Michael White: Exclusive Interview and Contest

Michael White and The White do Led Zeppelin like nobody else
Feb 22 2012Led Zeppelin is the greatest rock band that has ever existed. Sorry Beatles, Queen or Rolling Stones fans. That statement may be a bit presumptuous because musical preference is an individual taste, but for us that statement is undeniable. Unfortunately, Led Zeppelin has not been around for over 30 years and will never be around again. The band fell apart with the untimely death of John Henry Bonham in 1980. The three surviving members have been involved in various musical projects since then, but, in recent years Jimmy Page has disappeared from the public eye, Robert Plant has sadly set his sights on different musical genres, and only John Paul Jones has shown a bit of the Rock left in him with his involvement in Them Crooked Vultures. 
What can rabid Led Zeppelin fans like us do to keep satisfied? The only choices are to collect all the old Zeppelin bootlegs or go see a tribute band. In Toronto we are very fortunate, because the best Led Zeppelin tribute band who is headed by Michael White since 1977 calls Toronto his home. In fact, Michael White & The White are currently in the midst of a Led Zeppelin discography series and we reviewed their Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III gigs. Even more exciting is that Michael White is performing a special Orchestral Zeppelin show at The Music Hall (147 Danforth Ave – just steps away from Broadview subway station) on Saturday March 3rd. We highly endorse Orchestral Zeppelin – Featuring The Symphony of Rock Youth Orchestra and tickets can be purchased here.   
Michael White
We will have a full career retrospective interview with Michael in the near future, but for now we wanted to catch up with him particularly on the Orchestral Zeppelin show.
  • Michael thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. We did a bit of research and found that Led Zeppelin had played a total of around 560 concerts in their 12 year career. How many concerts of Led Zeppelin music would you say you have played in your 35 year career?
    • White: I would say about 4000. Between 1980 and 1990 we played the most consistently and toured Canada and the US coast to coast. That decade was virtually non stop playing. I had a motor-home and trailer for the equipment and we could cover long distances between shows. At that time there were a lot of hotels that would run entertainment 6 nights a week and we were so much in demand that we would play 20 to 25 days a month. I owe lot of the credit to having a great manager and agent who were able to book those 4000 shows throughout the years. It really is special to me to have played for so many Zeppelin fans.
    • How did the idea of Orchestral Zeppelin come about?  
      •  White: After playing so many shows and singing those songs so many times, I started to hear how I might vary the vocal melodies and harmonize with guitar lines and so on. After seeing Page and Plant in 1995 with the orchestra on stage I thought that’s what I want to do…but how to do it. At the time I didn’t really know how to read music and I am a totally self taught musician so how to get from point a to point b presented a problem. So over the next 10 years I kept returning to the idea of orchestra rock and eventually music writing software would become affordable and so I bought a program and forced myself to to learn how to use it. It was not easy and I had a lot of help along the way from arrangers and conductors who were very generous with their time and patience. It took four years to complete my orchestra arrangements of fifteen Led Zeppelin songs, enough to play a two hour show that I could be proud of.
    • How many people in the Orchestra section of the gig?
      • White: It ranges from about 20 to over 60 musicians. Big or small it always sounds great to me. I have seen other orchestra shows that feature a rock band, but the show we perform is definitely a rock show that features an orchestra. I call it the Symphony of Rock. 
      • Are they all from the same high school or music academy?
        •  White: Sometimes, if I am doing a fund raiser for a particular high school then yes. But a lot of the time students have such a great time that they will travel long distances to join us onstage to take part in fundraisers that are unrelated to them. My philosophy is any music student is always welcome. My only rule is they have to be able to play in time and in tune. Having said that I have never refused anyone yet from joining us onstage for a show. 
        • The last three shows you played as part of the Discography series featured 3-4 young violinists accompanying The White during the show closer Kashmir.  As we watch the show from the audience we see an undeniable pride in their eyes and even more so in yours. How special is it for you to see young classically trained musicians up on stage with you performing Zeppelin?
          •  White: I do feel proud of the students when we are on stage performing together. I have played with professional orchestras as well as youth orchestras and although the pros are great, there is something special about watching young musicians perform with us. It takes a lot of courage for each one of them to step out on that stage with us and play rock music on their cello or violin or trumpet. It is a bold decision for a young person to commit to rehearse alone with their instrument for hours on end when their friends are out having fun or playing video games or whatever. For them to have become confident enough of their musical ability to be able to walk out on that stage with a professional rock band and make music with us is very special. To see the smiles on their faces when they are rocking the house and to see their parents beaming with pride, yes that is very gratifying for me to watch.
          The Symphony Of Rock and Michael White
          • We saw an Orchestral Zeppelin show at the Danforth Music Hall a few years ago and the audience was buzzing during the intermission. The show was a new experience for Zeppelin fans and I am certain the concept has great merit. Do you plan on producing more Orchestral Zeppelin shows in the future?
            •  White: I would like to focus the rest of my career in developing the Orchestral Zeppelin shows and be able to take the shows far and wide. These shows unfortunately are economically prohibitive – just imagine the amount of equipment we have to have on hand to have 60 musicians on stage. My goal is very clear – I want to help raise money for high school music departments across Canada. To that extent I am currently looking for a corporate sponsor who understands the importance and benefit of investing in our Symphony of Rock Youth Orchestra. 
          • So you are doing these shows in an altruistic fashion. Not only to spread the music of Led Zeppelin, but to help ensure our education system has proper funding for music classes. Why?
            •  White: Simple, I  want my kids to have music departments when they get to school. Of course “my kids” is just metaphorically speaking but you get the point.
            • Are your own kids Zeppelin fans?
              • White: Yes, I think so. They have been exposed to a lot of music around our house and I think Led Zeppelin is somewhere in there…maybe between Selena Gomez and The Beatles. 
            • How important is it for you personally to pass on the music of Led Zeppelin to the generations? 
              • White: Well, back in 1977 when we played our first ‘Tribute to Led Zeppelin’ show Led Zep was still together and touring with no end in sight. We (The White) were all big Led Zeppelin fans as well as bootleg collectors. We were having fun performing their music and the crowds were capacity everywhere we went. But I really had no idea that the music would continue to be relevant to young people for so many years to come. At the time ‘New Wave” bands were what the younger generation identified with and of course that came and went. As the years went by the audiences we played for were mostly young people. So, from my angle I would say that Led Zeppelin’s music has a timeless appeal to a lot of young people. Weather it’s the passionate energy of their sound or the intelligent diversity of their lyrics, the brilliant song writing and arrangements or the books that promote stories of their larger than life rock star legacy, there is obviously a common thread that generations of young people continue to identify with.

            • Michael, you met both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. How exciting was it that both of them had heard about you and more importantly that both of them respected what you did? 
              •  White: Both meetings were surreal experiences in different ways. Even though I was aware that they knew about our band and that were curious, flattered, etc. Actually meeting Robert in 1983 was life changing for me because he helped me get a recording contract with Atlantic Records and much more. I spoke with him most recently a few years ago at which time I made a point of thanking him for his kindness and generosity over the years. Meeting Jimmy was great as well…what can you say about the man…he’s Jimmy Page…brilliant. [Ed. Note – Please bring me with you next time you meet either of them :-) ]
            • What are you listening to these days?
              •  White: Mostly whatever happens to be on the Disney/Family channel on TV at home and Q107 in the car.
            Michael I thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us and for keeping The Hammer Of The Gods alive and well. We know you will be bringing the house down on March 3rd as you always do. When you see Michael White and The White be prepared to be transported to a better musical time and be aware that you will experience the magic of Led Zeppelin.
            EXCLUSIVE CONTEST: We are offering one lucky winner a meet and greet after the show on March 3rd. Michael will also give you an autographed T-shirt and hat during your meet and greet. To enter – just email us your name at tmakworld (at) gmail (dot) com and we will pick a lucky winner at 6pm on Friday March 2nd you MUST be present at the concert on Saturday March 3rd to claim your prize.
              Orchestral Zeppelin tickets here
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              3 Responses to Michael White: Exclusive Interview and Contest

              1. Anonymous says:

                Great read, and good work Mr White!

              2. Anonymous says:

                Just grabbed 2 tickets – see you all there

              3. Pingback: Brit Floyd – Concert Review | T-Mak WorldT-Mak World

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