inspires a more techno way . . . techno elements, samples, big 'fuck off' drum loops that fry you sometimes," Plant said. "It's a complete dynamic juxtaposition to what I was doing, but they are both equally rewarding as musical adventures."
Plant credited Led Zeppelin bandmate John Paul Jones as an example of how to stay motivated and work on new projects. "I've seen all of these artists that I respect that are able to create all of these amalgamations with other artists. I've watched the way John Paul Jones has worked throughout his life as a musician. I have great respect for him," Plant said. "He's right in the middle of writing an opera right now and people are taking him seriously as a writer in the classical mode. But he can also play in Them Crooked Vultures and play mandolin with Seasick Steve. I've learned that it's good to keep moving and keep smiling!"
Despite the praise for his bandmate, it seems unlikely that the two will play together anytime soon. Although Plant hinted earlier this year that he would be open to a Zeppelin reunion in 2014, Jones told Red Carpet News TV that he's busy with his new opera next year.