Behind the Scenes of Neil Young's New Protest Album 'The Monsanto Years'
A great article from Rolling Stone Behind the Scenes of Neil Young's New Protest Album 'The Monsanto Years' by Andy Greene:
Sometime in December, an e-mail arrived from Young. "He was like, 'Hey, I wrote a bunch of new songs," says Micah. "I want you guys to come do the record with me. Love, Neil." They were stunned beyond belief. "I was so stoked," says Lukas. "I can't even describe how elated I was."Check full article from Rolling Stone Behind the Scenes of Neil Young's New Protest Album 'The Monsanto Years' by Andy Greene.
The weeks passed and no plans came into place, but on January 7th, Rolling Stone asked Young about his next album at the International Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "'I'm working on another album now that I'm going to be doing with Willie Nelson's sons," he said. It's called The Monsanto Years. It's an upbeat review of the situation." The album is set for release in June, but at the time, this was news to more people than just Young fans. "That's how we knew it was real," says Micah. "With Neil, we've learned not to expect anything until it's actually happening. Once it's in print in the press and he said it, that was the moment where we knew it was for real."
Not long afterwards, Young got in touch and said he wanted to cut the album at the historic Teatro theater in Oxnard, California, the exact spot where Willie Nelson recorded his 1998 LP Teatro with producer Daniel Lanois. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real had concert dates on the books, but they cancelled them so they could get begin right away. (Micah isn't in Promise of the Real, though Lukas said he's an "honorary member" for the duration of this project.)
Work began in January. "The first week, Neil wasn't even there," says Micah. "He was nice enough to tell us to go in and warm up the studio and record a couple of our own songs and get a feel for the place. He sent this CD with raw versions of the record; just him and his acoustic guitar just running through the changes and singing. We took that and that was pretty much all the only instruction manual that we had for the whole thing."
Young's longtime producer/engineer John Hanlon was on hand to oversee the process. "He would always tell us, 'Hey, don't learn the songs too well,'" says Micah. "'Run them once a day just so you know the changes, but it stays fresh and spontaneous. You want to be able to make all the right fuck-ups.' Neil is all about that perfect imperfection, which I can really dig. It kept it fresh."
All in all, this whole experience has been like a dream for Micah and Lukas. "I can imagine most guitarists at one point in their life put on a Neil record and just rocked out in their room, pretending like they were jamming out onstage with him," says Micah. "Now it's happening in front of you. I don't even know if there's a word for it. My favorite thing is when he hits what I call the 'cosmic hurricane black hole tornado button.' He hits this button on the Whizzer and it's like suddenly just a bajillion tons of cosmic sludge are hurled into a wormhole and they're blasting out of his amp into my back.
It's pretty much the most dreamy, surreal shit ever."