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Friday, September 28, 2012

Neil Young on “David Letterman”: 'Pono' is Hawaiian for 'righteous'

Last night, Neil Young was the guest on the “David Letterman” Show. Neil revealed himself to be quite casual and engaged on a variety of familiar topics: trains, cars and audio quality.

No discussion of his new book Waging Heavy Peace. What's up with that? Not pimping your new product? Actually, quite refreshing to see.

From Neil Young's Pono music service wants to democratize high-quality audio (video) -- Engadget:
The artist took the opportunity to reveal plans for his high-fidelity Pono music service. The aim is to tackle the poor quality in which he believes most people receive their music these days -- the humble MP3. Young's offering would comprise a three-pronged approach, including a music store with high-resolution recordings, a digital-to-analog style conversion technology, and portable hardware to listen to it all with. The simple intention is to offer music as it was originally intended to be heard, but at this time there's no detail as to what this actually entails (sorry specification fans).
The player will, according to Young, play back Pono master files with "the best sound anyone can get."

From Neil Young Unveils His New Pono Music Player:
The player that Young showed off on TV is... well, unique, to say the least. A big, bright yellow triangular prism, it looks a bit like a tube of candy. Controls look pretty minimal, the screen fairly small and there seem to be two headphone sockets, too, by the looks of things. All in, it looks kinda wacky, and a far cry from the sleek lines of the modern gadgets we're used to.
Translation = it's not an iPod.

From Neil Young Unveils His New Pono Music Player:
Young is working with labels to transfer the original master tapes from each artist including a number of albums from Bob Dylan and other greats. Young says the “audio doesn’t get dummied down” when played on the Pono.

While seemingly Quixotic, I think it’s charming that Young is maintaining this effort even in the face of an onslaught of low bit-rate monstrosities. High quality music has long been the provenance of the rich and/or aged and, although I suspect this will appeal more to the older listener, at least Young is tackling one of the roadblocks to dulcet, high quality tracks.

And tomorrow? A little gig in New York City ... FREE CONCERT*: Neil Young & Crazy Horse @ Global Festival - Great Lawn, Central Park, September 29, 2012.


At 9/28/2012 04:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if I understand correctly, there's two components to this: hi-res digital files (24/192, apparently) plus some sort of conversion technology to make digital sound more like analog. Those are gonna be some huge files, wonder how long they'll take to download and how many the player will hold. And will be interesting to see how the conversion works, and if the player will do the same thing for the lower-res mp3s it also will play (with lesser results, presumably).

At 9/28/2012 05:28:00 PM, Blogger La Johnson said...

Yeh all very interesting but will we get Time Fades Away on it?

At 9/28/2012 08:39:00 PM, Anonymous Johan said...

I actually thought he looked pretty thin after reading all the fat comments recently. And pretty polite and cheerful and Canadian too. I was sorry that neither of them mentioned the new albums or the band or the tour or the book though. They just talked about trains and pono. The same crap year after year.

At 9/28/2012 09:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was polite and cheerful. And his face wasn't fat. You must've missed his fat middle. Bowl full of jelly. He looks the most out of shape I think I've seen him. Not a good way to start a tour, I'd think.

At 9/28/2012 10:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, that is hilarious! One inept griper posted "The same crap year after year!" Oh poor you! Neil Young hasn't been impressing you lately? Give me a break! The guy's output has been intense and profound, whatever measure of time you use, leading up to the present. If you aren't feeling excited, maybe its time to move on. Le Noise sucked? Are you not a fan of Mr. Neil Young? Where is your head? Where are your ears? Where is your heart? Maybe you shouldn't waste your time on this web page, the coolest page on the entire internet. Go find your joy somewhere else, but don't piss on what a great many of us Neil Young fans see in this era: an explosion of creativity and excitement from a man we admire personally, artistically, and otherwise; a man whose hypnotic, screaming, driving sonic guitar can work crack open the heavens above and let you stare into the face of God (or somwhere deep and profound). He writes touching acoustic numbers also. His voice is like a wounded angel. This is a man whose power onstage while strangling sonic rage out of Old Black inspires in other musicians feelings of awe and respect, gratitude and pride. That someone can rock like Neil, write like Neil, sing like Neil, call it like he sees it like nobody else. Others write poetry and impress. Neil is absolutely plugged in to the vital issues at play in the world today. He cares deeply about saving mother earth from man's self destruction. Peace. Alan G

At 9/29/2012 01:57:00 AM, Blogger La Johnson said...

Yes agreed, but shouldn't it be called BONO if he's looking to ease world poverty? A missed opportunity for some searching questions - how about: most of your fans are now deaf do you think they care about how the music is delivered?

At 9/29/2012 10:00:00 AM, Anonymous Johan said...

Anonymous ranter you read me all wrong. I LOVE his new albums and tour and everything. And this site is my fav. I just would like to see an interview with him about some of those subjects rather than always wasting most of his time talking about his imaginary improvement in sound quality that will allow him to sell everyone all his albums again on a new format. He says nothing comes close to the original masters except for vinyl. Don't you think if vinyl sounded better than mp3s someone besides a hearing impaired old man would be able to tell? I sure can't and I have excellent hearing and have tried many times to hear any difference at all. I'd like to hear him discuss his new songs or his new book or his new tour or what he did that morning or anything other than trains and Pono again and again but now that I start to read the book I see its mostly about trains and Pono too. Oh well, I LOVE the new video and song and I bet I'm going to love the show next week when he kicks off the tour in my hometown! I love NY, so don't think I don't!

At 9/29/2012 01:37:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Johan, you're such a cynic. Honestly, we should be happy if we can hear Neil Young and every other great artist's music at very high fidelity. I'm certain the difference will be night and day compared to the mp3s we're so used to.

I'll be happy to pay for something that doesn't destroy music quality for a change.

At 9/29/2012 02:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I'd really like is the answer to one simple question: Will PONO be selling DRM-free FLAC files, or is the some DRM-ed new file format.

At 9/29/2012 02:15:00 PM, Blogger no one said...

That (the Letterman appearance) was ... it left me (almost) speechless. He seemed so happy. It was amazing. Who cares if he's gained a little weight (and please post a picture of your own midsection, asshats). The man is glowing with joy and we can only assume it comes from artistic and personal fulfillment. What more could anyone ask?
The moment where Letterman turned the book around to show the back cover picture of the young Neil and Dave and Neil and all of us stared at the picture and the man and it was like your whole life was there in front of you. The first time I ever became aware of Neil Young was listening to Flying on the Ground... in 1969. What a ride it's been.

At 9/29/2012 06:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone notice that he is wearing an Australian aboriginal flag?

At 9/30/2012 06:20:00 AM, Anonymous stevefairc said...

What else did you expect from Neil Young on a full moon!!!

Neil Young the I-pod Killer.
Great stuff.

Also here's another interesting thing. If you look at a Google map of his recent tours, there are certain 'patterns' he creates each time with the routes.!!!! One is a 'Tee Pee' shape! Maybe I'm crazy like the horse...Go figure.

At 9/30/2012 09:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil to Letterman: "...tomorrow we are in the studio, we are transferring Highway 61 Revisted from the original tapes... "

Where did he get these tapes?

At 10/01/2012 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Old Black said...

I would like to see some discussions on "Waging Heavy Peace" - has anyone (but me) read it? Any comments on Neil with regard to his appearance on Letterman, Psychedelic Pill, et al., should be made in the context of what I think is a very amazing and revealing (or at least, confirming) book.

First, "Waging Heavy Peace" is very well written. This is an incredibly intelligent man with dry (Canadian) wit and an ability to turn a phrase. Should we have expected anything else? He wrote the whole thing straight (no more weed, not even a beer) and he often marvels at his state of mind in this condition as well as worry (he really is worried) that his creative song-writing muse will not visit unless he has burned one. He notes that all (nearly all?) of his songs have been written while high.

He is struggling with loss and the process of losing and it is quite poignant. He continues to miss Briggs, as well as Larry Johnson – his two great collaborators, cheerleaders, and truth tellers in the media he works mostly in – recording and film. Over and over again, he goes back to these two losses. He misses his friend Ben Keith a lot, too. But mostly, he misses his earlier days – the quality of the music (especially the sonic quality), the immediacy of creating, the LP album as an art form, the great studios, and is relevance in the music of the day. He sees it all going, like the passing of the cars he loves (and collects). Pono (which was PureTone before they found out that had already been trademarked) is, in part, his way of trying to resurrect, preserve, and/or protect the sonic quality of music (especially as it relates to his music but it’s not about him). He sees it all slipping away.

But mostly, one gets the sense that even as he looks forward, he is aware that the end is approaching. Time might be running out. As he puts it, he is all about closure now – wrapping up all of the loose ends before it’s too late. And because he has so many projects (Pono, Archives, Lincvolt, his many unfinished car restorations a Rockets retrospective) he feels pulled between finishing those to the highest quality (he often quotes Briggs “Go big or go home” and LA Johnson about the need for quality) and creating new things. I was so taken by how much he wants and needs Crazy Horse, which seems at odds with the fact that he didn’t play with them for almost a decade. He is beginning the consolidation of his affairs – his properties and the financial well-being of his family.

And there is a lot of regret; regret at not be a nicer person, regret at the need to follow his muse to the exclusion of his friendships, and regret at the pain he has caused people. His discussions about Danny Whitten are quite moving. Whitten originally sang the high harmony on Cinnamon Girl but Neil took him off and overdubbed himself, even though he admits Danny sang it much better. And Danny’s death haunts him. He also seems to regret some of the ways he has treated his fans, too. As he notes, he is most alive on-stage in front of an audience with the music echoing through a hall and the fans really into it as much as he is. Nothing seems to piss him off more than pseudo fans in the orchestra pit on cell phones telling their rich friends how cool they are because they got the best tickets in the house from a scalper.

If you haven’t read this book yet, please do yourself a favor and rectify the situation.

At 10/31/2012 10:46:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

"Neil Young with Crazy Horse" has always been the best rock band since its inception in the 70's. This is a presupposition with which, if you disagree, you need read no longer. Purchase some guppies, or have you nails done, would be my suggestions. I pity the poor dunces who cannot find any but "the same crap year after year." How pathetic. Your lives must be devoid of any joy, love, or insight.
I and all Young/Crazy lovers learn something every time we interact with them. A common man who confronts a genius cannot help but walk away improved. Next time you go see N/Y+CH, try thinking about what you have just experienced. Let them enter your life, and I guarantee youwswsbwat will walk away a better person for it. It only takes a mite of effort on your part, NY does the rest. And if nothing comes of it, then you need a complete psychoanalytic makeover -- fast.

At 11/10/2012 01:50:00 AM, Anonymous Angus said...

Just read "waging heavy peace". Loved all the cross references to historic and contemporary music and musicians.
Jumped on-line to look up PONO and found a bunch of sites referencing his interview on Letterman, all with a list of the typical vacuous, uninformed and argumentative comments below.
What comes through in the book is his sincerity with PONO and that he has put in a heap of time and energy to try to find a way to make it happen.
I am bursting to hear the difference and access historic recordings.
I'll still use itunes, it doesn't have to be one or the other. I read that the way book publishing is going that we can expect a transition to e-books, with only the really big sellers and specialty volumes going to actual high quality print.
I guess it might go that way with music - with high quality and lower quality digital versions both being available. I don't want a Mercedes, but I ABSOLUTELY want to hear my favourite music from the 60' to now in all it's richness and glory.
Just give us a time frame Neil - when is it due and how do we follow the progress as it develops?
Thanks Gus


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