ON ARC/WELD, THE STUNNING
audio-verite documentary of his 1991
American tour, Neil Young levels more
fire and brimstone than players half his
age. Young isn’t about to be pushed into
his own past by anyone.
Given your onstage abandon, are you hard
No. I don’t have any guitars that are
broken because of me playing them. I
treat them pretty gently, actually. I don’t
think I have to break a guitar to get a violent
sound out of it.
What’s the source of your feedback?
Volume. There is no amp gain, and
we don’t use a distorted effect at all. It’s
just the Fender Deluxe.
Of all the players who emerged in the ’60s,
you alone still seem capable of really thrashing.
Well, that’s nice. I think I took that
as far as I’m going to take it for a while.
I don’t know if there’s any reason to
continue with that thrashing about.
The punk attitude…
No—it’s just rock and roll, but it’s real
rock and roll. Punk and rock and roll are
all the same thing. What has degenerated
from it—what “rock and roll” is now—is
not rock and roll. It’s pop. It’s fabricated
for the masses. It’s an imitation—a shoddy
semblance of what it was. It’s Perry Como
music compared to real rock and roll.
Remember when it all started? There was
real rock and roll, and then that other
music your parents listened to. It’s like
rock and roll now is the music that our
parents listened to. It’s like gone.
What do you look for in a solo?
Elevation. You can feel it. That’s all
I’m looking for. You can tell I don’t care
about bad notes. I listen for the whole
band on my solos. You can call it a solo,
because that’s a good way to describe it,
but it’s really an instrumental. It’s the
whole band that’s playing.
What are your views on people going to college
to learn guitar?
It paints a pretty doomed picture of
the future, doesn’t it? [Laughs.] First of
all, it doesn’t matter if you can play a scale.
It doesn’t matter if your technique is good.
If you have feelings you want to get out
through music, that’s what matters. If you
have the ability to express yourself, and
you feel good when you do it, then that’s
why you do it. The technical side of it is
a complete boring drag, as far as I’m concerned.
I mean, I can’t play fast. I don’t
even know the scales. A lot of the notes
I go for are notes that I know aren’t there.
They’re just not there, so you can hit any
note. I’m just on another level as far as
all that goes. I appreciate these guys who
play great. I’m impressed by metal bands
with their scale guys. I mean, Joe Satriani
and Eddie Van Halen are genius guitar
players. They’re unbelievable musicians
of the highest caliber.
But I can’t relate to it.
One note is enough. —
excerpted from Jas
Obrecht’s piece in the
March 1992 Guitar