but the prodigious contributions of james patrick page, born in 1945 in middlesex, england, date back to well before the formation of his present band. his work as a session guitarist earned him so lengthy a credit list (some sources cite jimmy as eing on 50-90% of the records released in england from 1963 to 1965) that he himself is no longer sure of each and every cut on which he played. even without the exact number of his vinyl encounters known, 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 name a few. in the mid-sixties page joined one of the best known british rock bands, the yardbirds, leading to a legendary collaboration with guitarist jeff beck. when the yardbirds disbanded in 1968, page was ready to start 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 musicians four-week introductory period resulted in led zeppelin, their first of many gold record-winning lp's.
g.p.:let's begin at the beginning.when you first started playing, what was going on musically?
j.p.: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 even hear good rock 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 energy and vitality coming out of it.
g.p.:when did you get your first guitar?
j.p.:when i was about 14. 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 and roll whatsoever at the time. but that first guitar was a grazzioso, which was like a copy of a stratocaster. then i git a real stratocaster, then one of 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 60's sessions on.
g.p.:were your parents musical?
j.p.:no not at all. but they didn't mind me getting into it; i think they were quite relieved to see something being done instead of artwork, which they thought was a loser's game.
g.p.:what music did you play when you first started?
j.p.: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 meeks, later. those seemed to be the most sustaining influences until i began to hear blues guitarists elmoe 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 session in the morning,and then there'd be something like a rock band, and the 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 on all of the different styles.
g.p.:do you remember the first band you were in?
j.p.:just friends and things. i played in a lot of different small bands around, but nothing you could ever get any records of.
g.p.:what kind of music were you playing with the early english rock band neil christian & the crusaders?
j.p.: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-ten records, so it was a bit of a struggle. but there'd always be a small section of the audience into what we were
g.p.:wasn't there a break in your music career at this point?
j.p.: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 marquee club in london. i used to go up and jam on a thursday night with the interlude band. one night somebody came up and 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 suddenly 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 taking a back seat 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.
g.p.:you just stopped playing?
j.p.: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 into 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 here 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 (rhythm guitarist) chris dreja could get it together with the 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 is on, he's probably the best there is, but at that time, and for a period afterwards, he had no respect whatsoever for audiences.
g.p.:you were playing acoustic guitar during your session period?
j.p.:yes, i had to do it on studio work. and you come to grips with it very quickly too, very quickly, because it is what is expected. there was a lot of busking (singing on street corners) in the early days, but as i say, i had to come to grips with it, and it was a good schooling.
g.p.:you were using the les paul for those sessions?
j.p.:the gibson "black beauty" les paul custom (ed. note: "black beauty," a term not officially adopted by gibson, is often applied to stock black les paul customs, both two- and three-pickup models.) 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 gretch chet atkins i'd had before for the les paul.
g.p.:what kind of amplifiers were you using for session work?
j.p.: 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.
g.p.:what do you remember most about your early days with the yardbirds?
j.p.: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.(ed. note: eric clapton played with the yardbirds 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 they wanted to go. they were definitely talented people, but they couldn't really see the woods for the trees at the time.
g.p.:you thought the best period of the yardbirds was when beck was with them?
j.p.:i did. giorgio gomelsky (the yardbird's 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 l.p. of the same name) to jeffto 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 such and such," and no one would ever know what the example was at the end of the song.
g.p.:can you describe some of your musical interaction with beck during the yardbirds period?
j.p.: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 l.p. 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 we had.
g.p.:did beck play bass on "over under¬† sideways down"?
j.p.:no, in fact,for that l.p. they just got him in to do the solos because they 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 if 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 diappeared. he was never seen again; he simply didn't come back. napier-bell, he just sort of left me and jeff to it. jeff was playing, and i was in the box (recording booth). and even though he says he wrote it, i wrote it. i'm playing the electric
twelve 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 goo lineup too, with (the who's drummer) keith moon and everything.
g.p.:wasn't that band going to be led zeppelin?
j.p.: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 moony 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 steve winwood or steve marriot. finally it came down to marriot. 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 marriot'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).
g.p.:you only recorded a few songs with beck on record.
j.p.: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), "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.
g.p.were you using any boosters with the yardbirds to get all those sounds?
j.p.:a fuzztone which i'd virtually regurgitated from what i heard on "200 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 one too then, but i was the one who got the effect going again. that accounted for quite a lot of the boost and that sort of sustain in the music.
g.p.:you were also doing all sorts of things with feedback.
j.p.: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 conciosly nicked it from anybody else; it was just going on. but pete townshend 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 notes and things than chords.
g.p.:you used a danelectro with the yardbirds?
j.p.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 b, then a, d, g, a, d. it's like a modal tuning - a sitar tuning in fact.
g.p.:was "black mountain side" on led zeppelin an extension of that?
j.p.:i wasn't totally original on that. it had been done 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 folk 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 a battering, that danelectro guitar, i'm afraid.
g.p.:do those songs work well now on the danelectro?
j.p.:i played them on that guitar before, so i'd thought i'd do it again. but i might change it around to something else, since my whole amp situation is different now from what it used to be. now it's marshall; then it was vox tops and different cabinets - kind of a hodge podge, but it worked.
g.p.:you used a vox 12-string with the yardbirds?
j.p.:that's right. i can't remember the titles now - the mickiemost things, some of the b-sides. i remember there was one with an electric 12-string 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.
g.p.:you were using vox amps with the yardbirds?
j.p.:ac-30's. they've held up consistently well.even the new ones are pretty good. 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.
g.p.:were the ac-30's that you used with the yardbirds modified in any way?
j.p.:only by vox. you could get these ones with special treble boosters on the back, which is what i had. no, i didn't do that much customizing apart from making sure that all the points, soldering contacts, and things were solid. the telecasters changed rapidly; you could tell because you could split the pickups - you know that split sound you get - and again you could get an out-of-phase sound. and then suddenly they didn't do it anymore. so they obviously changed the electronics. and there didn't seem to be any way to get it back. i tried to fiddle around with the wiring, but it didn't
work, so i just went back to the old one again.
g.p.:what kind of guitar were you using on the first led zeppelin album?
j.p.: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.
g.p.:was the telecaster the one beck gave to you?
j.p.:yes. there was work done on it but only afterwards. i painted it; everyone painted their guitars in those days. and i had a reflective plastic sheeting underneath the pickguard that gives rainbow colors.
g.p.:it sounds exactly like a les paul.
j.p.: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 may 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 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" (fourth untitled album) 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 time bad times"(fourth l.p.)(sic). it was wired up for an organ thing then.
g.p.:what kind of acoustic guitar are you using on "black mountain side" and "babe i'm gonna leave you"(both on led zeppelin)?
j.p.: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 didn't seem to feel like it.
g.p.:do you just use your fingers when playing acoustic?
j.p.:yes. i used fingerpicks once, but i find them to 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.
g.p.:can you describe your picking style?
j.p.:i don't know, really. it's a cross between fingerstyle and flat picking. there's aguy 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 calluses on the left hand and allover the right as well. he can get so much attack on his strings, and he's really good.
g.p.:the guitar on "communication breakdown" on led zeppelin sounds as if it's coming out of a shoebox.
j.p.:yeah.i put it in a small room, a little tiny vocal booth-type thing and miked it from a distance. you see, there's a very old recording maxim that goes, "distance makes depth." i've used that a hell of a lot on recording techniques with the band generally, not just me. you're always used to those 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. really, you shouldn't have to use an e.q. in the studio if the instruments sound right. it should all be done with the microphones. but see, everyone has gotten so carried away with e.q. 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 it, as were all those who produced the early rock records
where there were only one or two mikes in the studio.
g.p.: the guitar solo on "i can't quit you baby" from led zeppelin is interesting - many pull-offs in a sort of sloppy but amazingly inventive style.
j.p.: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 b flat 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 filmtrack 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 filmtrack. rather than just trailing around through a tour with a recording moble truck waiting fo 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.
g.p.:is there an electric 12-string on "thank you"?
j.p.:yes; i think it's a fender or richenbacher.
g.p.:jumping ahead to led zeppelin ii, the riff in the middle of "whole lotta love" was a very composed and structured phrase.
j.p.:i had it worked out already before entering the studio. i had rehearsed it. and then all that other stuff, sonic wave sound and all that, i built it up in the studio, and put effects on it and things, treatments.
g.p.:how is that descending riff done?
j.p.:with a medal 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 thing that might sound a bit odd have, in fact, backwards echo involved in them as well.
g.p.:what kind of effect are you using on the beginning of "ramble on"(led zeppelin ii)?
j.p.: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.
g.p.:is the rest of the band in the studio when you put down the solos?
j.p.: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 of the three.
g.p.:what is the effect on "out on the tiles" from led zeppelin iii?
j.p.: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.
g.p.:on "tangerine" it sounds as if you're playing a pedal steel.
j.p.i am. and on the first l.p. there's a pedal steel. i had 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" (led zeppelin). 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.
g.p.:you've also played other stringed instruments on records.
j.p.:"gallows pole" (on led zeppelin iii) was the first time for banjo and on "the battle of evermore" (fourth album) 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 sort of a cross between pete seeger, earl scruggs, and total incompetence.
g.p.:was the fourth album the first time you used a double-neck?
j.p.: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 my beginning of building up harmonized guitars properly. "ten years gone" (physical graffitti) was an extension of that, and then "achilles last stand" (presence) is like the essential flow of it really, because there was time to think 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 the l.p. 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 it's 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.
g.p.:did playing the double-neck require a new approach?
j.p.:yes. the main thing is, there's an effect you can get where you leave the 12-string neck open as afr 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 it does add to the overall tonal
g.p.:do you think your playing on the fourth album is the best you've ever done?
j.p.: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 you'd orchestrate a classical piece of music. instead of using brass and violins, you treat the guitars with synthesizers or other devices and give them
different treatments, so that they have enough frequency range and scope and everything to keep the listener as totally commited to it as the player is. it's a difficult project, but it's one that i've got to do.
g.p.:have you done anything towards this end already?
j.p.: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" (fourth l.p.), 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 one 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.
g.p.:what is the amplifier setup you're using now?
j.p.:onstage? marshall 100s which are customized in new york so they've got 200 watts. i've got four unstacked cabinets, and i've got a wah-wah pedal and an mxr unit. everything else is total flash (laughs). i've got a harmonizer, a theramin, violin bow, and an echoplex echo unit.
g.p.:are there certain settings you use on the amp?
j.p.:depending on the acoustics of the place, the volume is up to about three. the rest is pretty standard.
g.p.:when was the first time you used the bow?
j.p.: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 blowing 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.
g.p.:what kinds of picks and strings do you use?
j.p.:herco heavy-gauge nylon picks and ernie ball super slinky strings.
g.p.:what guitars are you using?
j.p.:god, this is really hard. there are so many. my les paul, the usual one, and i've got a spare one of those if anything goes wrong. i've got a double-neck; and one of these fender string benders that was made for me by gene parsons (former drummer with the byrds and the flying burrito brothers). i've cut back from what i was going to use on tour. i have with me a martin guitar and a gibson a-4 mandolin. the martin is one of the cheap ones; it's not the one with the herringbone back or anything like that. it's probably a d-18. it's got those nice grover tuners on it. i've got a gibson everly brothers which was given to me by ronnie wood. that's like the current favorite, but i don't take it out on the road because it's a really personal guitar. i keep it with me in the room. it's a beauty; it's fantastic. there's only a few of those around. ron's got one, and keith richards' got one, and i've got one as well. so it's really nice. i haven't had a chance to use it on record yet, but i will because it's got such a nice sound.
g.p.:do you have other guitars?
j.p.:let's see, what else have we got? i know when i come onstage it looks like a guitar shop, the way they're all standing up there. but i sold off all of my guitars before i left for america. there was a lot of old stuff hanging around which i don't need. it's no point having things if you don't need them. when all the equipment came over here, we had done our rehearsals, and we were really on top, really in tip-top form. then robert caught laryngitis, and we had to postpone a lot of dates and reshuffle them, and i didn't touch a guitar for five weeks. i got a bit panicky about that - after two years
off the road, that's a lot to think about. and i'm still only warming up; i still can't coordinate a lot of the things i need to be doing. getting by, but it's not right; i don't feel 100% right yet.
g.p.:what year is the les paul you're using now?
j.p.:'59. it's been rescraped (repainted), but that's all gone now because it chipped off. joe walsh got it for me.
g.p.:do you think that when you went from the telecaster to the les paul that you're playing changed?
j.p.:yes,i think so. it's more of a fight with a telecaster, but there are rewards. the gibson's got a stereotyped sound maybe; i don't know. but it's got a beautiful sustain to it. 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.
g.p.:do you use special tunings on the electric guitar?
j.p.: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.
g.p.:did you ever meet any of those folk players you admire - bert jansch, john renbourn, or any others?
j.p.: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 has done on electric, i think he's done on 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 this last l.p. they pulled him out
of retirement to do it; it's on barclay records in france. 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 django, les paul, and people like that.
g.p.:you listen to les paul?
j.p.: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 on decca)? you ought to hear that. he does everything in one go. and it's just basically one guitar, even though they've tracked on rhythms and stuff. but my goodness, his introductory chords and everything are fantastic. he sets the whole tone, and then goes into the 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 influenced by
reinhardt, wasn't he? very much so. i can't get my hands on the early records of les paul - the les paul trio and all that stuff. but i've got the capitol l.p.'s 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.
g.p.:you said that eric clapton was the one who synthesized the les paul sound.
j.p.: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.
g.p.:do you think you were responsible forany specific guitar sounds?
j.p.:the guitar parts in "trampled underfoot" (physical graffiti). (british rock journalist) nick kent 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.
g.p.:what's the most difficult aspect of recording a distinctive guitar sound?
j.p.:the trouble is keeping a seperation between sounds, so you don't have the same guitar effect all the time. and that's where that orchestration thing comes in: it's so 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 on 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. it's a totally different thing than what i'm doing.
g.p.:do you think he has a sustaining quality as a guitarist?
j.p.:he's always had that technique right from when i first knew him when he was working in a guitar shop. i would say he was the best jazz guitarist in england then, in the traditional mode of johnny smith and tal farlow; a combination of those two is exactly what he sounded like. he was easily the best guitarist in england, and he was working in a guitar shop. and that's what i say -you hear so many good people around under those conditions. i'll tell you one thing, i don't know one musician who's stuck to his guns, who was good in the early days, and hasn't come through now with recognition from everybody. albert lee and all these people that seem to be like white elephants got recognition. i think he's really good, bloody brilliant. he's got one of those string benders, too, but i haven't heard him in ages. but i know that every time i've heard him, he's bloody better and better.
g.p.:do you feel that your playing grows all the time?
j.p.:i've got two different approaches, like a schizophrenic guitarist, really. i mean onstage is totally different than the way that i approach it in the studio. presence and my control over all the contributing factors to that l.p., the fact that it was done in three weeks, and all the rest of it, was 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 this sort of thing. but i guess the solo in "achilles' last stand" on presence is in the same tradition as the solo from "stairway to heaven" on the fourth l.p. it is on that level to me.
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