In his tribute to the art of guitar-playing, It Might Get Loud, documentarian Davis Guggenheim explores the personal histories, techniques and creative processes of three of the music world's most revered axe men: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Whether or not this trifecta of talent represent the definitive guitar gods of their respective generations will be debated (at the least the last two already have been), but we'd definitely venture to guess that any contentiousness about who deserves to strum alongside Jimmy, will likely be lessened after more audiences see each intensely passionate character do what they do in the movie (which includes a climactic summit and jam session with all three together).
The gripping and grinding rock doc just screened this past weekend as part of the LA Film Festival, and in advance of that showing, we got a once in a lifetime opportunity last Friday afternoon: a one on three interview with White, Guggenheim, and Page at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, right after their packed press conference. We left exhilarated by these musicians' endless enthusiasm for their instruments and even a little surprised by the men themselves.
Above, Jack White, Davis Guggenheim, and Jimmy Page during their press conference.
White (who really is strikingly ghost-white) isn't as enigmatic as we'd assumed he'd be, or even as he comes off in the doc. He's actually really chill and chatty- and funny. Page is even more charming, a randy chap oozing effortless, ageless cool (he wore a leather jacket and his medium-length white locks were swept back in a small understated ponytail). He's self-aware (he's Jimmy-Fucking-Page, for hammer of the gods' sake) but down to earth and forthcoming about everything; well except for the “big” new music project he's working on at the moment. Guggenheim (best known as director of “An Inconvenient Truth”), just seems happy to continue basking in the charisma of his subjects so long after filming ceased.
Bits from our conversation below. Look for a full feature on the film (and more from our laugh out Loud encounter with the artists) the week of its August 14 theater release. Check out a report from the LAFF screening's after-party at the Palomar Hotel last Friday night in this Thursday's Nightranger column.
On choosing what songs to teach each other and jam on-
Jack White: We just threw out ideas. One might selfishly say, well if I'm gonna play Led Zeppelin, maybe it could be “In My Time Of Dying.” That kind of thing. It'd be easy, you know, more commercial if Jimmy taught us to play “Stairway to Heaven” or something. But we were trying to find common ground where we all could feed off of it and see where it went.
On how their relationships with their guitars are like love affairs-
Jimmy Page: I've said that it's shaped like a woman, you know. You can touch it and caress it. The thing I haven't said, that I'll tell you now is: it doesn't ask you for alimony!
JW: I think if you picked up a girl as much as you picked up a guitar every day, they might get annoyed. The guitar doesn't say, hey, get off of me, ya know?
On numbers they performed not seen in the film being included in a future DVD-
Davis Guggenheim: Yes. There are a lot of them.
DG: I can't tell you. We have to still discuss which ones we want in there.
DG: Led Zeppelin, U2 and The White Stripes.
On Page's appearance at The Roxy to see White's new band, The Dead Weather last week-
JP: To be honest with you, to go and hear Jack was such a treat. I really got the whole thing of what he was doing. What they were doing and how well they were playing.
Was there ever a chance of him joining TDW on stage?
JP: Why would I do that? What they were doing, one song, one carried to another followed by another and the whole thing was shifting like a kaleidoscope. It was absolutely amazing. They didn't need me in all of that.
On The Edge-
JW: I met him in a hallway once with Loretta Lynn and that was it. But I always respected what he was doing. I'm a big lover of his techniques. He has his own niche that nobody else has. He basically invented that infinite guitar, that style that keeps repeating. Those sounds are really being done, not looped.
JP: That's the great thing about having done this because I have so much more understanding of how he did it, and how he shapes and how he crafts. He's like a scientist, a sonic scientist.
On Page's current musical endeavors-
JP: As far as new music, yeah, I've got some new music. There's sort of little tastes and shades of it in the documentary. Bits. It's just a question of actually doing it now. Actually getting a project that I've had in mind for a while. I've just got to go and do it. Don't want to tell anyone about it. But, yes, I've got a big project I'm working on.