What do the guitarists from Led Zeppelin, U2, and the White Stripes have in common? That is the question explored by the music documentary It Might Get Loud (now in theaters). Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White allowed cameras into their lives before convening to talk shop and jam. “The thing that the three shared is that they’re all searchers,” opines director Davis Guggenheim. “These are guys who are not just great guitar players, they’re artists who are trying to find themselves.” The Music Mix caught up with Page and White in L.A. to learn more about their six-string summit.
EW: Why did you participate in this documentary? Was there curiosity about what would happen when the three of you got together?
JW: I was really happy that there wasn’t this script to it, and there weren’t preplanned ideas about what was going to happen when we all got together. ‘What am I going to say to the Edge?’ Or, ‘What is Jimmy going to say to me?’ That’s brilliant because that creates so many great conversations. I mean, we had so many talks that aren’t in the film. We went on and on about Link Wray’s “Rumble” for about an hour. That spawned a lot of interesting conversations.
JP: You never really knew what was going to come next, or what was going to evolve next. And that was the beauty of it, in retrospect. On the second day, I was thinking, ‘Well, what’s going to happen?’
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EW: Did you let Davis into your life more than you initially expected?
JW: If he sent me a piece of paper, and said, “We’re going to film you doing this.” I’d be like, “I don’t know about that.” But at times things came out so naturally, it made so much sense when we watched it played back, I’m like, “Aw.” It’s like if you had said, “And you’re gonna write a song on film,” I would have gone “I dunno…” But since we said it that day, it made sense.
JP: There was the aspect of the film being in my home. Even in the early stages, I probably would have said “No” to that, but the way that things were going and we were getting a bond together between us… I was opening up, which is rare.
EW: What was your favorite moment from the summit?
JW: One of the things I really liked was us learning to play The Band’s “The Weight” together. I’m glad that The Edge picked that song because It was a song that none of us knew how to play it. So the three of us showed each other how to play it. You hear bands do things that your bands cover, or write a new song. And you don’t get to see the genesis of it, and that was one of those times. It was the perfect thing to film. It was like, “Oh, happily, let’s film this. This is the good stuff.”
JP: I remember we had no idea we were going to do it, and Edge proposed it and we said “Yeah, ok, cool, let’s have a go.” And he was showing us the chords, and we were just about getting it together, when he said, “Oh, actually the chords are not right.” (Laughs). It’s a lovely moment. It was really intimate when we were just sitting down, with the guitars, and just playing. It was quite amazing.
EW: Did you take away anything from the summit that will inform your future work?
JW: You should try to take something away from any musician you talk to. Even if you’ve got no respect for what they’re doing, you could learn what not to do. But this is a case definitely of learning what you should do and what you could do. And I’m taking that away, for sure… When Jimmy starts playing or the Edge starts playing, you’re just like, “Wow, I’m listening to every single thing they’re doing now. I want to know what they can show me.”
JP: It was interesting for me only having heard the Edge on record, to actually see him in his laboratory, if you like, crafting those sonic soundscapes. And yeah, seeing his equipment that looked like it just literally could collapse at any second, you know? It only seemed to be working with love and willpower. And faith. It was faith more than anything else and it would work. And it was quite something to witness.
EW: If you could offer one tip to aspiring guitarists, what would it be?
JW: I would cut a couple of the strings off, and see what you can do with that. That’s important: to take away the way everyone’s looking at it, and look at it from a totally new standpoint that you wouldn’t chose normally.
JP: Try not to play like Jimmy Page and you’ll play a lot better.
EW: What’s the strangest place you’ve played guitar?
JP: You know how Johnny Cash did San Quentin? When I was about 15 years old, I played in Holloway Prison, which is a female prison in London. Yeah, that was really, really interesting. It’s a shame we haven’t got time for a two-hour interview. (Laughs)
JW: I’ll just say: In the studio.
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Photo credit: Eric Lee