If you’ve never been in the same room with Jimmy Page, there’s
not much that can prepare you for it. He’s got the calm, cool, powerful gravitas that
very few people—let alone musicians—possess. And Page brought that cool to the
Ace Theater in Los Angeles last year, where he was to be interviewed by Chris Cornell
about his new book: Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page [Genesis Publications], a massive
tome of photos that span his entire life. The event was attended by more than
a few rock stars, each of whom instantly turned into just another fan when Page
entered the building. No one competes with this guy. Jimmy Page doesn’t compete.
Jimmy Page just is.
Cornell proved to be a great interviewer, able to set aside his obvious adoration
of Page and Led Zeppelin to choose interesting photos and ask insightful questions. Page spoke honestly and eloquently about
things that are normal and commonplace
for him and positively mind-blowing for
the rest of us. Along the way he provided
an incredible view of a magical world. Not
the castles-and-fairies world of so many
Zeppelin tunes, but a world where a guy
could base a career on his love of a dozen
different styles of music. A world in which
a guitarist could go from a successful band
to no band at all to the biggest band on
the planet in 12 damn months. One where
a band was a band, and if you didn’t have
one of the original members, you didn’t
have any of them. A seemingly impossible
world where guitar riffs could endure
for decades and changes lives, and yet you
have so many great ones that you’re not
afraid to cram ten of them into the same
song. That’s where Jimmy Page lives, and
he was kind enough to invite us there, for
two hours in LA, or for a lifetime if you look
at this book and spin his records.
|Cornell looks on as Page spins another captivating yarn.
This is what they talked about that night
in Los Angeles. Questions have been edited
and elucidated for clarity (you can’t see
what we were seeing) and answers have
been edited for flow, but this is their discussion.
Jimmy Page on Jimmy Page.
What gave you the idea to make a book of
your life in pictures?
There have been biographies or autobiographies
by my fellow contemporaries,
other musicians or actors or whatever. I’d
always have a look at the pictures first, to
see what pictures they’d selected to illustrate
their work. I had a number of photographs
in my own archive and my family
archive that covered a lot of the early period,
the pre-Beatles period. I figured it would be
really cool to do something where it started
off when I was 12 or 13 and went to when
I’m 70, all in pictures. So that’s what I did.
|Top: Carter-Lewis & The Southerners, with a young Jimmy Page (third from left). Bottom:
Mickey Finn & The Bluemen with Page (back row, far right).
The caption to the first photo in the book
[of Page as a choirboy] says it was taken
by the choirmaster, Mr. Coffin. I thought
it was an amazing start to the book. You
don’t know where this kid’s going to go
when you look at this picture. Had you
picked up the guitar yet?
Yeah I had. I had put a few chords together.
This was taken by the choirmaster and he
was also the organist. It was given to my
parents at the time because obviously I’m
pretty young here. To clear the photograph,
we contacted Mr. Coffin’s son in law. He
said that Mr. Coffin had told him, “Oh yes,
I remember young Jimmy coming to choir
practice early and bringing his guitar to try
and tune it to the organ.” So where there
was a will, there was a way.
Here’s an early band shot.
This is about 1959 or 1960. I got head
hunted out where I lived, which was a
place called Epson, to play in this group in
London. The music that we were doing—which is pretty much what everyone was
doing at that time, because this was a few
years before the Beatles break in on the
scene—was rock and roll and covers of
American bands. There were Chuck Berry
and Eddie Cochran numbers. The name
of the band is Red-E-Lewis and the Redcaps,
and we were doing music by Gene
Vincent and the Blue Caps. That’s my first
What kind of guitar is that?
It’s called a Grazioso Futurama. I think
it’s made in Czechoslovakia. One of the
interesting things about this guitar is you
can see pictures of George Harrison playing
the same guitar. He was up in the north
and we’re down in the south here.
I don’t know what the session was, but
this is you with Brian Jones from the Rolling
Stones. You appear to have a bow and
you’re just kind of in conversation.
The photograph was taken by Ian Stewart,
and Ian Stewart was with the Rolling
Stones. It was much later that he played
with Led Zeppelin on “Boogie with Stu.”
This is a time when I’m doing sessions and
studio work. Brian Jones was going to make
a soundtrack to a film that Anita Pallenberg
was in called A Degree of Murder. Brian
requested me to go in and play any ideas.
What he really wanted was to get anything
that was experimental, and I’d been
working with the bow. This is before the
Yardbirds, but there it is—I’m playing the
bow. It was just a real thrill to work with
Brian Jones because I thought he was such
a creative musician. When he said, “Can
you help me out,” I was sure I would. Jeff
[Beck] gave me that guitar.
How did you make the leap from this
earlier picture of you being in a band to
you being a guy standing in a room with
Well, I was in the band called Neil Christian
& the Crusaders. Isn’t that an interesting
name? We were sort of doing the Chess
catalog about a year before anybody else
was. I got a bit despondent in everything.
I had been touring and living in a van and
that sort of stuff in England. I was in art
college, but I didn’t give up music. I played
music all the time. I went to the Marquee
club in London. The Marquee used to be
on Oxford Street. It was a jazz club, a big
sort of ballroom place, and they started to
have every Thursday night what they called
R&B or blues. There was a guy called Cyril
Davies who used to play there and Alexis
Korner. They were the mainstays there. The
Yardbirds played there. When Eric was in
the band, they did an album there, called
Five Live Yardbirds. But I was in the [Cyril
Davies] Interval band while still doing art
college. I got head hunted out of that situation
and I got asked to play on records.
|Page waxes rhapsodic about the final days of the Yardbirds.
This next shot is pretty amazing. Two
of the world’s greatest guitar players ever,
you and Jeff Beck, just kind of sitting there
hanging out. This is an early Yardbirds
experience for you.
That photograph was taken by Linda
McCartney. There’s Jeff and myself tuning up
the guitars. I joined the Yardbirds because
I was doing studio work for two and a half,
maybe three years, and I was getting really
fed up with it because I was having to read far too much music and some of the
stuff was really boring. And not only that,
but all my friends like Jeff were going out
there and having a great time. I thought,
it’s time to get out of the session business.
The way that it happened, I was with Jeff
at a Yardbirds concert in a big sort of tent
at Oxford University. Keith Relf got rather
drunk and sort of fell into the drum kit. I
thought it was brilliant. I’m watching this
from the back and there are all these university
students in their evening dress, and
there’s Keith Relf, being an absolute wonderful
punk. Fantastic. Anyway, the problem
with it was that the bass player didn’t
think this was much fun, and he left the
band that night. They had the Marquee
Club to play. I said, “I’ll come in on bass,”
because Jeff had often said, “It would be
really good if you could come and join the
band.” I said, “Well, I can’t. There are five
live Yardbirds and one more is six.” So
then this guy decides to leave the band
and I had played a little bit of bass before
but nothing like he played because this
guy, Paul Samwell-Smith, was phenomenal.
So anyway, I played the bass at this gig
at the Marquee, but the idea was to start
playing guitar and I did. I played bass and
then some guitar as well. No more reading
music. That was all over.
|Five Live Yardbirds—Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, and Keith Relf (back row, L-R), and two guitarists named Page (seated) and Beck.
We’re all very thankful for that. There’s
a Yardbirds poster in the book with just
you. So somehow you became the Yardbirds
for a brief period.
What’s so interesting is this is at the
point when Jeff has sort of left the band.
There’s a producer that’s looking after us
in England called Mickie Most, and he’s
producing Jeff Beck in his solo capacity and
he’s producing the Yardbirds with just the
four of us. Both of these entities are managed
by Peter Grant, which is quite interesting.
So anyhow, this poster is for a gig
at the Grande Ballroom. This is part of the
whole underground circuit that the Yard-birds
were doing. We were doing the Fillmore,
Winterland, Grande Ballroom, etc.
And then there was the advent of what was
called underground radio, which in fact was
stereo radio—not playing singles. They
were only playing things that were longer
than two and a half minutes. That’s how I
got the whole idea of what could be done.
This is what I rather hoped would eventually
come to be with the Yardbirds, but
it’s actually where the work was done, if
you like, that develops into Led Zeppelin.
When you talk about sort of shifting
into a more experimental way to make
records, to write songs, to play guitar,
were there guys that you looked to? Were
In the Yardbirds, I was really trying to
push ideas—not pushing ideas onto the Yardbirds,
because they were really happy to be doing it. For example, on one of the songs
that we had, which is called “Glimpses,” I
had tapes playing in the background, sound
effects of the Staten Island ferry coming in
and locomotives going and the bow—really
experimental stuff. So when other people
were doing what they were doing, I was
really trying to push the envelope.
|An early Zeppelin shot: “I’ve got the Les Paul there, “ says Page, “so this is probably late 1969.”
Imagine a period of music where the
whole point was to expand and experiment
and do things that hadn’t been done
before. That’s amazing.
It gets to a point, and this is the incredible
synchronicity, that the Yardbirds were
playing in LA and they actually say, “We
don’t want to continue anymore.” I think
Keith Relf, the singer, was the one with
the most disillusion. I could say the reasons
why I think it was. First of all, they
had three guitarists. They’d really broken
through with Eric with all the excitement,
and then he’d gone. And then there was
Jeff. And then Paul Samwell-Smith, the
bass player and the producer of the band,
had gone, and now I was in. And then Jeff
had gone and it was just too much change.
Not only that, we were tied to this contract
doing singles, which just broke the spirit of
the album. So I had to form a band because
I had ideas that I really wanted to do.
You touched on the idea that there was
something besides hit radio. The Yardbirds,
and all of music, especially British
music at the time, was chart-driven and
hit-driven. Right at this time when finally
there’s a format to do something that isn’t
hit-driven, you seemed to kind of walk right
into it. Me as a fan, I didn’t know what was
going on. I didn’t know you were actually
doing something that would allow someone
like me to have a career years later
doing what I want, and not have to write hit-driven rock and roll music.
Actually, I’ll tell you what the Yardbirds
said. They said they wanted to do something
like the Turtles. That’s what they wanted
to do and actually I didn’t want to do anything
like the Turtles. I knew at that time
there was a big focus on the guitar and I
wanted to make it a tour de force for the
guitar. So for my playing, it was going to
be everything from acoustic through electric.
I throw everything in on it to get all
these guitar textures. It goes from really
rude bottleneck to very sensitive acoustic.
There’s pedal-steel on it. It was going
to be a guitar tour de force, but not at the
expense of the other members. This was
the key to it. Everyone needed to be really,
really heard. The combination of this works
really great. In Led Zeppelin, the quality of
musicianship that was there was unbelievable.
When we had rehearsal time, which
wasn’t that much, everything was done
with ruthless efficiency and drive. Everyone
just started playing in the stratosphere,
me included, because I never played guitar
like I did on our first album. John Bonham
played drums like he’d always imagined
because he’s got this great vehicle to play
in. He was unbelievable as a drummer. I
saw him play and I felt his drums. I felt
his drumming. And John Paul Jones had
done remarkable session work. He’s got
quite a C.V. but he never played like he
had on this. We just went on to this next
level of playing, and the synchronicity was
superb. And you can hear everybody, which
was the whole idea of the production of the
album: that you could hear everything that
was going on.
You told me before that the most important
thing was, here were four guys who
were all incredible musicians, all essentially
being let off the chain for the first
time at the same time on the first Led
Yeah. That’s it. The whole blend of it
is just fantastic. It’s musical equals just
It’s also something that happens fast.
The way that you talk about it, it’s like one
day you’re in the Yardbirds and thinking
about doing your own band and thinking
about doing your own thing. Then you see
a guy who’s a drummer and he’s awesome.
You see a singer and he’s great. And then
it’s Led Zeppelin. It didn’t take a couple
of years and long relationships. You knew
somehow that these were the right guys.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s like fate intervened
in a way—it must be that. It just
came together so fast. And the ascent was
so incredibly fast because I told you, the
Yardbirds decided to dissolve and that was
in July of 1968. By the end of December
1968 I’d rehearsed the band in my house
and routined what was going to be the
album and the tour. We’d gone to Scandinavia
and done a handful of dates and were
really juiced up. Then we go in to record
in September-October, and then we’re over
here supporting Vanilla Fudge by the end
of the year. It was so fast—I can’t impress
upon you enough. At the end of July, the
Yardbirds are still finishing off doing last
dates. And then there’s this point that I
don’t have any band at all. And then we’re
recording and by the end of that year the first
Led Zeppelin album was due to come out.
I’m reminded me of what experimental
rock music was happening then, especially
from England. I think in 1967 Are You Experienced came out, Piper at the Gates
of Dawn came out, and Sgt. Pepper’s
came out. You recorded the first Zeppelin
album one year after that, which is leaps
forward. Those three albums that I just
mentioned were considered very experimental
for their time and kind of game
changing. But 12 months or even less
after that, you make this first Led Zeppelin
album, which to me is one of the biggest
leaps in rock that I can think of. Did
you feel like fans were immediately getting
it or did it take a second?
No, it was really so fast. Right at the
beginning of 1969, we go to San Francisco,
on the third of January and we do a few
dates there supporting other bands. The
power of what Led Zeppelin was doing—as opposed to everyone sort of jamming
along without any sort of apparent aim—it was a locomotive hitting Winterland and
the Fillmore like you wouldn’t believe. The
whole sort of story of Led Zeppelin starts at
that point in San Francisco, and word travels
right across the states. And these aren’t
the days of the Internet, so it’s just this sort
of brush fire that happened. Within just a
couple of months it was moving across the
States, and more and more people were
coming to hear us, because now they’ve
heard the album and they’re hearing all
this buzz about Led Zeppelin and they’re
all saying, “Let’s see them.” When they’d
go and see it, they believed it.
It seemed to work out.
As a kid and a fan, I remember seeing
this as a poster and thinking it had a sense
of realism and a coolness. Here’s this rock
band that we love and this is how they
make records. They have their tapes with
them and they go record. All the records I
made, I’ve never held a tape box. This is a
legendary photo. [Shows iconic photo of
Led Zeppelin on an airport runway holding
This really is. It’s a very honest photo.
This is around the time we were recording
the second album. On the second album
we do “Whole Lotta Love” and “What Is
and What Should Never Be” and also the
third track, which is on the companion disc,
which is called “La La.” We do all of that
in London at Olympic Studios, the same
studio where we recorded the first album.
So now we’re coming over here, and I’m
really keen to go to various studios that are
over here. I would have loved to have gone
to Chess and Sun but we went to Mirror
Sound, which was where Ritchie Valens had
recorded. And that’s where “Moby Dick” is
done and “The Lemon Song.” So now we’re
in the process of taking the tapes with us
as we’re going from location to location.
This was in Hawaii, and we go from there
to New York and do more recording at various
studios there. We’re going around and
the tapes are traveling with us.
There was also a rumor or legend that
you guys had taken the tapes so that your
record company at the time wouldn’t have
access to them, because they wanted to
do something you didn’t want to do.
No, it wasn’t like that. I’ll explain why
that was. It was because the first album was
actually made and recorded and then it was
taken to the record company. That’s why
we were in the position to say no singles,
no this, no that. And they went, “Fine,”
because they heard this music and they just
couldn’t believe it. So all of these records
were like independent productions and
then fed to the record company, because
we didn’t have to do singles, even though
they put singles out. But we didn’t have a
ball and chain pulling us back as we were
doing a new album. It was really good to
be able to do what we did well, without
having an A&R man telling us what we
were doing, because we knew what we
And you didn’t have a producer.
No, I was producing it.
So as producer, are you using ideas and
techniques that you had experimented
with while you were a studio musician?
Well, yeah. I had done it for two and a
half to three years and I learned so much.
It was like an apprenticeship doing that
because my love for music was just totally
undeniable. I tried to do home recordings
when I lived with my folks, but to actually
be in the whole beating-heart, propulsive
recording industry is something else, and
I was just really lucky. Because my taste
was so eclectic and went through folk
music, fingerstyle acoustic music, country
blues, bluesy rock, rock and roll, then
Chicago blues music and the bottleneck,
and I was also interested in world music—there were all these sort of different styles
I had. When I was invited into the session
work, they saw this versatility. I had so
many points of reference that they were
very hungry for me, but I was also really
hungry to know how certain techniques
were done, like compression and miking
and all of that. It was an incredible learning
experience, plus I learned discipline in
the studio. Time in the studio was money
in those days. So you sort of learn to be
able to deliver what you have to do, especially
if you were asked to make something
up on a song. You’d have to do it just
like that. It also got to the point where I
needed to read music as well. I was very
lucky because they’d usually give me my
part first. It was a real studio learning, and
it certainly helped.
This photo is the Forum here, in Los
Angeles I believe. I don’t know how far
along this is in terms of Led Zeppelin being
able to fill a room that big, but this is an
early gig I’m guessing.
It’s early, yes. I’ve got the Les Paul there,
and that comes in 1969, so this is probably
late 1969. But you can see it’s full.
Yes, you can.
We’re coming through and it’s full and
then we’re doing multiple dates at the
Forum. And that’s how it was with Led
Zeppelin audiences right from the beginning.
People just kept coming, even up to
the tour we did in 1980, where we were
still doing maximum capacities.
In terms of the acoustic side of what
you do on Led Zeppelin songs, I always
felt that your music creates an environment
that’s three-dimensional. For me
as a kid, loving music so much, you created
this three-dimensional universe that
a fan could step into. The acoustic songs
spoke to me specifically a lot of the time.
This is a photo of the front porch of that
universe that you created with acoustic
music. [Shows photo of Bron-Yr-Aur.]
You’re right on it with the acoustic
sound. But what’s not sort of known is
that the first four albums are written on
acoustic as much as electric. I’d be writing
on acoustic but I’d be thinking electric
and I’d be thinking about the different
parts. So the first four albums, including
“Stairway” and all that, were written on
the acoustic. This is in Wales. I think it’s
early 1970 that Robert and I went down
there. It was a very funky cottage because
there was no heating. There was just a fire, which you just get wood from outside for and
there were gas lamps. If you were going to
cook there was a gas cooker, and that was it.
There was no electricity there because they
hadn’t run electricity through to this cottage
yet. Fortunately, at this point in time,
there were Sony cassette recorders. We came
down that week with cassette recorders and
guitars. That’s the point where “That’s the
Way” came out.
I just picked this because you look so
f***ing ridiculously cool. [Shows photo of
Page with doubleneck.]
This was after the fourth album, because
I have the doubleneck. The doubleneck is a
result of “Stairway to Heaven.” I put all these
guitars on “Stairway” and I thought, “We’ve
got to do this in the set.” I got through to
Gibson and they supplied one. I don’t know
whether it was actually made for me or if it
was dusted off—there had been a couple of
these things around beforehand. It’s an SG
version, and it’s different than some of the
others I’d seen before.
I love the photos with Peter Grant. He
became somewhat of an icon, In my career,
I wish we had that guy. It took me a long
time to find someone that understood what
I wanted to do—my vision—and made it his
life’s work to present that and to protect
that. Can you tell me a little bit about that
relationship and how it started?
Peter was the manager of Jeff Beck and
he was the manager for the Yardbirds. He
was managing whatever it was, the “ghost”
of the Yardbirds, and my vision—he understood
what I was talking about. To backtrack,
when I first came to America, I stayed with
this guy in New York called Bert Berns. He
was a really cool guy. He was in England
and he produced a singer called LuLu and
I did some recordings with her, like “Here
Comes the Night.” Anyway, he invited me
to his house if I came to America. This is all
well in advance of Led Zeppelin. I stopped off
with him and he took me to meet the people
at Atlantic—Jerry Wexler and all of them in
’65. When it came to the point of taking the
tapes to Atlantic in ’68, it was myself and
Peter Grant. So in ’68 we go in there with
the tape. Peter Grant was a man that could
really bang the table in a way that maybe I
wouldn’t be able to do. I can say, “I’ve got all
these ideas, I can manifest all those ideas,”
but when it got into the realms of business
and high finance to a degree that’s beyond
my understanding, he was really marvelous.
In the book it’s kind of abrupt when
you move into post-Led Zeppelin photos.
But there’s a big “thud” there for the fans,
which is a member of your band dies. It felt
like you were a band and were close and
had camaraderie and that it meant something
to you, because you didn’t reappear
six or eight months later with a new guy
and a new album. It didn’t appear that you
felt that comfortable with just moving on.
I think that’s a really special thing.
Well, thank you. How it was, was there were like two worlds of Led Zeppelin. One of
them was the recording world—the albums.
And then the other part of it was the live
concerts. In those days, we never stopped
expanding the whole musical experience of
it. We could be putting in numbers from the
second album before the second album was
released. We could be touring on what was
going to come next, say, the fourth album.
I remember playing here at the Forum and
we were doing “Black Dog” and “Stairway
to Heaven” and the album hadn’t come out.
We could never do that now because You-
Tube would confound you. But people knew
that we were constantly expanding and
working, and the contribution of each and
every one of us was 25 percent of it. Everything
was living in such a way that every
concert was different and you didn’t know
what was going to happen when you went
onto the stage. You knew what the set list
was, but there were so many changes that
would go on. There was just so much organic
structured improvisation. Any of the members
were key to this. To lose one quarter of
it was like losing the whole. You couldn’t
go out there with a drummer and pretend,
because we had really lived this whole experience
from day one.
Was the Death Wish II soundtrack the
first post-Zeppelin thing you did?
The first thing I did was play with Chris
Squire and Alan White from Yes. They
were thinking about coming out of Yes. The
name of the band, which Chris Squire came
up with, was XYZ, which was quite good.
But the first real project that I got offered
was to do the soundtrack for Death Wish
II. I had a chance to go in the studio and
do some really experimental stuff. Well, it
was experimental to me. It involved guitar
synthesizer and I was able to work with an
orchestra and some very, very fine musicians.
There was a drummer, Dave Mattacks, who
played with Fairport Convention. The bass
player, David Paton, was phenomenal. He
was from the Bay City Rollers, just a fantastic
bass player. It gave me a chance to
really work to the visual thing—that’s why
I did it. There’s far too much music in the
film. Michael Winner wanted 45 minutes of
music—complete minutes—for a 90-minute
film. I mean, there’s far too much of it. And I
tailor made the music to fit the film and the
visuals. The funny story about that is, when
I first went to have a look at the footage at
the viewing cinema, he had Herbie Hancock’s
music on it because he had done the music
for Death Wish I. What they did, they laced
the music on where they wanted music in
the new film. So he did a Death Wish III and
did the same thing, but instead of Herbie
Hancock’s music, he put my music on. I got
this phone call: “An extraordinary thing just
happened darling, and I’d like to use your
music on Death Wish III.” I said, “But it was
all tailor made for Death Wish II.” He said,
“I know, but I put it on and it worked perfectly.
So I’m on Death Wish II and some of Death Wish III as well, by default.
These are some shots of you with a lot
of interesting people. [Shows photos from
What it is, is there was a band called the
Faces—Small Faces and then the Faces. The
bass player in that band, Ronnie Lane, is a
fantastic player. Unfortunately, he contracted
MS. There’d been a move to help him by
having a charity concert to raise money. So
people were asked. Eric Clapton was asked
to do it and he said yeah, and Jeff had been
asked to do it and he said yeah, and I had
been asked and I said, yeah, absolutely. The
picture is of the three Yardbird guitarists, but
everyone came together. In the early lineup
at the Albert Hall, Steve Winwood is there
as well. Everybody’s there with such a spirit.
We do two concerts over there and then Bill
Graham offers to put a tour together over
here. Steve Winwood was unable to come
and Paul Rodgers joined us. At the end of
this short tour I said, “What are you going to
do next after this?” because we had already
been writing some stuff. He said, “I don’t
have any immediate plans.” I said, “Nor have
I, so maybe we should team up and take this
spirit,” because it was a fantastic spirit on
this tour. Anyway, we take it on into this
next incarnation, which is called the Firm.
It’s the first band that you’re making
records with and out on the road with since
Yes, it is. Working with Paul was fantastic.
What a singer he is, Paul Rodgers. He is terrific.
We put this band together and we made
an album and had to tour. We just had to. That
was really great to do that. We did a second
album and we also toured on that. That was
probably it, but it was cool while it lasted.
You’ve been on the cover of every guitar
magazine ever made. They’re always asking
who the best guitar player is. If you’re not
number one, you’re number two, and usually
that means number one is Jimi Hendrix.
But you aren’t simply a guitar player.
You’re a multi-instrumentalist, you’re a producer,
you changed the face of music and
you changed the face of the music business.
Has that always been okay with you,
to just be, you know, the greatest guitar
player in the world?
All I do know is I’m very critical on my
playing. But it’s okay, in retrospect.
Then you did a solo record.
Yeah, my one and only solo album, actually
[laughs]. That came out in 1988. The album
was okay. Jason Bonham actually plays on it.
And I had some really good vocal support
from Chris Farlowe—who was somebody
I thought was really brilliant when I was
young and heard his band—and also John
Miles, who’s a superb musician.
This next shot is interesting. Are these
Yes. It’s the rehearsals for the UnLedded
project. It’s a soundcheck, really, and we’ve
got everybody amassed there. This is on tour
with the orchestras—the western orchestra and, as we say, the Egyptians—four percussionists
and four violinists. The idea of it
was to have a western orchestra providing
a bed and for them to be flying over the top.
It was really cool. There were other things,
like we had a hurdy-gurdy player, which is
quite interesting. It’s a sort of drone instrument
that you turn a handle on and there’s
a disc that rubs against the strings. This
guy, Nigel Eaton was his name, was fantastic.
He was like a monster on this thing.
It’s like a medieval instrument almost, and
he was playing like Hendrix on it. He could
do really amazing stuff. Anyway, so here we
are. This is the embryonic stage. This is a
day or so before it gets filmed so we’re not
in all our wardrobe finery yet.
Talk about this instrument.
That’s a triple-neck guitar. John Paul Jones
had one of these. It was really important to
be able to do the mandolin because we were
swapping between “Gallows Pole,” which is
on the 12-string, and “Battle of Evermore,”
which is on the mandolin.
What’s going on here? [Shows photo of
Page and P. Diddy.]
This actually was a project. Puff Daddy,
which he was called at the time, calls me up.
I’m in London. He calls me up and says they
wanted to do the music for Godzilla. He told
me, “I can’t get ‘Kashmir’ out of my mind.
I don’t want to sample it, though. Will you
play it with me?” So I said, “Yeah, absolutely.”
But it had to be done almost the next day
so there was no getting everything together
to go over to the States. What happens is,
he’s in a studio in LA, and I’m in London
doing it over the Internet so to speak—over
the phone lines. We’ve got monitors there,
but this is the early days of all this stuff,
and there’s a delay in talking. But I do the
guitar part and he says, “I’m going to put
an orchestra on it.” He was going to make
it really, really, super epic. This photo is at
his studio in New York when I was invited
to go hear the playback, and it was fantastic.
It was so loud. It was phenomenal, and
it was epic. His version was so cool. It was
really good. I thought it was really great to
be part of that whole thing, which was really
moving. The whole hip-hop/singer thing was
really cool and I was so happy to embrace it.
This looks like a rehearsal shot and then
backstage shot right before you’re about
to go on.
We were going to play at the O2 in London.
Jason, John Paul Jones, and myself did a lot of
rehearsals so we could get this whole thing
going. But we never got to play in front of
an audience. We’re really just working on
it. The photo one on the left is the production
rehearsal. The one on the right is just
before going out there onto the stage at the
O2, so there’s quite of difference in attitude.
We had over two hours to do, and we had
never played in front of an audience—only
the crew members, the production team,
the road crew, and all of that. So it’s quite
unnerving going on.
It Might Get Loud must have been an incredible
experience. All the guitar players and
their stories are amazing. But I felt like you
were embodying what a rock and roll guitar
player is in this film, more so than the other
two guys. It’s something that you were born
with and created and it’s always going to be
there. You’re always going to be the guy, it
doesn’t matter who else you’re in the room
with, and I just loved that about this movie.
All the documented parts of each of us
individually were done separately and I didn’t
get to see anybody else’s. The director, Davis
Guggenheim, had a real master plan of how
he wanted to do this. What he wanted was
for us to all play together, which is really cool,
but he didn’t want us to talk to each other
before. So there was no phoning up or passing
notes. I got driven to the lot and I was in
the dressing room and then it was time to go
on. So I started walking and they were walking
to this sound stage, with everyone coming
from different directions. We all join up on the
stage, and that’s it. What you see on that film
is really, really honest. It’s not staged. Everyone’s
a little bit nervous because there’s no
sort of plan for what’s going to happen next.
It’s cool. The interesting thing about Jack and
The Edge and myself, you hear everybody’s
stories. Everyone gets to a point where they
think, “I’m just going to not do it anymore.”
Everyone had this little mini crisis point. But
the music was bigger than all of us.
Talk about the last shot in your book.
On the first photograph I was a bit cheeky.
I put on there, “It might get loud…” On this
one it says, “It still could get loud.” I’ve got a
project in mind that I want to do. You probably
won’t be seeing me playing until the
end of next year, but the most important
part is to be seen playing, because it doesn’t
matter what I do at home. You need to see
it out here.