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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Talking of such things: any thoughts about when Archives 2 might come out?
You want to make a bet when that’ll come out? Oh, God. Years ago, when we were doing Sleeps With Angels, I was cornered at the Complex Recording Studio by Mo Ostin and his son and Lenny Waronker, all the heads of Warner Brothers had be in a corner because Neil wasn’t there going, “When is the box set coming out?” How long ago was that? 1994? “You think we’re going to get it before Christmas?” That was 20 years ago. So who knows!

Favourite memory of Neil from this year?
That’s hard to think of right at this moment. I could tell you a couple from the year before if I had time to think about it. When we played the Bridge School the last time, we were doing the encore where everybody comes out and sings, we were playing “Rockin’ In The Free World” all acoustic. For some reason, Neil took off his guitar and gave it to Lukas Nelson. He was having a great time playing it. And Neil was trying to give us hand signals of where to go and I was just laughing, “What the hell is going on?” But anyway, months and months after that, we were on the road, we were just getting ready and I said to Neil, “I have a question, it’s really been bothering me, I want to ask you.” He said, “Go ahead.” I said, “Why did you give Lukas your guitar? Did he ask for it, or something?” Neil said, “No, we were just up there playing and singing and he was playing air guitar and I kept looking at him, I thought, ‘Wow, he needs a guitar.’ So I just gave him mine.” I think that’s really cool. It was just like this thing that happened. That was a great moment with Neil. On this last tour, when he started giving away the t-shirts, ‘Protect The Earth’ and everything, he was just so overly sincere about the whole thing. It did bring a good feeling to me. And at the same time, it stresses me out because I just don’t know how to reach everybody and hw to make a change in this world. It’s really frustrating.

Niko Bolas told me he thought Neil might put music on hold to concentrate on environmental issues…
I don’t know. Honestly, some of my last conversations with Neil, when we were just talking like guys, I can’t help but look him in the face and say, “Neil you’re a great song writer. You’re a great musician. I think you should keep writing songs and stay out of business.” That’s from my heart, that’s from my heart. He puts so much energy and passion and love into the Pono project, into Lincvolt project and writing, all these other things. I think it takes a little away from his music. That’s really what his calling is. He’s a great artist. I hope he doesn’t. But at the same time, but if he can make a difference, if he really did change something, more power to him. Like I said, I understand all the problems. I don’t know where to find the solution.


Neil’s history of protest?
Yeah, I think it still comes from his heart. If you can make things better, why don’t you? He and I have this conversation whenever he’s here in Hawaii. There shouldn’t even be a gas car on the island, we get so much solar power here it’s ridiculous. Because it’s an island you don’t have to travel that far. In the meantime, I do hope we get to go on tour again. And if we don’t, maybe you could tell everybody in Europe I say goodbye and I really appreciate everything they did.

Neil gets bored with other projects. He always comes back to you guys…
There’s a whole set of people he comes back to. He has other bands that he plays with too. I don’t think he ever really falls out with us, it’s just a cycle. I think the people that he’s not playing with get pissed off, and then it seems like it’s a falling out but he’s just going on his cycle.

He’s a contrary bugger…
Most people turn a corner, Neil ricochets.


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