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Sitting in Jimmy Page’s Soho hotel suite is disarming enough, but when the Led Zeppelin guitarist, warm and energetic in a way that belies his 70 years, offers to make me a coffee, it’s a moment to savor.
And for anyone who has listened to Led Zeppelin for as long as they can remember, to be able to sit down one-on-one with Page to discuss the band’s storied catalogue and upcoming reissues – the guitarist even searched through bootleg stores for lost gems and sought the council of uber-fans to make sure he didn’t replicate pirate recordings – and the companion discs included in the deluxe versions of the band’s first three albums that hit stores in almost every conceivable format on June 3, it’s an almost indescribable experience.
But here I am, knee-to-knee with the legendary guitarist. He’s decked out in black, with an elegant vest and long scarf over a crisp white shirt. He’s lean and healthy looking, and his eyes sparkle as we talk about his favorite subject: his beloved band. We’ve just listened to an eight-song sampling of the songs that comprise those companion discs, and Page is keen to talk about the process of not only remastering the existing Zeppelin catalogue for the first time in nearly 25 years, but how he came to choose the session outtakes that essentially amount to alternate versions of the existing albums.
Did you approach the albums in chronological order? It’s a huge undertaking.
“It’s a huge undertaking, but you know, I like doing things that nobody else has done, to at least be reflected back on and say, ‘Nobody’s done that before.’ When the Led Zeppelin DVD came out, that was quite honestly a benchmark in the music industry. People from other labels would come up and say, up to that point, ‘No one has done that.’ No one had gotten old footage and had this really, really big surround sound to it – or even really good, hefty mixes. It sort of worked on every level, audible and visual.
“That was a compilation of performance – film. With something like this, there was a slight amount of frustration that we needed to redo the catalogue. Twenty years ago we did it for CD, and of course, it’s analogue tapes that were originally intended for vinyl, so you’ve got all this catching up to do. I almost feel as though you need to reassess how things are being listened to if you’re doing sonic stuff."