PREVIEW: Neil Young's New Album 'Earth' L.A.'s Natural History Museum
Neil Young - L.A.'s Natural History Museum
Photograph by Steve Appleford | Rolling Stone
(Click photo to enlarge)
Neil Young previewed his new album 'Earth' at Los Angeles's Natural History Museum on May 6.
Before playing the album, Neil said:
"As John Lennon would say: Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream."
From Rolling Stone By Steve Appleford:
Neil Young: "I've written a lot of songs about the state of the earth and the health of things from my point of view. But I never really included all the living things so much as this. And their innocence and the way that you feel when you hear them – it makes you think about them. They're real, but they don't have this uptight vibe. They don't have all the hatred and everything. It's just not there. That's a subtle thing."From Billboard By Chris Willman:
"It was so fascinating making the record," Young says. "The sounds of the animals made you feel good. They are all in the right key. They don't clash with anything. They were perfectly in pitch. We never changed the pitch of any animal. We just left it the way it was and dropped it in. That was really encouraging."
Earth's opening song, "Mother Earth," was partly inspired by a belt buckle given to Young by a Native American in the early 1970s.
"It said 'Respect Mother Earth,' and it was handmade – a big silver plate, and it was obviously banged out by somebody and very soulful. I took the melody from an old hymn and made it a little bit different," Young explains, calling the song the most direct of any on the record. "It's the most in your face that this is what the record is about. The rest of it is scenes, but they add up to let you know something and feel. There's an incredible amount of love on this record, and you can feel that amongst everything. That's what life is all about."
“A lot of people make live records and they fix ‘em and do all kinds of stuff, and that’s nice,” said Young. In this case, “there is no reason to assume that just because it was live that we had to pretend that it was [all] live… The way I look at it is, I perform best when I’m live. And I usually play live in the studio because of that. Here, it was like, hey, we’ve got a great groove here recorded [in concert], and now I’ll use it like it was a studio track, and I’ll use the audience like an effect. Sometimes you won’t know they’re there, and other times they’ll come back. Then I started thinking, when they do come back, maybe I’ll put a couple of animal sounds in there, because you can't tell the difference between a coyote and somebody whooping in the audience. I mean, it’s really hard to tell. So I’ll just throw one in for a joke every once in a while or something like that, just to see what it sounds like.”From L.A. Times:
“It sounded so great that I immediately wanted to leave the coliseum and go to where those animals came from,” Young said. “So we left the coliseum behind and just kind of floated down into the fields and brooks and streams and hung out with the animals in their own place. So that’s what the theme of the thing is, to remember they’re there. Even though we’re having wars, crickets are still singing.”
“I wanted to use singers that were really great singers to augment the corporate harmony of some of the song — the brands and everything,” he said. “I knew I had to have a very commercial-sounding group to sound like that. So we found the best singers in L.A., and they formed their own group, and I worked with them and told them where to sing.” With that third layer, there’s portent amid the beauty -- and, oddly, beauty amid the portent.
“A lot of people that listen to the record have said to me that it’s a meditative experience for them,” he said. “It relaxes them and they go away… Because it never stops, there’s no time to analyze what it is once you get locked into it.”
After all was said, overdubbed, and done on Earth, what turned out to be Young’s favorite animal sound?
“You know, I like the elk,” Young said. “And I like the whales. But I love the crickets. They sing and they change their rhythm and they’ve got all these cadences. And the crow. The crow is a commentator. When something happens in the lyric, he reacts. He’s listening to the words.”
The sold-out event drew an estimated 2,500 people to the Natural History Museum as part of its monthly “First Fridays” series that features live music, deejays, science lectures and other special activities. Young is the biggest name entertainer to be part of the program so far, and the veteran rocker said it was at the suggestion of his longtime manager, Elliot Roberts.
“It seemed like a good place to play the album,” he said in the museum’s green room while the playback continued on a chilly spring evening. “This is an L.A. event -- downtown Los Angeles! I feel like Joe Friday. No one knows who the hell Joe Friday is,” he added with a laugh, referring to the LAPD detective famously portrayed by actor Jack Webb in the television series "Dragnet.” “I love Joe Friday.”
For the unconventional amalgam of music, ambient sounds, crowd noise and other effects all edited seamlessly into the single 98-minute sonic journey, Young cited director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” as a key inspiration.
“There’s a scene in it where a bat flies down the street, and you’re the bat,” he said. “You can’t hear, but sounds are coming out, the bat is turning and turning and you feel like you’re the bat, like you’re moving through space. I never forgot that scene, or the power of being the bat.”
“The album was first called ‘Warning: Contains Modified Content,’” he said. “I just wanted to bring in another perspective, use the audience sounds like they were another effect, instead of seeing it as a limitation, along with all the creature sounds and other effects.”
Asked whether he has other out-of-the-box plans for the new album, Young said, “Not really."
“I don’t have any plans at all,” he said. “I didn’t have a plan for this. This appeared by itself. My skill, I think, if I have one, is letting it happen. I just never question it anymore. I figure if I have an idea, it’s a gift and I want to go for it. If it’s no good, I might not put it out. But who cares? At least I did it. It came.
“You don’t have to think these things up,” he said. “You just have to be available.”
Los Angeles's Natural History Museum on May 6.
Photo by Carl Pocket | Buzzbands
More on Neil Young's New Album 'Earth' .