A couple of months ago, when I found out Meat Loaf had a new album coming out, I contacted the record company about getting a copy for review and, on a whim, put in ca request for an interview. I figured that was an impossibility, but my mantra in this business has always been "it never hurts to ask." Imagine my surprise then, when the week before the March 13th release of Meat Loaf's magnificent new album "Hell In A Hand Basket", I get an email from Sony Music in Toronto saying that my request has been approved. As I told Meat on the phone I've been a fan since the first Bat Out Of Hell album, and spending time on the phone with him is a definite highlight of my writing and vbroadcasting career. I found him to be passionate as a I knew he would be, and very willing to talk.
Now just off the top here, I just want to let you know that I’ve been a fan since 1977, I’ve got 9 or 10 of your albums, so I think you’re in pretty good hands.
Well thank you John, very much, and I’m hoping that you like this one. (Hell In A Hand Basket)
I LOVE this one, are you kidding me?
Thank you John, because so do I. This record… the 3 records that I am the most proud of are Bat Out Of Hell, Hang Cool Teddy Bear and Hell In A Hand Basket.
They’re ALL really, really good albums too.
And they’re completely different from one another. I’ve got 2 more, the band has started on a Christmas record called Hot Holidays.
(laughs) That sounds great!
They’ve started recording already.
I read somewhere in the press that you’re just on a creative tear right now. You’ve got lots of stuff in the pipeline, don’t you?
Yup. And I’ve got television and movie stuff that I’m trying to get done, and I AM on a creative tear as far as studying on the acting side, and studying on the music side, and reading as much as I can about stage directors. I’ve just gotten on this whole reading about actors and how they do it, finding the truth in everything. And that’s basically what everything is about, artistically. And if it’s not, then you’re not a real artist. If you’re making records and you’re not searching for the truth, or if you’re an actor and you’re not searching for the truth in a scene, or if you’re a director and you’re not searching for the truh from the actors on that stage, or if you’re doing a live show and you’re not searching for the truth in that song and living that moment in truth, then you’re wasting your time. Because it’s about finding the truth and the heart in the thing.
I absolutely agree. There’s so much music and general artistic work out there that DOESN’T do that, when someone like yourself comes along with an album like Hell In a Hand Basket and you’re speaking from the heart, it REALLY stands out.
Well then you know you get these hypocritical reviewers who don’t… I mean, I’ve gotten some of the best reviews I’ve ever gotten on an album on this one, but I’ve gotten others where they’ve just kind of glossed it. And what’s hysterical is that when Bat Out of Hell came out, people HATED it! (John laughs) I mean they despised it. If I got 3 good reviews on Bat Out of Hell I’d be surprised. And then when Bat Out Of Hell II came out, it was not much better. And then I do a record and Steinman’s not involved, then they mention “Well, he’s missing Steinman.” (laughing) When Jim & I got together, they HATED what we did! So it’s just so hypocritical that I find it amusing! And the people that have really given this good reviews have really listened to it and not just assumed “Oh it’s Meat Loaf, and this is what it’s gonna be.” They’ve actually listened to it. A lot of reviewers go “Oh Meat Loaf, we know what he’s going to give us” and they skim through it, and they hear some guitars and they think “Oh it’s the same thing, it’s this big production” and it’s not. And it’s not the same style production that we’ve ever done before.
That’s very true.
It was recorded on tour buses, in closets, it was with my band and my band only, except for a pedal steel player that we got, one of the best pedal steel players that we had on the Trace Adkins verse on Stand In The Storm and Taylor Swift’s violin player on the beginning of Live And Die. Oh… and a mandolin player out of Nashville. Everybody else is my band. And there’s nothing majorly stacked there, and if people pay any attention to anything, the beginning of All Of Me (opening track on the album) tells you what the album is. I open the first verse with a bass drum and a bass guitar- nothing else. I have left myself totally exposed. And if people paid any attention that, any of these reviewers or whatever, they would see “Wait a second- this is completely different from anything he’s ever done.”
That’s exactly what I thought when I first heard that song too.
I’ve left myself completely exposed, and there’s no tuning (auto-tune, I think- jk), it’s exactly what it is. And if there’s a flaw in there, there’s a flaw. I’ve left it because it was emotionally correct. The beginning of Blue Sky that’s before Mad, Mad World, was recorded at a sound check.
And I had every intention of re-recording it. And we got back here to my house, and we’re kind of sequencing, getting ready to re-mix ‘cuz we’re gonna put that on… we’re not re-mixing that but were going to re-mix the beginning of Mad World and put that on. And so the piano player had re-recorded the track and I was gonna sing it, and I’m sitting and listening to it, and I’m going “You know, there’s so much truth in that. It’s flawed, but…
Emotionally it hits the right notes…
I don’t think I can re-create that, and I don’t know that I want to even try. So we just kind of played with it, you know, and eq’d it with some eq a little bit, and then left it alone because it was raw, and it was emotional, and it was exactly what it should’ve been. And that’s how we left the whole record. The vocal on The Giving Tree was recorded in a closet in Prince Edward island. (John laughs)
Giving tree is a great song, by the way.
I mean we were recording on buses, back stage… the drums were recorded at the drummer’s… the drummer built a studio in his garage. So he re-played all the drums in his garage and basically emailed them to us, or whatever they do on Pro Tools. They don’t email, they… I don’t know what they do, they U-send it, whatever it is. I’m not technically savvy on Pro Tools at all, I know how to stop and start it! (both laugh)
Well that’s important to know!
I’ve said it’s one of my personal records and I read a review by a guy in Seattle, and he was very confused. He liked it, but he was very confused. He goes “Well if it’s this personal record, how can he have all these writers?” Well the problem is they don’t take time to study, it’s been written a million times how I work, even how I worked with Jimmy. I’ve never in my entire life gotten a song from somebody and recorded it the way it was. I even changed a line in California Dreaming. John Philips didn’t care! (both chuckle)
No, not anymore! (note: John Philips is dead)
I don’t have the ego that some of these people that record other people’s songs, that go “If I’m going to do this song then I’m going to put my name on as a writer.” Because people go “If you write the song you can feel it and you can actually believe it” and my saying to them is “Go tell Brando that because he didn’t write Streetcar Named desire that he couldn’t play Stanley.” Or Pacino, or any of the people in The Godfather, they couldn’t possibly find the truth in those characters because they didn’t write ‘em, or anybody that’s walked on the stage to do Shakespeare, and I’ve seen people like Kevin Kline and Raul Julia and these people just kill it. Because they didn’t write William Shakespeare they couldn’t possibly… so moronic, and so unintelligent and so not thought out that if you didn’t write a song that you couldn’t possibly find the truth in it. And maybe some people can’t, but you’re dealing with a different animal here. You’re dealing with somebody that has trained, that has studied. And because my name is meat Loaf, I’m sorry but my IQ is NOT 87. (John laughs) My IQ is actually 137. My mother’s IQ is 181 and my daughter’s IQ is 178. So my mother and my daughter are smarter than I am, and my other daughter… we don’t come from a dumb family! (both laugh)
No, that’s for sure!
(still laughing) I mean, I’m not a mountain man! Hatfields and McCoys! (both still laughing) But I don’t do melodies, I’m terrible at melodies. And whenever I try to go with somebody on a melody, I can’t record the song. So I take writers and I tell them “Why don’t you and him get together and work on this, this is where we’re going with the song, this is what we want to do with it.” And I’ll step in a couple of days later once they’ve got their melody sorted out, and I’ll start working on bridges and lyrics, stuff like that. And then when it’s all said and done I’ll go “Look- you guys wrote it, I don’t care whether my name’s on it as a writer, I’ll take 5% of the publishing” and they go “Great.”
So it works for everybody…
You know, it’s what it is- that’s how I work.
You mentioned a couple of minutes ago, Meat, how some reviewers take a look at your body of work, and they go “Oh it’s Meat Loaf, it’s more of the same, blah, blah, blah.” But one of the things I like about the work that you’ve done, whether it’s the stuff you’ve done with Jim, or, I think, cruelly underrated albums like Welcome To The Neighborhood and I Couldn’t Have Said It Better, is there’s an emotional content, and as you’ve been talking about the truth in the music that you sing, and I think that’s what a lot of people miss. If it doesn’t have “Bat” in the title or it doesn’t have Steinman’s name on it, they’re not paying attention- and I think it’s their loss.
No, they really don’t pay attention. They pay no attention, they dismiss it immediately. They don’t miss it, they just gloss over it. And they go “Oh it’s not Jim Steinman so it can’t be any good and anything (he) did with Jim was great.” I’m not going to sit here and say everything I did with Jim was great, I’m just not gonna do it. Everything on Bat Out of Hell was great. Jim is one of the greatest writers of all time. He’s being inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame finally. I’m going to do his introduction and then I’m going to step out of the way because it’s his night, and his night to shine, and I’m not going to let them get me caught in the middle of, you know, ‘Meat Loaf World’ when it’s Jim Steinman Night. I’m not going to walk the red carpet- I don’t like red carpets to begin with- I’m going to introduce him, and then I’m going to get out of the way and let the light shine on Jim, as it should. Because in my book Jim wrote, without a doubt, THE greatest love song ever, ever- and I’m gonna say it again- ever written in For Crying Out Loud.
I was hoping you’d say that because that’s my favorite song from that album (Bat I) actually.
There’s not a love song ever written that can even come close to that. Not one. And believe me, I`ve listened to a lot of love songs! (both chuckle)
With our talk here today, Meat, I`m doing a magazine article and I work at a radio station too, so I`m going to do a radio special on your music…
Oh that`s great!
... For Crying Out Loud, is that the song you would pick to represent that album?
Yeah. Yeah, more than any of the others.
How about Bat II, do you have any favorites in that one?
Yeah, Objects In The Rear View Mirror.
Okay, that`s the one people are going to be listening to. Now let`s get directly to the new album because that`s really why we`re talking here.
The new album is based on this; it`s based on the last six years of me, in just complete non-belief of what the world has just turned itself into, and I swear 5 times a day I`d hear something and I`d go `the world`s going to hell in a hand basket` because people waste so much time on stuff that doesn`t mean anything.
I couldn`t agree more.
Because someone is an atheist, I don`t care! You can be an atheist, I have nothing against them. That`s not a problem- my grandfather was a minister, I believe in God, they don`t that`s a difference. People want to get married and they`re gay? Go for it, dude! You know, I don`t have a prejudiced bone in my body. I`m not a bigot, I believe in people living their lives and fulfilling their dreams. When people start, when two people don`t like the fact that a prayer has been on a wall in a high school for 50 years, and after 50 years you don`t even see the thing anymore. But because this girl and her mother didn`t want that on there, they spend all this time and effort when they SHOULD spend all this time and effort going out and helping someone. Go down and do community service. Go down to the homeless shelter. Go to the children`s hospital, take some toys. Go do something worthwhile. Why do you care that this prayer`s been on this wall for 50 years? Why do you care that the ten commandments is hung in a courtroom for over a hundred years? Why do you care that the nativity scene is down on the front lawn? So what? There are people who believe in the nativity scene. What- you`re not allowing these people to have their beliefs? People have too much time on their hands and too much hatred, and too much… it`s become about me, me, me. And there`s too many people out of work, and too many people that need help, and too many people that could use some help with their self-esteem and different things. The world has lost its humanity, it has lost its compassion, it has lost its dignity, it has lost its way, and it has lost its truth. Martin Luther King put it best of anyone I`ve ever heard in my life, `the truth will set you free.` And if people dealt with the truth, we would be a much better generation. And the internet has not helped this. The comment pages that follow news stories have only generated a bigger division and more hatred in the world. And the bigotry, the racism and the horrible comments that are made… not just about me, but about other artists. I mean, Adele… poor Adele had that voice problem at the age of 22, and when it started it was sympathy, then all of a sudden you read ‘Oh she`s fat!` Well what is THAT?!? Or, you know, somebody has a bad night on The Grammys , and… I sympathize. Believe me, there`s a reason they`re having a bad night. There`s something wrong- they can`t hear properly, the Grammys have got them in some situation where the band is like 8 miles away, the ear monitors have gone out, they`re freakin`out, they`re guessing, they`re doing all these things. And people… there`s no sympathy, there`s no empathy for them. And it it`s just like, it`s just hatred. It`s just like ‘Ahhh, I knew she couldn`t…`and they do it to everybody. They, it doesn`t make any difference if it`s Obama, whether it`s Bush, whether it`s Clinton, whether it`s Romney, Santorum, whoever. Anybody that ever opens their mouths… and Tom Cochrane and his song that I put on the album, Mad, Mad World, that line about… oh I can`t remember the line, it`s a great line, something about open your mouth and you`re a target`, I can`t remember what the line is…
But that`s the sentiment…
It`s a perfect line, and that`s what the album is about. And I did it in metaphor. And I didn`t start by preaching at people, I started by saying `Look- this is what I`ve done, and I`ve been wrong, and this is who I am and this is what I`ve done, and I`m sorry for it.` And I sing I can`t take back time, and I wish I could, but I can`t. The only thing that I can do, every day, is to try to learn something, and try to be a better person today than I was yesterday. And that`s my mantra that I live by. And then I start going on with Giving Tree, which is `let`s find ourselves again, let`s get back to where we were.` Not- it`s metaphor again, I don`t really want to sleep on a mattress on the floor and no food in the kitchen, it`s about finding out who we were. And Live Or Die, I actually took lines from CNN- Anderson Cooper, Chris Matthews and Bill O`Reilly and I stuck ‘em in the song! (both laugh) And then the Cochrane, I`ve always wanted to do that song because Lunatic Fringe and some of the other Cochrane stuff is some of my favorite stuff. Now, I`m a bit more overdrive than Cochrane, I mean he`s a little more laid back… (both chuckle) and I hit it pretty hard, but I didn`t want it to be just a complete cover of Tom Cochrane. So I stared… I didn`t understand rap, and I met Li`l John doing Celebrity Apprentice. And so I downloaded him and then I started to listen to him, and I said okay, this is an art form I want to know more about. And so the next band that I downloaded was the hardest core rap band that you can find, which was NWA. And I listened to that, and at first it was difficult because it was so… I knew nothing about that world, nothing. And I listened and I listened, and I understood the artistic intent. Then I went to Public Enemy which was Chuck D, and then I went to 50 Cent. And then I started getting softer with some other hip-hop stuff. People look at my iTunes and go I can`t believe you`ve got all this rap stuff! What in the world?!? I mean I was just on a plane 2 weeks ago, and people probably thought I was listening to Peter Paul & Mary, but I was listening to NWA! (John laughs) Because I started to appreciate the art form. So when I got to this bridge part on Tom Cochrane, we were gonna do Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down and I said it needs a rap. And they said “Who do you know?” and I said “I know LL, but he’s doing the TV show so well never get him to get it in time.” (note: call was dropped at this point, came back 5-6 minutes later. The rapper Meat used on this song is Chuck D) And buddy said “I love Mad, Mad World but I hate rap so I edited it out”. So I said “Why don’t you just go down to the museum and cut up all the Picassos, then (John laughs) that’s just the same, you’re taking away artistic merit.”
It really works in that song, though.
You’re taking away an artistic form that I put on for a reason, and I said “you shouldn’t hate anything.” Then I said, my last line was “Okay, if you hate beats, I’ll go along with ya.”
Okay, now what you were talking about generally speaking, and just quickly to wrap it up, about all the hate and the craziness in the world and everything and really that was kind of the fuel for this album… my position on that is, regardless of what you believe, if everybody would stick to ‘The Golden Rule’ which, as you know is “treat others as you would like to be treated “, then everything would be cool.
Yeah, and the other rule is ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
Thank you very much, Meat. Before you hang up I’d just like to say thank you for your time, and I’ve been an album reviewer for 22 years. ‘Bat III: The Monster Is Loose’, placed at the top of my list the year it came out, and I know “Hell In A Hand Basket’ will do the same- and I’m not just saying that because you’re on the phone. I think it’s a really, really fine record.
Well thank you very, very much, John. That’s greatly appreciated, and I’m glad you took the time to actually listen to it! (chuckles)