Then and Now — A Rare and Exclusive Interview with Meat Loaf
So yeah, this new album sounds like a bit of a crack, doesn’t it? —What does that mean? I don’t know what that means, a bit of a crack? Bit of crack? Well it sounds, if you’re up for the crack, it means, what does that mean? It means you’re up for, you know, a good time, basically. —Oh, okay, a bit of a crack. Yeah, it’s a bit of a crack. —Okay. So … I mean it’s a … —That’s fine [laughs] Yep. Whatever you say, it’s fine with me. I’m gonna agree with you.
Obviously, the first one has a place in rock history, in its own right. —It has a place in today’s history. You did a bit of promotion a little while ago with news that you’re doing this new one, and that was enough to send the old one, the first one rather, back into the charts again. I mean, phenomenal. It won’t go away, will it? —No, it hasn’t gone away. I mean, it’s still … In the terms of, like … I don’t know what it’s done in ‘93, I know what it’s done in ‘92, what it did in ‘92. It sold as if it was a current record in 1992 all over the world, not just in England. But it would have sold enough in England to go gold. It would have sold enough in America to go platinum. Enough in Australia to go platinum. Enough in New Zealand to go gold, enough in Ireland to go gold, enough in Canada to go gold, enough in the Scandinavian countries — I don’t know if it would go gold, but it continues to sell at an unbelievable rate. And it’s not, some of ‘em, I mean it sold over two million copies, like two, three, something. So even if you say okay, four hundred thousand of those were people replacing cassettes or whatever with CDs or whatever, okay, that’s reasonable, ever five hundred, say that. You still got a million, almost two million people who are just buying it for the first time. The thing is, it didn’t have a resurgence, it’s never not done that. It’s always done that. I mean you can go back and look every year at the English chart and look at from ‘78 up til now, and it’s always there, you know. Did you have any idea at all when you’re making that album … —Now, would you? Would you have? Really … I mean, you don’t have an idea, you don’t sit there and go, I know it’s gonna sell that. —And fifteen years I’m gonna sitting with you … I’m sure you … —The only thing you know … When you’re doing it, you get a feel, you go, ooh there’s something about this, or you get… —Yeah, well there is … or the back of your neck tingles a bit or you just get a vibe, don’t you, I mean did you get anything that made you think that this is special? —No, it’s just, we thought, well, I, yeah … I can explain this. I didn’t know the album was special, necessarily. What I did know is that the combination of me singing a Jim Steinman song caused an audience to react in a way that I never seen audiences react. And even my band, live … Now my band, I’ve got people in it like Pat Thrall who worked with Pat Travers, they worked with Asia, Curtis Stigers, Joe Cocker, Little Steven, they’ve been to the concerts, they’ve seen it. They’ve been on stage when audiences react in certain ways. And when audiences scream and yell. But they come in to play with me and they say that there’s something totally different about how an audience reacts to what we’re doing than anybody else. There’s a feeling that happens, and it’s … they yell the same, they scream the same, but there’s something else. There is some other trigger in there. You think that’s because it’s big? —No, I think that’s it because Jim Steinman has the ability inside his lyrics to touch the human spirit and I am able to deliver it in such a way that makes it all very personal, not to me, but to the person who is listening. And it’s not, believe me, it’s just an ability, it’s a gift that I have. I didn’t site here and go, “Okay, I’m gonna go do this.” But what I have done is that I realised the ability and I’ve tried to perfect it. I’ve tried to perfect it with different techniques. I’ve tried to perfect it in different ways. And I’m very much aware of what that is, now. It’s like in 1975-‘76-‘77-‘78 I was aware of it. That’s what made me stay with it, because I had so many people who wanted me to do so many other things other than work with Jim Steinman. I mean, I could have joined Ted Nugent, I could have gone into Foreigner, I could have been in REO Speedwagon, I could have done … but I’m saying, those were the things, you gotta understand as Foreigner was being created, I mean, you know, I could have been in Foreigner. I would think Foreigner would have been different had I been in it though. I think it would have been a different thing. But I’m just saying — I mean, there was more choices, you know. I could have easily not done it. I could have stayed into the acting, strictly, just stayed right there. And I know I would have done really well. But it’s the personalization. So what I’ve done is I’ve just perfected that technique. But that’s what it is. Because, literally, if you could peel off the name Meat Loaf off of Bat Out of Hell, and put whoever owns the record their name on it, that’s who it belongs to. That’s really who it belongs to, because it’s not stories about us. None of Bat Out of Hell actually happened to us, it’s far from… it’s the imagination. It allows the imagination, it allows everybody to be creative. There’s no hold, however creative you are as the listener, that is how creative you can make it. It has an immense scope in the sound of it, the feel of it, the lyrics. —It has. Mostly what’s happened is people… over and over and over again people have come up to me and go, “That two out of three song, that’s the story of my life.” But you understand what they just said? That’s the story of my life. Their life. And “Bat Out of Hell”, there’s been ten people, I know of ten funerals where their last request was that the song “Bat Out of Hell” was played. Because it was their song. It’s very rare when any work of art, and I will say art, because that’s what it is, can touch people in that way. —And it really has, all over the world. And I say it’s timeless. I say if we can go back to 1190 with a Panasonic stereo or whatever we had — and once they got over the fact they wanted to burn us at the stake as witches — and would actually sit and listen to it… It would touch them in the same way. —That’s right. Because it deals with this human spirit and human emotion. So why do another one? —Because the work was so good and because the work is so rewarding. It’s like why would Al Pacino after wining the Oscar wanna go do another picture? Yeah, but he wouldn’t go and do the same picture. —But we haven’t done the same picture. Not even close. But he might do a picture that’s called Serpico II, you understand. He might recreate that character, but we didn’t even recreate that character. He didn’t even recreate that character. We didn’t. You understand, what we did, what we’re saying is by calling it Bat Out of Hell II — besides the fact that it’s a very good marketing tool — the thing we’re really saying is that this is describing a way of working. And what we’re saying is that this is Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf and we’re working exactly the same way we did on Bat Out of Hell. I was gonna ask that, because in real terms to most people, the work you’ve done in music and that work that Jim Steinman has done in music since you first got together with the first Bat Out of Hell, you haven’t achieved anything like the same kind of … —No, that’s right. And it’s real obvious. And this should make it as obvious as looking in a mirror at your own face. Because you see Bat Out of Hell, and you see Jim’s work, and you see my work, nothing’s bad, it’s not that we sat there and purposely didn’t try, I give it everything I got all the time. The only one that happened on was an album called Midnight at the Lost and Found, and I just said I can’t do this record and I left and it just happened to have vocals and they put it out. And you noticed I didn’t do another record for that label. That was it. I just said, “Guys, I cannot deal with you.” Is that… because this album is on a different label than the first Bat Out of Hell, is that … —No, they wanted this. The original company wanted this. And we thought long and hard about it. There were several labels, and we thought long and hard about it, and I wanted certain conditions set forth from that label, and they weren’t willing to give it to me. So I said, “Well, then I don’t wanna give you my product, because I think this is gonna be very special, and I don’t you to have it.” They wanted it real bad. I can imagine. —You know. But all you gotta do is, look, how … I mean, Jim and I, we’re not stupid. Jim is a very intelligent person. We’re not stupid. We know that the work we do together is very special. It is, because we make each other better. He makes me better, and I make him better. I make him a better writer and he makes me a better singer, and that’s the bottom line. And that’s what makes the team. Or that’s what should make a team. It’s like everybody pitch in together to do the best they can, like a soccer team. There shouldn’t a single star, there should be a whole team working together, and everybody should make … there might be a star in there, but the star will be only as good as the guys he’s got around him, to have a winning team.
Are you going to be taking this out on the road. —Oh, absolutely. For two and a half years. That’s refreshing to hear. Because the climate the last few years, concert-wise, has been an awful lot of people coming out expecting themselves being terribly huge and wonder why they aren’t selling tickets. The reverse side of that is people not touring. They put an album out and they’ll sit there and go, “If it sells we go out on tour, if it doesn’t, we won’t.” —The album hadn’t sold a single copy and we’ve sold out all our shows in December here. Brilliant. —Basically, within a few hundred tickets. Of eleven shows. You know, Wembley Arena, N.E.C. We’ve already put tickets on sale for March, I think. That’s excellent. —You know, this thing hasn’t sold a copy, so you know, I mean, the record company cares, I enjoy touring. You must be one of the few growth areas of the music business. —I guess, you know I mean I … because, you know, what it is is because I’ve always come in concert, no matter where I’ve gone. I’m not saying every show has been great, because it hasn’t been, because just some nights are better than others. But I don’t think I’ve ever purposely let the people down, and they always think that there’s value for money inside my shows. And I’ve been touring here now for fifteen years, and to all of a sudden put tickets on sale, and just from the fact that they heard there’s a record coming, they sold out. I think people like an event, like a show. There were times when people were seeing an artist or a band because it was the only gig in town, but now, for all kinds of reasons people want and kind of expect some kind of show, an event. —And I do an event without all the bells and whistles. It’s an human event. That’s basically what it is. I don’t have a lot of bells and whistles. I have a few of ‘em. I deal with technology. We have some interesting lights, but they’re not the show. You know, the lights are not the show. The people are the show. The people that are on the stage, and the people that are in the house. Have you ever, I mean, all kinds of things have happened while people are performing, I mean, there’s that woman at the Whitney Houston gig a couple of weeks ago, you know… —I don’t know anything about… they do that all the time, but I never see it. I never see it. Everybody else always sees it. I never see it. They only time I’ve seen anybody… and they take their clothes off all the time at my show… and I’ve never seen… people come back and they go, “Did you see that girl in the front with her top off?” and I go, “No, of course not.” You’re not the only one, I’m sure. —No, no. The guitar players, everybody, my wife, the singers, everybody would see it. And I never see it. The only time I saw it was this one girl, and it was really disgusting, as a matter of fact, took all her clothes off, and got the guys in the front to hold her up, spread eagle, look at us, all of us on stage. I saw that. Can’t hardly miss it. —And this other time I had two hop up on stage without any clothes on. So, instead of losing focus in the middle of the song, I brought them into the song, and used them as part of the song, so that the song remained the focus, not these two women, and then thanked them for their efforts and sent them back to audience. I didn’t let the bouncers come in and sweep them off the stage, I just used them. I’m so focused into what is the show, and so focused into the performance that no matter what happened, they could bring model world up on stage and I would use it. They could bring that swing set up in there and it wouldn’t deter me at all. I could have the audience on stage and reverse it and it still wouldn’t do it. You seem to get a lot of … I mean, the act is very theatrical … —It’s theatrical, but it’s theatrical in its attitude. Because if you say … the connotation of theatrical … it’s sounds pretentious, it also sounds cabaret, and we’re not doing cabaret. And it also makes it sound like we’re doing Oklahoma! or The Night of the Iguana or something. And we’re not doing that. What we have is a theatrical attitude, and how that’s explained is if you go to concerts — and I go see bands, I don’t listen to music so much but I do see live shows a lot. I much prefer to see them live. I get more of an instinct to who they are as performers, live. At this stage of the game, anybody can make a record, today. Technically. Because you can make people sing who can’t carry a note, can’t carry a tune, sing a melody, just by pressing buttons. What I mean by that is, if you see somebody live, and it’s like … Let’s take a guitar player who’s gonna come forward and take a solo, when you see him … First of all, you might know the music so you know the solo is coming, so you might be able to see him, and you can see him in the middle of the song prepare himself for the solo. And he’ll come forward and he will take his solo, and he’s flexed and he’s this and he’s styled and he’s that, and the minute the solo is over … He steps back —… but the first thing you notice is, watch it the next time you go to a show and he’ll do that, is he’ll relax. Everything about him will relax. If you’re watching an actor, go to a play and watch an actor for a whole act, it’s always this way. It’s never this tension that the spring is always pulled. And that guitar player will then relax. And then they’ll turn around and they’ll saunter back to where they were. So in other words, it’s only for that particular few seconds that that guy will enter the world of what is theater. Because any time you walk on stage you’re in the world of theater. I don’t care if you’re in the arena, if you’re outdoors or whatever. But what happens if somebody is part of the backing band. Because you see that. You see in a jazz band, a bloke will stand up and he’ll sit down, for all intents and purposes he might as well not be there. —Yeah, and I know that jazz musicians would even go, “Well, I’m about the music, I’m not about…” Yes, you’re about the music. And that’s fine if your audience is all gonna come and close their eyes during the entire performance and not any visual thing. Or we’re gonna make the whole place dark. That’s all it is. At a show, people are watching you … —And that’s what they call it: a show. If they’re gonna call it a jazz club, okay. If you go into a jazz club, nine times out of ten, you’re not going to … but when you’re gonna go to a big stage that’s sixty feet wide, you’re giving a show. People are watching you, the moment you walk on stage. Even if you don’t play anything, you’re standing there. There’s still body language. —That’s right. And the hardest thing for an actor to learn is to be in an scene where there’s three people, and he’s not part of the conversation. But he is part of the scene. But you can walk in there, and steer that into the cameras, even if you don’t quite say anything. —That’s right, that’s exactly right. There’s the old thing about there’s no small parts, just small actors. But the thing is, what we don and what I mean by theatrical attitude, is that from the minute that we step on stage, and that includes everybody in the band, they have an attitude, and they will not break the line, they will not break the character. I teach it to the guitar players, like if he’s gonna do a solo, come forward, but it’s like … and I’ve even got him, and he gets nervous cause I’ve even got him stopping solos in the middle and standing and looking at the audience. And he got scared to death of it. And I just said, “You just stand there and look at them. Just don’t move. Just stand there and look at them. You’re defying them. You’re pulling the spring. You’re causing the tension. You’re causing the audience … ” ‘Cause I like the audience through every phase that you can possibly be. I like for them to be sad, I like them be happy, I like to make them angry, I like to make them nervous. You’re gonna reach out and get them, haven’t you. —Oh yeah. That’s how I describe me walking on stage: I walk on stage and I grab ‘em by the throat and I don’t let go of ‘em for two and a half hours. They’re mine. And they’ve payed me to that. It’s sort of like going into one of those sado masochist clubs. I mean, if a band walks on stage to an audience sitting there, audiences can pick up fear, like dogs can. So say somebody would just walk on there, and go, like, ‘wow’, and they exhumed, but other people have to work before they do it. —What you just described, there’s a technique. That guitar player, if he decided to learn, instead of having to what you just described, there’s an actual stage technique. There’s an actual stage direction. There’s an actual stage thing that he can do, where doesn’t have to just work on these three, and then these three and these three. You can encompass the whole thing, and it’s not difficult to learn, and it makes for a better performance. Granted that guy’s at least going for it, and he’s trying. But if he’s gonna go that far and he wants to do that, then I think he should take the next step, and actually learn a little more. That the stage is more than a place to put your drums. But, but — that’s the big word there, when most people get record contracts, if you take ten new bands, and they can be the best bands you’ve ever seen or the most exciting, got everything going for them, ten new bands. Out of those ten bands maybe one band has something in it, naturally, which is gonna make them, whatever they do they’re gonna do well, right? The rest of ‘em is sliding scale downwards of success. But when you don’t get with a recording contract is a little manual of how to do it, right? Here’s how to do it… —Let me ask you a question. Do you get a manual with life? Oh, that’s very true. But there’s also very few people willing to ask around, learn how to make a record. —That’s right. But those people, they go into that Japanese bullet train and crash into a wall real quick. You can tell the people who are still here and smart enough to be around and who have decided, okay, I wanna go out it and do this and I wanna learn about it… They’re in there for the long haul … —Yeah, and that’s what it takes. So I’m sort of like, when I’m talking to you and we do this stuff, and I’m hoping that somewhere along the line that some guy who’s doing this, that really cares, picks up the print and go, “You know I never thought of that. That’s a good idea. Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll …” I’m not saying you have to take every acting class in the world, you don’t need to take ballet or something, but if you just went down to the, and not even to the West End, go here into the plays where they’re making no money and watch the craft, and go see one play, and watch ‘em. Go catch some plays. Go watch. Go see if you figure out what the director’s done with their staging. You can. You just have to start. It’s like anything. It’s learning how to build a house. You can read about it, but until you actually do it … You can learn the technique but the you gotta develop and you gotta do it. In America they have schools of performing art, and over the last few years, it’s been, McCartney got this big deal about this Fame school and George Martin and that, and putting something back in, you can learn how to be a roadie or a tour production geezer or a tour accountant and you can learn to make records and learn to sing and dance as well. There’s always been theatrical schools in Britain, but it’s the first time for something that specific. Is that something you’d encourage? —Yeah, absolutely. I didn’t even know that existed. I’d even go teach there. Paul McCartney and George Martin and their people. I think it’s supposed to start up either the end of this year or the beginning of next year. —I would love to go teach Rock Stage Technique. Because there definitely is that … I know it sounds very technical and very clinical, but it doesn’t have to be. The best thing to do would to teach focus. You teach very basic kinda instincts, sight lines … You know, sight lines are what production managers walk up and tell bands about. And production managers walk up to me and go, “You know the sight lines are bad here.” And I’m going, “Well, they’re not. It depends on how you stage it.” If you stage it a certain way, the sight lines are perfectly fine. And they look at me, like, “What?” And I go, “It’s all in how you do it.” It’s how you do it. It’s the technique. Go away now. And they look at me, you know? And sometimes they right you know, there’s a speaker in the way, and no matter how and what your technique is, unless you got people who can see through speakers. Do you ever get stage fright? I’m told people like Phil Collins was saying that the minute he steps off that little bit of carpet on the ramps either side, it’s like, uhh, total brown trousers. I was on these big stadium gigs … —Oh no, you know I never … You don’t strike me as the sort of person who’d get stage fright. —No I don’t. I get nervous having to perform on television. Oh really? —That’s where I get nervous. Is that because you have one shot? Because you don’t have an hour or two … —Yeah, that’s right, that’s exactly right. I’m always very envious of these people, and most of the time it’s all they do. So they’re able to pull it off in four minutes, because that is all they do. But for me, I don’t think in that scope. I don’t think in three minute segments. I think in two hour segments. So to pull a piece of something out of there, and project what I do in two hours in four minutes, it’s frightening to me and that’s where my fear comes from. How do I project what I do in two hours in four minutes? Now, I didn’t do a bad job on Top of the Pops the other night. It took me five minutes and twenty seconds, though. That was one of the best I’ve ever done, I was very pleased with that. You know how to do it now. —Well, I’m getting the tape. I’m getting the tape and study the tape. That’s exactly what I’m gonna do. I’m getting a tape, and go, “Alright, now what did I do here? What exactly did I do and how did I do it?” So I wanna look at that. I won’t be clinical, it’s not gonna be … I mean the study will be clinical but it’s like anything… if you gonna take a golf lesson, you go take your golf lesson, right? And the first thing they tell you is don’t try to take the lesson on the course with you. Because now you got to be a free thinking guy again and you need to do it. It takes practice. You need to practice with it.
[You gotta catch your plane.]
—I gotta go, I got a plane. Thank you very much indeed. That’s alright, I appreciate it. —You’re welcome. Thank you. Good stuff.