1995 Guitar World Interview: Neil Young Discusses 'Mirror Ball' and Working with Pearl Jam
Do you hear those elements when you’re writing or recording the songs, and think what it might sound like with a big arrangement?
Yeah, I hear all those parts in my head, but I don’t want to bother to do all that.
So speed is the way to go for you?
Yeah. When you go for that, you get something. It’s like instant gratification. Then you go on to the next thing.
Do you ever, in hindsight, regret not spending more time with a particular song or album?
Not really. I have done records where I spent a lot of time arranging and producing. That was a long time ago. They’re not as much fun, and I don’t want to do that again.
If you want to hear that, you can go back to when I started, Buffalo Springfield and the early Neil Young records, like my first solo album. I tried doing very arranged things, with a whole bunch of work in the studio. It was great at the time, but I wouldn’t want to make a life out of that. Now what I like to do is sing and play.
How is Mirror Ball different from Sleeps with Angels for you?
It’s completely different subject matter, features different musicians, a different studio, different people. And a different time in my life. This one was done in a limited time with a very fast-moving, fast-learning band. It’s apples and oranges. I feel really good about both albums. Both are really strong, I think. And I think they each reflect the people playing on them.
Any idea where the next album will take you?
No, I can’t tell.
How do you feel about Pearl Jam’s battle with TicketMaster?
I think they’re doing the right thing. People need to know how much extra a ticket really costs. Not many other bands would take a chance like that. Actually, since they started doing that, we have joined them. We haven’t played any TicketMaster shows. We’ll see what happens with their lawsuit.
In the meantime, you’re going to tour Europe with Pearl Jam. What do you expect that to be like?
I think it’s gonna be a great time; pretty loose but really good. We played in Seattle a couple of nights ago and it was great.
Are they busy learning the Neil Young songbook?
Nah. We won’t do any of the old ones. We did do three old ones in the show the other night. We’ll get to know maybe 10 of them. The way it’ll work is they’ll do Eddie’s songs and then they’ll do my songs. Sometimes I sing some of Eddie’s songs, and sometimes he sings on my songs. There’s a long way that it could develop.
So it sounds like you expect this collaboration to continue.
I think so. We honestly don’t discuss any of that. We just play and let it happen. Whatever happens is fine. It’s a natural, musical thing, not a business thing. It doesn’t have to be worked out. It’s just real.
If you don’t talk about the music or the business side of things, what do you guys talk about when you’re together?
We talk about a lot of things that are happening in the world. We talk about Mike McCready sometimes; sometimes we talk about Eddie.
There were rumors that you were going to headline Lollapalooza. Then it was whispered that you demanded too much money and they turned you down. What’s the real story there?
I didn’t want to play. It certainly didn’t have to do with money; that was some P.R. guy’s good idea to cover their ass. It pissed me off when I read that; all of a sudden I read that I’d backed out because they wouldn’t give me enough money. That doesn’t sound like what happened to me.
Look, if I wanted to make a lot of money, I should have stayed with Lollapalooza; am I making a fortune sitting here on the phone with you? It had nothing to do with that. I had figured out a show I was going to do with them, some staging stuff I wanted to do. Then when we started really looking at it, I just sort of changed my mind and started feeling like I didn’t really want to do that. It wasn’t going to be me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was just something about it that wasn’t right, so I bowed out.
We were negotiating a contract, but the money was already settled on. That’s something that never really changed from the beginning. It wasn’t even an issue. But it started looking really bad for them when everybody pulled out after they’d already leaked who was gonna be in it. That’s not a good thing to have happen, but they shouldn’t have leaked it in the first place. Then there wouldn’t have been a problem.
What do you think about Lollapalooza as a concept?
It’s a great thing, a wonderful thing, a great show. I was excited about doing it at one time. But when I started recording with Pearl Jam, right away I could feel it would probably lead somewhere – and I didn’t think it was going to be Lollapalooza with Crazy Horse. Really, what if I came out with this album and was on the road with Crazy Horse? That wouldn’t be fair to anybody.
In a sense, I thought that me doing Lollapalooza would be like the final nail in its coffin. Some people would think, “Now they’re middle of the road. Neil’s with them. He does Farm Aid, for God’s sake!”