Songs remain the same: Woman’s intuition leads to the band Lez Zeppelin
April 16, 2009
On the biggest day of her life, Steph Paynes thought to herself, “I can’t believe I have the balls to do this.”
The founder of the all-female band Lez Zeppelin was heading into the studio to record with the producer for the band she honors.
“I remember being struck with this feeling of absolute dread,” Paynes said. “It was like it had finally dawned on me what I was doing. In the harsh clarity of the light, I thought, ‘Not only am I doing this band, I’m about to go into this studio with Eddie Kramer who engineered Jimi Hendrix’s records and Led Zeppelin’s records. These are the greatest guitar players in the world. And I’m about to go sit with him and redo Jimmy’s guitar solos. And I just started crying.”
But by taking on the project, Kramer obviously was already impressed by what Lez Zeppelin had accomplished since Paynes started the band in 2004. And he learned Paynes was even better than he anticipated.
The self-titled 2007 album “Lez Zeppelin” contains one song from each of Led Zeppelin’s first six albums, along with a couple of originals by Paynes.
“There was one song (Kramer) really thought I couldn’t play ” “Communication Breakdown” ” because it’s so fast and so crazy,” Paynes said. “He said, ‘I don’t know about this one,’ and I said ‘Just roll the tape,’ and I got it in one take. He nearly fell off his chair.”
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The New York-based Lez Zeppelin is on a 37-date nationwide tour which will include a show Sunday, April 19, in Bill’s Casino.
Paynes is joined onstage by bass and keyboard player Jessica Fagre, singer Kris Bradley and drummer Lisa Harrington-Squyres.
This will be the first Tahoe performance by Paynes, who nevertheless, is familiar with the area. She has skied at Kirkwood, Heavenly, Squaw Valley and Mount Rose. But due to the band’s busy schedule, she’s only been on the slopes once in the last four years.
“People don’t realize how hard it is to be a rock star,” she said. “You’ve got to tell the people how we suffer.”
Paynes played in blues, folk and jazz bands before moving into the punk and hardcore genres. She was almost always the only woman in the band. She became a genuine rock star after coming up with Lez Zeppelin.
“I was obsessed with Zeppelin,” she said. “I just thought one day while lounging on my couch listening to ‘Physical Graffiti,’ ‘My God, if I could just have my fantasy and play any kind of music in the whole world, my fantasy would be to play this.
“I’m big on trying to make my fantasies a reality. I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll put together a band, and it will be all girls. It will be much more fun that way.’ It was intuitively a good idea.”
To emulate Page, Paynes had to change her guitar technique.
“My style in rock was formed by Hendrix,” she said. “It was much more psychedelic. When I approached Page, I had to get into some specifics of his playing, which were rockabilly and country based. It’s a different attack and tone.”
Lez Zeppelin covers live versions by Led Zeppelin, which leaves room for a personal touch.
“There are solos that I do note for note, deservedly so,” Paynes said. “They’re so beautiful and perfect no one should really change them. They’re not going to improve them. But there are areas in a lot of the songs that are jammy like in ‘No Quarter.’
“Those kinds of jams, I’ve been so immersed in Page and his language, I really let go and go off. It manages to be adequately ‘Pagesque,’ and yet it brings something of my own musicianship to it. And that’s true for the whole band.”
Who: Lez Zeppelin
When: 9 p.m. Sunday, April 19
Where: Bar24, inside Bill’s Casino
Advance tickets: $15 at Bar24, Mad About Music, Tahoe Hemp Co., and online at http://www.TicketWeb.com
Must be: 21or older