Who hasn’t wanted to be a rock star, join a band or play electric guitar? Music resonates, moves and inspires us. Strummed through the fingers of The Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White, somehow it does more. Such is the premise of It Might Get Loud, a new documentary conceived by producer Thomas Tull.
It Might Get Loud isn’t like any other rock’n roll documentary.
Filmed through the eyes of three virtuosos from three different generations, audiences get up close and personal, discovering how a furniture upholsterer from Detroit, a studio musician and painter from London and a seventeen-year-old Dublin schoolboy, each used the electric guitar to develop their unique sound and rise to the pantheon of superstar.
Rare discussions are provoked as we travel with Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White to influential locations of their pasts. Born from the experience is intimate access to the creative genesis of each legend, such as Link Wray’s “Rumble’s” searing impression upon Jimmy Page, who surprises audiences with an impromptu air guitar performance. But that’s only the beginning.
While each guitarist describes his own musical rebellion, a rock’n roll summit is being arranged. Set on an empty soundstage, the musicians come together, crank up the amps and play. They also share their influences, swap stories, and teach each other songs.
During the summit Page’s double-neck guitar, The Edge’s array of effects pedals and White’s new mic, custom built into his guitar, go live. The musical journey is joined by visual grandeur too. We see the stone halls of Headley Grange where “Stairway to Heaven” was composed, visit a haunting Tennessee farmhouse where Jack White writes a song on-camera, and eavesdrop inside the dimly lit Dublin studio where The Edge lays down initial guitar tracks for U2’s forthcoming single. The images, like the stories, will linger in the mind long after the reverb fades.
It Might Get Loud might not affect how you play guitar, but it will change how you listen. The film is directed and produced by An Inconvenient Truth’s Davis Guggenheim, and produced by Thomas Tull, Lesley Chilcott and Peter Afterman.
Inteview with Producer Thomas Tull:
How is this film different from other music documentaries?
TH: While there have been a lot of performance documentaries, this one is really about the relationship between these three men and their instruments. We tried to show what drives the artists, what got them passionate as players, what made them pick up the guitar in the first place.
Where did you come up with this concept?
TH: The guitar is something I am ardent about. I was thinking how, on a global level, the personification of contemporary music IS the guitar: from video games to debates over Top 10 guitarists lists, from rock to jazz to blues, this instrument captures everyone’s imagination. It was a subject I hadn’t really seen explored on film, from that perspective.
What was instrumental in you picking Davis Guggenheim to direct?
TH: I’ve known Davis as a friend for a number of years. He is one of the best documentarians there is (as shown in “An Inconvenient Truth”), and he’s passionate about music too. He was the only person I thought of for this film.
Why did you want to make this film?
TH: As a fan I wanted to see a movie that captured the essence of why people are so fanatic about the guitar. I wanted to tell that story through these three, particular artists.
How did you choose Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White? What was it like working with them?
TH: It was almost like casting a movie. We wanted to show a wide range of styles and eras by focusing on three of the best players in the world, from three generations…and they said yes! Like many kids, I had a poster of Jimmy Page on my wall—he is a living legend. U2 is one of the greatest bands ever, and The Edge is a brilliant and distinctive player. Jack White is the new generation—cutting his own path but also keeping the guitar, and great guitar traditions, alive.
TH: What do you hope audiences will experience while watching the film?
Honestly, I made this film for people like me, people who love music and the experience of a live show. When you love a band or a musician you want to know how and why they do what they do—what makes them tick. Davis was able to show this, to get inside these guys’ worlds and inside their heads in a way I don’t think any other music documentary has. I hope fans are as excited and fulfilled by seeing and hearing what he uncovered as I am.
TH: What was your initial reaction when Thomas Tull first approached you about IMGL?
Thomas asked me to come to his office in Burbank - I had no idea why. I get there and he launches into this passionate pitch about the electric guitar and how no film has ever captured what it is that makes the instrument so great. He described the huge influence the electric guitar has had on him and our entire society. Soon, without ever realizing it, I was hooked: totally into this idea of looking at the subject matter in a different way. The history of the instrument has already been thoroughly explored. Most Rock and Roll documentaries focus on car wrecks and overdoses; or they pontificate with sweeping generalities about how this guy was “God” and how “music was changed forever”…
Thomas and I didn’t want any of that. We wanted to focus on story-telling and the path of the artist, we wanted to push deeper beneath the surface.
Are there particular moments from the film that are your favorites?
TH: There are so many. We were filming in Jimmy Page’s home outside of London - which he has never allowed before – and he starts pulling out his favorite albums and playing them for us. These are the records that he listened to and learned from as a young musician. Just watching him listen to the records was incredible - and then he started playing air guitar! We were filming Jack in Austin, Texas, and he’s playing this out-of-control guitar solo. Through the lens, I start realizing that he’s so focused and playing so aggressively that his hand is bleeding without him even knowing it. Or Edge taking us to the classroom where he and U2 first met and rehearsed when they were 16 and 17 years old. This was just a regular high school classroom – they would meet for practice and spend the first ten minutes clearing all the desks to the sides before they could actually play. In Tennessee, I asked Jack to write an original song on camera – and he did it – right in front of us… I don’t think I have ever seen that before.
Another time, Jimmy played us previews of two new tracks he was writing – both of which actually ended up in the movie.
What was the most challenging part of shooting this film?
TH: The most challenging part of the project was weaving these three stories together. Each guitarist comes from a different generation, has different roots, different theories - sometimes in direct conflict of one another. I had a hunch that inter-cutting their stories would be really interesting, but was panicked at times - worried that it would never work.
How long did the shoot take?
TH: Lesley Chilcott and I spent the better part of a year flying between London, Nashville and Dublin, following these guys. Sometimes it would be a very small crew, very intimate and sparse. And then we had a huge shoot on one of the largest Hollywood soundstages. There were seven cameras, the three rock stars, all their guitars and crew — it was like a three ring circus. I’ll never forget the look on the crews’ faces (and even those of us in the business who are so jaded) when Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, turned on their amps and started playing together. What I love about this movie, and what makes it so unique, is how the scale will change from Edge alone in his studio late night - to the three of them jamming on a Led Zeppelin track together with the volume full blast and the cameras capturing every angle.
What do you hope audiences will experience while watching the film?
TH: I hope the audience will fall in love with these guys as much as I did. Not just as rock stars - that part is easy - but at individuals and artists who turned their individual life experiences into music: beautiful, raw, in-your-face, visceral, and transcendent. And I hope that audiences feel a touch of that child-like excitement that Thomas sparked in me, that first day we sat down.
Now the trailer: Enjoy and watch for the movie to come to a city near you soon.
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