Neil Young And Daniel Lanois: Love And War

On “Walk With Me” you say, “I lost some people I was traveling with. I miss the soul and the old friendship.” Are you thinking about your own mortality because you have lost people this year—Larry Johnson and Ben Keith?

NY: I think it’s become more evident. It’s in this record a couple places. But it’s okay, it’s just the way it is.

Do you think that acceptance is the way to deal with things?

NY: Well, you have to. You can’t fight some of the things that happen. You can’t go, “Well, that never happened.” It happened, you know. There’s nothing you can do. I’m glad that Dan’s journey toward the pavement ended with a happy face.

What do you mean?

NY: Well, you’re talking about fate. He was on his motorcycle and he ran into something. So that’s what I meant. He might not be here. But he is.

DL: It’s not that everybody should know about it. We did four sessions, four full moons. The third one had an intermission.

Because of your accident?

DL: Yeah, a three week intermission.

NY: Missed one.

There are certain things you don’t do after a certain age. One is cocaine, the other one is drive motorcycles.

NY: Oh, try to tell a lot of people that. They won’t believe you. Particularly the motorcycles.

DL: The doctor did say that if that had happened when I was eighteen, those ribs might not have broken. He says once you get in your fifties and your bones are more brittle…you might do better on four wheels.

NY: Yeah, Dan said he was going to only drive a bus after this.

I spoke to Eddie Vedder recently and he said one thing about Neil Young is that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He does what he does. But the question really is, do other artists come to you for advice?

NY: Not really, no. Not many people talk to me, actually. I mean Eddie comes to me and we hang out. He’s not looking for advice, in fact he doesn’t need advice from me. He knows what he’s doing.

I often ask people what they do before they go onstage, and I had a run of people telling me they did what Neil Young does. The problem was they all said different things. James Mercer from The Shins said he runs in place; Robert Plant said he does scales like you. And Beth Orton said she meditates like you do. Could they all be right?

NY: I showed Robert the scales. He visited me once and I said, “Go do it with us.”

Did he?

NY: Yeah, he did. So did Dylan. He came to one show and I said, “Come on, Bob.” So Bob did it but he did it his own way. He was doing harmony parts and going sideways and everything. Everybody does it their own way. But I’m big on rituals. But not so much before I record. Although I do sometimes before I play. I go through a certain thing, which is a combination of meditation and a rehearsal, or an opening. I just go through vowel sounds on the piano, scales. I go through that, and by the time I’m finished I’m oriented. It’s just a mindless thing that I do. Just to see what happens.

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