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Interview: Guitarist Jimmy Page

Published Date: 05 January 2010 By JONATHAN WINGATE

'JIMMYwasn't very happy when you mentioned the Zeppelin reunion," the headhoncho of the film company says, staring hard at the journalist who hasjust finished interviewing Jimmy Page. This is a man not exactly knownfor his love of self-promotion. "Well, you've got to ask, haven't you?"he shrugs, packing up his tape recorder and his freshly signed LedZeppelin album.

Asis often the case when it comes to rock stars in these situations, thesubject of this Spinal Tap-esque mini-drama seems to be utterlyoblivious to any heated discussions which are taking place in his nameas he sits next door in the "artist's lou

nge" at Gibson Guitars' Soho HQ. Heoffers a firm handshake and a warm, engaging smile. He may be coming upto his 66th birthday, with Led Zeppelin now 30 years behind him in therear view mirror, but Jimmy Page still positively radiates relaxed rockstar cool.

He is dressed head to toe in black – boots, jeans,T-shirt and leather jacket – all topped off with a dapper silver silkscarf that perfectly matches his long silvery locks. Whilst age mayhave left its patina on Page, after a couple of hours in his company,you are left in no doubt that it hasn't dampened his effervescententhusiasm for music.

He is here to talk about the appropriatelytitled It Might Get Loud, which is, in essence, a cinematic love letterto the electric guitar. Directed by Davis Guggenheim (An InconvenientTruth), the film follows three generations of guitar players – JimmyPage, the Edge and Jack White – for what Page calls "an abstract,almost metaphysical" investigation into the power of the instrument.

Althoughthe concept of a documentary about guitars may not be everyone's ideaof movie heaven, It Might Get Loud is full of subtle humour, surprisingpersonal revelations and fascinating stories about these threeenigmatic musicians. The film begins with a priceless clip of The WhiteStripes' Jack White building a makeshift one-stringed "Diddley bow"guitar on his back porch, using nothing more than some nails, a plankof wood, a Coke bottle and a pick-up. He is wearing a bow-tie and abowler hat and looks more like a medicine man from a Mark Twain storythan a rock star.

"Just as much as I'm talking about my story inthe film, Jack is also doing that in this wonderful sort ofperformance-art kind of way," Page explains with a wry smile. "I'd sayit's the story of three quite eccentric people. I think each of us hasdeveloped what you would call a musical persona. It's like you've got acharacter playing that you sort of build up as part of your life, andyou're manifesting it through your playing. There's something that hasgrown along with the grey hairs. I can communicate far better on aguitar than I can through my mouth. Well, I should hope so.

"Jack'snot too dissimilar to me, really, it's just that I'm longer in thetooth than he is. I'm not au fait with what's really going on outthere, but every now and again, somebody comes to my attention and Ithink – My goodness. That's it! Jack's got that thing. You can see Jackmaturing with every project. He's like a chess player who's thinkingthree moves ahead with his projects and how he's going to show himselfat that point in time. You know that if you check out what Jack'sdoing, you can guarantee it's gonna be really good. That core thingthat makes it all tick… he's got it. He's really on it and he knowswhere he's going.

"I knew he'd worked as an upholsterer, butthen when we were making the film, I found out that he made theupholstery for his own studio. Good for him. He's a wonderful person."

Atone point after he shows us the school music room in Dublin where U2first rehearsed, back in his studio a slightly bashful looking Edgecomes clean and demonstrates just how simple his playing is when thewall of sound effects is taken away. The most surprising moment of ItMight Get Loud comes when Page – undoubtedly the enigmatic star of theshow – starts playing what can only be described as air guitar as hedances around his music room listening to Rumble, his favourite LinkWray single.

"Yeah, I know, that is a bit odd," he chuckles. "Iwouldn't normally play bloody air guitar, and I certainly try never todo it in front of a camera, but when I heard Rumble, it's just got thatthing about it. I learned from playing records, and I could tell theones which were really honest from the ones which were manufactured.You start to read it and understand it and you take these things onboard when you're young and they stay with you. You relate back torecords.

"It's still just like that for me. That song is justso atmospheric, you can cut it with a knife. I remember when I firstheard it in 1958, and when I hear that record now, I'm still a youngkid listening to it. It's like I'm 15-years-old.

"If I everreally felt depressed, I would just start putting on all my old recordsthat I played as a kid, because the whole thing that really lifted methen still lifted me during those other times. It was good medicine forme, and it still does that for me when I put something on. Isn't itwonderful that we've got all that good medicine? I think it's got to beall part of our DNA, this mass communication through music. That's whatit is. It's got to be, hasn't it? Music is the one thing that has beenconsistently there for me. It hasn't let me down."

Led Zeppelinwere the most influential and iconic group to emerge since the Beatles.John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page left behindan utterly timeless body of work and laid down the blueprint for everyguitar band that followed in their wake.

Looking back, Page isunderstandably proud of the influence Led Zeppelin had on the rockworld, though he still simply sees himself as a link in a musical chainthat never ends: "Oh, I'm now fully aware of the mark Led Zeppelin madeon the musical landscape. My awareness was re-heightened when we wereremastering the material to do that CD box set in 1990.

"Whenyou hear it all, song after song, you realise what a textbook it is formusicians who are coming along, and that's so great. The whole thing isabout passing it on, because that's how it was done for me when I waslearning from all those old blues and rockabilly records. It's all partof how this cultural phenomenon keeps moving on. I think everyonecarries the flame on."

In this increasingly disposable culturalclimate, does he still believe in the power of rock and roll? "Do Istill believe in the power of rock and roll?" Jimmy Page splutters,looking almost insulted that I needed to ask. "Oh yeah… Absolutely. Ispent all my time listening to these records and trying to learn them,and I think it was almost like this force came out and grabbed me and Ijust got pulled right into it. Playing the guitar was obviously what Iwas meant to do in life.

"You never stop learning. I've neverbeen involved in a project yet where I haven't learned a lot from it,one way or the other. You're learning as you're going along, second bysecond. I feel blessed that I can always come up with something new onthe guitar, and as long as that is always with me, I can keep movingand I'm OK. I've got some plans, things that I want to makematerialise, and this is the year to do it. There's masses more musicto make, and that's exactly what I intend to be doing."

Edited by Conneyfogle
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"Well, you've got to ask, haven't you?"

Uh, no, that's already been done.

Thank you for the article, CF :-)

"I knew he'd worked as an upholsterer, butthen when we were making the film, I found out that he made theupholstery for his own studio. Good for him. He's a wonderful person."

I know someone who learned how to do that when she was growing up from her dad. She later went on to practice medicine, but she could still tell you how to upholster a chair or sofa.

Edited by eternal light
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