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INTERVIEW: MEAT LOAF – September 2016

| 16 September 2016 | 1 Reply

INTERVIEW: MEAT LOAF – September 2016
By Shane Pinnegar

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Here at 100% ROCK we’re constantly reaching out to source great content for our readers to enjoy, but in all honesty, when we request time with international rock legends with hallways full of gold and platinum records and an estimated 50-70 million album sales under their belt… well, we don’t expect to get the nod!

This time, however, we did – the only disappointing factor being that a strict fifteen minute limit, and a very chatty Meat Loaf, don’t combine to cut to the heart of the matter! I should mention also that I was asked to keep questions on topic.

That topic? Meat Loaf’s impressive thirteenth studio album, Braver Than We Are, REVIEWED HERE, which marks another collaboration with songwriter Jim Steinman, as well as some special surprise guests – more on that later.

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For this project – originally to be titled Brave & Crazy – was initially going to feature 2 or 3 of Steinman’s songs, but quickly evolved into an entire collection of the songwriter’s material, much of it rewritten from past projects. For instance, More was originally recorded by The Sisters Of Mercy in 1990, and Loving You’s A Dirty Job first appeared on Bonnie Tyler’s 1986 album Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. Other songs date back to early Steinman musicals The Dream Engine and Neverland, from which early Meat Loaf songs were also pulled.

More than that, Steinman was in daily contact with Meat Loaf and producer/guitarist Paul Crook, acting as creative consultant, reworking the songs and remotely assisting in all aspects of the production.

The end result is as suitably epic and over-the-top as all of Meat Loaf & Steinman’s best work together: an album which the singer declares, “a tribute to both of us and our work together.”

We start early on a chilly Perth morning, and I quickly realise that keeping the interview on topic might be akin to big game fishing. There are asides, and references that remain unexplained, but they are worth it for the amazing insights from this iconic rock legend.

Strap yourself in and come along for a fascinating ride into the mind of Meat Loaf.

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Meat Loaf: Hi, Shane, how are you doing?

100% ROCK: I’m very well. Thanks for your time today, man.

Meat Loaf: What time is it there in Australia?

100% ROCK: We’ve got 7 am here in Western Australia. How about yourself?

Meat Loaf: It’s getting 6 pm here.

100% ROCK: You’re down Texas way, is that correct?

Meat Loaf: Yeah, I live in Austin.

100% ROCK: Right on. I never got to Texas in my travels, but I’ve been to a bit of the rest of The States.

Meat Loaf: It’s a big one. I’ll tell you how big it is. I’ll tell you how big it is… if you drive from New York city to Chicago, you would still be in Texas, if you were starting at the bottom of Texas in Brownsville.

100% ROCK: That’s huge.

Meat Loaf: That’s big. You can’t do it on one tank of gas.

100% ROCK: For sure definitely. Hey, I’ve lived with the new album Braver Than We Are for a few days now, and it’s a striking piece of work. It’s really grandiose, and it certainly stands out really well next to your previous work. You must be very happy with it.

Meat Loaf: Jim and I, honestly… did you read Jim’s letter? Did they send you his letter?

100% ROCK: No – I didn’t get that.

braver-than-we-are-steinman-letter

Meat Loaf: If you go on Meat Loaf Facebook, his letter is posted up at the top of the page, so after we finish you can go read it because I think it’s important that you read his letter. He considers [the album] one of the best things that he has ever worked on in his entire life.

100% ROCK: All right, I’ve got it on the screen now. I will have a good look at that as soon as we’re finished. Thanks for that… so look, you and he have had your triumphs and your clashes over the years, but obviously there is an underlying friendship to your professional relationship.

Meat Loaf: See, that’s an assumption of the press – the media actually. Because what happens is lawsuits happen: but I don’t file a lawsuit against Jim, and he doesn’t file against me. Some manager will file a lawsuit against that other manager, or the record company will file against something, and then they turn to me and Jim and go, ‘okay, you two can’t talk to each other.’

Jim and I have always talked to each other, and we’ve been together… when did I meet him? Before 1972 – before the summer of ’72, somewhere early in ‘72, and we’ve been working on and off together ever since. It’s like, we started working on Bat Out of Hell 2 [which was released in 1993] in 1986. It’s just that I kept going on tour, and we were working when I would come home, and then I stopped, and we spent a couple of years working on it.

The same thing with this one. We’ve been working on this one for about four years, and I just keep touring and coming back, but there would be conversations; email conversations. We had one when I was doing Las Vegas, that I got to the hotel room about 11:30 [pm] and there was an email from Jim, so I answered it – we were returning emails till 8 am!

We spent a lot of time on this record figuring out which songs to do, and which songs not to do. There was one we both wanted to do, but we were told we couldn’t do it – which is a song called What Part Of My Body Hurts The Most. When the producer of the [Bat Out Of Hell] play – that’s going to open finally after almost 50 years, it’s been Jim’s dream, it’s going to open in Manchester in February of next year – the producer of the play said, ‘how come Meat Loaf didn’t do What Part Of My Body Hurts The Most on this record?’ Jim and I, we just shook our head and went, ‘oh my good lord.’

I won’t tell you why we didn’t [record the song]. Michael Cole is the producer, he heard the record three times, and said back to Jim, ‘your record is unbelievable, [but] how come you didn’t do What Part Of My Body Hurts The Most?’ Jim, he forwarded me that email and both of us were just going, ‘oh, God, we were stupid?’

100% ROCK: It’s such an eclectic record; it goes from rock and pop, you’re almost operatic on tracks like Godz. Do you approach all of these songs as if you’re acting a part when you’re going to sing them?

Meat Loaf: This record is completely different than any other record. I look at this record as more of a painting than I do a record, because Jimmy wrote the opening song when he was 19 years old – it was the first song that he ever wrote, and I know Jim was never that angry, that upset. Jimmy is not a method writer, and I’m not a method actor, so because I knew that Jim had written that song when he was 19, and the character that was doing that song, in Jim’s mind [he] was really angry. I’ve never asked Jimmy what he was angry at, and Jimmy might not even remember what the character was angry with, but he was really angry. [So] I played him really angry, and then at the very end of the song I kind of let him calm down a little bit, instead of being so emphatic about it. Because it starts with southern blues, and then goes into a 3/4-time German cabaret kind of thing.

I kind of smoothed that out at the end and sang the ending as opposed to marched on through the whole song. Because I was angry and I was marching around the room. I decided at that point to make every character on that record 19. When you get to Train Of Love, which is the last song [which, incidentally, also features a sweet slide guitar solo courtesy of Blackfoot/Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ricky Medlocke] – I’m sure that Jimmy wrote it about trying to find a girl, get into it with a girl – I sang it about a 19-year-old trying to find out who he was, and I added lyrics to it, and the last lyric of the song is, “I don’t even know who I am,” and I did that on purpose, so all of these songs were sung by a 19-year-old.

The song you talked about… Not Skull [Of Your Country]. What was the other one you talked about? Godz! Godz is sung by the same character as Who Needs The Young. It’s the only one that repeats itself.

Jim had no idea when we started, and you can read his letter – he was apprehensive. He didn’t know, and I’ve never seen Jim so much in love with a record since we’ve been working, and I have listened to this record more than all of the other records I’ve ever made combined.

100% ROCK: Already?

Meat Loaf: I woke up at 3:15 one morning and sat in here and listened to that record seven times, and the other day I just was checking some speakers, so I started the record and all of a sudden, I’m gone. This record, if you really sit to listen to it, it will take you on a journey. It will hypnotise you. It honestly does.

It’s hypnotic, and I’ve never done a record like that, and when we first put the order [of the track list] together, I played it to the band one day before a show and as I’m listening, you hear things when you play things to other people, you hear it through their ears. It’s a very strange thing, and so I immediately got with Jimmy and said, ‘do you like this order?’ He went, ‘no,’ and so I said, ‘neither do I.’ We spent three days changing the order and trying different scenarios until we came up with this, and both of us, the minute we hit this order we went, ‘oh my God!’ and Jimmy said, ‘you’re 20 years younger!’

100% ROCK: I agree, it does take you on a journey. There’s a lot of moods, and it ebbs and flows. It’s a great record, but I have to ask – with such huge success to your past collaborations, is it easy for you to disregard the weight of expectations upon you?

Meat Loaf: I’ve never lived my life like that. What happened yesterday happened yesterday. Not all of it good, [but] some of it good, some of it bad, some of it incredibly great – and so you learn from your mistakes. You learn from your failures, and you learn from your successes, but you can never live off of either one. You have to move forward, and the one thing that I have never done is, I’ve never not given 110%, even if it’s not good. I always give everything I have, so people are going to judge this record against Bat Out Of Hell – Jimmy thinks this record is much better than that too. People are going to judge this record against Bat Out of Hell, and we know that, but Jim and I know what we have and… read his letter, and you’ll know what I’m talking about [when I say] that we’re on the same page.

I’m telling you, I was excited about a record that [I did] a few years ago called Hang Cool Teddy Bear, and I remember how excited I was about that. I was EXCITED about that. This, I’m like, I’m past excited. I’m exuberant. I’m living in another world – it’s like another planet.

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100% ROCK: The song Going All The Way is nothing short of epic. 11 minutes and then some, and I think it’s as good as anything you’ve done in your entire career – and you’ve got BOTH Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito [who sung the studio and live versions of Paradise By The Dashboard Light from 1977’s Bat Out Of Hell] on it, which is just magnificent.

Meat Loaf: I’m going to be honest with you. If people really go and listen to the first verse of Bat Out of Hell and the first verse of Going All The Way, it’s the same voice, just a different timbre. It’s exactly the same voice, but I think the first verse of Going All The Way is the best thing dramatically that I have ever put on record.

100% ROCK: That’s a big statement.

Meat Loaf: It’s a major statement. When I hear it, it blows me away. There is so much truth, and it is so in the moment. I’ve never been in a moment like that on a record in my life – and the second verse is not far behind it.

100% ROCK: How did you go about getting Ellen and Karla to sing on that one? You have history with both of them of course.

Meat Loaf: I think I said, ‘I should get Karla to sing on this,’ and Jimmy said, ‘well if you’re going to get Karla, we should Ellen.’ I said, ‘okay, you call Ellen, I’ll call Karla.’ Then he did that, and I said, ‘okay I’ll call Ellen, and you call Karla.’

Ellen was a little apprehensive at first, but when I called her that took it over the top. When Jimmy called her, she goes, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘let me call her,’ so I called, and then – then we did [this] on purpose: we booked their flight times so that they took different planes, of course, because one was coming from Indiana, and one was coming from New York, but both flights would land around the same time.

We had them in different cars, but they would show up at the hotel to check in about the same time, and that’s exactly what happened. Because it hadn’t been the greatest relationship between those two – and completely understandable, because Ellen felt she didn’t get the recognition because Karla did the video [for Paradise By The Dashboard Light, miming] with [Ellen’s] voice, so I get that.

If somebody did a video with my voice, you know… I mean they just did, a Meatloaf just sang I’d Do Anything For Love – the real one, the Meatloaf! Seth Rogan put out some weird cartoon [the newly released movie Sausage Party] – I don’t know what it is – but the next day we had 2 different cars booked [for Foley and DeVito], and they said, ‘never mind, we’ll come together,’ and they had dinner that night. They checked in together, and they have remained in contact ever since then. That was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done!

100% ROCK: Building bridges.

Meat Loaf: Me and Jim – I should put both of us. One of the greatest things Jimmy and I have ever done.

Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito

Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito

100% ROCK: Excellent. We’re running out of time, unfortunately, so let’s be quick: the album cover is suitably magnificent – it features you and Jim facing down what appears to be the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…

Meat Loaf: Exactly! Very good!

100% ROCK: …you’ve both had health issues over the past decade, so is that like a statement of defiance against the vagaries of time?

Meat Loaf: It’s a defiance against the record industry. They’re the Four Horseman of the Record Industry.

100% ROCK: Okay! Like I said, we’re running out of time, yet we’ve barely scratched the surface, so just one big question left: will you be touring Braver Than We Are, and are you likely to see you in Australia?

Meat Loaf: I don’t know that. We had an offer to come and play, and then I had to have back surgery, and [some other reasons are mentioned off the record]. I don’t know. It’s been tossed about, but there is nothing concrete.

100% ROCK: Fingers crossed we can get you down here, because I’d love to hear these songs live.

Meat Loaf: I’d love to come back – for more than one reason.

100% ROCK: Fantastic mate. Awesome thank you for your time. I’m sure we could go on for another hour about this, but look, it’s a great piece of work, and I wish you all the best with it.

Meat Loaf: Yeah, I could go on forever!

Shane: Thank you very much for your time. You have a good day.

Meat Loaf: All right, thanks mate, bye.
BRAVER THAN WE ARE is out now.

Shane

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