(Steel Curtain Pictures) When I was about 14, I wore a Led Zeppelin tee-shirt with the Swan Song logo boldly emblazoned across the front to my dad’s band’s concert (my pop is Don Wilson, the sole-surviving and still-playing founding member of The Ventures) and he griped about it as only a parent can chide a child. He wasn’t serious. (Well, not too serious.) Now, all these years later, I can finally make it up to dear daddy: I wore a Ventures tee-shirt to my Jimmy Page interview.
Yesterday, in the town of tinsel at a swanky Beverly Hills hotel where we So Cal natives barely blink twice at a Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie sighting, bona fide rock royalty and an Oscar-winning documentarian were commanding a lot of attention for their feature film, It Might Get Loud.
Forty-six-year-old director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), flanked by guitar gods Jimmy Page, 65, of Led Zeppelin, and Jack White, 34, of The White Stripes, was on hand to talk to reporters about his upcoming love letter to rock music. Missing from the mix was the other featured player in the movie (The Edge, 48, of U2), but given the whirlwind events of the day and the abbreviated time in which we were to interview the guys, that was probably for the best.
I know, from my own personal observation of work days in the lives of The Ventures, a big part of being a rock star is waiting around, checking into a generic hotel, waiting around, being stuck in traffic on your way to the venue, answering geeky fans’ arcane trivia questions, having your picture taken, more waiting, signing autographs, more fan questions, answering reporters’ standard questions, waiting, doing a sound check, signing memorabilia and swag for publicity, posing for photos, waiting, and then finally…on stage in front of a live audience!
Currently, White is on tour with his latest band The Dead Weather, which is literally a cross between The Raconteurs and The Kills. The foursome played an intimate VIPs-only show at The Roxy in Hollywood on Wednesday. The driven virtuoso, now playing drums, took another quick break from the regularly scheduled tour to perform on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien Thursday night, and then on Friday the 19th, he was up and at ‘em early in the morning for a group press conference to talk about It Might Get Loud. After that, there was probably a photo session, perhaps a few phoners, then several hours of back-to-back on-camera interviews.
That’s where I came in — late in the day, after the already ridiculously short four minutes allotted to reporters to interview all three men at once was bisected down to two (I think I barely got out “Hello” and “Uh, I understand you guys play guitar in the movie?” before time was up). Afterward Guggenheim, Page and White were whisked off to a glitzy premiere for the film at the madness that is the Annual Los Angeles Film Festival. And still later, there was an after-party red carpet, where I had just a little more time to blurt out a few quick questions, sandwiched elbow-to-elbow between a gaggle of other media correspondents, dodging head-thwacking cameras and inciting the ire of clock-watching publicists eager to shuffle their charges inside to the party venue where the stars could help hawk the evening’s sponsor, Parmigiani Watches.
Oh, and did I mention it was a lot of fun?
When the stories of the day are Speidi, American Idol‘s latest gay fracas, Ryan Reynolds’s six-pack abs, Octo-mom, and “The Hottie and the Botties” of Transformers 2…well, let’s just say being able to speak with a talented, intelligent filmmaker and true artists who can actually rub two thoughts together is a refreshing change…even if it is only for two minutes.
“These days, people are getting famous for being famous,” said wavy-haired, pale-skinned White, looking as though he just stepped out from a Tim Burton dreamscape in all-black attire and a grave countenance. “You have to battle against the media to create something soulful. This film lets people dig deeper into the music.” It Might Get Loud chronicles each of the virtuoso guitarists’ evolution as musicians and vividly illustrates and explores how they became obsessed with mastering the instrument at quite young ages.
“What we have in common is that we are all self-taught guitarists,” said Page, ever the clothes horse in a leather jacket and a black and white abstract op-art scarf. “That’s what is so fascinating about it. All guitarists have different characters, so there was a lot to learn from each other.”
White, who is actively involved in heading three bands — The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather — is also said to be working on a solo album. When asked if Page might be a guest guitarist on the album, White joked, “Jimmy needs to practice a little more first.” Later on, at the after-party red carpet, he nixed the speculation altogether, chuckling, “No, it’s not true. I am not doing any solo projects.”
I would have liked to’ve asked The Dead Weather a few questions, but all I saw were motion trails as they zipped by so fast, their names (Alison Mosshart, Little Jack Lawrence, and Dean Fertita) didn’t even make it to a shout out of my mouth. Guest J.J. Abrams paused to say he loves music (really?) and ran after them. Page, now glammed up in deep-dark Ray Bans, another of his trademark scarves and a fine satin-lapelled black suit, stopped and offered up a few more spirited sound-bites (not to mention a lovely congrats to The Ventures on their 50th Anniversary. Thank you, Jimmy).
White dispelled a couple of more rumors, admitted he nicked a few picking tricks from his elders while jamming with them, and then Guggenheim offered some insight into the more surreal aspects of White’s portions in It Might Get Loud (an imaginary doppelganger, plus an animated account of his teen years).
The director also made it clear that It Might Get Loud “is not another Behind-the-Music-type story. We don’t talk about the [salacious side] of rock — just the music.” Later on, Guggenheim’s wife, actor Elizabeth Shue, talked about the allure of axe-men (“They’re hot! But of course, what makes them hot is their creativity”), and It Might Get Loud producer Lesley Chilcott revealed that, after Page signed on, it was her idea to bring Jack White in as the precocious “newbie” following in the footsteps of longtime legends Page and The Edge. Musician Slash, and almost-famous rock journalist and film director Cameron Crowe were on the guest list as well, but they must have surreptitiously slipped in through a side door…or got swept up in The Dead Weather’s whirlwind wake.
It Might Get Loud will be released nationwide on August 14, 2009. Guggenheim is working on another documentary and is announced as the director of the Melrose Place reboot pilot set to air in the fall. White’s band is currently on a national tour (next Los Angeles stop: The Wiltern Theater, August 25th). U2 is on a world tour and The Edge is with them in Barcelona. And the ever-elusive Page isn’t saying what’s next for him, but I reckon it can be anything he desires.