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Meat Loaf Q&A: Rock Legend on Getting Bullied Over His Weight, Turning Down 'Idol' and Why the Country Is Going to 'Hell'
- Posted on Mar 6th 2012 3:00PM by Chris Epting
Now, Meat is back with a new studio full-length, 'Hell in a Handbasket,' which comes out March 13 via Legacy. There's no Jim Steinman this time, and this is not connected to the 'Bat' series of albums. Rather, this is a more personal collection from Meat Loaf and features a number of interesting collaborations including appearances from Trace Adkins, Lil Jon and Mark McGrath. The soaring trademark voice, however, is just as stirring and pure as ever.
In a recent interview with Spinner, the rock 'n' roll legend spoke to us about his new album, politics, bullying, his weight, acting, 'American Idol' and more.
One of the cuts that really jumps off the new record is your cover of the Mama and Papas hit, 'California Dreamin'.'
I'm so glad you brought that up. People have always assumed that 'California Dreamin'' was this nice little pop song. And why not think that, right? Those beautiful, wholesome harmonies from that sweet little pop band, right? But one day I heard the song and it really caught me by surprise. I re-read the lyrics over and over and came to the conclusion that there was so much more to this song, a darker, more serious metaphor about not being able to allow fear to hold you back.
Back in the 1960s, I saw so many great singers in bar bands that had this fear of not reaching out further for their dreams. I never felt that way. But that's what this song reminded me of! And so when I realized what this song had in it, I wanted to approach it much the way an actor would, because I am also an actor, to try and use my past experiences to bring out the other qualities of the song that I think many may have missed over the years. Just listen to those lyrics. They're amazing.
The new album seems like you've stripped away a lot of the bombast, which we all know and love, to focus on a more personal approach.
Right. I've been dreaming about a record like this. So often before I've sung through the eyes of different characters, communicating on behalf of them. But this is from me. The term "going to hell in a hand basket" came out of the Civil War and was originated from an old English phrase "to go to heaven in a wheelbarrow." But bottom line, the phrase, the title of the album, means we're on a course for disaster, which is how I feel sometimes when I look around today.
This sounds like something very serious to you.
Yes, it is. So many people are either extreme left or right -- there's all this extremist saber rattling, the anonymous attacking on the internet, it's just everywhere. This record addresses that. It's time we just stopped, as a people, attacking things we simply disagree with. It's time we showed more compassion. For so many people, the first thing they do is attack. That is leading this county, this world, to hell in a handbasket. I'm telling you, man, we need more humanity.
Is it hard for you to leave the comfort zone of what so many expect from you, as far as albums go?
I have no fear about that. Risks are easy for me as an artist. Like, despite what many said to me back then, I had no fear of making the first 'Bat Out of Hell' [laughs[. And we got slammed when that thing first came out. For Jim Steinman, it wasn't that big a deal. Water just rolls off his back like a duck. But me, I was tormented. I mean, I'd still do it over again the same way, but for me, when I get attacked it still kind of hurts. Goes back to when I was a kid.
Can you explain that?
Kids made fun of me because of my weight. I was teased and bullied all over the place. True, there were times I beat the hell out of kids that did that, but still [laughs]. Starting out as an actor, I actually got good reviews in plays that got bad reviews -- they liked my acting but hated everything else. Then comes the first 'Bat' album. These amazing characters in Jimmy's little play. What a concept. I don't think people fully understood the tongue-in-cheekiness of it and the pure pop genius of it. But man, those critiques? They were just insulting attacks on me. They really hurt me. That record was great! I'm very sensitive, but like when I was a kid, if I fell I'm unjustly criticized, then I get angry and I want to fight back. So I did, and it's what got me here to this point in my career. Look, I've learned. People either love me or hate me -- there's no middle ground [laughs].
Changing topics Meat, did you know Whitney Houston?
I did, I knew her and I loved her. Her death has really shaken me up. First time I saw her was in London, about 1984 or so, singing in a small venue. Her mom Cissy and Dionne Warwick were there. I just went up to introduce myself not anticipating that anyone would know me. That's how I am. I never expect anyone to know me. But she knew, she flipped out a little and we ended up talking for 45 minutes that first night. I want to say this about Whitney -- there are singers who, well, it's like golfing with a world-class pro. They hit the ball and it takes off like normal, but then at the last second explodes and just goes into another dimension, right? Well, I think there are three singers that I have heard that I think have that thing, that jetpack quality to their voice that just lets it take off.
And they are?
OK, ya ready? Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Adam Lambert.
Wow, you put Adam Lambert in some pretty good company!
Have you seen the clip on YouTube of him singing with Queen, in that MTV clip from Belfast? Look it up. He hits overdrive and you may not believe it. What he does is amazing. Top three! I am not kidding. That kid is something else. He's real.
You seem like you'd be a great judge on 'American Idol' or some other singing competition show.
Do you know they asked me about it the second season? I turned them down. But I am very analytical, it's part of my problem, and it's part of my strength -- I over-analyze. But truthfully, I think 'The Voice' is a better show. Man, I would love to be a mentor on that show. Let's put that out there right now to anyone reading this. I would love it. I would take it so seriously, would work so hard and would give my heart and soul to that gig if I had it. I pride myself on being able to work like that. I love who they have on there now but if they had room, I'd do it. In a minute.
If only people could hear the passion in your voice as you talk about these things.
What can I tell you? I'm emotional, man. Seriously! Last night I cried at the end of a 'Star Trek'!