By Jeb Wright
Way before he was famous, Meat Loaf was over the top, bombastic and grandiose. He had artistic visions and after meeting up with composer Jim Steinman, he had a way to bring his visions to life. Together they created Bat Out of Hell, which, against all odds has become the third most popular selling album of all time.
From the success of that album, Meat Loaf went from being a passionate unknown artist to a household name. He has had other successes and he has had total flops. He has had personal triumphs and personal tragedies. No matter what, he has always picked himself up, dusted himself off and pushed forward.
This time around, Meat decided to record a concert with his band, The Neverland Express, in Australia to a sold out crowd. The stage setting is eye-catching, the light show amazing and the musical performances, by everyone on the stage, is inspiring.
New songs, classic songs and new versions of old songs fill the Guilty Pleasures DVD making this one show that you wish you could have been at. The quality of the DVD, however, makes you feel like you are there.
Meat Loaf can still sing, he struggles here and there, but his is demanding music. At times, he delivers with the power that only Meat Loaf can muster. Meat Loaf put his heart and soul into this project all the while wearing his heart on his sleeve. His fans know his strengths and his weaknesses. They love both.
With Meat Loaf, what you see is what you get—Guilty Pleasures and all.
Jeb: The Guilty Pleasures DVD is totally over the top. It has a huge stage, huge lights and the way it is shot makes you feel like you are there. How involved were you in making this DVD turn out the way it did?
Meat: Oh, good Lord, I am probably sort of a control freak. I will tell you how I work, I work like this, I have ideas for things, but I get people involved who know more about the subject than I do. I tell them what I would like to see and once they put what their vision is down, I, then, go in and change it. I don’t change it completely; I would say I will give them my vision and tell them to go do their thing. I will then take 25% of what they have done and I give them more ideas.
I’ve got my hands in everything from the sound, to the lights, to what the director is shooting and where the cameras are being placed, and what we are doing sound-wise and mix-wise. I get really involved in editing.
I have not seen the completed DVD yet. I am shooting a film and I just got back on Sunday. I have spent six weeks in Canada shooting a film. I had told them to send me things, song by song. I would look at that and I would change things, editing up to 50% and sometimes even more.
There is a real difference in film editing versus music editing. They guys who edit music tend to do it a certain way and they have this formula and this format. I fight that constantly. I do more film stuff. They don’t understand stage, so it drives me nuts.
Jeb: You had to play this concert with 15 high definition cameras flying around. It was a make it, or break it, situation. How does that affect your performance?
Meat: I don’t see it. When I shoot film and they yell “roll” then everything else in the room disappears, except for who I am doing the scene with – they literally disappear.
The film I am shooting has a lot of kids in it, as young as seven years old. It would be two o’clock in the morning and we have been going since noon and this eight year old is just not there. The director says, “When I yell action, you’ve got to pretend that none of these people are in the room.”
This kid is supposed to be afraid of me. He was supposed to be too afraid to even look at me. I know his mother was telling him something else. I know stage mother’s the minute I see them. I got in this kids face and I screamed, “What is it going to take for you to be afraid of me? What is it going to take for me to scare you?” I am loud. I am surprised this kid’s ear drums weren’t bleeding.
Jeb: On the concert film you have a violin player named Ginny Luke. She brings a lot to the show.
Meat: I found her the same place I found the piano player, Jason Avery, who is a jaw dropper. He’s 27 and Ginny was 20 when we shot the show. She is absolutely jaw dropping. I put her in the show for the DVD only. We are out on tour and she is not with us.
I didn’t need her on The Mad, Mad World Tour because it was another kind of thing. She will probably be with us on the next tour.
Jeb: You’re already planning the next tour?
Meat: The next tour, oh my God, it is going to be huge. I have to start working preproduction in December to go out in April. It’s massive. We’re going to do Bat Out of Hell in its entirety, in order, as the second act. All of the arrangements that we have shortened, like “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” we are going back to full length on again. I am thinking of having three different colored pianos…it just goes on and on and on.
Jeb: Your band…
Meat: It is the best band on the road, at the moment.
Jeb: They’re amazing. I have to say that when Patti Russo sings with you she makes people forget that Meat Loaf is standing next to her and that is not easy. No disrespect intended.
Meat: I am not going to argue with you. She’s been with me a long time and she is amazing.
Jeb: You have such a great time with each other. On “Paradise” when she whacks you… I wonder if she ever gets mad at you and takes an opportunity to hit you really hard on stage.
Meat: She never really gets mad, but sometimes she does really hit me hard. She never means to, but sometimes, in the moment, she really slaps me. One night there was a red mark on my face and you could see her handprint. It is good because when that happens I go, “That hurt.” The crowd loves it.
Jeb: I know you’re an actor, but when you thank your fans during the concert it comes off as very sincere. As a fan I want to thank you for saying that about us.
Meat: Nobody actually knows this, but I am a closet standup comedian. I did four nights about twenty years ago as a standup comedian opening up for Henny Youngman. I, also, did two nights, one as a precursor to Rocky Horror and one in a Hartford comedy club. I wanted to know what that was like.
I went onstage without anything prepared. I knew what I was going to talk about, but it was all improv about me meeting Elvis Presley. I was able to go seventeen minutes, but that’s nothing, as I can carry something out forever. I can go on, as I never shut up.
Jeb: Seriously, have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered why people like you so much?
Meat: What I’ve done is look in the mirror and wondered why people see things so differently. It is a very strange thing. You can get one hundred great reviews and then get one bad one. The bad one stays with me.
Jeb: Are you really that sensitive?
Jeb: I didn’t get that idea when I met you. I have been at Meet and Greets and people are lined up like they are meeting the President.
Meat: I do Meet and Greets differently than any other artist. My Meet and Greets are 30 or 40 minutes long.
Jeb: You ask people questions.
Meat: I ask them where they work and I ask them what they do. I joke with them a little bit. I will say, “Are you married?” They will say, “No.” I will say, “Why not?” I try to make them at ease and not be nervous around me. Sometimes it doesn’t make any difference, as you get a person that just shakes and I just want them to stop that because I have all the respect in the world for them.
To answer your question about when I talk to the audience, I will tell you this: Whenever I say something like that directly to the audience I am never acting, as that is how I feel. I take the stage with total commitment to that performance. If I am off that night – my wife has been with me where I’ve had a bad show and I just sit in the middle of my dressing room floor in tears. I am not feeling bad for me; I am feeling bad for the audience. They paid money to see me. They paid money to park their car and they probably had to give their left arm for a beer. I am that dedicated.
I did an interview yesterday and this guy asked me, “Do you mind doing the old songs?” I said, “I don’t have any old songs.” That would be like saying to someone who loves classical music, “Are you still listening to that guy Bach?” It would be like saying to a Shakespearean actor, “Are you still doing that old play, Hamlet?” There are no old songs. Well, there is the Archies. They have old songs.
Jeb: If you had not hopped in that car and drove from Texas to California, what would have happened to you?
Meat: I know exactly what would have happened to me. I would have been a football coach and taught history. I know that is exactly what I would have done.
From the time I was young, I wanted to play professional football. By the time I got to college, I realized that was not going to happen because everyone was so much bigger than me—I know that is hard to believe. If you would have put me next to any pro football team and seen me stand in the middle of the line, then you would see that I looked like a Safety. I could never be a Safety because I can’t run that fast.
I thought I knew what my destiny was going to be. I was taking psychology classes and I was taking physical education classes that were about coaching. I was heading in that direction and my major was history. I had a minor in arts and I keep doing plays. My mother died and that is what sent me going off to California. Going to California is where it all flipped.
Jeb: Before we go, I have to ask about something that happened a long time ago. Legend holds that you opened for the band Them and you had a malfunction with your smoke machine?
Meat: That was the first rock show that I ever did. Van Morrison was in Them. We were going to play with Them on Friday and Saturday night. The Friday night went as planned, but on the second night, we were going to be doing this song by the Yardbirds called “Smokestack Lightening.”
Me, being theatrical…listen, I’ve always been a ham, trust me. I wanted to have smoke for “Smokestack Lightening.” We went out and bought these cannon shells and this guy said we needed to make this mixture of these chemicals together and that they would make smoke. We said, “We are in a basement and we can’t make too much smoke.” He said, “You’ll be fine.” We made too much of it and the fireman came and the whole night was cancelled. I didn’t see Them that night, but I’m sure they were upset. The owner of the club was upset, but he wasn’t that upset because he liked us and we kept going back there and playing. It was this place called The Cave and it was next door to a very famous club called the Golden Bear.
Jeb: My last one has to do with something I saw at the end of the Guilty Pleasures DVD. You shoot t-shirts into the crowd out of penis guns. Who came up with the idea of creating the penis gun?
Meat: It’s actually a hot dog. Well, I guess it was originally a penis gun. I can only blame myself for that idea. We still use them, but we only use them at the end of the show to shoot out t-shirts. I will continue to do that.
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