LED ZEPPELIN Interview: Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Robert Plant, JPJ & More: Engineer Stuart Epps

by | Apr 19, 2022

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so i mean this is a hypothetical

question but from what you may know if

bonham hadn’t died do you know if

zeppelin would have continued on for

much longer or would they have come to

an end inevitably anyways at some point

in the near future

well that’s a good question i would say


personally i would say

they’d have just gone on because had

bonham’s not died

uh there would have been another album

and then they would have wanted to tour

that i’m sure

i mean as it turns out you know he did


you know so it’s hypothetical and the

fact is that they then had to find their


way in the music business you know not

that they had to i mean they’re all

billionaires you know but obviously they

would want to

and so robert found his own

you know had to find a different career

away from zeppelin and i’m sure

he’s very happy that that’s what


you know because he was i think he was

getting fed up with screaming his

socks off i’ll say that in case there’s

any children uh listening

so um you know i think he was getting a

bit fed up with that anyway

and um

because you know it was a heavy rock

band it was blasting and it was good

when they were youngsters but it might

be something that you grow out of you

know of course they could have changed i

suppose you know they could have changed

the uh format a little bit but um well

your question really was would they have

continued and um i think they would have

continued they would definitely have

done another album and maybe they’d have

done another two albums

because that’s they love to do that they

love to get together and they like to

play together

and then

you know that’s also why they would have

probably carried on doing gigs and also

there’s phenomenal money involved

hundreds of millions let’s face it

that’s why the stones do it

no matter how rich they are and also

they have fun and they enjoy it

hopefully you know

that’s interesting so i mean you were we

were talking a little bit earlier that

if zeppelin hadn’t i mean obviously if

bottom hadn’t passed that there would

likely have been another record and you

would have been involved with that to to

some degree or another do you know if

there were any

demos that the band had prepared if

there was any like unreleased material

the band was writing with or

was there nothing ready for a new album

yet from what you from what you may know

there’s no more unreleased material

to be heard

he would have found it because jimmy

doesn’t mess around he’s very much still

dedicated to to

the history of zeppelin

and um

yeah if there was something else around

he would have put it out

do you know if there were any any like

the wheels are turning on starting to

write new material for another record

post no no i don’t know

i don’t think so but i don’t know see

the thing is that we’re only talking i’d

only got to know i’ve only met jimmy a

couple of times when bonham died

so of course yeah i met him yeah we

worked together for five years after

that with if there was any more material

or if they were working together

i don’t i don’t really think so

because i think that if there would have

been if they’d have rehearsed something

or anything then it would have come out

by now you know they’re probably the i

see the thing is they’re about to go on

tour anyway

so and i don’t think they’ve been on

tour for a long time this european tour

so probably that would have been them

getting together to maybe do all sorts

of things and they were rehearsing only

up the road in bray near where i am

so i kept going there in in hopes to

meet jimmy but every time i arrived and

either just left or they hadn’t arrived


and uh but anyway not too long after

this um before the tour

obama was found dead in in jimmy’s uh

house in in windsor and um so that was a

big blow really because i was you know

always was a big blower i mean you know

whether i was getting ready to do the

next afternoon

kind of neither here nor there because

this was a terrible thing for the hat to

happen to them so it was a bit shocking

basically what took place then was us

starting to work on this uh tribute


um which was really a tribute to bonap

to bonham

uh starting off with this drum track

bonzo’s montreal crazy uh 24 track tape

of bonzo’s montro which was all was

basically all drums

and and i always say it was like being

thrown in in the deep end really because

you know it could have just been a rock

track but it was it was

it was quite peculiar being all drums i

mean it was magnificent really


but um

you know i think it was quite long then

we had to edit it and editing it wasn’t

wasn’t easy but it was um

you know that was the first track we

worked on and then um the other tracks

that were from that zeppelin album were

from uh that made up the zeppelin album


where there was a couple from uh that

were left over from in through the

outdoor i mean i haven’t got that album

in front of me but i’ve been wearing and

tearing there was another one

uh then there was a track called i can’t

quit you yeah which actually was um

jimmy didn’t want it to be known was

going to be known now isn’t it

but jimmy didn’t want it to be known

that it was a live track he wanted it to


to be known that it was some sort of

recording so i had to take all the

audience off but basically it was led

zeppelin i think at the albert hall but

it was a great track i can’t quit he’s a

really good track

and um what else we did there was poor


and for that one and i remember robert

plant coming in that was the first time

i met robert

and that was that was nice you know

because i mean to be honest i wasn’t a

huge zeppelin fan the most i got into

zeppelin was actually when nelton john

bought his first giant stereo system for



he had these he had these massive four

speakers in a lounge a huge lounge and

we just used to have we had zeppelin too

which we used to whack up

to test out his um his stereo and

actually my favorite album was in

through the outdoor without a doubt okay

you know i

i thought that was a great album

but um

you know so also i think i think uh at

that time pretty sure john paul jones

popped in

because i seem to remember playing

something and he said can you turn that

down and what do you think i am you know

and i thought well

i thought you were the bass player in

one of the biggest rock bands in the

world so i thought chances are you like

live loud music you know you would go ah

turn it down

so i mean prior to john bonham’s passing

were you thinking about how you’d

approach working on the next zeppelin

record oh yeah i i was yeah i mean i was

thinking about how i would do it i mean

it’s awful to talk about it now because

i mean i would have loved it would have

been absolutely brilliant to have uh

to have done that but

um i suppose the booby prize which

wasn’t a bad one though was when i got

to work with jimmy and paul rogers with

the firm yeah you know because that was

you know in some ways you could say it

was maybe even better than maybe what

the zeppelin would have been you know

because you got you’ve definitely got

one of the best singers on the planet

with paul rogers

uh we had chris slade on drums he’s

totally totally amazing and tony um

tony can’t remember his surname on base

simon kirk who’s the drummer with their

bad company yeah he’s a great drummer

well and free wasn’t he was a drummer in

free as well so i think he thought

because they were signed to uh

swanson which is um zeppelin’s record

company i’m pretty i think maybe simon

thought he must be in for that job you

know to take over and he would have been

amazing totally brilliant without a

doubt but i think you know the mark of

jimmy if you like and robert

and john paul jones is that they

you know they felt that

the zeppelin was four people

sorry and um

you know and without um without

bonham it wasn’t

they didn’t want to carry on that ban

that’s the thing which i think is pretty


that’s pretty good of them really you

know not not

you know like this well i mean i

shouldn’t sort of bad mouth but i’m in

the stones you know charlie watts died

right getting another drummer off we go

you know but i think i think zeppelin

were more like a

you know bonhams i don’t say that

charlie watts country contribution was

any less

than john than bonhams but i don’t know

i think they were a closer

closer unit like definitely bonham and

jimmy and

bonham and

robert you know they were just so

tight and close that they couldn’t

imagine going out without him the thing

with bonham

was his feel you know


that’s what made them so heavy really

because they did everything

you know it was fairly slow you know and

uh slow tempos

but what makes it heavy is that is their

timing and their and the sound and

giving it plenty of space

you know that’s when you were talking

when we were talking about sound and i


uh you know thinking about the mill for

john bonham’s uh drum sound you know

it’s possible to do that but you need

the space

i i don’t mean physical space i mean you

need the space in the sound


if the drum is playing at 100 million

miles an hour and he’s hitting the

cymbals all over the place and the

hayek’s all over the place there’s

nowhere for that sound to go whereas it


you know you can have a nice big

rock sound which is what they used to

get and the thing is that’s what i was

going to say is that zeppelin didn’t

always work in giant rooms you know like

abby road or something

you know that was the other great thing

about jimmy as a producer is that he

no matter what studio they went to he’d

make sure they got he he got a zeppelin

drum sound or a zeppelin sound which was

generally a big

big roomy sound

and i know they worked at the abbas

studios and yeah jimmy used to say

they’d i don’t know they’d put a

microphone in a cupboard or down the

hall or something like that you know


ways of getting that sound

which wouldn’t just be uh

using a big room you know and anyway i i

recorded you know i mixed john bonham’s

drums so i know what the drum sound is

like and the bass drum was enormous


it sounded like one of those you get an

affair you know with the beaters

whereas you know the the the the rock

drummer normally uses a takes the front

skin off and puts a load of cushions


this sounded like it definitely had the

front skin on

and um

it’s just enormous but

you know and then the snare sound as

well you know he’s not bashing it away

he’s probably not he’s probably got

quite a light touch in the way and

anyway he’s he was a remarkable drummer

like charlie watts in a way he was sort

of more like a jazz drum or ringo stan

you know jazz would have been

part of his upbringing

you know not just um

straight ahead rock so he’s very uh

bloody good basically so i mean what did

you think i mean i know you didn’t get

to work physically with him but having

been like intimately involved and mixing

his tracks on coda

what did you think of him as a drummer

in particular like what was it about

john bonham that people say he’s the

greatest of all time first of all his

sound like i say it was enormous

and and listening to the individual

multi-tracks when i lifted up the bass

drum i thought plummy it does say bass

drum on it but that’s not a bass drum

i’ve normally heard it was like one of

them fairground things you know bom bom

and what you had to do with that sound

you had to compress it quite a lot so

that you got you still got the attack

you know

but you had to work on it because it had

so many frequencies anyway it was

obviously a very deep

and sounds like a very large bass drum

that’s for sure it wasn’t a tiny little

bass drum i didn’t ask jimmy i didn’t


so how big was this back

i just got on with it i just got on with

it and also you could hear that there

are microphones above

you know like above the uh

picking up the snare picking up the

tomtoms the main word is feel

uh fwl that’s the main word that we

would use to describe what separates

john bonham from a lot of other drummers

is his feel

and and i think that uh

you know even hearing him playing on his

own he’s got a great feel and i still

love listening to bonzo’s montreal and

talking about it whereas it’s just drums

so that’s just him and he’s not playing

to a click yeah that’s what uh separates

him out from other drummers there was

something else i was going to say i was

going to say that also within zeppelin

and also because they’re not playing to


metronomic click

they’re making their own


and when you get a great rhythm

guitarist like jimmy

playing with a great drummer like

bonham they’re setting up a unique feel

that can’t be replicated by machines or

anything like that really

you know it’s it’s very individualistic

and uh separate separated zeppelin out

from other bands

yeah i mean there’s some great other

dramas phil collins is a great drummer

charlie watts is a great drama

uh zack starkey absolutely brilliant


but um

i mean i suppose you know when someone


however terrible it is

they get they get frozen in time don’t

they yep and the thing is that when we

did the

when we did the um

coder album i mean this was a tribute to

john wasn’t it so we were living john

bonham you know every day when putting

when putting his drums together and i

was very aware that of course the poor

guy died and but but this is great what

we’re doing is this tribute and in fact

um there’s a little while ago that um

an absolutely brilliant drummer who

comes close to john bonham who’s zack

starkey i don’t know if you know of

course who he is but anyway he’s a

brilliant guy brilliant drummer and i

think he rang me up or he got in touch

with me

and that was mainly because he was a




and when he heard that i did the bonzo’s

montreal he had to meet me he wanted to

work with me and all this thing you know

because um so you know it was great to

be doing that and

and so we were living bonham every day

really one thing i wanted to ask you is

you know obviously jimmy page is known

as being one of the greatest guitarists

ever rightfully so he’s also one of the

greatest producers but people often kind

of overlook that to a certain extent how

would you compare from your experience

with jimmy um i know you’ve worked with

him as a guitarist have you also worked

with him

producing wise like together of course


how would you compare his approach

producing and recording guitars

yeah good question so um and i do talk

about that because uh

yeah jimmy very eccentric guy not always

easy to understand

when i was working with him for one

reason or another

uh but when we were doing the very first

project that we did as i say was the uh

putting together the um

code around

and um all right so there wasn’t

one interesting thing was that that you

knew that i knew that jimmy page was the

producer of all the zeppelin albums so i

suppose i was waiting to be told what to

do or

i do this now we do this then we do that

now you do this he didn’t he didn’t do


but even when we were doing the bonzo’s

ridiculous drum thing he he didn’t tell

me what drum sound he wanted or what

reverbs to use i mean the thing is that

when jimmy came to the mill he brought a

load of his equipment with him because

jimmy which also people don’t know is

he’s an incredibly uh

you know he’s really into equipment he’s

really into technology the whole sound

technology he had a desk at his uh

previous house which was one of the

first fully automated desks

he had all these incredible sort of

computer ideas and machines that would

be uh running delays he had tons of rack

equipment to do with

reverbs and not reverse but delays that

he used to use on robert plant’s voice

so he was very very much into technology

so i sort of assumed he was going to

tell me what to do here but he didn’t he

just sat back and kind of you know i got

the feeling if i was doing something

wrong he’d have said oh no now do this

and um but he he very much let me get on

with it when it came to more of his

ideas as a producer i would say that was

when we were doing the death wish uh

2 soundtrack because he had some great

ideas and backwards pianos and

he was much more it was the producer

side of him that came out much more

during that uh project

he was really putting together singers

he had plenty of ideas that’s for sure

you know as i think he’s well absolutely

great producer

um very very uh good to work with in the

studio you know good good atmosphere not

telling people what you know not telling

people what to do hopefully just putting

together the right bunch of people like

you did with zeppelin really you know

that’s a good that’s a good way of doing

it i mean put the right bunch of people

together and then you don’t have to tell

them to do anything do you because you

know that

they’re going to do the job the way you

want it you know so

so i think that’s how jimmy goes about

stuff really because let’s face it he

was in the music business

and working in studios from such a young


as a as a and not everyone knows that

either so as a top session guy you know

going around the studios doing all the

middle-of-the-road stuff god knows of

some of the things he might have done he

probably did adverts and all sorts of

stuff apart from as we know playing with

the kinks and playing on some big pop


so he was very very knowledgeable about

the studio there wasn’t much he didn’t

know about it you know he might want he

might know what he wanted to play and

that wasn’t always easy but he

definitely didn’t have a problem with i

want to do this idea so we’re doing that

you know and actually those things are

easier to uh

to sort of have happen you know but um

so definitely

switched on producer no doubt about it

yeah so when you’re recording him as it

like now you’re in producer engineer

mode you’re recording him are there any

particular mics he prefers having his

guitars recorded with like what is his

approach technically in the studio

very good question

very good question i’ve forgotten that

so i’ve got a very good answer for that

because people will want to know this

because this is this is different

so what he would do is he he’d uh he he

if we were doing a solo saying

he’d do a few solos like most people

would like you know he’d do one song do

it again do it yeah

but then what he do

is he tell me to put all three solos up

or all four solos up

and i think blimey that’s

that’s different

so he’d play them all

and then what he would do is he’d design

a solo

he designed a solo made up of the three

or four or five solos

and sometimes that was hard to follow

and sometimes

i’d think to ask him a lot of questions

but then i i found it was better not to

ask questions just to do try and do what

he’s saying

and it all turned out hopefully all

right in the end

so it might you know because i’ve done

that i i’ve done many uh use

many guitarists where you choose bits of

their solos but it was um it was

something when someone else is trying to

tell you what to do it’s not quite so

easy but basically he designed the solo

in that way so there’d be two notes from

that one one note from that one there

might even be a part where there were

two solos playing at the same time

that’s what i mean it was quite

complicated and hard to follow

and there’d probably be times when i was

thinking this is going to be awful you

know this isn’t going to work but then

we finish it we play it back and i think

bloody hell that’s that’s bloody good

that’s a bloody good solo and actually

when i listen now to uh to zeppelin uh

tracks and i hear a solo i can hear

i can hear sort of how it’s been it’s

been made up you know that it wasn’t

always uh a live solo that’s a producer

you know that’s a producer guitarist

producing his own guitar solos also he

used to use i don’t know about mike’s

that was pretty much left to me

but uh that’s also another good question

because it’s i’m remembering back now

and um

the whole time i worked with jimmy

we used an ac30

dialed up to number 12 i would say

it was definitely more than 10.

and it was an ac30

and it was a particularly great one and

it would be definitely almost flat down

and then he would use he very rarely use

the les paul in the studio if ever

it would be the fender telecaster

and and that combination was a massive

sound he’d also use his string bender

fender string bender a lot which that

might have been a telecaster i’m not

quite sure

um you know you know do you know this

string bender guitar



so actually when you know and if you

don’t know about that guitar

that’s actually a bit of a

you know it’s it gives his solos a lot

of personality because you hear all this

bendy stuff which you imagine you might

have done with his finger but he does it

with the uh it’s kind of like a country

normally it would be for country sounds

i guess but with it wound up to 10 you

know it worked for rock absolutely

but um so sound wise um yeah i don’t

know what mike i probably would stick an

87 i’m sure on his uh ac30


it was a it was a blasting sound yeah

it’s a great sound

great sound and actually i’m going to

say it as well because i always i i

often say this but i haven’t said it for

a long time is that my favorite thing

that jimmy would do is his rhythm

playing yeah you know he’s he got this

phenomenal way of um

of like hitting the the chord right at

the last millisecond you know on the

downbeat so that’s going wow you know it

just gives it

gives it more power that way it’s not

like in front of the b or way behind it

it’s just as it’s coming up and when he

was playing because i never got to work

with him with with john bonham but uh

you know when i put dave mattox i don’t

know if you know the drum drama dave

mattox but uh brilliant drama and him

and jimmy because jimmy seems to work

off of the drums

you know not not the bass or not uh

there’s not many other people in led

zeppelin wasn’t it but

all the vocal it was definitely him and

bonham you know

so they set up this great rhythm and


and and i watched jimmy doing that with

dave mattox and it was it was great

because that

he is a great rhythm player i i

that’s one of the things that maybe even

people don’t realize you know but for me

in the studio his rhythm playing was uh

very very good when you were working

with jimmy page is there anything that

he ever did in the studio that really

surprised you like wow that’s an

interesting way of approaching this or

i never thought a guitar should do that

like was there any one thing that stuck

out to you everything surprised me

because i’d never worked with anyone

like that i’ve got a very good answer

for that okay perfect answer right so

we’re sitting there we’re doing death


and we were using this guitar synth i

mean that was surprising and then cause

one guitar synth wasn’t enough so he had


the diet roll and bring down two

two of these uh

pedal boards

and the and basically the guitar synth

you could make it do all sorts of weird

stuff like going up

going up and down you know like swooping

up the note and swooping down and

jimmy would be tapping away on all these

things you know and then he had another

one brought in so it was surprising he

did stand up through all that and not

fall over

but um but then we were in there one day

and someone said his guitar tech

suddenly said what about the theremin on


and i i never heard of a theron

and i’m thinking what the hell is a


so then suddenly someone comes in with

this big cardboard box with aerials

sticking out of it

and i’m sure there was like straw coming

out of it as well and i just thought i

thought they were having a joke on me

you know i thought this was for my


and uh and they start setting this thing

up and i’m just thinking i think i’ve

seen everything now you know this is

what the hell is this

anyway so they set up this uh

yeah i mean people who know the theremin

they set up this

aerial you know and then it’s connected

to an echoplex

tape and uh and then he’s doing all that

business with the with the sick you know


all that business

and uh and i yeah i’d never heard of a

theraman i mean i’ve checked it out you

know i checked it out after that and

found out it was a 19th century

instrument and you know one of the early


earliest electronic instruments

talk about surprising yeah that was

but you see that’s the thing i mean

jimmy was full of surprises you know

you uh

he was he’s that sort of a guy and

that’s sort of a

that’s that’s the way he sort of

conducted himself i mean the whole fact

he put you know zeppelin was a surprise

wasn’t it if you were around you’re too

young but when but when zeppelin arrived

it was like

what is that you know it was like i mean

all right there were a lot of bands

around at the time that were sort of


but they were they were a phenomenon

without a doubt you know

i mean they were like um

brilliant musicians not many of them i

mean talking about a three piece really

you know you’re talking about bass drums

and guitar one guitar one bass

and drums you know making this amazing

sound great musicians

and uh you know they also followed their


um they followed their own way didn’t

they you know didn’t put out singles you

know they wouldn’t do this we don’t do

that we don’t do this you know they’re

very much like designed they designed

themselves you know

so um you know that’s the background

that jimmy came from like you say he’s


one of the greatest guitarists of all

time you know and that’s not bad


what i always say now you know i often

say and i’m very i think very lucky that

this happened this way because i work

with led zeppelin and i’m very proud of

that is because a lot of young bands you

know you say to them and they could be

15 or 16 or 18 and you say who’s your

favorite man they say led zeppelin

i said but led zeppelin disbanded 40

years ago you know isn’t there anything

a little bit later on you know they go

no no that’s up and that was it and

that’s what’s happening unfortunately

then you listen to their music and it’s

nothing like led zeppelin you know

because i’m always looking out for

another lens happening when you’re

working with jimmy in studio on tape how

many takes do you guys do typically and

like do you often double the takes

afterwards like what was what was that

aspect of it like it’s two different

things really so first of all you said

um how many takes would you do yeah yeah


um if i was working with gus it could be

hundreds gus being elton john’s producer

used to do many many takes with the

rhythm section in the studio we might do

20 different takes of the same song

and then what he would do is cut between

them cut all the best takes together

even only to make up a four minute track


so but but when you’re talking about

that’s the difference between some pop


and and a rock band because a rock band

would tend to not want to do that

a rock band like jimmy like with

zeppelin i’m sure or with the fern is

that you go out there and you do a great

take and you go that’s the one basically

they’d go out there and they’d get a

good groove and then they go was it how

was that and i’d go bloody brilliant

come in and hear it and they go you’re

right and that’s it

and as i say even to the extent when

you’re talking about double track vocals

paul rodgers didn’t even want to do the

song again he didn’t want to sing the

song again

let alone double track it that’s it it’s


so basically what you’re talking about

there is a band trying to reproduce what

they might do live on stage in the


and that’s quite a different um

that’s quite a different thing

to the way pop records are made now or

even what

records are made now where you’re

layering and layering and layering

you know and you’re using pro tools and

you’re copying and pasting and all this

sort of stuff it’s very very different

and and basically yeah you still end up

you can end up with amazing results

absolutely and some might say you end up

with better results

but but then if you go back to some of

the 70s music and 80s music which wasn’t

done that way and you go wow that’s

that’s better you know and then if you

describe how it was recorded which was

just four or five people

playing live in the studio and an

engineer recording it you go wow they’re

geniuses you know

compared to today unfortunately

without getting too depressed about it


you know musicians today i mean

very difficult it’s not often you come

across amazing drummers like john bonham

incredible singers like paul rogers

and amazing producer guitarists like

jimmy page you talk about jimmy page he

was playing guitar when he was about


you know and only wanted to be a great


you know not being the biggest band in

the world he probably had no idea about

that he just wanted to be a great

guitarist and be playing live you know

and so he made it his thing to be that


and the same with paul rogers as far as

singing was concerned not to be the

greatest songwriter in the world not to

be in the biggest man he just wanted to

be able to sing the best and that’s what

i say to a lot of youngsters and

hopefully someone that are watching

is that you know

try not to be everything and and it’s

not actually very possible to be


in music you know but try and be the

best at even just one thing

is is sometimes definitely good enough

that’s unfortunately what a lot of

youngsters they want to be the singer

the guitarist the bass player the

producer the engineer the writer this

that and the other you know

unfortunately not so many uh records are

done these days in teams of people and

the best teams of people being bands

that’s where the best music was made

within you know i mean with a little

with a lot of heartache a lot of the

time a lot of screaming and shouting and

pulling and pushing and this that and

the other but but out of it came some

great music i want to ask you about the

firm so how did that all come together

with jimmy like were you were you

involved with that from the beginning i

know they had two records you worked on

the first one what was it like working

on that on that record

brilliant totally brilliant

i think those stories that um that jimmy

was very depressed maybe because of

zeppelin splitting up and

uh not splitting up i mean you know

couldn’t carry on so


i don’t know i read a few stories about

that but one way or another paul rodgers

i’d been working with paul

on his solo stuff on his solo album so i

sort of knew him and anyway bad company

was signed to swan song so they were

part of that uh

group and and jim you know i knew


admired jimmy so much you know and i’m

sure that was the same because

paul rogers is an amazing singer so one

way or another i can’t remember

any more discussions it was just we were

we were going to do we started work on

that album and it was paul rogers jimmy

page like i said and this crazy crazy

drama guy chris chris slade and tony

who’s pretty amazing bass player and uh

i set them up in the studio

and i set up a guide what i thought was

going to be a guide vocal and i put

screens up and all that business

and um

because actually yeah prior to that um

jimmy did make a start on a different

band and that was with chris squires

and alan white and that was a good

project it wasn’t really a singer that

was the only thing

and i kept putting forward ideas for

singers but i don’t think jimmy could

find a singer that matched it but it was

good music but anyway but this there was

nothing peculiar about the firm

i would say it was great material

amazing singer in fact paul the only one

of the problems was that when we they’d

be out there doing one of the tracks

you know whatever it was and then they

come in and go yeah that’s the one

and then i’d assume that we would then

do the vocal again and you’d go no no

that’s there’s nothing wrong with that

like we can’t keep that it’s got guitars

on it you know you can hear the drums in

the background no no we’re not doing

that again so um so that was a bit weird

but the you know but they were they were

they were brilliant vocals and uh you

know i always thought that uh you’ve

lost that loving feeling should have

been a singer i love that

that should definitely been a single

that was such a great version of that

and i thought right the thing that i

regret on the album when i listen to it

is the bloody reverbs i use that’s the


because at the time you know digital

reverb was all the rage

so i stuck a lot of reverbs on it and

that kind of dates it a bit

and when i listen to it seems to work on

radioactive which was a mad track anyway

but i think on some of the others i’m

wishing i could turn the reverb down a

bit i know what i’d like to do jimmy if

you’re if you’re listening

is uh remix it

yeah that would be bloody good let’s

remix it let’s remix the firm album we

we love that album you know there’s a

lot of zeppelin fans that love the phone

it would be good to remix it that’s for

sure yeah you were saying that you felt

that jimmy page might have had

like a little bit of a

post led zeppelin depression thing and

that’s kind of why maybe he did the firm

to kind of get out of that funk when you

were working on the firm or when you

were working on coda was

was the death of john bonham was that

kind of looming over any of it or was

that not really there no i don’t yeah i

don’t remember that i mean he’s quite a

private guy really jimmy see the thing

is that for for people that

you know have been doing this a long

time even then when you get in the

studio you’re there to do you’re there

to do what you’re there to do

and it’s difficult enough doing that

without getting into

you know other areas that could spoil

the session or for for anything like

that so you’re looking to have a good

time to have a good atmosphere that’s

what i remember about the firm actually

that everyone was kind of having a good

time and also to that

and also definitely when we did the

death wish 2 uh soundtrack

which actually i reckon that was the

better that was the best one probably

the firm was the best music but from a

technical point of view death wish 2 was

probably the best thing i did with jimmy

because um

you know doing music for film isn’t easy

you know it’s very technical you know

the director’s already told you where he

wants the music

and also we we were using like technical


gizmos or whatever it was but actually

they were quite early ones to achieve

what what had to be done you know and


there was orchestrations to do so from a

technical point of view that was um

probably death wish 2 was the one jimmy

as crazy guy as he kind of is he’s so

methodical he’s so methodical in

everything he seems to do i mean they

just brought out a photographic book he

just brought out

a photographic book he’s got you know

and he had all this stuff and if he

didn’t have it

he hires researchers to go looking for

as one of the researchers rang me up to

say have you got any pictures of the

mill and all this sort of stuff you know

he’s very very switched on methodical

and uh

eccentric i would say you know he he

likes to get everything right and

present it correctly and the whole bit

you know which is funny in a way when

you then think about the music the best

music that he’s known for

which actually is quite messy if you

like and rocky and

you know

extravagantly all over the place but

somehow comes together you know in the

in the tightness in the field

but it’s not you know it’s not classical

music is it it’s not like

you know everyone reading notes which

would you’d have you’d have thought that

would have been

something of someone who’s that uh

careful about everything might be more

into you know i mean it’s very lairy

what he does he’s a larry guitarist

around yeah

he’s all over the shop with it you know

nothing like not like clapton if you

like who’s more precise you know i mean

let’s face it look it’s a bit like when

people start comparing racing drivers

you know who’s the greatest racing

driver on earth who’s the greatest

racing driver that’s ever been who’s the

grey is this or that in the other when

you talk about guitarists they’re all

different they just had different styles

and that’s what made makes it so great

you know that it’s still a bloody bit of

wood with six strings on it

but between them they managed to make it


completely different you know jimi

hendrix died at what was it 27 yep

and and let’s face it well in my opinion

he he was he was definitely the greatest

guitarist of all time i got to meet him

actually i only got to meet him uh


yeah i got to meet him when he was um

he was playing on steve steele’s first

album because my mate clive was

engineering it at uh

island studio basin street and jimmy and

he was like really quiet really shy and

listen when he came along you know we

used to have rouse

about who was the best guitarist

and it wasn’t jimmy page it was eric

clapton or jim or jimi hendrix and as

far as i was concerned

you know it was it was definitely jimi

hendrix but you’d have terrible rounds

with people’s you know i can’t be

friends with you then

what you don’t like what you’re saying

eric clapton’s a better guitarist than

jimmy page at jimi hendrix where you can

puck off there because you’re mad

so going back to koda for a moment is

there anything else about the making of

that record that stuck out to you

that’s when i met um robert i think he

might have done some vocals

i think he came in to do the vocals

jimmy brought in some great mics you

know he had one of these old

47s that the beatles used and

i think i was very pleased

if robert plants come in and i’m

definitely going to set up that

microphone you know

because it will just look great apart

from it will obviously sound great

because uh

he’s got a great voice but um so we

definitely did that walters walk

yeah that was that was definitely i

think that was the one that uh robert

did some vocals on walter’s walk that

was a funny track yeah okay interesting

good track why why is that funny to you

like what’s the stuck out about that

track to you i’ll tell you what it is is


led zeppelin are a good example of bands

in the 70s and 80s that didn’t have a


you know it wasn’t like oh they’re a

heavy metal band or they’re a pop band

they’re a rock band they do all sorts of

stuff and walter’s walk is like a

country in western i think and poor tom

is definitely

it’s like country and western you know

because they all like various different

types of music and on the one album

you’d get all sorts of different

announcements to do the same thing you

know it’d be country comforts like a

country and western song you know and

that was what was great also about those

bands they got such a wide spectrum of

uh music on each record definitely we

worked on poor tom

we did all sorts of because everything i

did with jimmy was usually complicated

to be honest apart from maybe the firm

which was fairly straightforward

although there were probably complicated

stuff in it but i know we did something

weird with poor tom

i don’t know what it was because i think

maybe jimmy didn’t have the multi-track

or i don’t know we had to do something i

can’t quit you i was saying um

he didn’t want it to be known it was at

the uh it was live so i couldn’t use the


mics i couldn’t use the audience mics

so i brought in this incredible uh early

emt digital reverb to recreate that so i

did that the ones that came from uh in

through the outdoor there was nothing to

do they were just mixed

how did your relationship with zeppelin

begin did you work with them prior to

coda like how did that all come together

yeah well it’s it’s not really the yeah

it’s not so much uh direct

relation with uh zeppelin it was more

with jimmy page and that came about

because in about 1980 i guess

uh gus dudgeon who owned the mill

studios in cookham had to sell it

and one of the people that came to view

it interested to buy it was jimmy page

and uh yeah i was there we were working

with an american band actually shooting

star and um there’d been a lot of sort

of um

you know we weren’t allowed to know who

was coming he was coming in a helicopter

he’s flying in and there’s all this

mystery about it which later i found out

is pretty much par for the course with

jimmy and led zeppelin always surrounded

in a bit of mystery somehow

and um anyway in walks this guy you know

obviously recognized him straight away

as jimmy page and he was very quiet very


had a look around took note what was

going on and next thing we hear he’s

buying the studio

so um and also i heard that he wanted to

keep me on


as engineer and i guess studio managers

so that was very nice and uh

yeah so i was now really looking forward

to working with jimmy that’s awesome

so another huge artist you worked with

is elton john you remember what it was

like working with him for the first time

in the first elton john album i booked

the studio i booked the i booked the

musicians i booked the piano i booked

the organ you know i was really

coordinating um

coordinating is what we were doing

uh for those albums

and that would have been honky honky

chateau and tumbleweed uh doing the

sleeves i was instrumental in putting

the sleeves together photo sessions i

was organizing press receptions you know

gigs for elton equipment for elton you

were 18 years old when you started

working with them on that american tour

for you personally what was that like i

mean you’re 18 you’re working with elton

john what was that experience like for


well it was totally brilliant but the

funny thing is that because it was just

i haven’t got anything to compare it

with it was just like almost like normal

you know and and what was exciting about

it what was apart from never been to

america and now we’re on tour which i’ve

never done in my life

was also because i’ve been such a fan

and we were we were promoting elton in

the uk and getting nowhere

so now we’d be playing carnegie hall and

all these kids are jumping up and down

and screaming and going berserk

and including canada uh where we started

playing as well

so it was so great to see our mate

my mate elton going down the storm with

the audiences and finally being

appreciated you know so there was so

much excitement there i mean we were all

sort of wide-eyed because no one had

really well elton had been through

america a couple of times before but

this was all new to all of us and we’re

all sort of like a bit like a circus in

a way you know a traveling circus

but because we were all experiencing it

the same it was it was just great fun it

was absolutely great fun i’m not crazy

about flying

that’s that’s just

the tip of the iceberg i hate flying so

um yeah i didn’t like that aspect

uh i seem to have found out i had a bit

of a phobia for large and closed spaces

they always make make me dizzy or

something so there was a lot of those

when it’s

when you’re touring so it was actually

only the physical

aspects that were

you know you had to sort of cope with

all this traveling and sitting around

and waiting and all that stuff but the

but the gigs always made it worthwhile

because they were so exciting you know

it was great fun and they’re all my

mates nigel and dee uh you know the

first band was just a three piece piano

bass and drums extremely exciting great

days and and definitely more exciting

looking back

50 years ago you know than it is that it

probably was at the time

you know i’m sure it wasn’t quite as um

because touring actually everyone thinks

it is so exciting but actually it’s a

lot of the time it’s very boring sitting

around waiting and all that

he has a lot of waiting for planes

waiting for this waiting for that but it

was you know seeing elton go from

obscurity to people actually

almost ignoring him on purpose

by talking by talking in gigs and he’s

saying shut up he’s trying to play a

song in

to actually going berserk when he walks

out on stage you know and loving it

was was just so thrilling because he’s a

mate you know it’s not this isn’t like


someone you don’t know this is this is

your buddy and i was kind of looking

after him although most of the time he’s

looking after me really we were just

traveling you know

i mean they were great tours absolutely

i mean i did two uh

two tours as his personal assistant and

then the last tour i did was um actually

i was looking after kiki d

and that was in 1974

but by 74 he was just huge we had our

own plane in fact we had the same plane

that zeppelin uh

really used to use yeah the starship

uh the rolling stones used it zeppelin

used it

and then elton had it for the 1974 he

had it for a couple of tours i think

so like literally the exact same plane

or the same model yeah exactly the same

plane i think oh really cool yeah

so and we used to have a sea of

limousines you know the 74 tour

i mean now he has his own plane a band

of their own plane i mean obviously it’s

it’s even moved on from then but uh

but the last tour i did which was as i

say way back in 74 when we did madison

square gardens when john lennon came on


it was um

yeah i mean it was pretty amazing really

so i do miss touring i miss that

and we we’ve you know we traveled to

some great places we went to some great

places where you are in canada you know

i really like

love the canadian audiences and um

being in canada anyway generally was

very nice so yeah i missed that i’d have

to do that again at some point so how

did your friendship with ellen john

begin and how did you end up working

with him i met him at 15.


he’s 74 so uh he was about 20 21

and uh you know basically i went from

school started this is very interesting

the way this interview has gone because

normally we start with that

but now this is at the end i like that


so uh

so we’ve come for so um anyway yeah i

went from school working for a guy

called dick james who was the beatles

music publisher

and he was also elton john’s publisher

or reg dwight as he was known then

and i pretty quickly got to meet reg and

he was a great guy you know outrageous

uh very

again you know very eccentric even then

but what i always say is that when he

then sat down and played the songs

there’s nothing eccentric about that

well except you know they were just

brilliant and this is a guy sitting just

over there you know i’ve never never

experienced that before

and i just thought well i always wanted

to be a singer-songwriter but but this

is something else you know he’s amazing

so from that day i sort of wanted to be

more involved in what he was doing

musically and in the business

so um i went from office boy to disc

cutter to

working in them

a r and um


but then i i started helping run the

record company that we formed djm

with steve brown and steve brown was

really uh

elton john’s manager he was actually his

first record producer as well and so i

was his assistant so i was doing

everything on a day-to-day business uh

day-to-day basis to do with elton

and you know we were great buddies and

uh working on his career

and we used to sort of dream about the

day one day he’d be uh

well known like cat stevens and james

taylor and joni mitchell and that’s how

we saw elton john as a singer songwriter

sitting at the piano playing these songs

who would have thought that he would



actually only sitting at the piano not


but he wanted to bounce up and down jump

around go nuts dress up as donald duck

or whatever it was

and become like the biggest thing on the


we didn’t know that

don’t even know if he knew that that’s

why he became the biggest through his

performing and through his outrageous

behavior you know yeah of course he’s uh

genius songwriter and singer singer

songwriter and pianist

but um but then so is joni mitchell in

my opinion so is jackson brown and so

but what what took him into the heights

was his outrageous

and wanting to be jerry lee lewis and

little richard and all those people

wrapped up in one

uh what’s the other guy liberace i

suppose you know

so he had he had um

well delusions of grandeur i suppose he

would call it but they weren’t they

weren’t delusional

as it turned out

of course

could have all gone the other way you

know he could have made a fool of

himself made a twitter himself

he was never one to uh you know to

shrink back from a

you know from a challenge in any way he


full throttle and that’s the other thing

i i try to tell i look for in youngsters

that i’m working with this this passion

and this um

you know over the top


wanting to be

something they dream about you know

they’ve got a dream of how they see

themselves and

it’s not enough just to write a song or

to play guitar or to play the piano they

want i mean i say that

people should specialize but i mean

elton specialized in writing songs and

singing and then performing but he

didn’t do it all in one go he did it in

stages anyway not many people know that

elton didn’t even see himself as a


he he only saw himself as a songwriter

he just wanted to be a great songwriter

and yeah and pianist and he used to do

but he used to do sessions as a pianist

not as a singer

you know he was going around like the

same way jimmy was and at the same time

actually when jimmy page was doing


sessions uh elton was doing uh piano

sessions and keyboard sessions as he

started to write more songs

and they were they weren’t really that

easy to cover


for other people to sing

so it was put to him that maybe he he’ll

have to sing them because no one else is

so he started singing and making him you

know getting good at it which is what

he’s like if i’m going to do something

i’m going to be great at it you know

and and then it was said we you’ll have

to go out and perform

you know i don’t want to do that you

want to do that either


otherwise you’re not going anywhere i

have to do it and if i’m going to do it

i’m going to do it

full throttle 100 give it everything you

know which he always did you know and he

always does

he goes out there to

that’s what he did in america actually

i mean

they before he was famous they were

still sitting there like what’s this guy

all about you know come from england and

maybe they’d heard his album it’s a

little bit funny your song the classical


and um

you know he was determined to show them

what he could do

and then um yeah you’re right sort of

aged 18 i went out and was touring with

him as a personal assistant


and i i was getting into production as

well you know i produce a noun with two

girls that elton played on birds of a


and i thought i always wanted to be a

producer really

um but it wasn’t until

uh gus dungeon built the um the mill


but then um elton came to do actually it

was with

it was with clyde franks my mate

clive who was producing this album

called a single man

and um so now i was actually engineering

you know i engineered single man and

then we did ice on fire

and then i co-produced um

a track with elton when he did the duet

sound i put him together with chris rear

they did a duet i would have loved to

have produced an elton john john album

but uh that really happened i only did

like a track or two tracks but i

engineered a lot and i engineered a lot

of um

i did some live gigs uh without

doing live sound because actually live

sounds something that i’ve done quite a

lot of

so um yeah lots of lots of stuff without

to do with that when i was at rocket

records i might as well tell you this uh

we were offered a band you know that we

had a tape of this band two tapes two

ten inch spools it was queen

oh cool they were called queen

and i used to play it i put it on i went

well i mean that’s

great guitar stuff going on there

never heard all that before all these

guitar harmonies i thought they were

really good you know queen and i played

it with steve who was running rocket

records but the fact is they wanted a

hundred thousand pounds and that was in


and they weren’t kidding either you know

they wanted that much money and we were

running the whole company on about 20

000 a year you know so it was like

completely impossible and anyway they

weren’t that great

you know you got when you got the

beatles and the stones and the who and

the kings

and the whatever you know there were so

many great bands around in the 70s

they weren’t as they went they weren’t

better than those you know they were

like good

but they certainly weren’t better and

they weren’t worth a hundred grand

and anyway we didn’t go to see them live

you know i don’t think they were playing


a lot of the bands that we because i

went on to work at rocket records and we

were signing uh

new artists and um

often it would be that you’d hear the

tape and then they’d say and that band’s

playing at the marquee in london which

was a great club

so you go down and then you’d see

thin lizzy or whatever it was you know

and you’d see this great band live with

the front guy and all that

had that have happened with queen

maybe elton would have put his hand in

his pocket to find 100 grand because

then you’d have seen freddy you know as

this amazing front guy with this

incredible band

so that might have made the difference

in signing them but all we had was a

tape so

so when you say they weren’t that great

it was you’re referring to the tape like

the tape wasn’t incredible but once you

actually just wasn’t yeah i mean you

know what it wasn’t the greatest singer

they weren’t the amazing greatest songs

it didn’t sound so original


the main thing i like was that well no

one else liked it i was playing elton

heard it bernie heard it steve brown

earned it they all heard it and no one

signed them


at that time i would say it didn’t stand

out as being there’s nowhere near like

whatever the beatles were doing then the

white album well no we’ve gone beyond

the white house it was just it

wasn’t anything

actually i’ve never been a queen fan

anyway i’ve never been a big queen fan

interesting so um i just of love that

but you’ve got to say that live they


spectacular because of freddie as a

front guy you know

and they became better anyway this is

the first album i don’t even know what

it was called

but uh

so this was only the first album i think

what i was trying to say is though that

there were so many great bands around

and music was at such a high level at

that time

you know we also we also when i was at

dj and we we had the tapes no they were

tapes they came in uh it was a band

called america okay

yeah but they were nowhere near as good

as crosby seals and nash

who who we already heard and loved you

know so we didn’t sign them either

which maybe was maybe it was a mistake

but that crosby stills in nashville like

amazing their first album their second

album you know

totally brilliant you know

so at that time there was so much great

stuff to choose from

and i’ve and i haven’t even got the full

list you know i mean bands are a funny

dynamic aren’t they it’s a shame that

they seem to be on the decline i would

say and technology has got a lot to do

with that 100

100 yeah and i think they they probably

find pr they find pretty early on that

actually it’s not possible to do so then

hopefully sometimes they get in touch

with me and say what’s wrong with me i

can’t seem to make my track sound light


let zeppelin all the beatles

and i’ve got all this equipment i’ve got

pro tools i’ve got everything and why is

it not sounding right

so um you know you can we can soon tell

them why that is

and um

i don’t know what’s going to happen i

don’t know how we can get back to that

if ever

it might just be something that’s that’s

well i’m not i’m not complaining too

hard because i like the fact that i’m

still that the music i worked on is

still so highly regarded

you know so i mean we thought it was

good at the time but it doesn’t seem to

have been bettered

as you would imagine it should have been

if you imagine the music that went

before it you know

it was such a

it was such a

unique uh happening the music of the 60s

and the 70s but it could have been it

could equally have been bettered so much

that you just uh we don’t even bother

listening to it anymore and that’s

that’s not really the case you know i

mean you know i don’t know whether you

i’m sure you’ve seen it but anyway

there’s this film with the beatles out

at the moment get back

and uh it’s it’s just it just

you know it just uh emphasizes


that dynamic between

people in a band you know musicians in a

band getting together it just emphasizes

it in such a great way yeah it shows you

some of the disagreements and you know

what they go through but it also shows

you just how magnificent they were as a

band there’s four guys

sitting around talking they suddenly

pick up instruments

and they’re playing something and it’s


it’s brilliant

because you know it’s live and you can

see them doing it

and it’s

no one person can do that