Meat Loaf On His New Album + Possible Retirement: ‘I Can’t Keep Touring’
There's always more to the story with Meat Loaf, something that may not be immediately apparent the first time you listen – or, in this case, look at it. The cover of his just-released Braver Than We Are appears to be the kind of typically epic illustration you expect from Meat Loaf. But as it turns out, it goes deeper than that.
“The four horsemen of the apocalypse [on the album cover] are the music business. Jimmy and I have been fighting – not the fans, at all, but the people that run companies and do this,” he explained to Ultimate Classic Rock. “You know, Bat Out of Hell got turned down by everybody and their mother four times and the only person that has ever said that they were wrong and that they’d made a mistake by not signing us is Clive Davis. That’s the only person that has ever come up to me and said, ‘I made a mistake.’ The film business for me has been great, but the music business, we’ve always been on the outside looking in. It depends on who you read, whether Bat is the third- or the fifth-biggest selling record of all time. It doesn’t make any difference: Nobody’s going to ever go that high anymore anyway. But people don’t like to admit they’re wrong. I admit it all of the time.”
Braver Than We Are finds Meat Loaf working again with longtime collaborator Jim Steinman, who wrote all 10 tracks on the album. As with the album artwork, there's more than meets the eye.
During a 2013 interview, Meat indicated that although Steinman was going to be involved in the process for the new material he was planning, it wouldn’t be possible for him to work on the whole project. But by the time they wrapped up work on Braver Than We Are, there was indeed a full stack of Steinman compositions – including one that goes back nearly 40 years to the Bat Out Of Hell era.
“Jim was involved almost on a continuous basis; it’s just he couldn’t be in the same room with us. But he was there for everything,” Meat Loaf says. “It was Jimmy and I that put the album together. We knew we were going to open with ‘Who Needs the Young,’ because [that song] was one that we thought was going to go on Bat Out Of Hell. What we did was that we went around everybody. We didn’t let any lawyer or any manager interfere with any of this. When people have written in the past, 'Oh, Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf, this happened, this happened and this happened,' it’s a complete lie. What has happened is that lawyers and managers have gotten involved and they say, 'Oh, you can’t talk to him, because if you talk to him, this could happen.' Jimmy and I really have never had any problems whatsoever. So on this one, we just said, 'Okay.' We didn’t even tell anybody we were doing it for the longest time. In the first conversation with Jim, I said this album should open with 'Who Needs the Young' and he goes, ‘Absolutely,’ because it’s the most politically incorrect song I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Steinman, writing on Facebook, admitted that "writing and then working on every step of our new album Braver Than We Are was at first, just a gamble for me. [I had] no idea what to expect, but now, hearing it in its entirety, I can honestly say it’s one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever been involved in.”
Meat Loaf is quick to agree with his partner. “Jim and I are in the same boat in the fact that I never listen to a record that I have done as much," he says. "If you go from Bat Out Of Hell to Hell In a Handbasket and count the number of times that I’ve listened to all of those records, I’ve listened to this record more than I’ve listened to all of the ones that I’ve ever recorded before. Totally.”
As the initial tracks from the new album were released, fans were surprised to hear the rough, unvarnished sound of Meat Loaf’s vocals – something which Steinman thinks is a key element of the latest recordings. “Meat is heroic in his ravaged voice, tragically inspiringly heroic,” he says, going on to describe Braver Than We Are as “a record, that for me, stands with the top ten recordings of all time.”
For his part, Meat Loaf said he thinks "this record is spectacular. One, because I’ve learned so much about what I do and how I do it that there is not a single moment on this record that is Meat Loaf. I know rock people, I think they’re kind of sophomoric in their intelligence. They go, ‘Oh, if he doesn’t write the song, how can he feel it?’ My answer to that has always been, ‘Go tell Marlon Brando that in A Streetcar Named Desire, he didn’t feel it or On the Waterfront, he didn’t feel it – or Rod Steiger in In the Heat of the Night, he didn’t feel it.’ Go tell Tom Hanks he didn’t feel it. Go tell Meryl Streep she wasn’t into that movie. Go tell [Dustin] Hoffman. Go tell any of these actors. Because that’s what I am and that’s what I’ve been. I didn’t use any kind of method on this one at all. I use more of the [Sanford] Meisner technique: What’s on the page, it’s what it is. That’s the truth of the moment. What’s written on that page. The character is sitting right in front of you and that’s what it is. Who cares whether your dog got run over? I mean, you would, if your dog got run over. [Laughs.] But you don’t need the fact that your dog got run over to bring back something from the past to make this work. It’s on the page.”
Listen to Meat Loaf Perform 'Souvenirs'
It’s possible that Braver Than We Are might be Meat Loaf’s swan song on album. He adds that he might make a Christmas album, something which has been in the works for a while, and he’ll definitely continue to act. Recently, Meat Loaf said that he’s probably got about 60 shows left before he retires from the stage.
“I’m almost 70 years old," he adds. "I can’t keep touring. Just physically, I mean, this record was physically exhausting ... because of where I decided I wanted to go with it.
“I’ll give you a little story [about the recording of] ‘Souvenirs’ [from the new album]. I was singing ‘Souvenirs’ and [producer] Paul Crook just stopped the machine and said, ‘I can’t take this anymore. I don’t know what I did to you and I don’t know why you’re treating me this way.’ I went around and I sat in a chair and I go, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ He goes, ‘It’s awful how you’re treating me and it’s actually making me ill.’ I looked at him and I said, ‘Paul, I’m sorry, but that’s really not me. That’s this character.’ That may be why I love this record so much."
He disagrees with the idea, often shared during television singing competitions, that you have to feel the song to accurately portray it. “I don’t think you feel a song, I think you live it,” Meat Loaf explains. “You can sing all of the notes you want to, but if you’re not living the song, then it’s not real. As an actor would say, 'You’re not in the truth of the moment.' When they say, 'You want to control the stage' – no, you want to control the room. You don’t control the stage; you control that room.
"'Souvenirs,' that character, I mean, I don’t remember that character at the moment," he continues. "Once we’ve moved away from a character, it would be like, I can’t remember the character in Crazy in Alabama. I really don’t know how I got to the character ‘Bob’ in Fight Club, or how I got to the character in the Arthur Miller play Focus. I don’t know how I get to these people and when I leave them, they’re gone. They’re like people you meet on a bus and they get off the bus and they’re gone."
Again running counter to expectations, Meat Loaf says that putting the musical side of his career on the shelf won’t be difficult. “Acting and music are basically the same thing, only the acting is easier, because I don’t have to pack a suitcase every day and get on a bus,” he says. “Nobody that doesn’t do this, the touring aspect – from a public standpoint, that buys tickets – nobody understands. Musicians understand, trust me, how hard it is, how tired you get. I’ve seen bands and they walk through it. I don’t know how to walk through anything.”
In addition to his plans to act, he is also working on a new book that is tentatively titled 100 Moments. “It’s 100 moments of my career," Meat Loaf adds. "Some of them are going to be ugly, and some of them aren’t.”
No matter what those moments looked like, he’s at peace with all of it. “I have no regrets because the minute you let that take over your life, you can’t live your life anymore," Meat Loaf says. "The minute that you blame or you hold a grudge – you know, you can be upset that somebody didn’t pay you, but you can’t let that control you. So, I’ve never let any of the obstacles and negativity that we’ve faced get in the way. I refuse. You just take ‘em as another character. You go to another character, and let him take it.”
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