For more than two decades, Brad Tolinski has been the editor in chief of some of the most popular and successful music magazines in the world: Guitar World Magazine, Guitar Aficionado and Revolver. In 2012 these three magazines were purchased by publisher NewBay Media and shortly after that he was named Editorial Director of the Music Group, that also has several other U.S. music titles, including Guitar Player, Bass Player, Electronic Musician, Keyboard Magazine and Mix Magazine. Over the years, he has interviewed Led Zeppelin's intensely private guitarist Jimmy Page more than any other journalist and he has compiled those insightful and enlightening interviews with his own insights into a book titled Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. It also includes interludes of conversation with people like Jack White, John Paul Jones, Danny Goldberg, Paul Rogers and more. This book is a work of art and a great aid in the understanding one of the most enigmatic and most gifted musical figures of our time.
All About Jazz: What prompted you to collect your interviews with Jimmy Page over the years in a book?
Brad Tolinski: After 20 years of regularly speaking with Jimmy, I realized my interviews told an important story. They explained the creative process of one the great musicians of the 20th Century.
AAJ: When did you realize you had enough material for a book with interviews? When did you first think of doing a book with interviews with Page?
BT: I started seeing that other books were referencing my material without any proper context. I wasn't interested in the sensational story of Jimmy Page, I wanted to tell the musical story. I think that when it comes to Led Zeppelin and Jimmy's work in particular you find that there's a disservice to it in the music journalism community. It seems that all of the focus has been on the exploits of the band and the more sensational aspects of their life. I mean, Led Zeppelin is the second largest rock band of all time in terms of sales, only behind The Beatles, and it really bothered me that no one was paying attention to how important and how interesting the music was.
AAJ: What has been the significance of Jimmy Page to you both as a guitarist and a fan?
BT: He is not the fastest or cleanest player, but he is certainly is one of the most original guitarists and composers in the history of rock. The chords voicings on "Dancing Days" and "No Quarter" for example, are completely outrageous. I really can't think of anybody else that could've concocted "Achilles Last Stand" or "Stairway to Heaven." Jimmy is a really great producer, his compositions are incredibly interesting and complex and as a performer and as somebody who went down to the details of taking care of what the band would look like visually and artistically, I don't think there has ever been a more well rounded guitarist in rock history than Jimmy.
AAJ: You are in a unique position of being both a music journalist/editor of a guitar music magazine and a guitarist yourself. How has the experience of working in these different domains informed your understanding of the other?
BT: Knowing how to play an instrument and understanding the recording process was why I was able to connect with Page. My skill as an editor and write allowed me to accurately convey the flavor and flow of the conversation. I think Jimmy, and other musicians that I talk with appreciate both.
AAJ: Please talk about the concept and how you structured "Light and Shade" with the interviews and preludes.
BT: Jimmy is a complicated interview. He only reveals what he wants to reveal. I felt I need a few other voices to complete the entire picture and provide some outside perspective. I thought of the structure of the book as something symphonic: introducing different themes and then creating variations on them while never losing sight of the original idea.
AAJ: What steps do you usually take in researching before doing an interview with an artist? What sources do you draw from for research purposes and how much time goes into research, information gathering and fact-checking in general?
BT: It all depends. With Jimmy it was very important to be as meticulous as I could be with research. He would sour very quickly if I had inaccurate information or made wrong assumptions. I discovered that even if I thought I knew the answer, I always allowed him to speak first, and then comment afterwards. That said, research is not always about finding the facts. If you want to have a great conversation, you want to bring some of your own ideas to the party, so it's also important to be thoughtful...to really think about the art and have opinions.
AAJ: How did you prepare for the interviews with Page on the subjects discussed?
BT: Hours and hours. When I put together questions, I tend to think thematically. I think a lot about what it is that I want to find out. You know, you can go anywhere with somebody. I think a lot about where I want to go. It's like doing a dance. With Jimmy Page, I wanted to know about the music and not about his escapades.