Tell Me Why: A Conversation with Neil Young (1997)
(Click photo to enlarge)
A little blast from the past, an interview with Neil Young before the 1997 H.O.R.D.E. tour, TELL ME WHY: A conversation with Neil Young by Bill DeYoung.
Funny how some things never really change...
Goldmine: Six of your catalog albums remain unavailable on compact disc [For the record, the missing titles are Journey Through the Past, Time Fades Away, On the Beach, American Stars 'n' Bars, Hawks & Doves and Re*Ac*Tor.] Recently, you told an interviewer you would burn the tapes before you let them come out on CD. Why?
Neil Young: Until we get the technology. I'm pushing for better technology. And CDs don't cut it, to me. HDCD is a real great improvement on digital sound, no matter what the format of the sound is. That's a process you can make CDs through, and it makes them sound more detailed. If you have an HDCD playback system, it sounds incredibly more detailed.
Goldmine:Is that one of those technologies that we'll 'see by the year 2000'?
Neil Young: It's out there now. There's about 40 different companies, small audiophile companies that make stereo equipment that carries the HDCD chip.
Goldmine:There are something like 15 of your albums out on CD on Reprise. How come they're out, and these six aren't?
Neil Young: Those were made during the beginning of CDs. When it hadn't really dawned on everybody how inferior the CD was. But during the mastering of all of those, and listening to what we ended up with compared to what we started with, everyone became aware of the problems. And that was maybe more than 15 years ago. And there's been no improvement, in 15 years, from a bad standard.
Meanwhile, we got 64-bit video games, and 32-bit this, and 16-bit sound. Running at a slow speed. So we really need to get a standard together for recorded sound that doesn't destroy it.
Goldmine:But Reprise is still making those discs.
Neil Young: Oh yeah, that's right, you can't stop that. But I'm not gonna do any new ones until there's a standard.
Goldmine:Let me play devil's advocate. Since you're committed to this, can't you just put a stop to those that are still in print? Can't you tell the label 'They sound like shit; let's take 'em out'?
Neil Young: You can do that with the new ones. When you put out a master, you put it out , OK, it's out. Until then, you have it.
Goldmine:You know, those six albums aren't available on vinyl or cassettes, either. They've all been deleted.
Neil Young: I 'm trying to use that leverage to get some tonal quality on the recordings.
Goldmine:Well, what can I do? I'll make a call. As a fan, it bugs me that I can't put, say, American Stars 'n' Bars on the CD player.
Neil Young: It's tough for me, too, but I'm not gonna put out 'Hurricane' sounding like a piece of shit. That's the way it is. There's the ability to have it better, and I can make a statement. I'm not gonna let it keep happening.
Goldmine:Hawks and Doves, a great record. Can't hear it. That makes me a little sad.
Neil Young: Right, me too! I feel the same way. When it comes out, it'll sound great.
Goldmine:What about your long-rumored multi-disc Archives project?
Neil Young: It's the same thing there. We're close enough to the new standard. There's all kinds of people throwing ideas for the new standard around. The latest new standard that came out for sound is worse than the CD. That's the DVD. That is totally a piece of crap. A thousand times more distortion, and I'm not exaggerating. That is a clinical number.
It's a terrible thing, and they say that you can play CDs on it. You can play 'em, but they have to be interpolated and translated and everything before your ear hears 'em; by then, they're so distorted, they're just not there any more.
So what they've done is, they're killing an art form through greed, and not being able to focus on using a decent standard. They're more interested, it seems, in putting out more product, and more real time information on a disc, than they are in putting out more quality on a disc. And one plays against the other.
So a lot of things have to be worked out before the new standard is set, but the wheels are turning right now, it's happening.
Goldmine:Do you have a time frame, i.e. 'They'll be out in four years' or something?
Neil Young: They may never be out on the market if the standard's not right.
Goldmine: You're 51 now. What does life look like to you?
Neil Young: Well, I love playing. I love playing music, and I love being around lots of other people who play music. That's why the H.O.R.D.E. tour is so much fun.
It absolutely feels just as good.
More of TELL ME WHY: A conversation with Neil Young. (Thanks Howell!)
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