Here are the full transcripts from our new cover feature... In the fourth part, producer STEVE ALBINI on Page...
In the January issue (on sale now) of Uncut , we celebrated the career of rock’s greatest and most mysterious guitar hero through the first hand accounts of the people who know him best.
Here at uncut.co.uk, we’ll be posting the full and unedited transcripts from those interviews, including words from Robert Plant, Jeff Beck, Roy Harper, Steve Albini and more.
Today… STEVE ALBINI
Influential alt.rock producer and engineer (Nirvana, PJ Harvey, The Pixies) he helmed the recording sessions for Page & Plant’s Walking Into Clarksdale album
STEVE ALBINI: Oh, hell yeah, I was intimidated when I met him. Jimmy Page has a stately presence. He walks in knowing full well he’s the big shot. He’s in command of his personality, comfortable in his skin. And then you top that off with Jimmy and Robert creating most of what is rock music – as me and all my US punk rock peers appreciate. But he never treated me, or the tape op, or the ladies in the kitchen or the guys in the bar, as subordinates. Jimmy knows what he wants, and he’s perfectly willing to get it. But I never saw him do anything that wasn’t reasonable under the circumstances.
When I worked with Jimmy in the studio, I recognised what made him such a commanding figure. He is an immensely perceptive listener. He can track every bird in the flock – hear through impossibly dense things to small details, and know intuitively which are important. You might think that would lead to paralysing perfectionism. But I remember one difficult guitar-part, where he didn’t sound a note cleanly. He said, “They’ll get the idea.” If you listen to the Led Zeppelin catalogue, there are bum notes and crude edits everywhere. But the scope and arc of the whole thing is fantastic.
Walking to Clarksdale was much more collaborative, I think, than Jimmy and Robert had been in Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin was Jimmy’s band, he hired Robert to be the singer. And then in the intervening period, Robert had gone onto become quite successful on his own. I think Jimmy respected that. Now he was working with Robert as a peer and comrade, rather than feeling responsible for the record as its auteur. Both of them were very conscious, futilely, of not resuscitating the ghost of Zeppelin. But it was a shared experience they drew on quite naturally. Jimmy has enormously varied tastes, though. He kept talking about how much he liked the over-the-top aggression and adrenalin of The Prodigy. He admired the mayhem quality of their music, without necessarily feeling part of club culture. And the blues was on their mind a lot.
Seeing him play close up, he has a really light touch. That surprised me a lot. Most guitar-players who play aggressive music have to use their whole arm. But what distinguishes him from the other guitar-players of his time is his critical faculty. Most of the others have way more records under their name. The realisation is that they didn’t really have that much good stuff. Whereas almost every note that Jimmy Page played is remarkable. He knew he didn’t need to proceed without Zeppelin. He kicked his heels up for a while and enjoyed the spoils of his war. He makes records when there’s a great one to be made – not from inertia.
I consider it one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in the studio. I would drop everything to make another record with them.