Q: Your new record, Dreamland, is your first solo effort since 1993. Why so long?
A: After my last solo record, Jimmy Page and I got back together. We were presented with a Grammy-the first and only Grammy we've ever had-but then I got to a point working with Jimmy where the past was the only thing that carried any currency. So I went to Norway, to the northernmost town in the Arctic Circle. I played in the land of the midnight sun. It wasn't the same structured entertainment arena that I'd been getting bored with. I'm sure everyone who's been around a long time does it. You just change gears.
Q: Led Zeppelin protected its catalog for years. So why license "Rock and Roll" to Cadillac?
A: Led Zeppelin has been there through three generations of teenage angst. And there's a generation of kids now who won't know it, post-Linkin Park. For a kid watching a ball game who thinks Led Zeppelin are a bunch of rich bastards who chuck TV sets out of windows and do funny things with sharks, I like the idea that it makes them go, "Who is that?" It gives the music a little more time, and allows us to compete in a contemporary world without having to re-form, like three Burl Iveses staggering around the stage.
Q: Are you a Cadillac man?
A: I drive an Audi. But I'll drive a Cadillac now.
Q: You were known for having the tightest trousers in rock. What inspired your fashion choices?
A: I think Led Zeppelin must have worn some of the most peculiar clothing that men had ever been seen to wear without cracking a smile. The nattiest dresser was John Paul Jones, who had coats made with imitation onions sewed to the shoulders and an assortment of small accoutrements from dolls' houses and a bit of a fox head somewhere or another. I was told that if you got in the bathtub with jeans on, they'd shrink up. I didn't have elephantiasis. There was nothing wrong with my genitals at all.
Q: What do you think of modern styles?
A: I cannot understand why everybody looks like they're going on a camping trip these days. People go out dressed as if they're going into the great outback, but they're really only going to a microbrewery down on Tenth Street. We're all ready to join the Scout movement. People have got to let their bodies breathe a little bit more. That's the great thing about being a pompous, jumped-up rock god. There's plenty of air around you.
Q: After spending your life touring in rock bands, what have you learned about women?
A: This is what I've learned about women: A guy's walking down the street and he kicks a Coke can, and out comes a genie, and the genie says: "I will grant you one wish." The guy says, "I don't need anything. I'm happy. I play tennis. I sing in a rock group. But there is just one thing. I want to go to Florida and I hate flying. Can you build me a bridge from London to Miami?" And the genie scratches his head and says, "I don't think I can do that. That's a bit too much." So the guy says, "Wait a minute: women. Can you explain the ways of a woman's mind?" And the genie looks at him and says, "About that bridge. Do you want a handrail and lights?" It's a handrail and lights, man. Whenever there's trouble with women we all go, "Just give me the bridge." It's much easier.