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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Have you heard Storytone?
I just listened to it the day before yesterday. I wasn’t so keen on listening to both versions. Once I heard one, I didn’t really want to hear the other one right after it. But I really liked some of the songs. “Glad I Found You”. That’s a great song. “Glimmer” was a good song, too. The big band arrangements, with a lead guitar ducked way in the background and it’s not Neil playing? OK… I still don’t know what to think about those. Some of those I just listened to half way through. I don’t have a system at home for listening to, so I was listening to it in the car through my girlfriend’s iPhone through the wifi. See, when he did solo on the piano, that tempo was a little better and his delivery of the lyrics was better, to me.

What did you make of the lyrics?
Are you trying to get me into trouble? Some of them seemed a little too simply descriptive for me, for Neil. But other ones, like the songs I mentioned, were great. But a couple of them, I don’t know. It’s like he just described a room or a situation and it wasn’t as magical as some of his other lyrics which make you think it could be your room or your situation. It was just too blatant of a description.

What do you make of Neil’s 2014?
He’s speeding up, while the rest of us are slowing down. It’s funny, after the tour, I wrote to him and I said, “I’m home, I’m relaxed, I’m with Ipo my girl here, I really love her and we’re really settled in and I’m really enjoying life.” And I said, “I know that you’re probably still working on something at this point. You haven’t stopped since the last day I shook hands and said goodbye to you and gave you a hug. You’re probably working on a couple of different projects. I just want you to know, I feel as if I could walk out in front of my house and put up a sign that says, ‘Mission Accomplished’.” But he doesn’t feel that way. He loves writing. He’s writing another novel, of fiction, I don’t know what it’s about. But I know that he was working on it a lot during the tour. Whenever he had a down moment, he pulls out his laptop and just starts pounding away at the keyboard.


Has he changed much in the years that you’ve known him?
Well, we all have. I don’t think it’s any different than anybody else, you know. As you get older and you’re successful you get into certain things and certain habits. It’s hard to break those and then you break ‘em and it’s like a big deal, “I’m doing something different,” then you do that for a few years and you move onto something else. But you’re definitely not struggling. He’s definitely not struggling like he was when he was younger. He seems more conscious of work than ever before. I remember in the old days, we would go to Neil’s ranch to record. We’d stay there for a summer, maybe even nine months, just recording, recording, coming up with songs and partying, then Neil would come in and go, “Oh, shit, you guys. You’re not going to believe it, Warner Brothers called, we got to turn in a record. What do you think we should put on it?” We never had the concept that we were making a record. Then later on in years, we did get together and Neil would say, “I have this group of songs, we’re going to cut this record.” So that changed. Whereas before, anything he thought of we recorded and that’s why he has this huge archive of unreleased songs, probably just with us alone over a hundred.

Do you have a favourite unreleased Crazy Horse album?
I can tell you the double Bluenotes live album, that’s a good record. I even had a cassette of that for a while, but it’s just disappeared. But, man, Steve Lawrence on the saxophone. Live, we played some really great stuff. When we got out and stated playing, it became something else. I was really disappointed that live album didn’t come out.


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