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Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin's Remastered Albums

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Q&A: Jimmy Page on the last of the Led Zep reissues

By: Ben Rayner Pop Music Critic, Published on Fri Jul 24 2015

Toronto Star

We all know you can’t turn on a rock radio station for more than 30 minutes without hearing another Led Zeppelin tune, but Jimmy Page has higher hopes for the airwaves now that he’s about to flood the market with expanded reissues of Zep’s final three albums — or two-and-a-half, depending upon where you stand on the post-John Bonham catalogue — Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda.

“It’ll be interesting when you turn on the radio and you hear some of these alternate versions,” offered the esteemed English guitar virtuoso whilst in town to stamp (not autograph) copies of his re-released “photographic autobiography” Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page at the Bay/Bloor Indigo. He’ll also talk up the latest batch of reanimated Led Zep product — at Yonge Street’s fabled Masonic Temple, site of Toronto’s first Led Zep show in 1969 when it was known as the Rock Pile — on Monday.

“That’s when I’ll have gone ‘Yeah, OK, that’s it.’ But we don’t know whether that’ll happen.”

It won’t. Should you desire a Led Zeppelin experience that goes deeper than “Rock and Roll,”“Whole Lotta Love,”“Stairway to Heaven” and the handful of other classics ritually beaten to death by lazy classic-rock programmers, the last three of the nine Led Zep albums lovingly revisited, remastered and appended with worthy, previously unheard material from Page’s personal archives will have you contentedly suspended in nostalgia for months to come. The band’s 1982 swan song, Coda, comes with what Page calls “the mother of all codas”: two new “companion” discs worth of previously neglected material.

All three re-releases arrive July 31, concluding a “Herculean” long-term project overseen by Page that, as he puts it, effectively “doubles up the amount of studio product that was already out there.”

Q: Have you just been endlessly poring over tapes for years digging for material for these reissues?

A: From before the re-release of Led Zeppelin I, II and III I had to make sure that all the stuff we’re talking about was already done. I’d already got all this stuff put together for the companion discs and it was gonna give this whole picture. And where it came from was analogue tapes of alternate mixes or mixes of songs that we hadn’t ever released or versions of songs that people didn’t know about . . . I knew what I was looking for. I knew, for example, there was a whole set of mixes from Sunset Sound in Los Angeles of the fourth album . . . so I wanted to make sure there was a version of “Stairway” and of “Misty Mountain Hop” from those sessions that was superb and etc., etc. etc. I had them all filed away in memory. So what I had to do was go through my archive and listen to every tape that I had just in case there was something in a tape box — they’re all quarter-inch tapes — that was Led Zeppelin, but because there wasn’t anything written on it I was gonna bypass it. I had to leave no stone unturned.

Q: Do you have any idea how many hours you’ve invested in these reissues?

A: I don’t know. I didn’t add them up because I don’t work like that, on an hourly rate. It’s more a sort of passionate, “OK, whatever this takes to get this right.” It’s not the time that it takes to do something like that, although it was substantial. It was long. But I’ve been doing other projects. I’m here doing the book. That was an incredibly long project because it starts with me as, like, a 12-year-old kid and goes through to me getting an honorary doctorate at Berklee College, which is only a year or so ago. It shows every decade. It shows a musician in the early days, and in early bands and studio work, and in the Yardbirds on the way to Zeppelin. It literally is an autobiography in photographs.

Q: Do you have rooms full of this stuff, then? Are you a relentless archivist?

A: Yes, I am. I am. I hope it wouldn’t be called hoarding by other people. But I am.

Q: Is it a relief to be finished going back through the Led Zep catalogue then or is this kind of a bittersweet “Well, what do I do now?” moment?

A: I seem to have tireless energy when I get involved in things, on an almost OCD basis, which is a good way to do things because if you’re gonna do something you’d better make sure you do it well. At least that’s the way I do things. The benchmark of quality I go for is pretty high. I had a master plan and the master plan was that, at the end of these releases, then I would start putting all of this energy into being seen to play live again.

Q: It’s about time.

A: Well, it is. But I haven’t been able to because of all this other stuff. I couldn’t concentrate properly on even thinking about another project until all of this was done. But now’s the time. Now’s the time to really get into the guitar to such a point that all the material I’ve got and all this revisiting of things that I’ve done in the past is put together so that it becomes a project.

Q: And do you have a project in mind?

A: Well, that is the project. I’m not being sarcastic or facetious when I say it’s a guitar project because that’s what it is. That’s it. That’s what it is until I’ve actually done it. It’ll manifest when it manifests, really
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