Interview with Meat Loaf: Back to Broadway for 1 Night Only!
A creature of the stage, who's career began on Broadway and included appearing in shows like Hair and in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Meat Loaf then starred Off-Broadway in More Than You Deserve, by composer Jim Steinman. That fortuitous pairing then led to the Steinman-penned first Bat Out of Hell album. 30 years in Rock and Roll later, Meat Loaf returns to Broadway on November 2nd in Bat Out of Hell on Broadway at the Palace Theatre. Combined, the first two Bat albums sold nearly 50 million copies worldwide, establishing Bat Out of Hell as a one of rock's most successful musical franchises and launching Meat Loaf into a career as a rock star. With the October 31 release of Bat Out of Hell III Meat Loaf sat down with BroadwayWorld.com to reflect on the new CD, theatrical ghosts, future stage possibilities and much more.
Given your history on the stage, does that make your upcoming concert at Broadway's Palace Theater more special to you?
The Palace is a haunted theatre so that's why we're going there. I worked in the Belasco which was also haunted. That place really is haunted! Things got moved around there all the time. They had a fire there one night...we were leaving the theatre from a tech rehearsal and I think it was Tim Curry, myself and the director and the choreographer and we walked out the back door, and we were walking past the front door towards some restaurant and we looked and the curtain was on fire! The ghost light was placed on the stage, I sat there and watched them do it. From the time we walked out the back door, to the time we had walked by the front, it had been moved, the ghost light had been moved!
Was that David Belasco's way of expressing his opinion of the production?
Things were always being moved, all the time in the dressing rooms. They always said that with David Belasco, these kinds of things happened when he didn't like the productions in the theatre. But apparently, there's over 100 ghosts in the Palace Theater, because that building was one of the oldest vaudeville houses in New York.
There's a cellist in the pit that people have seen, there's a little girl in the balcony and Judy Garland supposedly haunts the Palace Theater. She goes in and out a door that was made for her.
The one up the little staircase so she could look out at the audience?
Exactly! Now, the one ghost that you don't want to see is an acrobat who fell and broke his neck, because the rumor is that if you see the acrobat, you're going to die very soon yourself.
So, the Palace Theatre is cool and that's why we're going there...
Before you launched into a career of Rock n' Roll, you made many appearances on stage. How do you look back at your time in the theatre?
I love theatre, and I want to get back to it. There's a play that was Off Broadway called The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas, obviously based on Shakespeare, and they've asked me to do the lead in that on Broadway. I think that they wanted to put it up this year and I told them no way. The soonest that I could get there would be late in 2007 or in 2008. I don't know if they'll wait on me, I haven't heard from them. I would love to do that though.
Have you been getting offers for musicals too?
They've asked me to do Chicago a bunch of times, but I've always said no to that. They've asked me to do it in the West End in London, and I tell them that I have to say no. Also Phantom, they've asked me to do that, but I'm not a big fan of that one, so no.
What would convince you to step into one of those show?
Back in the days when I was doing theatre, I was younger and you'd just do things. Nowadays, you have to love something to go do it. Chicago's a great piece, and Billy Flynn is a great character so he'd be fun to do - I'd be the biggest Billy Flynn though! I'm just not sure if I want to go and do something that 18,000 other people did. I think if you're going to do it, create it. I wouldn't mind doing something. It scares me though, it's a frightening concept because it's a lot of work. It didn't scare me as much as when I was a kid cause it was easier.
Knowing what it is, and having done so many shows in New York, I know how much work it is. There're pieces that ran, where you're doing 8 shows a week and all those Wednesday matinees. I remember those Wednesday matinees. I didn't like them in my 20s. I went to Broadway before I was 20 to do Hair, right at 20 and that was hard enough. And then, being 25 and doing 8 shows a week was friggin hard enough. Now it's 33 years later, and it's actually frightening to sit here and go - they want me to do what? They want me to sing how many songs 8 times a week? Oh man... But I'm starting to think about it.
I've got a new vocal coach that worked with Hugh Jackman and has worked with so many people that are going to or are on Broadway. He's like the staff vocal coach for Chicago. In fact, they went through him to ask me to again to do it, just last week.
I love theatre, and I love playing in theatres. I hope that the Palace Theatre is haunted, and I hope that I see the cellist and the little girl. I don't want to see the acrobat though! Judy Garland would be cool.
When's the last time that you've gone to the theatre as an audience member?
I haven't been in a while. The last show that I saw was Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang. Is that still running?
It's still running in London I think, and we talked about me doing the child catcher. It would have been a real change in type for them. I thought about it for a long time, because it was an interesting piece and I had a certain way that I wanted to do it. I got on the phone with the director, and I was talking to him and I said "You blocked it and staged it a certain way in London, but this is what I'm thinking because I wasn't particularly fond of it. I don't think he was scary enough, I don't think he was intense enough. I don't think that the way he was handled that you were getting the chills enough. " So, I was describing to him how I wanted to do it when the director said "well, that's nice, we'll see." I went ok, I'm not doing it, because I knew what it meant. It's like when a kid asks "Daddy, can I have ice cream?" and the Dad says "Oh Billy, we'll see." What does that mean? No! And when he said "that's not a bad idea, we'll see when we get to rehearsal" I knew that he meant he was going to do it his way, and we'd wind up having a big fight so there was no reason to go through the aggravation.
What would be the right piece for you then? Something new? Something classic?
For the chance at playing him, I'd play Willy Loman at the McDonalds down on 47th Street. When Joe Papp was alive, I worked a lot for Joe .When Joe was alive, he gave me, and I still have, the script of a play that he wanted me to do about an old guy. He said to me when he gave me this script - "you're not old enough, we've got to give you another 40 years before you can do this part." The other one that we talked about that I'd still love to do would be Henry VIII.
Also, the people that produced Chicago had a great play about the governor of Alabama, George Wallace as seen through the eyes of his wife. It was really, really a nice script and I thought that they were going to be able to make that happen, but it didn't.
You keep mentioning plays - do they interest you more than a musical does?
I would love to do a play more than a musical, because that's very unexpected. Me doing a play rather than a musical is less expected and I like that. It's like I won't sing in movies anymore. I did in Tenacious D, as a favor to Jack Black though. After Rocky Horror, I said I'm never going to sing again in a movie because that's too easy. It's too hard to get away from the Meat Loaf persona when you do that.
Do you mean to separate yourself from the character?
I say to people all the time that I was in Fight Club, and a lot of the time, they'll go "oh really, you were? As what?" And I'll tell them it was as Robert Paulson, Bob and they go "Oh my god - you were!" And that's the biggest compliment that you can be paid there, because it means that you were Bob, and you lost whatever persona that they think Meat Loaf is, to go play Bob. That's the problem a lot of the time when musical people that just do music try to do a film or something and they tell me that they're just themselves on stage, and I laugh and tell them that no they're not, that they take a persona on stage whether they realize it or not.
So they get into a movie and they go "I think I have to act" and they take what they knew from the stage and it's obvious that they're "acting." You take them and put them in a western or something, and it's obvious that they are who they are, not the character. Sting does a good job at losing himself, and he has a coach and I've got a great coach too for the past ten years, who's a Meisner protégé. I also did a little work at Actors' Studio in the early 70s, which helped...
Have you seen any of collaborator Jim Steinman's shows?
I never saw Whistle Down the Wind and I never saw Dance of the Vampires. I thought about seeing it, but it's in German and I've sat through a couple of German things and it's just really difficult sitting through a musical. You can watch it, but when you don't understand the language you miss things. The exception there is the opera. Just because you don't understand Italian, you can still know exactly what's going on because they're intelligently staged. But if you're doing a musical in German in Germany, they're thinking that the people coming are speaking German. If you have an opera, staged in Italian, then 60% of your house doesn't know what the hell's happening.
Unless you're in Italy of course...
Right! They know that they enjoy the music, and they know that they enjoyed going and how it makes them feel, but they don't (understand the language). You have to tell the story. It's a pantomime, and you have to make it so a deaf person can enjoy it and know what's going on.
So you skipped Dance of the Vampires here as well?
It came here?
Yes, with Michael Crawford...
Oh yeah, it did come here with Michael Crawford. All I know is that Jim was really upset over that and that's why I missed it. Jimmy had walked out of it and wasn't going back and he was really upset about what had happened to it. He didn't want any part of it, and when he didn't want any part of it, neither did I.
You've done a song from that show on Bat Out of Hell III though...
Yeah, "Seize the Night," I forget that it had ever been in America. I guess that the track got translated for here, I somehow thought that Jimmy had translated it. I only ever had a demo of it translated. I forgot that the show ever existed in America.
Also from the musical world, there's two tracks from what would have been Steinman's Batman musical - "Cry to Heaven", and "In the Land of the Pigs (The Butcher is King)"?
I guess, I have no idea. They just came to me as demos that had never been recorded...
Your albums and stage performances are known for being very intense - do you approach the material as an actor, or?
Most of the time I do characters. I watch people in the street all the time. I'm mostly like a voyeur because I sit and watch people have arguments, or I sit and watch people that are terribly in love. You watch, but you pretend that you're not watching. I watch people have fights all the time. I think that I see people fight more than anyone else because I'm constantly drawn to the arguments, to the battles, because a lot of songs are that way. Most of the songs are the battles, and the people are that way too.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way that they walk down the street, and their body language, how they're moving, how they're walking. Are they slumped over? Are they looking down? Are they moving their head from side to side? You can tell if they're walled in or are they closed off or are they open? So I study them all the time.
I watch people too when I'm in a taxi or a car in New York, or LA at a stoplight. If there's people standing at the corner, I watch them. People have different hand movements based on their personalities and what they're doing.
And you incorporate these 'character studies' into your performances then?
I try to have different hand movements from song to song, because I'm aware of creating a different thing for every song. So I'm in constant study of that, but I do it from film too. There was a remake of a movie (Cape Fear) with Robert DeNiro and Nick Nolte having a scene in a diner. I was so intrigued by DeNiro in this diner and his choices and what he was doing in this diner. It was one of the most extraordinary DeNiro scenes that I've seen, just based on his choices. I watched that scene over and over again. I just rewound it over and over again trying to pick apart his intentions. I took that scene into Bat 2's recording sessions and used it in there.
In this last record, I drew a little more on method acting. I brought a little more of myself into it. Broadway people will get this, and those people on your web site will get this. Elsewhere, people get confused when I go off on this stuff. They get really confused about method stuff. I use it in interviews sometimes, but then I realize that I'm talking to a wall. So, I use characters, because all of the songs are scenes and you're always trying to find the truth in the scene and find the truth in the character.
I always go back to Sally Field, and I can't remember what movie she was talking about, but I remember the quote, and she said that "doing this film was like cutting myself with razor blades." I remember seeing an interview with Meryll Streep about her last movie, the Prada one, what was that called?
The Devil Wears Prada?
Right, how she had to totally alienate herself from everyone in the cast entirely for the character, because the character was so mean and just so ruthless that she had to alienate herself from people and I thought that was very interesting. She hated it, she didn't like it, and that was kind of like cutting herself with razor blades.
For me, that's what it's like going into a studio, to sing these songs. If everybody's life is a graph - then you have little peaks, little peaks, little peaks, whether they're positive or negative, they're little peaks and little dips all the time. All of a sudden, you've got big emotional spikes, and sometimes they're like really - wow - either way, positive or negative spikes, and that's what all the songs are about. They're not about the little spikes, they're about the big spikes. So, you have to really put yourself into those shoes and you really have to go for it.
It's not like doing a play, where you have one big emotional scene and you walk off completely drained. Actors will understand what I'm talking about here. Well I sit there and do it on 14 songs, these huge emotionally traumatic things. It's emotional, it's painful. People ask me why I don't like being in the studio, and the answer is because it hurts. The average person doesn't even understand it, doesn't even get it because it hurts emotionally because I really throw myself into it. I don't dilly dally, I really go there and see other people.
See other people?
I really do! I've seen people floating above me and things, because I'm so fixated and so focused on it that I visualize people - they're there, they're standing there as I'm singing.
What do you hope that audiences will take away from the new Bat Out of Hell III CD and your upcoming concerts?
Emotional connections, that's all you can ever hope for - emotional connections.
Promoters for Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell On Broadway one-night-only performance at the Palace Theatre have just announced additional tickets being made available to the sold-out Broadway show. The concert will be performed at the Palace Theatre on Thursday, November 2nd at 8 PM. The newly released tickets are available at www.Ticketmaster.com.
He will appear on November 10, 2006 in Atlantic City, NJ and on November 12, 2006 at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose will be released on October 31, 2006. For more information, go to www.meatloaf.net.