Ultimate Interviews

Ultimate Interviews

Friday, August 23, 2013

CODA ~ The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience

Canada is known for its maple syrup, strangely coloured money, and hockey. When you think of Led Zeppelin you don't think of Canada do you? But surprise, there is a hidden gem in Canada.. CODA - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience.  Formed in January 2006, CODA has been playing consistently throughout the Greater Toronto area ever since.

Calling Toronto, Ontario, home, CODA performs the Led Zeppelin classics with pride, heart and soul. They admire and respect the music and the musicians behind it. There's no costumes, no wigs, just straight rock and roll by guys who love to play the music. They've rubbed shoulders with Jason Bonham and the Golden God himself, Robert Plant. They are first, fans of the music, then musicians. When you combine the two, as a fan at one of their shows, you will experience something you won't soon forget.

I was excited to reach out, to my 'neighbours', to do this interview. They embraced the opportunity and I couldn't be any more excited to share their answers with you all. Without further ado, may I present to you...CODA - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience.

Robert Miniaci
- Vocals.. Paul Mathur - Bass/Keyboards.. Rick Mercer - Guitar.. Kelly Mauricette - Drums

LZUFP~ There are many Led Zeppelin tribute bands from all over the world. What is it like being one of the very few Canadian ones? What do you think makes you stand out to the counterparts?

Robert:  For me it's an honor to be one of the few Canadian Led Zeppelin tribute bands around.  Although there are more of us Canadian Led Zep tribute bands out there than I would like! LOL! Competition is fierce! With that said, it makes it difficult to set yourself apart from the others.  There are those who assume the costume look. There are also those who are going after the live feel, as well as those who are claiming a note for note band.  What CODA is doing, is bringing a bit of the studio rendition, mixed with live recordings taken from various touring years. Whether it be 1970, 1971, or 1973, etc. With certain songs, I like to do a little storytelling. As an example, I like to mention how Robert and Jimmy loved Joan Baez's version of 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' so much, they covered the song on the very first Led Zeppelin album.

Kelly:  It's a great thing being one of the few Canadian ones out there. Shows Canada has got talent lol! CODA stands out because nothing is hacked when we play. It's all pre-studied from the live, to the boots to the studio recordings.

Paul: I was looking for a tribute band that was doing either Led Zeppelin, Yes, or Alice Cooper. I answered an ad that CODA placed in Now Magazine online and that's how I found my first choice. When we played together the four of us clicked musically and after playing a number of shows with the boys, I knew that this was the right band for me. CODA is different than many Led Zeppelin tribute acts in that, we do not try to look like Jimmy, John Paul, John and Robert...we are much more interested in sounding like them in our own way.  It's four guys playing our hearts out to recreate the live, raw and heavy Led Zeppelin experience.

LZUFP~ Kelly, you mention in your bio on the official CODA website that you were surprised that you didn't need a big drum set to pull off the Bonham sound. What song do you credit for being the main reason you wanted to play Zeppelin material?  If you could magically play along with Bonzo to one song, which would it be and why?
Photo by Lee-Ann Wylie

Kelly:  It would have to be 'The Song Remains the Same' the movie. Seeing that movie just made me do a complete 360 turn in playing on a 'smaller kit' and learning Bonham's style of drumming. I would have to say 'Kashmir' because of the drive and spiritual/magical sound it has behind it.

LZUFP~ Growing up not far from Toronto, I would listen to Q107. I also grew up watching Muchmusic. Nowadays, the radio and video channels have strayed from the real rock and roll. How does that make you feel that currently it's all about the hip hop, rap, pop music? Would you like to see more classic rock artists on it, to expose a whole new generation to it?

Robert: Well, I have no problem with Hip Hop/Rap/Pop music at all. As long as it's good. Meaning, a good feel to the music or lyrics that speak to you on a personal or global level. Music comes in different forms. What is most important about music is when it speaks to a generation. That is what gives it a legacy, that will give it its own life to connect to following generations.  I grew up with Muchmusic, when it was born. When it began, it was all about music videos. I loved coming home from school to see the latest video and what it would be all about. Then digesting it and discussing it with my friends. Now it seems it's all about Jersey Shore and the Real World shows! LOL! But every now and then a group will come out with a decent Rock song, and you will hear in their music something reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. Then in an interview you will hear them say how Led Zeppelin was an influence on them. Their fans will take that and discover Led Zeppelin on their own. Dave Grohl is a perfect example of that.

Paul: As the demographics change so does the broadcast of commercial music. The younger generation has a way of discovering the great music from the 60's and 70's on their own terms. I think it is much cooler that they discover this on their own so when they do find something special it is theirs and they have their own relationship with it. That was the way I felt when I found my favourite bands in the 70's. There are so many really cool bands out there now that I am discovering through my kids, bands like Animal Collective, Wolfmother, Cancer Bats, Billy Talent, Structure, Suicide Silence, Devil Wears Prada, and on and on. Kids have to find the music that they can relate to and it is best when they find it on their own means as that makes it even more special, magical and personal when they find it.

Kelly:  I don't listen to that type of music since it really does nothing for me. But I think some stations should go back to the roots of classic rock and get the younger crowd familiar with what and where it all started.

LZUFP~ Robert, you take on the role of Robert Plant, but in your own way. What do you say to the people who ask why you don't grow your hair, dye it, or wear a wig? What is the one song you enjoy to sing the most?

Robert: If I had the patience to grow my  hair long I probably would, although my wife wouldn't be happy! LOL! Personally, I don't have an issue with tributes who assume the costume. As long as it's done professionally and they don't over due it. For me, it has always been about the music. The sound, the intensity, the subtle, the passion, the electric magic.

If I gave you one song that I enjoy singing most I probably would be lying. There are just too many Led Zeppelin songs I love too much to nail it down to one single song. I don't know, too difficult to answer. But what I can say is that singing the different songs brings about different feelings and different energies in me to make that song come alive.

LZUFP~ You guys are friends with Sam Rapallo. I became familiar with Sam, when back in August 1990, he started publishing 'Electric Magic-The Led Zeppelin Chronicle'. I'm proud to say for three years I collected those issues and still enjoy looking through them. What is it like being friends with Sam, who is respected in the Led Zeppelin community and for his work as webmaster for LedZeppelin.com? Has knowing him helped you to recreate the Zep magic in CODA even more so?

Kelly:   Actually Rob was friends with Sam in high-school. I hooked up with Sam in 1990 and also subscribed to his Led Zeppelin magazine and formed a band called 'The Chosen Few' which was Zeppelin, originals and blues. We then found Rob as a singer. The band was together for about a year. Sam is the God of Zeppelin, just amazing!! We keep in touch with Sam from time to time. Rob has been to his house and Sam came to see me when I had shattered my tibia, a great friend indeed. Knowing Sam, has helped us in meeting Jason Bonham. I emailed Sam to see if he could bring Jason to one of our shows. He did not get back to me because he wanted to surprise the band. Next day, we had Jason watching the band for an hour and half! We also got to sit down and talk to Jason. Was truly an honour and CODA was on cloud nine so to speak for a few days.

Photos by Dominic Marchese
Robert: Hey Michelle, that's great you know of Sam. Sam and I met in grade nine, I remember it clearly. Also, I remember our telephone conversation we had when he had the idea to create a fanzine dedicated to Led Zeppelin. But way before that, I remember many after school days where we headed to the music room and began our musical love for Led Zeppelin. It was Sam who introduced me to the bootlegs. I believe I got most of the Electric Magic issues. I don't want to take up too much space here, but I have a lot of stories of Sam who brought Jason Bonham to our show. It was amazing really. Jason is such a nice guy, we were there just talking about music, talking about Led Zeppelin, taking pictures and having a couple of laughs.  I remember our photographer friend, Dominic Marchese who has come out to a lot of our shows taking pictures, was there that night when Jason was there. As we were all posing, I turned to Jason and said, "see Jason, we even have our own personal Neil Preston" (Led Zeppelin photographer), to which he let his head drop and laughed. Finally, Sam and I have always shared that passion for Led Zeppelin. I guess because of that, the magic has found its way into CODA.

LZUFP~ Do you all remember the moment when you first played a Zep song? Which song was it and what was it about that moment that made you all realize that it worked and that was what you guys wanted to do? Who came up with the name CODA for the band?

Paul: The first Led Zeppelin song I played was 'Black Dog' in 1976 as the lead vocalist in my first band called 'Dark Star'. I was thirteen and my voice hadn't changed yet so I was able to hit all the high notes with ease. We played our one and only show at my school and I was instantly hooked on performing heavy music in front of an audience. We also played Thin Lizzy, Rush and and original song, and my first lyrical creation, called 'Set Up'.

Kelly:   It was 'Rock and Roll', our first song. We all just completely jelled. I came up with the name CODA. It's not copyrighted, it's a symbol in musical terms which mean 'the end of'. Four characters in the name, four members.

Robert: Well, I'm not sure what the first song we played together was, maybe the other guys can recall. But, I do remember Kelly calling me one day, asking if I'd be interested in coming out to jam a bit. It had been sometime since I did, but it went quite well, and I could see the guys were getting excited that the music was happening. In regards to band names, we were throwing a couple around. I think I ended up choosing CODA, although I really liked Presence, I know it had been used.

LZUFP~ Rick, the first time you heard Zeppelin, what was it about Jimmy's playing that stood out and made you want to play the music? Are there certain elements to Page's playing that you try to replicate when on stage with CODA?

Rick: When I first heard the music of Led Zeppelin and Jimmy's guitar playing, I was intrigued as to how energetic the music sounded. That sweet Les Paul in the hands of the master himself, could range from a subtle warm neck pick up tone to a full bodied humbucker bridge pick up, delivering a ripping lead solo at any given time. Jimmy Page plays with true heart and soul. His willingness to not be restricted to only studio lead solo arrangements during live performances shows his ability to play how and what he feels on stage. I very much enjoy the bluesy feel to their live shows as well as the way Led Zeppelin would often 'change up' song arrangements with a wide range of very cool riffs. During a live performance with fellow band members of CODA, I try to capture that real live feel on the guitar, whereby nothing is limited to just the studio lead solos and rhythms. There is only one "Page" in musical history - 'JIMMY PAGE'.

LZUFP~ You guys have had the honour of meeting Robert Plant and Jason Bonham. If you could jam with them, Jimmy or John, which song would you want to do and why?

Paul:  For me it would be 'Achilles Last Stand' for all of its power, magic and drama.

Kelly:   I think it would be 'Stairway to Heaven'. It would show the magical moment with Jimmy on the 12-string and Jones on the keyboard and bass-pedals.

Robert: If I could jam with Jimmy, again another tough question. I think though that I would choose, mmm, 'Dazed and Confused'. I would choose this because of the Page/Plant voice/guitar interplay going on. Plus, how amazing would it be to be on the same stage while Jimmy is dragging the violin bow across the guitar strings. Sooo amazing!
Photo by Dominic Marchese

LZUFP~ What is it do you think that keeps the fans loving and admiring Led Zeppelin after all these years? Even yourselves, since you enjoy playing the music and have a great time doing so, what is it about the music that makes you want to play it?

Robert: Well, I feel with the first generation of fans it took hold of them. As time went on and these fans started having children of their own, maybe mom or dad put on side one of Zeppelin IV and the kids probably went, "holy shit that sounds amazing! Who is it?". I mean, musicians love it for the playing level and the music just rocks. My nephew who is a drummer and a music fan is only 24. He reminds me of me all those years ago. It all comes down to falling in love with Led Zeppelin, it really is passion for me. Performing it, listening to it. It's all there. I will listen to a live version of 'Black Dog' or 'Heartbreaker' and hear Robert sing something slightly different or a different delivery and I'll think to myself, "I've got to do that at tonight's show!"

Paul:  The music of Led Zeppelin is timeless as are all great artistic masterpieces. Their writing, arranging, orchestration, choice of instruments and production is pure genius and genius knows no boundary of time. Their music is just as relevant now as it was in the 60's and 70's. When I play with Coda, the music feels so fresh and I get to infuse my own musical style and voice into it as I play their music night after night. That keeps it alive for me.

LZUFP~ Paul, aside from playing with CODA, you have your own band (The Paul Mathur Project). How do you approach the music and playing differently? Obviously, you're playing your own music, but in regards to the technical stuff, tuning etc, is it very different than the Zeppelin material?

Paul:  Great question! When working on my own music there are no boundaries. I get to create the song, arrange and play all the instruments, write the lyrics, sing the vocals and produce and mix the finished product. I also get to explore many musical styles from progressive rock, pop, soft rock, jazz, and even a little classical. That completely satisfies my creative songwriting, multi-instrumental, vocalist side. When I play with CODA, I totally focus on my bass playing and keyboard playing and interacting with my band mates in a real time live environment which is extremely exciting as my philosophy has always been that a band is a living entity on stage that is bigger than the sum of all the parts.When the four of us play on stage together we create a fifth element that is CODA - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience. The crowd goes yeah and we go BASH!!!

LZUFP~ Probably an impossible questions to answer, but give it a shot. What is your favourite Zeppelin track to play? Whether it's a personal reason or if you want to get technical, the arrangement etc?

Kelly:   Mine would be Kashmir because of that thundering drum sound and phase-shifter on the kit.

Photo by Dominic Marchese
Robert: You're right. A tough question indeed. But one thing I like is doing a song not normally done, like 'Bron-Y-Aur Stomp', and I can notice the Zeppelin fans in the audience really appreciating that. A couple of friends might turn to each other and you can see they are like, "Yeah, wow!". Although a song like 'Achilles Last Stand', which we have done, but not on a regular basis, is a song that truly keeps you on your feet. Gotta be on the ball for that one!

Paul:  My favourite Zeppelin track to play on bass is 'Song Remains the Same' as it is progressive, powerful and has a lot of changes allowing me to cut loose and shred out on my bass. My favourite Zeppelin track to play on keyboards is 'No Quarter' as it invokes a very dramatic backdrop for the audience to experience. My favourite Zeppelin track to play on acoustic guitar is 'Black Country Woman' as it has such a lovely barn room stomp quality to it and I love strumming that one on my 12-string.

LZUFP~ When compiling a setlist, which songs do you fight for to have on the list, and which ones don't get added for either personal reasons or for technical reasons?

Robert: Another good question. Yes, sometimes it's a challenge putting a setlist together. Led Zeppelin have so many wonderful songs that it's sometimes difficult to choose what you're going to add and what to leave out. What we usually do is of course, keep the popular staple songs that we all know and love. What we like to do is, we may have a certain setlist together that we'll play. Then when we return to a club to play on rotation we'll change it up for the audience as well as for ourselves. A song we've never done is 'Carouselambra', and sometimes I'll tease the audience and say, "...this next song is called Carouselambra..." A fantastic song but one we've never tackled. Now there's a challenge.

Kelly:   Nope, it's usually easy when we pick songs. We usually go with the mood, size or depending on the surroundings. For bigger clubs there is a room for adding in acoustics etc, to the set. For smaller clubs we like to keep them rocking non-stop so we will keep to the short Zeppelin songs. If it's outside festivals, then we just give them a straight show with the more known Zeppelin songs that you would hear on the radio.

Paul:  I like the heavier numbers like 'Nobody's Fault But Mine', 'Achilles Last Stand', 'Wanton Song', 'When the Levee Breaks', as well as the more progressive ones like 'The Song Remains the Same', 'Rain Song' and 'No Quarter'. Those are the ones I always push to get on the set lists. I would also like to get 'Trampled Underfoot' and 'In My Time of Dying' down with CODA in the near future. Those are two future songs that I would probably push for.

LZUFP~  How far would you like to take CODA? Internationally? Is there a bucketlist that you all have for CODA and what would be the #1 item on the list?

Paul:  I would like to see us playing Concert Theatres, opening for bigger acts and playing outdoor festivals throughout Canada, the States as well as further Internationally. My bucket list would be to play an outdoor weekend festival for a very large crowd and then hang out with all the bands and fans for the entire weekend.

Kelly:   I would like to take CODA all over Canada and somewhat in the States if possible. We all have jobs and this is just a hobby for us.

Robert: I would love to go International. Nothing like celebrating the music of Led Zeppelin with all our Zeppelin brothers and sisters far and wide. Personally for my own bucketlist, and I think I may have achieved it. Passing the torch. What I mean is, igniting the flame of Led Zeppelin's music in someone else. CODA gets fans of all ages to our shows. So when a kid of 19 comes up to me and says they are fans of Led Zeppelin, but after hearing us perform all these different songs some of which they had no idea were Led Zeppelin songs, I see the energy in their eyes. I see the excitement in them, because I know someone out there is going home and they are going to search for a song we did and they are gonna love it. That might inspire them to begin singing along or pick up a guitar and start learning the song. Maybe one day they will perform these songs for their own audience. For me, that is a real special moment.

LZUFP~ Final thought. What would be your advice to anyone who would want to start up their own Led Zeppelin tribute band?

Paul:  Search for the right chemistry between all band members. That is the most important element. You need to find band mates who will watch out for each other and band mates that can become your musical brothers and sisters. It is like a marriage requiring trust, respect, communication and compromise. A band is a living entity designed to play live to obtain fuel and purpose to continue. Once you find the right members the rest just falls into place on its own.

Kelly:   I would say practice hard, do your homework on Led Zeppelin's sound and equipment that they used. And do it for the passion and feeling. Think of when you're playing in front of people, that this is the way Zeppelin would of sounded live today if they were still around.

Robert: My advice to anyone wanting to start up a Led Zeppelin tribute band, it would have to be, just make it real. Let it come from the heart, let it come from the soul. Just like the members of Led Zeppelin themselves, just feel the music. Listen first to all the albums and get very familiar with them. Then slowly listen to the countless live concerts out there. Start from the beginning. The 1969 tours. Make your way through all their years of touring. 1970, 71, 72, 73, 75, 77, 79, 80! Absorb it all. Listen to the evolution of the band and their performances. Just sit back and listen, and I promise you'll be amazed at the magic you're hearing.

Magic indeed. Led Zeppelin as a band, may have disbanded prematurely in 1980. But thanks to tribute bands like CODA, a newer generation can experience the music of one of rock's greatest bands. 

It's one thing to have some guys playing the music of Led Zeppelin, but when you have four guys who truly respect, admire and love the music, it makes it all that much better. Each performance, CODA gives it their all. They honour the legacy of Led Zeppelin, through hard work, passion and the intense dedication to give each fan in the audience the Raw Led Zeppelin Experience. If you have the opportunity to witness the electricity that CODA brings to the stage, grab it and cease the moment and take a walk down memory lane all while listening to some great musicians  paying tribute to Led Zeppelin.

Thank you to Lee-Ann Wylie for the photo of Kelly.  Thanks to Coda for all other photographs.

Thanks to Dominic Marchese for his great photos. You can check out more of his work on his website:
Unforgetable Images - Dominic Marchese Official Site.

Be sure to check out Coda's official website for tour dates, booking information, biographies, photo galleries and more.

Coda - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience Official Website

Check out Coda on:

Coda - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience Official Facebook Page
Coda - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience Official Myspace Page
Coda - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience Official Twitter

Coda videos here
Coda's Vimeo Channel

Coda - The Raw Led Zeppelin Experience Promo Video
Whole Lotta Love
Stairway to Heaven

Rick Mercer information can be found here:
Rick Mercer - Reverbnation
Rick Mercer - CBC Music
Rick Mercer - iTunes

The Paul Mathur Project can be found here:

The Paul Mathur Project - CBC Radio 3
The Paul Mathur Project - Reverbnation
The Paul Mathur Project Official Myspace Page

Extra special thanks to Kelly, Robert, Paul and Rick for an exciting interview. I have learned so much about you all, your love of Zeppelin and the great pride and dedication you put into each show. It's great to see my fellow Canucks 'Getting the Led Out'.

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Led Zeppelin ~ Ultimate Fan Page Official Facebook Page
Led Zeppelin ~ Ultimate Fan Page Official Twitter
Led Zeppelin ~ Ultimate Fan Page Official Tumblr


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