Rock Icons: Jimmy Page by Ian D'Sa
Billy Talent guitarist Ian D'Sa on the magic of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page
One day, my older brother showed me and my younger brother the movie The Song Remains The Same. He had the entire Led Zeppelin collection. Immediately, I was enamoured by what Jimmy Page was playing and wanted to do what he was doing on stage.
I listened to a lot of classic rock bands then: Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd. I love David Gilmour’s playing, but Jimmy has this unique thing. And as a kid, I drew the Zoso symbol hundreds of times. I could even draw it for you right now! I drew it on my school bag and sketch books and had a Zoso back patch on my jean jacket, too.
One of the things that really impresses me is his commitment to serving the song. He knew when to pull back when it was time for Robert Plant’s turn to sing. He left space for everyone.
They were a supergroup. Every guy in the band was incredible at what they did. There was no other drummer like John Bonham or any bassist like John Paul Jones. And, at the time, no one could wail like Robert Plant. Not only is Jimmy a great soloist, he’s a great rhythm guitar player as well. They were just miles ahead of every band.
The first Zeppelin song I learned to play was probably Rock N’ Roll. It was a simple blues riff. Then I learned Black Dog after that. That’s how I learned how to play riffs. It was all down to Jimmy Page. Before that, I learned chords from listening to records by The Kinks, those easy barre chords.
There’s a photo of me and Jimmy on my Twitter page @DSsRemainsDSame (see above). I had this amazing opportunity to meet him in Toronto last year. He was coming through town to play the Coda album remaster. Our label Warners distributes Atlantic in Canada, so I went to the listening session. He presented the album and I listened to him talk for a while. I have a Neal Preston print of Jimmy Page from 1975 that Ben [Kowalewicz, Billy Talent singer] bought me for my birthday a few years ago. It’s a picture of Jimmy swigging a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in Indianapolis. So anyway, I got introduced to him and we had a photo taken together. I was like, ‘Oh my god’. The president of Warner Canada told him I’d brought a poster to sign. I got all nervous but he was so nice. He rolled it out and told me about the photo and where it was taken. He signed it ‘Rock on, Ian’ and from being a 13-year-old kid who watched The Song Remains The Same to that moment, it came full circle. I got to chat with him for a while. It was so cool.
It’s not just his guitar playing that makes him an icon. He produced all those Zeppelin records and it was something I aspired to do; I’ve produced two and a half Billy Talent records. He had a level of commitment to his band that you don’t really see anymore. Most guys get caught up in ego, but he’s literally served the band since they started and everything to do with the band, from the songwriting process, to production and he put in so much work into these new reissues. That’s why he’s such an extraordinary person.
Favourite Zeppelin album? I love all their albums, but it has to be Physical Graffiti. There’s nothing like that first Zeppelin album, either. Just hearing Whole Lotta Love… it’ll forever be that riff every guitar player wants to learn.
Billy Talent's album Afraid Of Heights will be released on July 29 through Atlantic.