Neil Young: from grunge to ecology

Guillaume Blanchard, translated by Aurélie Merabti
12 Décembre 2014

Neil Young, 69 years old, has released his thirty-fifth album of his career and second produc-tion of the year, “Storytone". More enthusiastic than before, this album shows mostly his devotion to Nature. On the occasion of his European summer tour, Le Journal International went to meet this legend, the first "protest singer" and godfather of grunge.

Four songs in forty-five minutes, the tone is set from the start. Neil Young and Crazy Horse delivered a pretty clear message that night: love each other, value Nature, protect it. With sin-gles such as Love and Only Love, Be The Rain, Living With War and Who's Gonna Stand Up And Save The Earth? (from Storytone), the combination of love songs and rebellious songs has succeeded. His electric guitar "Old Black", which has accompanied him for 40 years and is more aggressive than ever on Love And Only Love, pierced through on Like A Hurricane. Each of the singles played that evening lasted at least ten minutes; Down By The River carried on for about twenty minutes.

Before the concert, the roadies made an effort to give out - for free -   eco-friendly cotton t-shirts with the words “Protect” written on for women, and “Earth” written for men. Bright eyed and a short embrace later, here we are, sitting in the press area to discuss Pono, Lincvolt and Honor The Treaties. 

Pono, the « iPod killer »

When Pono is mentioned, his eyes sparkle with mischief. Pono is a music player, which Neil Young created himself. It is also an online streaming platform dedicated to high definition, and it raised more than six millions dollars on Kickstarter. “"My goal is to try and rescue the art form that I’ve been practicing for the past 50 years. I want the people to feel the music, live the music. It's not about audio quality, it's about feeling like a musician."

Available for a few days in the United States, Pono will be on the market in Europe in 2015, in order to compete with Apple’s iPod. However, the quality has a price: 400€ (498$) for the music player, plus the streaming of the songs. It is not the first initiative of its kind, other platforms such as Qobuz exist, but Pono is still the most innovative project – because it is with a Walkman - but also because of its wider media range. Supported by Arcade Fire, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam, Jack White, Sting, Elton John and Dave Grohl, Pono aims to be a viable alternative to the iPod. 

Lincvolt, Honor The Treaties: his fight for the Nature

 "With a few engineer friends, I turned a 1959 Lincoln Continental, which was known as being very polluting, into an electric hybrid that used to function with a biodiesel-powered mi-croturbine engine to recharge batteries that power an electric motor” Used to ? “Yes, she gave up last year in the middle of a wasteland…” When we mentioned renewable energy, he interrupts, “Earth is precious. It's like a giant ship that it headed straight towards an iceberg if we do nothing. I love old cars, but I feel guilty when I see their consumption. If we can get this kind of performance out of an old car, imagine what we could do with modern vehicles. At the time of its release, the 1959 vehicle was the heaviest convertible ever built by Ford, weighing in at 6,200 pounds. Lincvolt proves that we don’t need oil.” 

Let’s talk about oil. Neil Young is the representative of Honor The Treaties, an organization intended to raise funds in order to pay the juridical expenses of native communities committed to a fight against the industry of Athabasca oil sands and also fight against the using of the ground/earth. 

“I want a future where the climate is preserved and where laws are not written by oil compa-nies. I didn't meet Canadian oil companies. I refused. The tar sand fields are the most hideous and destructive things I've ever seen. I did a few shows back in January to help raise funds for Honor The Treaties. It worked above my expectations. I have always treated Native Americans as friends of mine, and I always took their defence, whether they're Americans or Canadians. Oil companies are digging a hole, which will be hard for our grandchildren to get out of. Better companies can emerge, as industries, to look forward using new energies and develop renewable resources and technologies to move forward and produce energy and live in a better world for our grandchildren”

Rick Rosas, the bass player with American Indian origins, who has accompanied him for sev-eral years, especially during summer tours, passed away last 6th November. Neil Young took the opportunity to praise him in the New York Times and to remind us how difficult the na-tive’s fight for their territory is.

A smile on his face, he concludes: « that's a funny thing, two years ago I drove Lincvolt, in which I installed Pono, from California to Canada to get tot the tar sand fields » 
The circle is completed.