Originally published in The Music Network – October, 2011
Fame, fame, fatal fame. Meat Loaf has been involved in the entertainment game for roughly 44 years (at his count), and has seen all aspects of the industry. His stints in Hollywood films have seen him jet around the world on press junkets, and his magnum opus Bat Out Of Hell sold more than 43 million records, propelling him into situations he was ill-equipped to deal with. Then there was his controversial appearance on Celebrity Apprentice earlier this year, during which he flipped out on Gary Busey after erroneously believing Busey had stolen items belonging to him. Not surprisingly, this appearance doesn’t come up during this interview – aside from one reference to “that stupid TV show.”
Holding court in a hotel room in Sydney during a promotional visit, Meat Loaf seems less the raging reactionary portrayed on the program and more an elder statesmen; world- weary but still excitable. He offers TMN fruit from a platter (which he will later take with him) along with his views on the spiralling nature of the entertainment industry. Namely, he has an issue with the build-them- up, tear-them-down approach the media has taken with celebrities, as well as the lack of privacy afforded those in the public eye.
“I feel bad for people nowadays, unless you are built for it. There are certain people that are built for it. Madonna’s built for it. Madonna didn’t do it to make music, she did it to be famous, that’s obvious. I’m not putting her down, that’s who she was. Now, who you are, what you are and where you are is disclosed. In the last ten years that has become the norm. And I think that’s bad. I don’t think you should know everything. I don’t think its important to know Britney Spears wasn’t wearing underwear.” Similar themes adorn his new record, Hell In A Handbasket, the title of which betrays his disenchantment – and existed far before any of the songs from the record.
“The world’s gone to hell in a handbasket; that could be your world or the entire world, and I keep moving in and out of that, from the personal to the political,” he explains. “It’s about how the world treats you, and as it says it in Mad, Mad World, “If you speak up, there’s somebody there to knock you down.” There’s an attitude of entitlement these days, everyone wanting to build someone up to tear them down, and they do a really good job of it.”
Recorded with Rob Cavello in a variety of locations: ranging from tour buses, to backstage areas, even in an upstairs closet where his wife keeps Christmas wrapping paper (“Actually one side is wrapping paper, and hanging next to me was Eddie’s vest from The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), the album doesn’t suffer from this disjointed recording process. In fact it mirrors the way he has always recorded: “This is old school stuff, where they used to have studios on tour buses. Now instead of real studios, it’s Pro-Tools.” Despite his upcoming tour, he insists he won’t be on the publicity trail.
“I stay out of it all. The only time you ever see me is when I might be coming to your town. For Fight Club I went with Brad [Pitt] and Ed [Norton] and we did press all over the world, but I’m not out there promoting myself. I don’t go to Beverly Hills to Mr. Chow so the paparazzi can take my picture and put it in the newspaper, ‘cos that’s the quickest way to burn out. I’ve been doing this for 44 years, and that’s because I come in and out.”
Meat Loaf knows better than most the dangers of overexposure. Bat Out Of Hell was a surprise success, and a relatively slow- burner upon release, but when the album eventually took off, it did so in a big way. Celebrity followed very quickly, much to Meat Loaf’s chagrin. “It didn’t dawn on me that that was going come with the territory, so that was very difficult. Everybody was your best friend and everybody came out of the woodwork with a piece of advice for the future. I was like ‘Guys, I’m not built for this’ and it really put me in a downwards spiral.
“Sometime around August of ‘78 I said ‘I’m not touring anymore.’ And for four months I went every day for an hour to a psychologist. It was CBS, who was Sony then; they kept putting out these ads ‘The new star’ and I said ‘Take out that word star. I don’t want to be a star. Put performer, put artist, put anything, but take out that word star.’ They put one out, and after that I went crazy. That was not want I wanted to be. So I’ve never played the game. I’ve tried to keep my feet grounded and if I’m going to argue about something, it’s going to be about artistic merit. I’m not going to lose it because – and I love Spinal Tap – my bread’s too small.”
And with that semi-obscure reference he leads into three minutes worth ofSpinal Tap quotes. “It’s amazing how real that movie is. If you’ve ever been on tour, you know.”