Neil Young
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Neil Young: “You have to break out of it”

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Short Profile

Name: Neil Percival Young
DOB: 12 November 1945
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Musician

Mr. Young, do you see yourself as a provocateur?

My life is not a political campaign. I just write about what is on my mind. I just play whatever I feel like playing. Whatever is in my soul at the time is what I want to do. I have, thank god, enough people who are still interested in what I am doing so that I can go out and keep doing it.

Do you think music can still change how people think these days?

I think that it can cause reflection and discussion, which is all you can do.

What about in the past?

I try not to look back. I’m looking forward. I’m worried more about what I’m going to do next week than I am what I did last week. There are too many things to do. Looking back is for everybody else.

Well, let me have a look back. I’ve read that you refused to be filmed at Woodstock. Was that really true?

I believe it was.


That was a turning point when music was becoming media and music was turning into an industry instead of a direct communication between musicians and the audience. In my view, cameras had no place on stage. They could film from far away and it wouldn’t bother me at all.

Live performance of Heart of Gold in 1971 by Neil Young. At the beginning of the video, Neil Young searches his pockets trying to find the right harp.

Do you think music today is too corporate?

Well, I can’t imagine American Idol in the ’60s. It’s so different you can’t compare it. The idea that there is a contest for who can pose the best. They are all just imitating other people. I don’t know what that is.

Unfortunately that garbage works.

Well it’s the media. The media has got the whole thing. (sarcastic) But we don’t have to worry about that in the United States. We’ve got CNN. We have the best political team on television working the story, so we’ve got no problems. (Laughs)

So, what excites you these days?

Well, when I get excited about anything nowadays it’s either new music or energy. Those are the two subjects I’m most concerned with.

Your own new music?

Yeah, I’m always open to new stuff. I don’t sit and try to figure out what to do, I just wait for an idea to come.

And what excites you so much about energy?

We’re working on building an automobile that doesn’t have to go to a fueling station, that creates its own fuel. That’s really what I am focusing the rest of my life on. I am finished with everything else as far as I am concerned.

Besides music of course…

The music is great and it is nice because it gets people thinking, it moves people, but ultimately, to make a real change in the world, it’s going to have to come from energy. It’s going to have to come from physics and science. So I am working with physicists, scientists, and engineers around the world trying to build this car.

“We have been lulled into addiction and everything is built around it and you have to break out of it and think outside of the box.”

What caused that change for you?

I’m older. I’m an older person now. I see things differently. Some things that used to be important to me to write about, social things, are not important at all anymore. What’s really important now is not the politics of the world, not who is the president, but how you can get to the source of the problem: energy.

Do you continue to tour in order to stay in the public eye so you can draw attention to your other projects?

I don’t have to perform to stay in the public eye anymore. I really don’t. I am who I am and what I do on this musical stage these days really makes no difference at all. I already have all the momentum there. I am only doing it now because I love to do it. I don’t have to do it for any other reason. But I am selling a lot of the old cars that I own to make the money to fund these ideas.

Isn’t it a bit ironic that you used to have an infatuation with old cars and now you want to get rid of them?

It’s not that I want to get rid of the old cars. I want to recycle them into something that’s right for the 21st century, that’s right for the environment, that’s right for the survival of the human race.

Like a classic car with an electric motor?

I want to have the most outrageous, beastly looking, gas-guzzling thing that doesn’t have to go to a gas station. But when you buy an electric car you have to think about one thing: what are you plugging it into and where is that coming from? Coal, wind, solar? Whatever it is, electricity has the advantage of being a constantly evolving source of power. So that’s a good thing. So if you are using an electric car it means that in the future hopefully it will be a cleaner source.

Even if it’s not that clean now.

Right. But I am more interested in eliminating the distribution channels of the energy companies. If we can eliminate the distribution channels, like the gas stations, then we can basically eliminate a lot of the reasons for all the wars that we are going to have. You shouldn’t need to go to a gas station for anything else than a Coca-Cola. It should be a rest area where you stop to clean your windows and your car creates its own fuel from something that you can get that is cheap or free.

Do you really think that is possible?

This is the 21st century, we are a highly evolved race, our capabilities are so great compared to what we are doing. We have been lulled into addiction and everything is built around it and you have to break out of it and think outside of the box.