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Jimmy Page on Where the Music Comes From
By Steve Zuckerman
(more articles from this author)
2001-12-10
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[Steve Zuckerman] Why have the blues been your major form of expression? What in the blues do you relate to since it's primarily a black, urban, american form of expression?

Jimmy Page British blues is really just where the musicians that got involved with it just really vibed in on the emotional aspect of what was being played just as much as what was being said, coming out in blues as opposed to some of the social statements people like Chuck Berry came out with. I remember Eric Clapton saying after he heard Freddie King that there was more to guitar than what he realized---there was this whole emotional aspect to it, and the conveying of sound pictures and moods into music. The only way I could put any reality between myself and the blues is the fact that it was a great text book to learn from. The actual technique of what was being applied to guitars--finger tremors, etc.---is something every rock and roll guitarist vibes on.

[Steve Zuckerman] What were your earliest influences in the blues?

Jimmy Page Well, chronologically speaking, as I heard them, B.B. King, Elmore James, Freddie King and Buddy Guy. Buddy Guy and Otis Rush are the ones that really did it for me.

[Steve Zuckerman] What are your feelings about the 1980's Engligh punk rock groups that sprung up? They really hold a great deal of animosity towards established rock groups, not to mention the establishment. I heard that the sex pistols 'god save the queen' was actually number one during silver jubilee week.

Jimmy Page I think that the new wave was so important. Time and time again, rock music, which is basically street music in as much as it is coming from people in the streets, always had a great urgency to it---rawness and basic aggression.

[Steve Zuckerman] Do you consider new music and the new wave of english punk rock a reaction to many of the big British rock groups moving away from England and rarefly touring anymore? What will be the main ingredient of its survival?

Jimmy Page It's more a question of supply and demand. Led Zeppelin couldn't possibly play a small court. I remember a long time ago in Chicago at the Kinetic Playground, there were riots in the streets because people literally couldn't get in!

[Steve Zuckerman] What direction do you feel this phenomenon will move in?

Jimmy Page The new wave of rock seems to be something a lot more sexual and violent innuendoes rather than the dope and peace of years ago. There's a heavy S&M wave influencing a lot of the material being written.

[Steve Zuckerman] To what do you attribute this?

Jimmy Page I think that it can exist for quite a long time. That always seems to spring up when things are sort of mellow or there's no real sense of direction happening. It will happen every time at that stagnant stage, you'll get the people that are bored and really uptight, but you get the innovators as well. The whole scene seems to be designed after Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, lots of Velvet Underground. I think that someone like Johnny Rotten is just full of criticism. He's not giving society anything to replace what he's trying to know down, you know, something to tie up the loose ends. I think that it's more important to be able to become involved with the system to the point where they can actually change it.

[Steve Zuckerman] What sort of things influence your writing?

Jimmy Page The obvious sort of aspect is travel and the influence of a foreign place. The rhythm of it, the smell of it. Obviously, I soaked myself in rock and roll and blues in the first ten years I played. There are things I listen to at home, things in chords that don't relate to rock and roll. Classical music, Stravinsky--I don't think that there's anybody with that kind of intellect to write that kind of stuff anymore. Nobody. It's like I was saying about someone coming along and tying up all of the loose ends. Stravinsky did that. His intonations, his rhythms. 'The rites of Spring.' 'Petrouchka' are all amazing compositions. The musical directors of film scores can keep writing film scores for the next fifty years on the data they acquired from these people. Sometimes, in my own compositions, I might be in a real rage about something, maybe after a huge argument with someone, I just talk it out on the guitar. Some people smash places, some break windows. But a lot of times you will find things will come out of pre-aggression.

[Steve Zuckerman] Did you do a lot of writing when you were on the road?

Jimmy Page Yes. I've written lots of stuff. I find that the best period for me to write is when I'm absolutely exhausted and there's nothing to interrupt the flow and direction of thought. Robert Plant and I were very choosy about the marriage of the music and the lyrics. We were very sympathetic towards each other. In writing, I try to capture a vibe, like an idea of the first love that you ever had, the one that always sort of gets left behind, but stays with you all of the time. So at the tend of the compositions, you can say 'Yeah, I've don it.' It's exactly the person I was thinking of when I put the whole thing together.

[Steve Zuckerman] What did you attribute the cohesiveness of Led Zeppelin to?

Jimmy Page There was an incredible amount of respect between all of us, along with a chemical quality that seemed to appear, a sort of ESP within the members you might say. We understood and compromised with each other. An example is when we would go into the studio. If you start recording from rehearsals, you get together--this is of course after the guns and stiletto knives are laid on the table (laughter) and that's the time to get everything out in the open. After we get things worked out and go into the studios, it's like spontaneous combustion. it's a kind of magic that just sort of happens. For example, when we recorded 'Rock and Roll' Bonzo suddenly started playing the introduction to 'Good Golly Miss Molly.' I then went in on guitar. The thing only lasted eight bars or so, and Bonzo had been goofing off. he hadn't really been listening to what John Paul Jones had been playing, but it had obvious potential for the number, so we just started working it out. Another good example of spontaneous combustion was 'The grunge.' We suddenly changed from the off beat to the on beat. It was executed with a real tongue-in-cheek attitude. Bonzo started playing drums and Jones went in on bass and I started playing guitar. It worked out great!

[Steve Zuckerman] What do you find yourself feeling the most creative doing? Production, playing or writing? Where do your rewards come from?

Jimmy Page Well, if I'm looking forward to the future, I guess it would be a combination of production and playing. I've got a lot of compositions and long pieces that I've written that are sort of orchestrated with guitars in substitution of strings and going into the treatments with synthesizers and things like that. Creativity in the combination of the three, obviously comes into it. Producing it, writing it and engineering it. There's got to be a balance, you see. Everything seems to be in really good balance when we've got a tour lines up. Playing is equally important because feedback from the audience is so essential. Any group is only as good as its audience. It's great to look out there and see one big smile.

[Steve Zuckerman] Have you ever considered doing a concept album?

Jimmy Page This piece I was working on isn't a conceptual piece as such. It involved all different things. Lots of acoustic and flaming guitars. Sort of modern classical. There are only four sections, there won't be any singing, it's not that long. Initially, I was going to do it on the seasons, but Zeppelin already covered the seasons in 'The Rain Song.' So, I'm thinking about the elements.

[Steve Zuckerman] You're very different offstage than you are onstage. You're very much an extrovert onstage and come off as really aggressive although it seems you're quite the opposite when you're in other surroundings. Do you ever feel like doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde?

Jimmy Page Yes. I definitely do. People who begin to know me, such as yourself, who sort of manage to reach my inner sanctum, always say that they find it very difficult to relate to the person they see onstage to the person they're speaking with offstage.

[Steve Zuckerman] A well known producer said 'making records is like making love except you never really climax.' Do you agree with that as a producer or as a musician?

Jimmy Page I don't think that's true at all . A good example of that is the blues on 'Presence.' I was horrified of doing that solo. We had done two takes of it. One was with a solo and vocals and the other without a solo and just the chord. Of course, as luck would have it, the second one was the one we used because the vocals were better. Suddenly it hit me about the blues solos. Good ones haven't been recorded since around 1965 except by Eric (Clapton) and those people. I just felt that I couldn't do it and really get it right. I didn't want to pull out all those blues clichés in it or blast it out. That's really not my bag. It has never been. Anyway, I took the best solo out of the few we did and it just seemed to end up great! You know, everything just fell into place. The whole idea of doing the blues was to create a really mellow laid-back feeling. It's nice to do something you can really hold back on without sort of blowing out. Another example is 'Since I've Been Loving You.' It has bags of attack in one respect on guitar and just---you hold your breath and then it comes.

[Steve Zuckerman] Watching you play guitar onstage is amazing. It's not like seeing two separate entities, like a man and a guitar. It's like watching this person talk to the audience through something that seems to be very much a part of him. One senses a strong unification between you and the instrument.

Jimmy Page Yes. I've had people tell me that. I really do feel a very strong unification with my guitar. Playing guitar to me is an extension of myself. It's like having another arm. It's definitely a form of communication. Without sounding pretentious, there's a hell of a lot of love flowing to me when I'm on the stage.


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