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Brad Tolinski: Jimmy Page is a Complicated Interview

By Published: October 19, 2013
AAJ: What is the basic understanding with an artist that you have before going into an interview?

BT: There are no ground rules. Everybody is different and you have to be sensitive to their responses. It's like musical improvisation: it's fine to know how to play over the chords, but to be any good you have to listen and respond to the flow of the other musician.

AAJ: Page is known as someone that shies away from interviews. How difficult or how easy it was to talk to him about his past?

BT: I answer this pretty thoroughly in the book's introduction. Essentially, he was fine if you did your homework and focused on the music, and very, very tough if you didn't.

AAJ: What are some surprises that you've come across while interviewing Page over the years?

BT: What I found endearing was just how excited he is about his music and legacy. He has real enthusiasm for his work in the Yardbirds and speaks vividly about every era whether it's Led Zeppelin, The Firm or his collaboration with P. Diddy. He's told me lots of good stories, but the information I had to work hardest for was specifics about guitars and amps. He would always say, "If I tell you what I used, somebody will go and buy them all up and I won't be able to find what I need!" But eventually I'd wear him down. I think I was surprised how much he loved and used Vox Super Beatle amps! Sorry, I know that sounds a little nerdy...

AAJ: Can you remember first hearing the music of Led Zeppelin? What did it signify for you when you first heard this music?

BT: I was in my early teens when I hear the first two albums. I'm sorta old, so I actually heard them when they first came out! I really flipped for how cinematic they were, although "Dazed and Confused" initially creeped me out. I grew up in a quiet suburb of Detroit, Michigan that was probably much like many Midwestern suburbs in the United States, filled with fast food outlets and K-Marts. In other words, boring. The music of Zeppelin had this exotic appeal—it painted pictures of something otherworldly and I loved it because it took me out of my pimply, humdrum teenage existence. It's little surprise that I was completely psyched when the band released their fifth album, Houses of the Holy (Atlantic, 1973) on my 14th birthday in 1973. It was almost as if an alien spacecraft flew by and deposited its strange cargo just for me. Houses is their best recorded and most sonically adventurous album, and remains my favorite Zeppelin album to this day. Filled with bizarre Day-Glo textures and power chords, "No Quarter," "Dancing Days," "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "The Song Remains the Same" are wonderfully surrealistic.

I saw Zeppelin perform later that year at Detroit's legendary Cobo Hall arena, and they were, of course, great. Over two decades later I mentioned this to the band's iconic guitarist Jimmy Page. He startled me by quickly asking "The first or second night?" as if we were talking about something that happened last week. I told him I couldn't remember, but I had a faint recollection of an extended jam where Robert traded vocal licks with Jimmy's Theremin. Page responded, "Oh yeah, that was the second night. We probably went on a bit too long, and as soon as we came off stage, our manager Peter Grant scolded us and told us to never do that again!"

AAJ: To your opinion what differentiates the music of Led Zeppelin compared to other artists in its era or any era?

BT: Jimmy Page's production, like George Martin's with the Beatles, made all the difference. He is a really great producer; his compositions are incredibly interesting and complex. He is somebody who went down to the details of taking care of what the band would look like visually and artistically.

AAJ: The interviews go into detailed probing on most of Led Zep material but In Through the out Door (Swan Song, 1979) is a subject less discussed as is Coda (Swan Song, 1982). What is your take on these swan song creations?

BT: I'm not a huge fan of either...but they have their moments. "In the Evening" is fantastic. One of these days I'll chat with Jimmy about those albums. We just never had the time. In some ways, I see the book as a work in progress.

AAJ: The book gives a great first account of his career as an artist told from his own viewpoint. But since 1998 he hasn't recorded any new material and the projects he has worked on are Led Zeppelin archival ones. Where do you think Page is at now as an artist and performer?

BT: In some ways he's been pretty busy. He's done a great job on the various Zeppelin-related projects like How the West Was Won and the re-issue of the movie Song Remains the Same. His art book released through Genesis is really impressive and innovative, and so is his website. He was involved in the Celebration Day soundtrack, he recently re- issue the Lucifer Rising soundtrack and the Death Wish II soundtrack, and there is a poorly kept rumor about another ambitious Zep reissue series, so there has been activity.

I wouldn't be surprised if we heard some new music from him in the upcoming year. Regarding his "career," I'm sure he will take his music wherever he wants, which is fine by me. He's got incredibly high standards for himself, so embarking on a new musical project is a pretty big deal for him.

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