As a preview to Music Editor Katherine Coplen's trip to Austin to attend Austin City Limits, we're running interviews with headlining artists of the event.
NUVO: I saw you guys on Saturday at the Global Citizen Festival, I thought you guys were great.
Poncho: All I can say is my voice is still hoarse from that show; I was having such a good time.
NUVO: It sounded that way, if I closed my eyes I would have thought it was 1978. You sounded great.
Poncho: Well, you know that’s one thing, I think that event. — we do a lot of outdoor festivals and when it’s a benefit you usually just grit your teeth and do what you gotta do because it’s never the best of conditions, but I’ll say the sound there was really good for all the acts, it really sounded good and that allows you to do what you really love to do
NUVO: I’d definitely agree with that, as you know with opening acts the sound is a bit sketchy, but everyone sounded great. That’s one of the best sounding concerts I’ve ever been to.
Poncho: That’s what I’m saying! And you know, just the way they had it set up and everything, it was - an event of that size and the way it was broadcast, as many people as it reached out to. I’ll say, whoever put it together, I don’t know, but it was high quality and a lot care and love went into it. And you know they raised 1.3 billion dollars, which just makes me smile even bigger. I mean what a great thing, that we could help raise that kind of money to fight poverty and just help the global community.
NUVO: This has been a pretty big year for you guys what with two albums and a tour. What’s the secret for keeping things fresh?
Poncho: Well, you know we hadn’t played in almost 9 years. [laughs] And then we started doing Americana and of course those are all songs that we knew. But one of the funny things, Andrew, is like we get together and I remember saying to Neil after the second or third day, I said, 'You know, it’s amazing, we just set up our gear, and you know we, don’t do anything special, I have an amp, a cord, and a guitar and you have the same old rig and Ralph’s drums, and Billy’s bass and we just sound like us.’ [laughs] You know? Nobody- after not playing for nine years, you don’t hear that sound, you don’t hear it on the radio, you don’t hear it when you see other bands and when we start playing it just sounds like us. It’s amazing I think it has little bit more to do than with gear, it’s the way we’re all connected and as soon as we start playing things get to another level, our souls kind of get connected and the music just goes to a place where it’s supposed to be. It’s not something you can say, 'Okay, let’s turn this up another level’ or 'let’s make this happen.’ We can’t do that it just happens as it’s supposed to.
NUVO: Yeah there’s just something the chemistry you have with Neil, he doesn’t sound like he does with you guys with anybody else. Not with Buffalo Springfield, not with Crosby, Stills, & Nash, not with The Stray Gators, not with anybody.
Poncho: That’s true. But you know at the same time, he puts his heart into all of those projects and he’s not thinking Crazy Horse when he’s with The Stray Gators, he’s not thinking about The Shocking Pinks when he’s with Crazy Horse. I don’t know how he does it, but he commits himself and you know he’s really a clever man, but he believes in every one of those projects 100%. It’s not a trick. He’s not just trying to put something over on people. I remember once — I can’t remember what project it was- he was doing a song, wasn’t one of ours and I said, 'So you’re gonna do this ?’sort of as a joke and he just looked at me like he didn’t know what I was talking about. He comes in person and it must be a lot of fun for him.
NUVO: He looked like he was having a great time on Saturday, especially that final jam on “Rockin’ In The Free World.” I’ve never seen him smile so much on stage It was nice seeing him on stage with Dan Auerbach, Dave Grohl and the rest of the performers on stage having a great time.
Poncho: Yeah Dave came out and he just had such a huge smile on his face and he was so happy to playing with him. I mean, how could we not be happy to play? The whole event felt good and we were bouncing around like kids. It was really a lot of fun. I hope people enjoyed it.
Me. You guys are playing the Austin City Limits this month. How does your approach to a festival differ from a typical Crazy Horse show?
Poncho: Well you know we’ve been here for 10 or 12 days and we have first, in my mind, we did two benefits, we did Farm Aid and we did the Global Citizen Festival and at those events, everything’s different. And when we’re gonna play our show in three days, it’s going to be so cool to have our stage, our set up, all the gear where we normally have it. There’s plenty of shows you have to compromise because you have to roll everything in and out and everything has to be done so fast you never really get the soundcheck, you never really get to make sure everything’s right, so there’s always a little bit of doubt. You just have to go into it thinking 'No matter what happens we’re not gonna stop. And give it 100%. And not ever let anything bum you out.’ But when it’s your own show, you pretty much know how everything is gonna sound and you can relax a little bit and you don’t have to have those types of thoughts in your head. It’s like less thinking and more playing when you do your own gig. But that’s the way you kind of over think until you get up there and get dialed in.
NUVO: I read in a recent New York Times piece that Neil’s been sober for a year. How has Neil’s sobriety affected the group dynamic?
Poncho: Neil’s amazing, he has so many projects going on. I’m really happy to be around him right now, he has the Pono music going on, his book’s coming out, he’s working on LincVolt, he has two records with us, he has a movie coming out, and this guy, he’s on his tiptoes bouncing around with a smile on his face and has more energy. And I can really feel, all those projects, a positive feeling from them. This is probably the most positive feeling start of a tour we’ve ever had. And I think that’s part of it, being sober. That’s not saying, you know, anything was bad in Neil, but he was definitely a little cloudier [laughs]. But other than that it was a lot of fun.
NUVO: Speaking of projects, do you have any idea of when we might see Archives II?
Poncho: [uproarious laughter] Just as much as you do.
NUVO: That’s what I kind of figured.
Poncho: You know, it’s funny you say that. Because I remember when we were recording Sleeps With Angels. We were in the studio and Mo Austin, Lenny Waronker came by to see us, but it just so happened that Neil stepped out with David [Briggs]. They had me in a corner, literally, and they were like, 'Poncho, what’s up with the Archives? Neil said he’s giving it to us in December.’ [laughs] That’s almost twenty years ago. Who knows? I can understand Neil. This is just my own theory it’s nothing Neil’s ever said to me, but I just kind of feel that Neil is the kind of guy who’s so progressive, that why would you want to put out Archives untilyou’re done? That’s something you do when you’re finished with your career, at the end of your career. I don’t think he sees the end of his career yet.
NUVO: Right, he kind of addresses that idea on Rust Never Sleeps. "It’s better to burn out, than to fade away." He wants to keep going while he can. Putting out Archives is like saying, 'Hey, I belong in a museum, not going around the country kicking ass, taking names.’
Poncho: That’s exactly the way I feel about it. That comes later on. But I know I’d love to hear some of it, there are so many songs that were unreleased. It would be great to hear some of them. But that day will come. But I’m glad that he’s working on them, because, you know I’m a huge Jimi Hendrix fan and the way a lot of his stuff came out after he passed away, it was just... I know Jimi wouldn’t have liked to hear it the way it was. It was kind of sad. But at the same time still good to hear. But Neil’s taking care of business and working on it and making sure it’s all right. Once it does come out, I think everyone’s really going to appreciate it.
NUVO: You’ve played on some pretty amazing albums. What’s your favorite?
Poncho: Boy, that’s hard. You know, for me of course, Zuma always holds a special place in my heart because it was my first record and it still just the '70s and I still had my foot in the '60s. That was an incredible era and I was still taking acid when I went on stage with Neil. Those are the kind of things that stick in your head. As far as all around record, I have to tell you, I’m really happy with this one, Psychedelic Pill. I just can’t tell you how happy I am with it, because after Americana, I loved the record and think it was a lot of fun making and we put a lot good energy into the songs, but it would have been not so cool if that was our last record. And then we did this record. Have you heard it?