Crazy Horse and Neil Young Maintain Special Relationship

Barry Gutman, Music Wire Interview ~9/96

Neil Young News

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Date: Mon, 2 Sep 1996 19:43:09 +0200
From: Paolo Demaria <

Interview with Crazy Horse by Barry Gutman, Music Wire

Crazy Horse have been accompanying Neil Young, off and on, since 1969. Despite having played on some classic albums and tours, however, the trio -- founding members Ralph Molina (drums) and Billy Talbot (bass), plus, since 1975, Frank "Poncho" Sampedro (rhythm guitar, keyboards) -- remains surprisingly anonymous.

"I'm real grounded -- we all are," explains Molina, phoning in before a recent concert. "We're just regular guys -- we're not star-struck or any of that bull----. If we get to do (interviews), that's fine; if we don't, that's fine, too. I like keeping a low profile, (but) I don't do it intentionally."

Not that the band's talent isn't recognized -- and sought -- by other musicians. A couple of years ago, Molina and Talbot recorded some tracks with former Icicle Works leader Ian McNabb, and played with him at the Glastonbury Festival in England. "He had a couple of very emotional songs that got to my heart," recalls Molina. "But we don't go out and play with everybody that calls. What we do with Neil is a very special thing, so we're not out to play any long-term (tours) with people."

Instead, Talbot and Molina are as busy as they want to be at home in Santa Barbara, California, hanging with their families and writing and rehearsing with guitarists Sonny Mone and Michael Hamilton. "Right now, we're in the midst of finishing this album with Neil producing and playing on it," Molina reports. We've got 20 tracks done. Neil thinks we need maybe four or five more. So, that's what we're gonna do when this tour (with Young) is over." Sampedro has also written some songs for the album, although he also spends much of his time away from Young operating a computer for NBC.

The latest Young and Crazy Horse album, Broken Arrow (Reprise), has received mixed reviews. Rolling Stone magazine, in particular, suggested that the musicians sounded too comfortable with each other. Molina likes the album for that very reason.

"When we got up to (Young's) ranch {to start rehearsing and recording}, it was mellow and laid-back. And that's great! We recorded the way we always do -- live. Neil will have the song and we'll jump in and get it in one or two takes, because then you have the magic and the true feel of the song. So they came about in a relaxed way. Maybe the next album will be more intense. But I don't let critics bother me."

Molina admits to being puzzled by the inclusion of a poorly recorded live cover of Jimmy Reed's bluesy "Baby What You Want Me to Do" as the new disc's final number. "I personally didn't want to have that on the album. But Neil just dug it, you know?"

His leadership notwithstanding, Young always gives the band room to help shape the songs. On the new album, for example, Molina and Talbot slowed down Young's original double-time conception of "Slip Away" into a "more spacey, Egyptian" feel with which the author is very satisfied. The song is proving to be a great jamming number on the current tour, along with old war-horses like "Cortez the Killer" and "Like a Hurricane." What makes these jams work sound so unique -- and ensures the band's ongoing relationship with Young -- is that "we're not chops players -- we're mostly feel players." And that's where Mirror Ball (Reprise), Young's previous album, recorded with Pearl Jam, came up a bit short for Molina: "There were no ups and downs in the songs, emotion-wise."

Still, Molina loves Pearl Jam and has no problem with Young sometimes opting to work with other musicians. "I know one thing: (playing with Crazy Horse) is the thing that Neil treasures most. If we were doing album after album, tour after tour, this would not be special and we probably wouldn't be playing anymore. But we keep it special."

Neil Young and Crazy Horse

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