A long interview with Neil Young guitarist Poncho Sampedro

"Most people turn a corner, Neil ricochets," says the Crazy Horse guitarist

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How did this tour compare to previous tours with Neil?
It’s funny you say, ‘with Neil’. With Neil it was a good tour, he was really enjoying the fact he could open up with so much different material and he could play all these different songs at different times. We got a lot of fun that way musically. But to be honest with you, I really missed playing “Walk Like A Giant”, “Ramada Inn” and stuff off Psychedelic Pill. My quotes was, Psychedelic Pill was the first record we made since David passed that he would have been really proud of. We got into some music there. “Driftin’ Back” is, like, wow. You need to have time to listen to it, but if you do you go to a nice place. It’s interesting that got to be on our record. That was one of the longest jam in years. It’s captured and it’s out there now and people can… I never got to enjoy it before, just doing it but never hearing it again. But it’s really cool it’s out there. I missed that kind of hard-hitting music. “Mr Soul”, “Hey Hey, My My”, “Cinnamon Girl”, “… Hurricane”. I miss delivering those songs every night. We build in intensity as tours go on. This past tour seemed to be a little softer. It wasn’t Crazy Horse. It just wasn’t. You can’t say it was Crazy Horse. I know all the tickets were sold and that’s what it said and that’s what it was, but you take away one member that’s how delicate the balance is.

Was there ever talk of Billy coming back for end of the tour?
No. I talked to him even when I got home. He was recovering still. He was walking with a cane and had just started using his hands. His left foot and his left hand weren’t working so well. So, no. And then, at our age, the amount of energy it takes to sustain travelling every day and playing every other night. You’ve got to be in shape for that. We all work out before we go on tour, we all get ready. I don’t think recovering from a stroke, there was ever a thought that he might try and come back at that point.

Will Crazy Horse tour again?
I certainly hope so. My hopes are up. I talked to Billy the other day. He said he was feeling good and I thought him going to the Bridge School and seeing Neil and showing himself was a good sign. My hopes and dreams, if you want to know those, is that Neil writes a bunch of songs and in January, February we start recording and we go our on a big tour. I always want to call it a farewell tour, but I don’t think Neil would ever accept that. But for me, I like to live in a perfect world. We had a farewell tour, we got to say goodbye to all the people. There’s been people listening to us and supporting us and we’ve been counting on them to buy our records and show up at gigs, and it would be nice to do something where we all were together saying goodbye, we appreciate it. I don’t know how to put it in words. Like a Frank Capra movie, a big happy ending.


What do you think Pono says about Neil?
You know, you’re asking the wrong guy! Neil lives not that far from me. I remember one day, I was into this whole natural farming thing, this natural farmer guru was coming by my house and I was really nervous. I called Neil up and I said, “Neil, would you come over here and give me a little support. This guy is coming to check out my place.” I said, “It’s like I’ve just learned how to play ‘500 Miles’ and Jimi Hendrix is coming to see how I play.” So he came up and he hung with me while this guy Master Cho was here. We went over a bunch of natural farming things. His whole family came and he checked it all out and his family checked it out and it was a big deal, then they all left. We sat on the couch, Neil and I, and we were talking. That’s when he was first starting to sell Pono records. He got up and started going, “So I walked into Warner Bros, here’s the sales pitch I gave them…” He pretended he had a blackboard and everything, and I said, “Neil, man, that sounds great. But I haven’t listened to a record in probably 20 years.” After that, he never really talked to me about it again. I have this really cool stereo system upstairs, with JBL speakers, but it only works in one speaker, so if I do have to listen to something I listen to them on a DVD player through the TV. I think on a tour once, two summers ago, he came over and he had the whole Pono set up and he had a set of headphones and made Billy wear ‘em, and I wore ‘em and Ralph wore ‘em, and he had a couple of songs on there and we listened to them. It sounded great, it sounded great. But I really don’t know anything about it.


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