The Live 74 album was amazing. Is there anything else in the CSNY archive you’d like to see released in the future?
Not really. To me, that’s all ancient history and I don’t really care about it. I wouldn’t spend five minutes looking around back there in those dusty old tapes. I’m completely busy making brand new music.
If you could give some advice to your 25-year-old self, what would it be?
Don’t. Get. Involved. With. Hard. Drugs. All it does is fuck you up and drag you away from your music.
Do you have a daily routine at home?
We do. What we try and do is get up, have a cup of coffee, and then we go for a walk – because I’m trying to stay alive. In my case, that’s an iffy proposition. Then we have breakfast and do the business of the day: the laundry, the cleaning, go to the market. If I’m lucky, I’ve got recording or rehearing. We try to accomplish as much each day as we humanly possibly can. But I spend time trying to write every day, every day.
How do you write?
I keep guitars on the wall right next to me. I’m looking at one, two three, four, five, five guitars in five different tunings right now here in my bedroom.
You’re 75 in August. Do you think much about your legacy?
No. I’m a bozo, man. I have a talent and I’m grateful for it, but I put my pants on one leg at a time, same as everybody, and I’ve made such egregious mistakes in my life that it’s given me a perspective where I do not look at myself the way other people do. I definitely think it’s not a healthy thing to do. You wind up standing there saying, “Gosh, I am significant.” All it does is aggrandise my own ego and it doesn’t advance me at all, doesn’t teach me anything and I don’t like it.
What I’m told is that she is doing well and that she’s working hard to get herself back together. She’s a very tough girl. I would bet on Joni rather than betting on anything else.
Have you seen her recently?
No. I got permission to come once, but when we tried to put it together it wasn’t a good day. So I’m going to keep trying until I can go and see her because when you’re sick or you’ve had a rough spot in your life, that’s when friends count. People showed up for me when I was in hospital, when I was on the bottom, so I think that’s a good thing to pay it forward.
Were you approached to play at the Desert Trip festival?
No. If somebody had approached The Byrds, I would have wanted to do it. But I think it’s a scam because all it is really is a parking lot, an empty field, a few acres of dust. So OK, you’re standing there for hours and hours and hours. They sell you a bottle of water for $5. You can’t tell who’s on stage because they’re a pinprick – that’s why Jagger waves a scarf round, man, he’s so far away you can’t tell it’s him. It’s not the way to see any of those bands, least of all Neil. The sound outdoors at that place is crap. The situation is crap. It’s a great story to be able to say, “I was there, I saw the Rolling Stones with Neil and everybody all at once.” But it’s a lousy concert. You could give me tickets to that and I wouldn’t go.
In the year when we lost Bowie, Prince and so many others there’s something slightly ghoulish about billing it “once in a lifetime”…
That’s merchandising. Truth is, the whole thing is about merchandising. It’s a gigantic money machine, and I’m not in it for money. That’s not why I came to the party in the first place. I’m a musician, my life is about music and I love making music. I don’t give a shit about the money. I don’t give a shit about being a star. I don’t give a shit about any of the rest of that stuff. It’s not my thing.
When you first got together with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, did you have a plan?
We were just guys who were folkies, who got together and we had seen The Beatles. So we knew what we wanted to be and we weren’t! But Roger and Gene were singing these songs that Gene had written after he’s listened to The Beatles. Roger could figure out how to play them in a Beatle-ish fashion and then I sat down with them and started singing harmonies. It was completely organic thing.
McGuinn, Hillman, Stills, Nash, Young…. what do you think links all your previous collaborators?
We’re all human beings and we’re all gifted with talent. We’re doing whatever our spirits tell us to do with that.
Has it all been worth it, so far?
Totally. Love it. I just wish I’d done more music and less drugs. I regret the time I wasted being wasted, that I could have spent making more music.
The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.