Jimmy Page says he's "warming up on the touchlines" for a live comeback.
Speaking at the West London launch of the 40th anniversary deluxe reissue for Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, the guitarist said he was making steady progress on a return to the stage. With any thoughts of a Zeppelin reunion on hold, he had previously announced plans to put a new band together.
"How it starts off is, you have to play guitar and get match-fit first," Page tells Rolling Stone during a public Q&A. "So currently I'm in the process of doing that – but I'm also in the process of doing this [reissue series] too. It'll be closer to the end of the year rather than next month. I'm definitely warming up on the touchlines!
"What I'm doing is something that's going to be quite different," he added. "It wouldn't be anything that hopefully you'd imagine I would do."
In the meantime, Page has been concentrating on the Zeppelin reissues, which he has personally remastered. "The response has been phenomenal," he said. "I knew all of the material was really great, but it was really important to set the scene right from the beginning and explain the fact that they were companion discs. It's been a real fun project to do because I know what's coming – and there's some great surprises."
The Physical Graffiti package includes an early mix of "Trampled Under Foot" entitled "Brandy & Coke"; a "rough orchestra mix" of "Kashmir" called "Driving Through Kasmir"; and a radically different take on "In the Light" from when the song was still called "Everybody Makes It Through."
In a good-natured public Q&A, Page said such alternate versions showed the band's huge creativity at the time. "Everyone was really shining," he said. "It's so good to be able to present this, because you can see the bare bones of it, but you also know what it becomes. It's a really good illustration of why this whole companion disc series is so good."
Page said there were plenty more gems to come on the final three albums in the series – Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda – but he is particularly proud of this set: "We were thinking about putting out an album that was going to knock everybody's socks off. It's a tour de force, the whole of it."
Page also reminisced about recording the album at Headley Grange in Hampshire, England, remembering how a visiting Ian Stewart, former keyboard player and road manager with the Rolling Stones, inspired the album's "Boogie with Stu."
"There was a baby grand piano in the main sitting room," said Page. "John Paul Jones had gone over hoping it was going to be a great concert grand, and it was just impossible. It probably hadn't been tuned for 20 years and it was really dusty, but Stu just sat there and started rolling out this wonderful boogie-woogie – he was a master at that style of piano, he had an incredible knowledge and understanding of it. Stu wouldn't make a solo album – he was very shy about that – so I thought, 'Here he is, let's just get him recording' because it was just such fun."
Zeppelin's status as the biggest band in the world also influenced what ended up on the record. "Traveling the world was a constant thing, rich with experiences," he said. "But all of it was relative to being able to play live onstage and really stretch out. The whole thing was becoming a creative process and we were living it."
The deluxe edition of Physical Graffiti will be released on February 23rd, almost 40 years to the day after the original's February 24th release.