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Steven Rosen with Jimmy Page on the Starship, 1977


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Steven Rosen with Jimmy Page on the Starship, 1977

JIMMY PAGE - Article as originally appeared in Guitar Player magazine, July, 1977

Conducting an interview with Jimmy Page, lead guitarist and producer/arranger for England's notorious hard rock band Led Zeppelin, amounts very nearly to constructing a mini-history of British rock and roll itself. Perhaps one of Zeppelin's more outstanding characteristics is its endurance and being able to remain intact (no personnel changes since its inception) through an extremely tumultuous decade involving not only rock, but also poplar music in general. Since 1969, the groups four members - Page, bass player John Paul Jones, vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham - have produced eight albums (two are doubles) of original and often revolutionary compositions with a heavy sound - not metal but plodding and relentlessly driving. For as long as the band has been an entity, their records, coupled with several well-planned and highly publicized European and American tours, have exerted a profound and acutely recognizable influence on rock groups and guitar players on both sides of the Atlantic. Page's carefully calculated guitar frenzy, engineered through the use of controlled distortion and meticulous productions, surrounds Plant's expressive vocals to create a tension and excitement rarely matched by the band's numerous emulators.

But the prodigious contributions of James Patrick Page, born on January 9, 1944, in Middlesex, England, date back well in advance of the formation of his present band. His work as a session guitarist earned him credits so lengthy (some sources cite Jimmy as having played on 50-90% of the records released in the U.K. during 1963-65) that he is no longer sure of each and every cut on which he played. Even without the exact number of records played on, the range of his interaction as musician and sometime-producer with the landmark groups and individuals of soft and hard rock is impressive and diverse: the Who, Them, various members of The Rolling Stones, Donovan, and Jackie DeShannon to mention but a few.

In the mid-Sixties, Page joined one of the best-known British blues/rock bands, the Yardbirds, leading to a legendary collaboration with guitar great Jeff Beck. When the Yardbirds disbanded in 1968, Page had served an apprenticeship that would teach him well in starting his own group. According to Jimmy, at the initial meeting of Led Zeppelin, the sound of success was already bellowing through the amps, and the musician's four-week introductory period resulted in Led Zeppelin, the first of many gold record-winning LPs.

Let's try at the beginning, when you first started playing, and what was going on musically?

I got really stimulated by hearing early rock and roll; knowing that something was going on that was being suppressed by the media. Which it really was at the time. You had to stick by the radio and listen to overseas radio to hear good records-Little Richard and things like that. The record that made me want to play guitar was "Baby, Let's Play House" by Elvis Presley. I just sort of heard two guitars and bass and thought, "Yeah, I want to be a part of this." There was just so much vitality and energy coming out of it.

When did you get your first guitar?

When I was fourteen. It was all a matter of trying to pick up tips and stuff. There weren't many method books, really apart from jazz, which had no bearing on rock whatsoever at the time. But the first guitar was a Grazzioso, which was a copy of a Stratocaster; then I got a real Stratocaster; then those Gibson "Black Beauties" which stayed with me for a long time until some thieving magpie took it to his nest. That's the guitar I did all the Sixties sessions on.

Were your parents musical?

No, not at all. But they didn't mind me getting into it; I think that they were quite relieved to see something being done instead of an artwork, which they thought was a loser's game.

What music did you play when you first started?

I wasn't really playing anything properly. I just knew a few bits of solos and things, not much. I just kept getting records and learning that way. It was the obvious influences at the beginning, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Cliff Gallup-he was Gene Vincent's guitarist-Johnny Weeks, later and those seemed to be the most sustaining influences until I began to hear blues guitarists Elmore James, B.B. King, and people like that. Basically, that was the start: a mixture between rock and blues. Then I stretched out a lot more, and I started doing studio work. I had to branch out, and I did. I might do three sessions a day: a film in the morning, and then there'd be something like a rock band, and then maybe a folk one in the evening. I didn't know what was coming! But it was a really good disciplinary area to work in, the studio. And it also gave me a chance to develop all of the different styles.

Do you remember the first band you were in?

Just friends and things. I played in a lot of different small bands around, but nothing you could ever get any records of.

What kind of music were you playing with (early English rock band) Neil Christian And The Crusaders?

This was before the Stones happened, so we were doing Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, and Bo Diddley things mainly. At the time, public taste was more engineered towards Top 10 records, so it was a bit of a struggle. But there'd always be a small section of the audience into what we were doing.

Wasn't there a break in your music career?

Yes, I stopped playing and went to art college for about two years, while concentrating more on blues playing on my own. And then from art college to the (early British rock mecca) Marquee Club in London. I used to go up and jam on a Thursday night with the interlude band. One night somebody said, "Would you like to play on a record?" and I said, "Yeah, why not." It did quite well, and that was it after that. I can't remember the title of it now. From that point I started getting all this studio work. There was a crossroads: is it an art career or is it going to be music? Well anyway, I had to stop going to the art college because I was really getting into music. Big Jim Sullivan-who was really brilliant-and I were the only guitarists doing those sessions. Then a point came where Stax Records (Memphis-based rhythm and blues label) started influencing music to have more brass and orchestral stuff. The guitar started to take a back trend with just the occasional riff. I didn't realize how rusty I was going to get until a rock and roll session turned up from France, and I could hardly play. I thought it was time to get out, and I did.

You just stopped playing?

For a while I just worked on my stuff alone, and then I went to a Yardbirds concert at Oxford, and they were all walking around in their penguin suits. (Lead singer) Keith Relf got really drunk and was saying "Fuck you" right in the mike and falling into the drums. I thought it was a great anarchistic night, and I went back into the dressing room and said, "What a brilliant show!" There was this great argument going on; (bass player) Paul Samwell-Smith saying, "Well, I'm leaving the group, and if I was you, Keith, I'd do the very same thing." So he left the group, and Keith didn't. But they were stuck, you see, because they had commitments and dates, so I said, "I'll play the bass if you like." And then it worked out that we did the dual lead guitar thing as soon as (previously on rhythm guitar) Chris Dreja could get it together with bass, which happened, though not for long. But then came the question of discipline. If you're going to do dual lead guitar riffs and patterns, then you've got to be playing the same things. Jeff Beck had discipline occasionally, but he was an inconsistent player in that when he's on, he's probably the best there is, but at that time, and for a period afterwards, he had no respect whatsoever for audiences.

You were playing acoustic guitar during your session period?

Yes, I had to do it on studio work. And you come to grips with it very quickly too, very quickly, because it's what is expected. There was a lot of busking (singing on street corners) in the earlier days, but as they say, I had to come to grips with it, and it was a good schooling.

You were using the Les Paul for those sessions?

The Gibson "Black Beauty" Les Paul Custom. I was one of the first people in England to have one, but I didn't know that then. I just saw it on the wall, had a go with it, and it was good. I traded a Gretsch Chet Atkins I'd had before for the Les Paul.

What kind of amplifiers were you using for session work?

A small Supro, which I used until someone, I don't know who, smashed it up for me. I'm going to try to get another one. It's like a Harmony amp, I think, and all of the first album (Led Zeppelin) was done on that.

What do you remember most about your early days with the Yardbirds?

One thing is it was chaotic in recording. I mean we did one tune and didn't really know what it was. We had Ian Stewart from The Stones on piano, and we'd just finished the take, and without even hearing it (producer) Mickie Most said, "Next." I said, "I've never worked like this in my life," and he said, "Don't worry about it." It was all done very quickly, as it sounds. It was things like that that really led to the general state of mind and depression of Relf and (drummer) Jim McCarty that broke the group up. I tried to keep it together, but there was no chance; they just wouldn't have it. In fact Relf said the magic of the band disappeared when Clapton left (British rock/blues guitarist Eric Clapton played with The Yardbids prior to Beck's joining). I was really keen on doing anything, though, probably because of having had all that studio work and variety beforehand. So it didn't matter what way we wanted to go; they were definitely talented people, but they couldn't really see the woods for the trees at the time.

You thought the best period of the Yardbirds was when Jeff Beck was with them?

I did, Giorgio Gomelsky (the Yardbirds' manager and producer) was good for him because he got him thinking and attempting new things. That's when they started all sorts of departures. Apparently (co-producer) Simon Napier-Bell sang the guitar riff of "Over Under Sideways Down" (on LP of the same name) to Jeff to demonstrate what he wanted, but I don't know whether that's true or not. I never spoke to him about it. I know the idea of the record was to sort of emulate the sound of the old "Rock Around The Clock" type record; that bass and backbeat thing. But it wouldn't be evident at all; every now and again he'd say, "Let's make a record around such and such," and no one would ever know what the example was at the end of the song.

Can you describe some of your musical interaction with Beck during the Yardbirds period?

Sometimes it worked really great, and sometimes it didn't. There were a lot of harmonies that I don't think anyone else had really done, not like we did. The Stones were the only ones who got into two guitars going at the same time from old Muddy Waters records. But we were more into solos rather than a rhythm thing. The point is, you've got to have the parts worked out, and I'd find that I was doing what I was supposed to, while something totally different would be coming from Jeff. That was all right for the areas of improvisation but there were other parts where it just did not work. You've got to understand that Beck and I came from the same sort of roots. If you've got things you enjoy, then you want to do them-to the horrifying point where we'd done our first LP (Led Zeppelin) with "You Shook Me", and then I heard he'd done "You Shook Me" (Truth). I was terrified because I thought they'd be the same. But I hadn't even known he'd done it, and he hadn't known that we had.

Did Beck play bass on "Over Under Sideways Down"?

No. In fact for that LP they just got him in to do the solos because they'd had a lot of trouble with him. But then when I joined the band, he supposedly wasn't going to walk off anymore. Well, he did a couple of times. It's strange; if he'd had a bad day, he'd take it out on the audience. I don't know whether he's the same now; his playing sounds far more consistent on records. You see on the "Beck's Bolero" (Truth) thing I was working with that, the track was done and then the producer just disappeared. He was never seen again; he simply didn't come back. (Simon) Napier-Bell just sort of left me and Jeff to it. Jeff was playing, and I was in the box (recording booth). And even though it says he wrote it, I wrote it. I'm playing the electric 12-string on it. Beck's doing the slide bits, and I'm basically playing around the chords. The idea was built around (classical composer) Maurice Ravel's' "Bolero." It's got a lot of drama to it; it came off right. It was a good lineup too, with (the Who's drummer) Keith Moon and everything.

Wasn't that band going to be Led Zeppelin?

It was, yeah. Not Led Zeppelin as a name; the name came afterwards. But it was said afterwards that that's what it could have been called. Because Moonie wanted to get out of the Who, and so did (Who bass player) John Entwistle, but when it came down to getting hold of a singer, it was either going to be (guitarist/organist/singer with English pop group Traffic) Steve Winwood or (guitarist/vocalist with Small Faces) Steve Marriott. Finally it came down to Marriott. He was contacted, and the reply came back from his manager's office: "How would you like to have a group with no fingers, boys?" Or words to that effect. So the group was dropped because of Marriott's other commitment, to the Small Faces. But I think it would have been the first of all those bands sort of like the Cream and everything. Instead it didn't happen-apart from the "Bolero." That's the closest it got. John Paul (Jones) is on that too; so is Nicky Hopkins (studio keyboard player with various British rock groups).

You only recorded a few songs with Beck on record?

Yeah. "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" (The Yardbirds Greatest Hits), "Stroll On" (Blow Up), "The Train Kept A Rollin'" (Having A Rave-up with the Yardbirds), and "Psycho Daisies", "Bolero" and a few other things. None of them were with the Yardbirds but earlier on-just some studio things, unreleased songs: "Louie Louie" and things like that; really good though, really great.

Were you using any boosters with the Yardbirds to get all those sounds?

Fuzztone which I'd virtually regurgitated from what I heard on "2000 Pound Bee" by The Ventures. They had a Fuzztone. It was nothing like the one this guy, Roger Mayer, made for me; he worked for the Admiralty (British Navy) in the electronics division. He did all the fuzz pedals for Jimi Hendrix later; all those octave doublers and things like that. He made this one for me, but that was all during the studio period, you see. I think Jeff had quite a lot of the boost and that sort of sustain in the music.

You were also doing all sorts of things with feedback?

You know, "I Need You" (Kinkdom) by the Kinks? I think I did that bit there in the beginning. I don't know who really did feedback first; it just sort of happened. I don't think anybody consciously nicked it from anybody else. It was just going on. But Pete Townshend (lead guitarist with the Who) obviously was the one, through the music of his group, who made the use of feedback more his style, and so it's related to him. Whereas the other players like Jeff and myself were playing more single note things than chords.

You used a Danelectro with the Yardbirds?

Yes, but not with Beck. I did use it in the latter days. I used it onstage for "White Summer" (Little Games). I used a special tuning for that; the low string down to D, then A, D, G, A and D. It's like a modal tuning, a sitar tuning, in fact.

Was "Black Mountain Side" (done on Led Zeppelin) an extension of that?

I wasn't totally original on that. It had been done to death in the folk clubs a lot; Annie Briggs was the first one that I heard do that riff. I was playing it as well, and then there was (English guitarist) Bert Jansch's version. He's the one who crystallized all the acoustic playing as far as I'm concerned. Those first few albums of his were absolutely brilliant. And the tuning on "Black Mountain Side" is the same as "White Summer." It's taken a bit of battering, the Danelectro guitar, I'm afraid.

You used a Vox 12-string with the Yardbirds, right?

That's right. I can't remember the titles now; the Mickie Most things, some of the B-sides. I remember there was one with an electric 12-string guitar solo on the end of it, which was all right. I don't have copies of them now, and I don't know what they're called. I've got Little Games but that's about it.

You were using Vox amps with the Yardbirds?

AC 30's. They've held up consistently well. Even the new ones are pretty good. I tried some; I got four in and tried them out, and they were all reasonably good. I was going to build up a big bank of four of them, but Bonzo's kit is so loud that they just don't come over the top of it properly.

What kind of guitar were you using on the first Led Zeppelin album?

A Telecaster. I used the Les Paul with the Yardbirds on about two numbers and a Fender for the rest. You see the Les Paul Custom had a central setting, a kind of out-of-phase pickup sound which Jeff couldn't get on his Les Paul, so I used mine for that.

Was the Telecaster the one Beck gave to you?

Yes. There was work done on it but only afterwards. I painted it; everyone painted their guitars in those days. And I had reflective plastic sheeting underneath the pick guard that gives rainbow colors.

It sounds exactly like a Les Paul.

Yeah, well that's the amp and everything. You see, I could get a lot of tones out of the guitar, which you normally couldn't. This confusion goes back to those early sessions again with the Les Paul. Those might not sound like a Les Paul, but that's what I used. It's just different amps, mike placings, and all different things. Also, if you just crank it up to the distortion point so you can sustain notes, it's bound to sound like a Les Paul. I was using the Supro amp for the first album and still do. The "Stairway To Heaven" solo was done when I pulled out the Telecaster, which I hadn't used for a long time, plugged it into the Supro, and away it went again. That's a different sound entirely from any of the rest of the first album. It was a good versatile setup. I'm using a Leslie on the solo on "Good Times Bad Times". It was wired up for an organ thing.

What kind of acoustic guitar are you using on "Black Mountain Side" and "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You"?

That was a Gibson J-200, which wasn't mine; I borrowed it. It was a beautiful guitar, really great. I've never found a guitar of that quality anywhere since. I could play so easily on it, get a really thick sound; it had heavy gauge strings on it, but it just didn't seem to feel like it.

Do you just use your fingers when playing acoustic?

Yes. I used fingerpicks once, but I find them too spikey; they're too sharp. You can't get the tone or response that you would get, say, the way classical players approach gut-string instruments. The way they pick, the whole thing is the tonal response of the string. It seems important.

Can you describe your picking style?

I don't know, really; it's a cross between fingerstyle and flatpicking. There's a guy in England called Davey Graham, and he never used any fingerpicks or anything. He used a thumbpick every now and again, but I prefer just a flatpick and fingers because then it's easier to get around from guitar to guitar. Well, it is for me anyway. But apparently he's got calouses on the left hand and all over the right as well; he can get so much attack on his strings, and he's really good.

The guitar on "Communication Breakdown" sounds as if it's coming out of a shoe box.

Yeah. I put it in a small room, a little tiny vocal booth-type thing and miked from a distance. You see, there's a very old recording maxim which goes, "Distance makes depth." I've used that a hell of a lot on recording techniques with the band generally, not just me. You always used to them close-miking amps, just putting the microphone in front, but I'd have a mike right out the back as well, and then balance the two, and get rid of all the phasing problems; because really, you shouldn't have to use an EQ in the studio if the instruments sound right. It should all be done with the microphones. But see, everybody has gotten so carried away with the EQ pots that they have forgotten the whole science of microphone placement. There aren't too many guys who know it. I'm sure Les Paul knows a lot; obviously he must have been well into that, well into it, as were all those who produced the early rock records where there were only one or two mikes in the studio.

The solo on "I Can't Quit You Baby" is interesting-many pulloffs in a sort of sloppy but amazingly inventive style.

There are mistakes in it, but it doesn't make any difference. I'll always leave the mistakes in. I can't help it. The timing bits on the A and the Bb parts are right, though it might sound wrong. The timing just sounds off. But there are some wrong notes. You've got to be reasonably honest about it. It's like the film track album (The Song Remains The Same); there's no editing really on that. It wasn't the best concert playing-wise at all, but it was the only one with celluloid footage so, there it was. It was all right, it was just one 'as-it-is" performance. It wasn't one of those real magic nights, but then again it wasn't a terrible night. So, for all its mistakes and everything else, it's a very honest film track. Rather than just trailing around through a tour with a recording mobile truck waiting for the magic night, it was just, "There you are-take it or leave it." I've got a lot of live recorded stuff going back to '69.

Jumping ahead to the second album, Led Zeppelin II, the riff in the middle of "Whole Lotta Love" was a very composed and structured phrase.

I had it worked out already before entering the studio. I had rehearsed it. And then all of that other stuff, sonic wave sound and all that, I built it up in the studio, and put effects on it and things, treatments.

How is that descending riff done?

With a metal slide and backwards echo. I think I came up with that first before anybody. I know it's been used a lot now but not at the time I thought of it on this Mickie Most thing. In fact some of the things that might sound a bit odd have, in fact, backwards echo involved in them as well.

What kind of effect are you using on the beginning of "Ramble On"?

If I can remember correctly, it's like harmony feedback, and then it changes. To be more specific, most of the tracks just start off bass, drums, and guitar and once you've done the drums and bass, you just build everything up afterwards. It's like a starting point, and you start constructing from square one.

Is the rest of the band in the studio when you put down the solos?

No, never. I don't like anybody else in the studio when I'm putting on the guitar parts. I usually just limber up for a while and then maybe do three solos and take the best from the three.

Is there an electric 12-string on "Thank You"?

Yes. I think it's a Fender or Rickenbacker.

What is the effect on "Out On The Tiles"?

Now that is exactly what I was talking about: close-miking and distance-miking, that's ambient sound. Getting the distance of the time lag from one end of the room to the other and putting that in as well. The whole idea, the way I see recording, is to try and capture the sound of the room live and the emotion of the whole moment and try to convey that across. That's the very essence of it. And so, consequently you've got to capture as much of the room sound as possible.

On "Tangerine," it sounds as if you're playing a pedal steel.

I am. And on the first LP there's a pedal steel. I have never played steel before, but I just picked it up. There's a lot of things I do first time around that I haven't done before. In fact, I hadn't touched a pedal steel from the first album to the third. It's a bit of a pinch really from the things that Chuck Berry did. But nevertheless it fits. I use pedal steel on "Your Time Is Gonna Come." It sounds like a slide or something. It's more out of tune on the first album because I hadn't got a kit to put it together.

You've also played other stringed instruments on record?

"Gallows Pole" was the first time for banjo and on "The Battle Of Evermore" a mandolin was lying around. It wasn't mine, it was Jonesy's. I just picked it up, got the chords, and it sort of started happening. I did it more or less straight off. But you see that's fingerpicking again, going on back to the studio days and developing a certain amount of technique. At least enough to be adapted and used. My fingerpicking is a sort of cross between Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs and total incompetence.

The fourth album was the first time you used a double-neck?

I didn't use a double-neck on that, but I had to get one afterwards to play "Stairway To Heaven."I did all those guitars on it; I just built them up. That was the beginning of my building harmonized guitars properly. "Ten Years Gone" was an extension of that, and then "Achilles' Last Stand" is like the essential flow of it really, because there was no time to think the things out; I just had to more or less lay it down on the first track and harmonize on the second track. It was really fast working on Presence. And I did all the guitar overdubs on that LP in one night. There were only two sequences. The rest of the band, not Robert, but the rest of them I don't think really could see it to begin with. They didn't know what the hell I was going to do with it. But I wanted to give each section its own identity, and I think it came off really good. I didn't think I'd be able to do it in one night; I thought I'd have to do it in the course of three different nights to get the individual sections. But I was so into it that my mind was working properly for a change. It sort of crystallized and everything was just pouring out. I was very happy with the guitar on that whole album as far as the maturity of the playing goes.

When you started playing the double-neck did it require a new approach on your part?

Yes. The main thing is, there's an effect you can get where you leave the 12-string neck open as far as the sound goes and play on the 6-string neck, and you get the 12-strings vibrating in sympathy. It's like an Indian sitar, and I've worked on that a little bit. I use it on "Stairway" like that; not on the album but on the soundtrack and film. It's surprising, it doesn't vibrate as heavily as a sitar would, but nonetheless does add to the overall tonal quality.

You think your playing on the fourth album is the best you've ever done?

Without a doubt. As far as consistency goes and as far as the quality of playing on a whole album, I would say yes. But I don't know what the best solo I've ever done is-I have no idea. My vocation is more in composition really than in anything else. Building up harmonies. Using the guitar, orchestrating the guitar like an army-a guitar army. I think that's where it's at, really, for me. I'm talking about actual orchestration in the same way that you'd orchestrate a classical piece of music. Instead of using brass and violins you treat the guitars with synthesizers or other devices; give them different treatments, so that they have enough frequency range and scope and everything to keep the listener as totally committed to it as the player is. It's a difficult project, but it's one that I've got to do.

Have you done anything towards this end already?

Only on these three tunes: "Stairway To Heaven," "Ten Years Gone" and "Achilles' Last Stand," the way the guitar is building. I can see certain milestones along the way like "Four Sticks," in the middle section of that. The sound of those guitars, that's where I'm going. I've got long pieces written. I've got one really long piece written that's harder to play than anything. It's sort of classical, but then it goes through changes from that mood to really laid-back rock, and then to really intensified stuff. With a few laser notes thrown in, we might be all right.

When was the first time you used the violin bow?

The first time I recorded with it was with the Yardbirds. But the idea was put to me by a classical string player when I was doing studio work. One of us tried to bow the guitar, then we tried it between us and it worked. At that point I was just bowing it, but the other effects I've obviously come up with on my own-using wah-wah, and echo. You have to put rosin on the bow, and the rosin sticks to the string and makes it vibrate.

Do you think when you went from the Telecaster to the Les Paul that your playing changed?

Yes, I think so. It's more of a fight with the Telecaster, but there are rewards. The Gibson's got stereotyped sound maybe, I don't know. But it's got a beautiful sustain to it, and I like sustain because it relates to bowed instruments and everything; this whole area that everyone's been pushing and experimenting in. When you think about it, it's mainly sustain.

Do you use special tunings on the electric guitar?

All the time; they're my own that I've worked out, so I'd rather keep those to myself, really. But they're never open tunings; I have used those, but most of the things I've written have not been open tunings, so you can get more chords into them.

Did you ever meet any of those folk players you admire-Bert Jansch, John Renbourn or any of them?

No, and the most terrifying thing of all happened about a few months ago. Jansch's playing appeared as if it was going down or something, and it turns out he's got arthritis. I really think he's one of the best. He was, without any doubt, the one who crystallized so many things. As much as Hendrix had done on electric, I think he's done on the acoustic. He was really way, way ahead. And for something like that to happen is such a tragedy, with a mind as brilliant as that. There you go. Another player whose physical handicap didn't stop him is Django Reinhardt. For his last LP they pulled him out of retirement to do it. He'd been retired for years and it's fantastic. You know the story about him in the caravan and losing fingers and such. But the record is just fantastic. He must have been playing all the time to be that good-it's horrifyingly good. Horrifying. But it's always good to hear perennial players like that, like Les Paul, and people like that.

You listen to Les Paul?

Oh, yeah. You can tell Jeff (Beck) did too, can't you? Have you ever heard "It's Been A Long, Long Time?" (mid-Forties single by the Les Paul Trio with Bing Crosby) You ought to hear that. He does everything on that, everything in one go. And it's just one guitar; it's basically one guitar even though they've tracked on rhythms and stuff. But my goodness, the introductory chords and everything are fantastic. He sets this whole tone, and then he goes into this solo which is fantastic. Now that's where I heard feedback first -from Les Paul. Also vibratos and things. Even before B.B. King, you know, I've traced a hell of a lot of rock and roll, little riffs and things, back to Les Paul, Chuck Berry, Cliff Gallup and all those-it's all there. But then Les Paul was very influenced by Reinhardt, wasn't he? Very much so. I can't get my hands on the records of Les Paul, the Les Paul Trio, and all that stuff. But I've got all the Capitol LPs and things. I mean he's the father of it all: multi-tracking and everything else. If it hadn't been for him, there wouldn't have been anything really.

You said that Eric Clapton was the person who synthesized the Les Paul sound?

Yeah, without a doubt. When he was with the Bluesbreakers, it was just a magic combination. He got one of the Marshall amps, and away he went. It just happened. I thought he played brilliantly then, really brilliantly. That was very stirring stuff.

Do you think you were responsible for any specifc guitar sounds?

The guitar parts in "Trampled Underfoot", this guy Nick Kent (British rock journalist), he came out with this idea about how he thought that was a really revolutionary sound. And I hadn't realized that anyone would think it was, but I can explain exactly how it's done. Again it's sort of backwards echo and wah-wah. I don't know how responsible I was for new sounds because there were so many good things happening around that point, around the release of the first Zeppelin album, like Hendrix and Clapton.

Were you focusing on anything in particular on the first Led Zeppelin LP with regards to certain guitar sounds?

The trouble is keeping a separation between sounds, so you don't have the same guitar effect all the time. And that's where the orchestration thing comes in. It's not easy. I've already planned it, it's already there; all the groundwork has been done now. And the dream has been accomplished by the computerized mixing console. The sort of struggle to achieve so many things is over. As I said, I've got two things written, but I'll be working in more. You can hear what I mean on Lucifer Rising (soundtrack for the unreleased Kenneth Anger film). You see, I didn't play any guitar on that, apart from one point. That was all other instruments, all synthesizers. Every instrument was given a process so it didn't sound like what it really was-the voices, drones, mantras, and even tabla drums. When you've got a collage of say, four of these sounds together, people will be drawn right in because there will be sounds they hadn't heard before. That's basically what I'm into: collages and tissues of sound with emotional intensity and melody and all that. But you know there are so many good people around like John McLaughlin and people like that. It's a totally different thing that what I'm doing.

Do you feel that your playing grows all the time?

I've got two different approaches, like a schizophrenic guitarist, really. I mean onstage is totally different than the way I approach it in the studio, Presence and my control over all the contributing factors to that LP, the fact that it was done in three weeks, and all the rest of it, is so good for me. It was just good for everything really, even though it was a very anxious point, and the anxiety shows group-wise-you know, "Is Robert going to walk again from his auto accident in Greece?" and all that sort of thing. But I guess the solo in "Achilles' Last Stand" is in the same tradition as the solo from "Stairway To Heaven" on the fourth LP. It is on that level to me.

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Good stuff, thanks for posting!

Has anyone heard Rosen's interview with Jimmy from 1986? Jimmy was a bit of a testy interviewee in that era! You can get it on iTunes...

here is that interview:

After going out on so many tours and putting together so many stage productions, what is it about it the business that still excites you? Where does the energy come from?

Jimmy Page: Well, just generally being able to play the guitar. But really it’s for the people who have followed, for instance, Zeppelin. Actually I’ve been quite overwhelmed with the way people have showed me their warmth. It’s fantastic.

It must feel good.

JP: It bloody well does, sure it does. In fact, it’s just great to be playing again and to be with a band as well.

How different is this second Firm tour from the second Led Zeppelin tour? What has changed?

JP: About twenty years! Well, what would you think has changed? I think everything would be bigger and more difficult to put together. And more pressure, possibly. Well, obviously, yeah. Yes, it is a bit like that, of course. . . if one thinks of it like that. When the Firm first got together, Paul and I both wanted to play in front of an audience. It’s quite difficult in a way to be able to do something in the correct perspective to be truthful. It’s like Robert (Plant) and Jonesy (John Paul Jones) and I wanted to have a play together and suddenly you’re touring before you’ve even got any choice. Do you know what I mean? So when you say bigger, bigger, bigger—yeah. And certainly this is not supposed to be bigger than anything. In fact, it’s supposed to be quite scaled down.

What new direction has Paul Rodgers brought to your music? Was he good for you?

JP: Well, he was certainly good for me and I’ve been good for him, too. Purely because the way that we got together, publicly anyway, was the ARMS Tour. Because of the ARMS Tour and the fact he volunteered to come forth, so to speak, I respected that.

Is it a different approach working with Paul than it was working with Plant?

JP: Well of course it is. After you’ve been with someone, Zeppelin and Robert, for that amount of years—I don’t know how many years it was now—you get to know each other in a band very, very well. It can almost be an ESP type of thing. With Paul, his phrasing is totally different [from Robert’s]. I would think that Robert was like a vocal gymnast. And Paul, I’ve never heard him sing a wrong note; he’s such a technical singer. He really is. And yet he has a quality within his voice that on the ballads he does is really caressing. And yet it’s really vibrant in a way.

Were you a fan of Free?

JP: Yes, I did like Free.

Did you ever play any shows with them in the early days?

JP: No, no we didn’t. We never did. Zeppelin were doing their first gigs right around the time Free were doing theirs. No, but we never actually crossed paths. It wasn’t until SwanSong and Bad Company.

Does Paul’s playing a second guitar bring something new to the music?

JP: Well, it’s good to have another instrument there, yeah. The keyboards are good. The thing is, he can do that so it’s good.

One would imagine that playing over keyboard parts and voicings might open up your playing in different ways.

JP: It depends on what the number is, really. I see what you’re saying but usually if Paul is playing an instrument, you can bet your life it’s one of the songs he wrote because he’s written it on that instrument. If it’s his song and he’s written it himself, obviously the best thing I can do is try to complement it with the guitar. And if I weren’t like that, I guess I wouldn’t be in the band.

You started this conversation by saying how overwhelmed you were to the response you were receiving on this tour. How does it make you feel that a magazine such as "Guitar World" is dedicating an entire issue to you?

JP: How does make me feel? I’m honored that that’s the case.

What I mean is, there is so little that you haven’t done in terms of guitar exploration...

JP: There’s so much that can be done on the guitar. I’ve only done a few bits and pieces, really, considering what can be done. Alright, let’s go from one extreme to the other. The gut-strung guitar, the classical guitar, that is a whole different world on its own. And we’re talking to guitar players here so they know that. It’s really fine within its horizons. And then you get into the steel-strung acoustic guitar and the electric guitars as such. When you think what the guitar can do and what every individual player does with a guitar, everyone has their own identity coming through the guitar. And then to talk about exploration and what I’ve done, there’s so much that can be done on the guitar. And that’s what is so good about the guitar—everyone can really enjoy themselves on it and have a good time, which is what it’s all about. Right?

Lately, you’ve been playing the Telecaster far more than the Les Paul. With Zeppelin you rarely used the Fender and yet with The Firm that’s just about all you use. Do you think your style has changed?

JP: Of course it’s changed. I mean you’ve changed from fifteen years ago and who hasn’t? But the Telecaster has the String-Bender mechanism what took me about two years to come to terms with [laughs]. No, not really, but I’d say it took a year, honestly. Considering it’s only moving [changing the pitch] two frets or whatever, you can see how slow it is for me to get things together [more laughter]. To be truthful, it was difficult to work through it—up the neck, so to speak. But it came to the point that as it was such a good thing to cheat with... [hearty laughter] Alright, go on.

Initially, where did the idea come from to even try a String-Bender? Was it a feeling of “Well, let’s just try this?”

JP: Oh, no. I tried to play pedal steel guitar years back and that was a totally different situation within itself. I did like the idea of the pedal changing the intonation of the string. I heard Clarence White as a guitarist on the Untitled LP by the Byrds and all the stuff he was doing I thought was quite amazing. And there were parts that I couldn’t physically do as far as trying to do it on the guitar. And I heard that there was this mechanism within the guitar which was the Gene Parsons/Clarence White String-Bender. And I was lucky enough at one point in time to see the Byrds play, though I saw them many times, at a hall in Dallas. And at the end of a very, very pleasant evening hearing them playing and talking to the members of the band, Gene Parsons made up one of these String-Benders for me.

[At this point there is discussion between Page and guitar tech Tim Marten about the String-Bender patent and Parsons’ involvement with Fender.]

I suppose it’s just like a tremolo arm for all the guys that play a Strat. Of course, it is. It’s a gadget but you work with it accordingly. I must admit it took me a year to get used to but it wouldn’t take me a year to get used to a tremolo arm.

The String-Bender has become such a big part of The Firm’s sound.

JP: I’m just bending the second string [laughs].

An identifiable part.

JP: Maybe so, maybe so. It’s a certain thing you can do within that mechanism that you can’t do with an ordinary guitar. I guess that’s it.

And you haven’t played much Stratocaster in recent years, really.

JP: No, not really. I’ve used it every now and again. Usually for the tremolo arm—that whole chord sink down and rise up sort of thing. That’s what I use the tremolo arm for. Anyway, that’s the only time I ever got to use it because I always used the les Pauls. In the early days I used a Telecaster. But once I got into the Les Paul, that was that really because it’s such a fine instrument to play. And it also doesn’t have a tremolo arm. Yeah, it was much later on that I started using the Stratocaster.

Do you listen to someone like Edward Van Halen and the way in which he uses a tremolo arm?

JP: I am extremely aware of him, actually, and I take my hat off to him for working out that technique [referring to Van Halen’s pioneering of the hammer-on technique]. You know, you talk about what I’ve done on the guitar and that’s what he’s done on the guitar. As far as it goes, it’s an incredible technique for what he does. I must say that. I can’t do it. I can’t smile like him either. It’s a really good technique but as I said I can’t play like that.

That’s what we were talking about earlier: we’re talking about extremes now. That’s what’s so good about guitar players.

I was just curious if you had heard what he’d done with the tremolo or were familiar with his records.

JP: No, I don’t even know what it is you call this thing he does.


JP: Hammering-on with the right hand? I’ve heard that but as far as his tremolo arm work goes I don’t think it’s that different from anybody else’s within the context of a solo. Anyone who plays a Stratocaster—although I know he doesn’t play a Strat—is going to tend to sound like that. I’ve only seen their videos and you have to remember that we don’t have MTV in England, as far as seeing people and what’s going on.

On the radio at the moment in England, all you would hear, I suppose, is Top 40. All those sort of synthesizer bands. So you don’t hear guitar a lot really. You don’t. Certainly not when you’re talking about somebody like Van Halen or anybody else you care to mention from America. If I don’t have the record, I don’t have a chance of hearing them in England. When you’re in a situation like you are over here, you’re used to seeing MTV and hearing fine music on the radio stations. It’s difficult to really put yourself in another situation—of course, you get video shows on television—but nor to the degree you do over here. Actually I’d like to do a market research and see how many hours of videos you get per week. I bet you get thirty minutes of them per hour. So consequently, I don’t get to see what guitars people play and everything else.

I would imagine that the studio would be some sort of playground for you?

JP: No. The thing is, for whatever I did in production, the equipment I used I knew what to do with. But there was a whole time I was out of the studio, out of the recording situation for possibly three or four years, and things started moving very fast [snapping fingers] as far as the technology of things went. And whereas maybe I would link two or three pieces of equipment together, now you could just push one button and there it is. I mean I had an automated console and that sort of thing prior to going in with Julian Mendelsohn [an engineer who has been working with The Firm], but I just really wanted to see what [the studio] was like and check it out.

Was it a learning experience for you?

JP: Yeah, a lot actually. To be honest, as far as the new concepts in recording, he used the automated console and linking up effects. That was pretty much the way you would have done it in the past, except there’s so many new things you don’t know. As I said, I haven’t been in the studio for years; I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. But nevertheless, it’s knowing how to wire one thing into another. And I would like to have been—and I haven’t yet—laying down some of the recording with a Synclavier. I would just like to see how it works—I’ve never actually used one.

But you have done a let of playing on the Roland guitar synthesizer? The "Death Wish II" soundtrack?

JP: Yes. Given a situation, I’ve tried to get the most out of the Roland guitar synthesizer. Both versions but the second one [GR-700] was a better one. As far as it goes, I must admit that I went with Tim [Marten, guitar tech] to a demonstration of the SynthAxe and it was just absolutely terrifying. It was great, it was fantastic. I knew that the Roland didn’t track properly but you can adapt to it in a way. But it’s life and limb, really, to get one of those [synthAxe]. I’d have to sell me Les Paul. It’s just that it’s so expensive and all that sort of stuff. But it’s just like when synthesizers first came out, it was a fortune for nothing. It was just monophonic but you could have a polyphonic keyboard with whatever tone and triggering you were getting from that synthesizer for like ten percent of the price. So, do you see what I’m saying about the guitar synthesizer? I could see the difficulty in getting a string to trigger. It’s difficult because they’re touch-sensitive like a keyboard. That is always going to be the problem with guitar synthesizers. But as far as I can see, this SynthAxe is the best.

It’s very interesting, actually; its neck is at a different angle. I haven’t actually had a chance to play on it and get used to it. And of course, you have to get used to all the guitar synths, as such. I was so impressed with the demonstration of the SynthAxe that it’s difficult to even see what faults it might have. You need to have one to know. And I’m not going to knock Roland.

When you were approached to write the soundtrack for "Death Wish II", did you think that would be a chance to work closer with the guitar synthesizer?

JP: I thought it was quite a luck of timing to have the chance of doing that film music. As far as it goes, you’ve got visual and vocal sequences that you are asked to put the music to. And you’ve got your cues and everything. But if you’ve seen it a couple of times you get an atmosphere about what is going on and you just work accordingly. I didn’t purposely just want to use the guitar synthesizer but in certain places it just worked with that. Actually Death Wish II was about the most I’ve used the guitar synthesizer.

I know that instrumental music has always held a fascination for you.

JP: I probably feel more at home with just instrumental music. Of course I do. I do hope to be part of something; it’s nice to be a catalyst in a situation or whatever complements the situation as well. But let’s not get totally philosophical about it. But seriously, that is it.

You did the music for "Lucifer Rising" [a film by Kenneth Anger]?

JP: Yeah, but you don’t have to hear that. That’s alright. It’s not that good.

Does the guitar synthesizer make you play in a different way? Do the sounds trigger ideas in you?

JP: Well, of course it does. It’s just like what I said about the String-Bender; within the scope of the guitar, if you start to use it you come up with things that you build around it. Whereas, with the guitar synthesizer, as I’ve learned them anyway, it comes to the point where you do virtually work with what you’re getting out of it.

There are problems with them and I’ve said that. You can re-adjust the sound and whatever but I’ve not heard or played one yet (and I must admit I haven’t played the SynthAxe but I’d really like to) that I’ve really liked. I remember when the ARP came out, you’d have your manual out and you’d go through the instructions. And you’d set it up and it would say: “Possibly it’s your technique or possibly it needs to be and back to square one again. You went around in a circle and it was $1,500 for junk really.

However, the day when you can get $1,500 worth of good guitar synthesizer which is relative to keyboards, the guitarist will be able to kick ass on the keyboard players. But at the moment I can’t talk about the SyntheAxe because I don’t know it yet. But I must admit that seemed the closest to what the keyboard players could do.

[Tim Marten, sitting quietly in a corner, offers: ‘‘It’s not really like a guitar, is it?’’]

It is, that’s it. It’s like taking a new thing up, a pedal steel or whatever.

[Marten adds: “It may be what it’s like to play a keyboard”]

Quite possibly, I don’t know. I will remember that but I don’t know until one’s approached the darn thing. The neck is a different angle and it’s symbolic within itself.

When we talked last (in 1977 during Led Zeppelin’s North America tour), you spoke of the “guitar army” where you built guitar tracks in a classical fashion. To my ears, you’ve carried on with this style in The Firm.

JP: When you say “in classical fashion,” that’s just orchestration. Guitar overdubs is really what it means. It’s just a more flamboyant way of putting it [laughter].

I had a chance to talk with Chris Huston (engineer) and he spoke of your ability to overdub, and the energy of "Led Zeppelin II."

JP: I was into ambience on the first album, I’ll tell you that. I was into it on the first album. Hearing drums sounding like drums. And that’s all there is to it. If you close-miked them, they sounded like cardboard boxes. Distance makes depth. If you take the mikes up you get more of the sound. He was the resident engineer at Mystic Sound and it had wooden walls, so consequently it’s going to bounce [claps hands] and sound live. Ambience ... it was a small room. Richie Valens [“La Bamba’] recorded there. Bobby Fuller [“I Fought The Law”]. If you listen to “La Bamba,” for instance, you listen to the overall sound of a room where they were recording. You know? You can hear it. Which is what it’s about I think anyway. Even if you’re using multi-track, it's still down to trying to capture that.

Let’s put it this way, when you listen to the records of the '50s, there is a room sound there. It’s obvious; they were recording in tiny rooms. Like garages. But the overall energy of it comes through. There’s no doubt about it.

Chris Huston said in those days making a record was more simply just trying to document a performance.

JP: He said that because he only did a few tracks with us; he didn’t do any mixing or anything. So I don’t know what his idea of looking at things is. But as far as I see it he’s saying it’s documenting. Well, sure it’s documenting a sentiment, an emotion. It is documenting a performance but you can make yourself sound very bland by that. But that’s where you were at that point in time.

Your guitar sound on the second album was really extraordinary but it was quite different from the sound you got on the "Mean Business" album. Which goes back to something else we talked about in 1977 when you mentioned trying to achieve different sounds so you “don’t have the same guitar effect all the time.”

JP: It’s very difficult but you have to try. The guitar to me, from the classical/gut-string guitar right through to Hendrix, et cetera, has all this range. Within those six strings it is incredible what one can get sound-wise. It’s just down to imagination, really. You were talking earlier on, relative to what I was saying, about how everyone sounds like Eddie Van Halen. He worked out his own technique on the guitar and it’s just down to the imagination. Obviously you have to have the technical ability because there’s a lot of times you have the imagination to do something but the technical ability may not be there.

That’s where the discipline comes in. From the classical guitar right through to the furthest electrical experiments and everything in-between, it’s amazing what the guitar can actually do. I mean, when one thinks about sounds, I’ve gotten sounds out of the guitar with a bow where there was no other way you could do it. It’s still the six strings and it’s very basic—just applying a bow to the guitar.

At times, the sounds you create with the bow and the wah-wah [his main effect during the hewing sequences] and the Les Paul seem to be generated by a guitar synthesizer.

JP: Yeah, that’s it. Except it’s immediately controllable like that [snaps fingers] with a wah-wah. Obviously it’s a hit-and-miss approach sometimes with the bow—it doesn’t always react if there’s humidity in the hall, which is a bit of a drag but you can keep rosining it [the bow]. Obviously, it’s not an arched neck like a violin or a cello, but sometimes you can come close to hitting a full chord with it. And that’s alright. But if it’s a humid atmosphere, it doesn’t. I’ve never spoken to a violinist about it actually; whether the humidity can affect the rosin to the bow to the strings. I’m sure it must, though.

The Les Paul lends itself better to the bowing than the Telecaster or a Stratocaster?

JP: It works on them all, really.

[Tim Marten interjects that it relates to the ‘Physical aspects of the curvature of the bridge.” To this end, Marten sawed the Les Paul bridge to create a more violinesque-type housing and raising the strings to allow for more accurate bowing.]

Yeah, he did that. And it was purely because it was so hit-and-miss. Sometimes it would be dead on and then you wouldn’t change a thing and it wouldn’t work. Last night [referring to The Firm's performance at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida] I didn’t think it came off at all. Not as well as it should have done. It’s almost like pulling at it and that’s alright but when the bow just goes right across the strings it doesn’t work. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t—but you’ve got to try it.

The sound that you have created with your Les Paul...

JP: . . . And what about Eric? That’s where it started.

I know. You talked about that in our last interview. But I feel the sound you’ve produced is, for want of a better description, classic.

JP: What about Jeff Beck then?

And Jeff is there, too.

JP: Fucking, he better be. I’ve heard so many guitarists sound like Jeff it’s not true. Which is great, you know? That is Jeff, that is Jeff’s personality, and people relate to that. They’re emulating it, not imitating. But that is a classic. Van Halen, with what you said, created a technique which is totally personal and if anyone wants to follow along with that they can. But it’s still Van Halen’s technique. You’re talking about a sound but nevertheless that sound is very tactile.

All I’m trying to say is there are a few guitarists like Beck and Clapton and Van Halen and when you say people emulate someone like Edward.

JP: I didn’t say emulated Edward, you did. I didn’t say that at all, you did. Do you want to run the tape back and check what I said right now? What I said was with Jeff’s sound. Do you want to turn this off right now or what? Because I can go through it again.

I wouldn’t write down anything you didn’t say. I just made a mistake.

JP: No, listen, I don’t care what you put down, I want you to try and lift things up. What I’m trying to say is you’ve got so many guitarists who come to the forefront as figures like Jeff, and Edward, obviously you being a great friend of his, and McLaughlin, all of them. But the ones who you immediately think of when you say “guitarists” and if you’re hard-pressed to come up with names, these are the people you’ll think of. And if you’re playing guitar at home, one of those may be the guitarist you relate to. So when you say “classical” I don’t know whether you meant Eddie Van Halen or what? Classic, maybe, not classical.

I feel that guitarists from the late '60s had such unique styles and were so easily identifiable.

JP: Yes, of course. It occurs to me that contemporary guitar players haven’t done anything that hasn’t already been done. That is where the guitar synthesizer might come in but I wouldn’t take it on. But there is far more sensitivity in acoustic guitar players than could ever be compared to any synthesizer. No way. That’s a personal point of view but that’s the way I see it. I think that’s what it’s all about. The drive, the fire, the passion—it all comes out on the guitar.

Do you think guitarists in bands like Raft and Motley Crue show sensitivity? Do those names mean anything to you?

JP: Yeah, I’ve heard the names. I saw one Motley Crue video the other night. Someone asked me once about Van Halen and I didn’t know if it was a group or what and they said, “Oh, you’re kidding? You’re putting me on?” And I said, “No, I don’t know, I’ve never heard of them.” This was in England and a radio interview and it wasn’t until much later, “Jump” and all that business, that I heard of them. This was three years beforehand. Mind you the guy did say, “Do yourself a favor and go and buy his album [laughs].”

I can only pass comments on what I’ve really sort of heard. And it’s not fair to do so if you don’t. And that’s the truth. I just wondered when you asked me the question about Van Halen if you knew what I’d said on radio. That was said once and if you thought I was putting you on, I wasn’t.

I only asked you about Van Halen because he is a friend...

JP: . . . Well, I told you that…

... And I think he’s an extraordinary guitar player.

JP: He is. He’s developed a technique which is really good. As far as pushing the guitar onwards, yeah, great. That’s what it is all about.

Moving on to other things, was the ARMS show in fact the first time you and Paul Rodgers performed together?

JP: Yes, absolutely.

Was there an intention at that time to put a band together?

JP: No. I didn’t have a singer and I needed one and it was like an SOS really because Steve Winwood was singing at the Royal Albert Hall show in England but he wasn’t coming to the States. So there I was without me fig leaf, so to speak. I had played with Paul a few times at his house, we had a couple of jams. I had been to his house and there were these bits and pieces but that was well prior, six or nine months prior, to the ARMS thing.

Were you nervous appearing at ARMS after not having played for so long in public?

JP: That’s an understatement. Of course I was. I was terrified but I wanted to do the whole thing. It was funny because I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it, I’ll do it, yeah, great!” but at the last moment I thought, “Oh, God, what am I gonna do!” It’s the truth. It’s funny but it’s true because everyone else had notable solo careers. Like Steve Winwood, fuck, he’s had enough solo albums, and Eric, and Jeff [starts laughing]. But the fact was everyone was working so tightly together. Not for themselves but for the cause of it which was great. I’ll tell you, I don’t think any promoter could get those three guitarists doing that. Do you know what I mean? But for the right reason they’re there.

Did it feel good playing with Beck and Clapton again?

JP: Oh, yeah. Yeah! The three of us have never played together. We’ve never played together as the three of us. I’ve played with Jeff and Jeff has played with Eric and I’ve played with Eric but never the three of us.

Does the fact that you brought back “Stairway To Heaven” at the ARMS concert say that you saw it as one of the more important pieces of music you’ve written?

JP: I wouldn’t bring it back because I consider it’s always there and not just purely as a vocal number. As a piece of music and as far as my writing end of it—absolutely. But the lyrics are as important as the music so it’s a really a fine fusion between the two things. The fact is, when you’ve got twenty or twenty-five minutes of music to come up with in that ARMS thing, I didn’t really have anything. I was certainly not going to turn my back on the past as such as far as my own personal contribution went. If we had known at that time that it was going to be Steve Winwood in London and Paul over here I wouldn’t have insulted anybody by mentioning it. But if you can see it as the fact of someone singing it, yeah, sure, it would be absolutely wrong. But just by playing the music on the guitar I thought it was the right thing to do.

Did you ever have any sort of desire to pursue a solo career as such? Maybe make a solo record of hits of music you had been collecting over the years?

JP: Yeah, I know what you mean. Yes, now. But you see you’ve got to realize, I was with Zeppelin and as far as my end as a guitarist, the dream was to play with those sort of people that are that good and everything seems to be going on. Ever onwards and outwards. But I think when anyone forms a band or is part of a band. . . it was a privilege to be part of Zeppelin, obviously. I know everyone would say they were part of that. And the chemistry was so good.

How did Live Aid feel?

JP: Hmmm, OK, well... [smiles]. Live Aid felt like one hour’s rehearsal which we all had after not having played together for seven years. [Page exaggerates the time period, it was closer to five years]. But it was great to be part of it, really. At one point I was almost forgetting why I was really there. I was so worried about forgetting this chord and that chord because I hadn’t played the numbers for years. But to be part of Live Aid was wonderful. It really was.

And you mentioned that you had been doing some writing with Robert?

JP: Yeah, we have been. We’ve been playing together, yeah.

What does it feel like?

JP: Well, it feels like playing with old friends so it’s good. It’s good therapy, too, because everyone is in their own direction one way or the other. Well we all know everyone is into different things. And it was interesting. I must admit at first it was kind of odd. Not odd but a big smile and slightly tense the first day. The second day was great and we were all close together. It was great, fantastic. You’re talking from the last time we played it’s been years.

How did you like The Honeydrippers record?

JP: It was good. I think it’s good for you to do that sort of thing. Robert sings that sort of thing good and he’s really at home in that sort of music. And he sounds good, too.

And what about John Paul Jones’ solo album?

JP: Scream For Help? I haven’t heard the record as such but he’s quite an amazing musician when he’s writing that classical stuff. He has an Arts Council Grant to do so. I mean he was telling me about some of his ideas and what he was going to do and it was fantastic, brilliant, as far as that goes, but he’s a rock and roller. If his record just came our recently, we’ve been on the road pretty much all the time and I haven’t had a chance to get it. But if it’s the soundtrack for Scream For Help, which I presume it to be—it was really good. Varied writing, which is really great, and it shows how he is on the synthesizer.

Obviously, "Coda" was not the last album you wanted to make with Led Zeppelin.

JP: Of course not, no. But if you knew how many bootlegs there were out on Zeppelin, those were the only studio tracks that were left. Actually there were some tracks that weren’t on because they’d gone actually [laughs]. Good tracks. They sort of disappeared in New York or somewhere. But those were all the studio recordings left from amassing all the Zeppelin tapes. And that’s only relative to the bootleg situation.

And what about In Through The Out Door, the last real Zeppelin studio album?

JP: It was the last album as such where we were all together in the studio to be playing. What can I say? It’s a tragedy that John Bonham passed away. I think that at that point in time In Through The Out Door could have been a very interesting transitional stage to what would have been happening after that. I think it really would have been interesting to see what came after that. But I don’t know, maybe we would have split up. I don’t know, I don’t think so.

Does any of the music of The Firm contain bits and pieces that you may have written for Zeppelin?

JP: Oh, of course, everything. Of course because that’s me. To have been part of a band like that and limited within what our boundaries are, I know what my limitations are— you’re pushing yourself nevertheless all the time. So I would say yes, of course. By pushing yourself all the time, you’re putting your own character into that band. And that is it. You’re still pushing onward [referring to The Firm], but you’re still identifiable as yourself. Do you know what I’m saying? You can hear Paul’s voice and you know it’s Paul. It’s the same thing when you hear Eddie Van Halen— you know it’s him.

That’s the only thing I can do in life is play guitar. It’s a commitment to the guitar.

Did you read what was written about Zeppelin in "Hammer Of The Gods"?

JP: No; I read bits. I couldn’t read it all through because it was crap. What did you want to know about that?

I was just curious if you’d read it and what you thought about it?

JP: Well, it’s someone trying to make a buck out of Zeppelin, isn’t it?

In your conversation with William Burroughs years ago in Crawdaddy, you talked about laser notes which “cut right through.” Do you think you’ve managed to play any of those notes over the years?

JP: Thanks a lot [laughs]. That was a good idea at the time but I don’t know about now. I remember that actually; that was great meeting William Burroughs.

I think you’ve probably played one or two of those notes at one time or another?

JP: Maybe, yeah.

Does making videos as an art form appeal to you?

JP: Making them, yeah, but not appearing in them. I like the idea of it. I don’t know how to explain [to someone else] the techniques of it. I can’t even mime the bastards properly and that is a drag [laughs]. But all I can say to you is if you’ve seen ZZ Top’s latest one [“Rough Boy”] then you could see how I’d say to somebody, “I have this idea but I don’t know how it’s done." There are techniques which I’ve been away from for a long time and I wouldn’t know. I’m determined to find out how some of that [ZZ Top] video was done.

Are you a fan of ZZ Top’s music?

JP: I think that’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. They really are incredible. They have great music, really fine playing, really solid, and they have a sense of humor as well. They’re damn fine. And everyone is enjoying it and they’re enjoying themselves. As far as their videos go, every one has been a winner, hasn’t it? But I must admit I haven’t had that much to do with videos.

Talking about the new album, it sounds like "Mean Business" has more of the drama, that dark side of the Zeppelin music, than the first Firm album had. The first record seemed a bit more tentative.

JP: It would appear like that in retrospect, yeah. Yeah, it would appear like that—but it wasn’t. The material is a lot stronger on this album. And then again the band had been playing together for at least a year prior to doing it. I must admit it would have been good to have done certain tracks on that first album again at that point but that’s all I’d got. It’s a statement of where you are at that point in time.

Were you looking for a certain kind of rhythm section for the band? When you heard Tony Franklin and Chris Slade did you know they were right for the band?

JP: I wanted to get a couple of hooligans, yeah. They’re good guys and damn fine musicians [bassist Tony Franklin had been playing with Roy Harper for the past three years and it was during a Harper gig that Page and Franklin met; drummer Slade has played with an array of bands and on the same day he received the call from Jimmy he was phoned by David Gilmour for his solo tour—he was determined to undertake both ventures and he did].

The fretless bass is an interesting texture.

JP: Oh, Christ, yes. Tony is amazing. Watch out for Tony because he’s a fine musician and a fine writer. A couple of years and everyone will know what it’s all about.

Is it true you were also interested in Pino Paladino [Paul Young’s bassist]?

JP: That’s right, yeah. Purely because he and Chris had played together before.

Without trying to be too inquisitive...

JP: You can be as inquisitive as you want in the right areas providing you only print those areas.

OK. Is there any other information you can give about your work with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones?

JP: Well what do you want to know? What do you want to know for fuck’s sake?

Will Led Zeppelin get together?

JP: Is that what you wanted to know? OK, fair enough. The guys, the band is getting back together and playing maybe every six months or every year. That’s all. If I can do so without it being public knowledge that would be great. But I can’t do it obviously. That’s the truth, too. It’s so difficult or it appears to be. It would be nice to play together just as friends.

Or maybe just make some music together.

JP: Just as friends, that’s it. I mean, who knows? I think everyone has their own thing going on separately. If you’ve had a friendship in the past, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get together. I played with Robert in the Honeydrippers thing and I’m playing with John on the Scream For Help album. So why not? Why shouldn’t the three of us get back together and see what happens? And have a good smile at the end of the day, hopefully, and that’s it.

I get the impression that you would have felt comfortable as a street musician on some corner, say, in Morocco.

JP: Maybe not quite on a street corner or whatever, but certainly to a degree where you could have a play somewhere and not have a big hoohah follow you. Just to be able to have a play with other guys and not have a to-do about it. That’s relative to a street musician and minstrel singers as well.

I just started playing the guitar. If I’d never played the guitar I’d probably be a juvenile... well, I wouldn’t be a juvenile delinquent at 42, would I? I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t played the guitar. Mass murderer.

Do you practice the guitar?

JP: No, I couldn’t do that. It’s usually the acoustic guitar for a start and it’s usually in a tuning. I sort of change tunings around a bit and I’m searching for new chords and shapes and things. I don’t just sit down and play scales and things. I should have done but I never did. I can’t play a scale. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. I can’t. Well I can, I can play the notes but it’s true though. I can’t play a bar chord. It’s true. It’s unbelievable, isn’t it [much laughter]? It’s true though. It’s just try to do whatever you can do on an instrument and give it 100 percent of what you can do with the time you have to do it. I push myself as far as I can go within the instrument at that point in time.

You’re not the type of player who would take a Floyd Rose and put it on an instrument. Rather, you’d work with the stock mechanism, as an example, and make that work for you.

JP: What’s that [referring to the Floyd Rose]? Is that one of those things where you can’t change the string if it breaks? I don’t have one of them. Whatever guitar you’ve got, at that point in time you work it so it’s right for you. It’s like a marriage, isn’t it? I think so. It’s therapy.

That is your therapy?

JP: I’ve already said to you earlier on it was great therapy. Come on, get on with it!

[silence on my part as I collect my thoughts]

Do you have any interest in producing other bands?

JP: Yeah, well I wouldn’t mind. If I felt comfortable in the situation, yeah, sure. If it was something which really grabbed my imagination, sure I would.

Do you feel that you could continue working within The Firm and working with Paul? Are you comfortable musically?

JP: Yeah, I could continue playing with Paul, sure. All of us, I’m sure, will have our own solo projects. Obviously, Paul has made solo albums before and I’ve got a few projects I want to do. Not singing. I won’t talk about it. I think the best thing to do is not talk about it because usually when you outline ideas sometimes they don’t come off. It’s a pipedream. But it might be playing the guitar as such, instrumental stuff. But I don’t want to outline some of the ideas because they might sound far more interesting than what they may really be.

Would you mind talking about some of the specific tracks from the albums? What are the effects you’re doing at the beginning of “Cadillac” [from the "Mean Business" album]?

JP: What do you want to know? The effects at the beginning? It’s trying to make the guitar sound as dirty as fucking possible, that’s what it’s trying to do.

[Tim Marten offers. “The strings are slack and then you pull it up (imitates ascending in pitch).”]

As far as that version of “Cadillac” goes, we were lucky to get it because it was a live number and you can’t do that in a room with a couple of takes because it has to be live.

The second Firm album was recorded after the band had been on the road and the second Zeppelin album was recorded...

JP: ... while the band was actually touring. [Lifts sheet of questions from the table and pauses while interviewer changes tape and interview winds down]. We were on the road and it was during the first couple of years of the band. There’s going to be a different type of energy relative to touring. But I think there was an energy on the fourth album and Physical Graffiti and whatever. You talk about the energy on the second album, what energy is more important than “Stairway”?

[Page is looking over the questions].

I’m just trying to tie up the loose ends.

Does the first Firm album hold any of the emotion that the first Zeppelin did?

JP: Obviously, there was an emotion as far as my end of it went but, as you see, it may not be as intense as far as the reception of it. But, nevertheless, it’s exactly the same emotion.

On the first album you cover "You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” Was Phil Spector’s music something you listened to?

JP: Yeah, but I’ve never met him. We went to Gold Stone once with Zeppelin, which is where he recorded. It was amazing. It was as funky as you’d expect it; it was fantastic.

Did Motown hold that attraction for you?

JP: I think Motown had that attraction for Phil Spector, didn’t they? Popular classics really.

You obviously liked what Les Paul did [there is a picture of Page and Les Paul in a glass frame sitting on a shelf in the hotel room]?

JP: More than anything I appreciated enough of his playing, but to meet him and see how natural he was was amazing. Apart from the fact he’s a genius, he’s such a warm person. I’ve never had the chance to actually play guitar with him at the same time. I’ve been to his house and we’ve had a chat. He’s the father of everything.

And he made the first headless bass.

JP: Yes, he’s incredible.

Would you ever bring the theremin back?

JP: No, I don’t think so. Come on, last two questions.

Do you plan to make another Firm album following the tour?

JP: I don’t have any plans at the moment.

OK, that’s great. Thank you so much.

JP: OK? That was only one question.

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Great article posts from both. It was interesting to hear him get so firm with the second interviewee. Whether he was joking or not I guess we'll never know. Anyway, great posts. Helped pass some time at work. Zeppelin is the best at that. Actually, they are the best at everything. :thumbsup:

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Obviously, "Coda" was not the last album you wanted to make with Led Zeppelin.

JP: Of course not, no. But if you knew how many bootlegs there were out on Zeppelin, those were the only studio tracks that were left. Actually there were some tracks that werent on because theyd gone actually [laughs]. Good tracks. They sort of disappeared in New York or somewhere. But those were all the studio recordings left from amassing all the Zeppelin tapes. And thats only relative to the bootleg situation.

Were these tracks stolen, lost or erased???

R B)

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It was kind of revealing to hear him say he never practices. Maybe that can can explain his playing from '77 and onwards. Too much drugs and not enough practicing. Watching TSRTS again the other night shows how mind-blowing his playing was in '73. It seems he lost a little bit each tour after that. Maybe he stopped practicing? That would explain why he sounded more sloppy in later tours. Still my favorite player ever though.

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Thanks Mell for posting these two interviews. Good reads. Jimmy was a bit moody in the '86 interview but mostly upbeat. What set him off was the Guitar Player interview from 1986, (done by Steven Rosen) supplying quotes that Jimmy didn't say in the interview and Jimmy was just making his point, by correcting him and making sure he wasn't misquoted, so something completely different doesn't appear in the published interview. He's had enough trouble with the press over the years.

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