Neil Young: Gold Rush
GW So how many Archives sets are we looking at?
YOUNG Maybe four, maybe five. It depends on how much cutting and paring down we do, and how much we get into using BD-Live, which is really a great thing. It’s tremendous. It’s remarkable because we really only saw that aspect of it for the first time six or seven months ago. And even then it was cobbled together and the software was buggy. The developers didn’t show me too much, because they were still working on the technology. I’d say, “Is it working yet?” And the developers would say, “No.” So all right, I don’t have to look at it. And then finally it got to a point where they said, “We think it’s working pretty good, you oughta check it out.” And even then we were just looking at the technology: How does it work? Can you listen to music while you’re scrolling around? What types of updates can we do with BDLive? How are the updates going to sit on the timeline?
One thing that we figured out is that we’re going to be able to do progressive download updates. So for instance, around 1970 I played a show at the Cellar Door club in Washington, D.C. That show was taped, but we don’t have enough great takes to release it as its own disc. Instead, I’ll probably make the songs available as downloadable updates to Archives. We’ll drop them onto the timeline, one at a time. So one day you may receive an update that will allow you to download the first song from that show, and then maybe a week later, you’ll get an update with the second song. And then the third song will come the next week. Before you know it, you have 40 minutes of music in high-def sound that you didn’t have to pay for, and that no one’s ever heard before.
GW On a more personal level, why did you feel the need to gather your work in this manner?
YOUNG Well, my music and the way it’s presented here are really inseparable. I have this thing that I’m doing—I’m telling a story. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and in doing it I’ve become part of the creation of a technology platform that is so much more far-reaching than what I originally envisioned. And I’m fascinated by that. My music has become a way to demonstrate a navigation system through time. And really, my life, my own content, is almost secondary at this point. I look at Archives and I go, “Well, there’s a hell of a lot about me in there.” If you’re interested in that, then great. If you’re not interested in me, then just listen. Because what you’ll hear is better than any record you’ve ever had. And there’s an era coming up in which this level of sound quality, and this level of interaction, is going to be the standard. Much like the CD was the standard for the previous era.
GW Assembling Archives afforded you the opportunity to view the contents of your musical life fairly comprehensively. Was there any overall pattern of behavior that revealed itself to you in the process?
YOUNG One thing that really surprised me is how ruthless I’ve been in pursuit of the music. And for how long I’ve been like that. I always knew I was callous—if I had to do something I had to do it, and I didn’t make any excuses. That might mean changing musicians midstream, or dropping a project to go somewhere else entirely. If that’s what I had to do to keep the songs coming then that’s what I did. But when I saw it, and I remembered what happened, and thought about how I dealt with things in immature ways, it gave me a lot of pause. But nonetheless, I continue on, and keep doing it anyway.
GW Why change now?
YOUNG [laughs] Yeah, right. Why change. So it’s good.
GW Something that became apparent to me was the incredible pace at which you were moving. To take just one span of time, say, mid 1968 through the end of 1969, you played your final show with Buffalo Springfield, released your first solo album, paired up with Crazy Horse for Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, began working on After the Gold Rush, joined Crosby, Stills & Nash, played Woodstock and cut Déjà Vu. That’s all in about 18 months or so.
YOUNG I was definitely doing a lot of multitasking. At one point I was recording with Crazy Horse in the mornings at Sunset Sound, cutting stuff like “I Believe In You,” “Oh Lonesome Me,” the original “Helpless,” “Wonderin’,” “Birds,” all kinds of things, and then in the afternoons I’d go play with CSN. And the only thing I really remember about that is that it bothered them that I was doing both things.
GW It bothered Crosby, Stills and Nash?
YOUNG Yeah, a little bit. But I liked playing with them, and I would always be there on time and ready to go. So I didn’t see a problem. But I was also playing with Crazy Horse. It wasn’t like I was gonna choose. Because playing with Crazy Horse brings a whole other thing out of me that never happens anywhere else. And that was maybe hard for them to understand. So it was busy, but it’s been really busy all the way through. Maybe in the last 10 years or so the pattern’s finally changing.
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