ROBERT Plant knows exactly what you're going to ask him: What are the chances of him reuniting with Led Zeppelin, the British rock band that made him famous?
It is precisely why he is as likely to feign a snore as to give a nonsensical answer.
"The answer is 'a lemon'," the 64-year-old replies mischievously during an interview here on Tuesday, ahead of his debut last night at Timbre Rock & Roots.
"I used to ask my mum, what about this, and mum, what about that, and she would say, 'a lemon'." His ability to cryptically dodge questions is genetic, he adds.
"I don't know what you were going to ask about that glorious group of people; I ask the same question."
But he is far less cagey about how he feels about Led Zeppelin songs and his willingness to perform them with whichever band he has currently assembled around him. He is constantly writing and performing new material, but still plays old hits fondly.
"I did write 50 per cent of them, so even though I was a different guy every time, I was proud of the sentiment at the time; even the stuff going back to when I was 20 years old - I understand the spirit of that kid writing them."
Led Zeppelin was formed in 1968 and disbanded in 1980, upon the death of drummer John Bonham. Rabid fans may treat Zeppelin songs like a canon that should remain inviolate, but Plant doesn't take a precious attitude to his own discography. "There's nothing hallowed and sacred," he says.
Part of the reason for using old songs as a springboard for new ideas is sanity. "Anyone who is anybody and has been making records for 40 years would probably jump off a high-rise building if they felt it necessary to perform a song as it was originally conceived and developed.
"So, in the different incarnations right from, say 1983, I've tried to move it around a bit and, in this particular incarnation, use strong African rhythms and some interesting percussive and instrumental loops," he adds, referring to his current band, the Sensational Space Shifters, with which he performed here.
Those who missed last night's gig at Fort Canning Green can check out a video on his website (www.robertplant.com) of the current band performing the Zeppelin staple Black Dog at a far more measured tempo than the 1971 studio original.
Plant says: "We've got John Baggot with us from Massive Attack and Portishead, so we've got some quite hypnotic stuff going on, which shows that you can transform something that would probably have transformed itself - and did transform itself back in the 70s.
"The song never remained the same. It was always changing," he adds, punning on the 1973 Zeppelin track The Song Remains The Same, which is also the title of a 1976 concert film about the band. "So, on it goes, you know, rumbling and crumbling."
The last two adjectives are telling. He doesn't talk about screaming like a banshee, for example, which he did a fair bit of with Led Zeppelin. It is because his recent efforts have been more simmeringly intense than outright insane.
His 2007 duet album with bluegrass artist Alison Krauss, which won five Grammys, was hushed; his 2010 eponymous album with group Band Of Joy was more exploratory than explosive.
He says, grinning: "I've always been simmeringly intense; you can ask any of my former wives. Even at school, I was quite intense and had to sit all alone because I had this strange glow about me."
But then he turns serious. "The thing about music is that you have to create a dynamic, otherwise it's really dull and boring. And from the very beginning of my whim and will to sing and get on stage till now, I've tried to create a dynamic.
"Band Of Joy, especially live, was getting quite far out, and it was a move into more physical music that brought me back to working with my old friends again, and bringing in Juldeh Camara from West Africa to play with us and bring changing rhythms and changing intensity, and trying to get the audience to come into the music."
When a singer becomes as established as this, he becomes as much a brand as an artist, but Plant does his best not to take himself too seriously.
He says, after a guffaw: "The very idea of me being a brand is great. Muddy Waters used to sing a song that went 'I'm going to put my brand on you', and he was basically using his second mind to make sure you got it. With my brand, I'm just up there, floating around just having a game with myself."
He may make light of his celebrity, but his performing here is an important milestone for Singapore, where artists were once refused entry for sporting long hair. (The list of those barred includes Cliff Richard and Kitaro.)
Plant tried unsuccessfully to perform here twice, in the 1970s and again in the 1990s.
And while he didn't bring the rest of Led Zeppelin with him this time, never say never.
The final day of Timbre Rock & Roots starts tonight at 6.30pm at Fort Canning Green. Tickets at $165 from Sistic. (VIP and Premium tickets sold out)