Rock

Meat Loaf Talks 'Bat Out of Hell' Musical & Why President Trump Is 'Intelligent'

Meat Loaf with the stars of Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell — The Musical, Christina Bennington and Andrew Polec
Greg Henkenhaf 

Meat Loaf with the stars of Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell — The Musical, Christina Bennington and Andrew Polec.

“Good job, guys. Yo, good job,” Meat Loaf yells in the foyer of Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre, trying to get the attention of Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington, who play the lead characters (Strat and Raven respectively) in Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell - The Musical. “Thank you,” they both call back.

Meat Loaf hasn’t seen the production yet. He hopes to when it opens in Toronto on Oct. 25 (preview performances start Oct. 14), but the three are all in town to do promotion for the show at the historic theater. It’s the first time they’ve all met, and Polec and Bennington want their photo with the legendary singer and actor. He happily agrees.

To date, Meat Loaf, who was born Marvin Aday 69 years ago in Texas, has appeared in more than 55 films and television shows, from his debut as Eddie in 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show through to 1999’s Crazy in Alabama and Fight Club, 2002’s The Salton Sea, 2014’s Wishin’ and Hopin’ and other roles. Last September, he released his thirteenth studio album, Braver Than We Are, written by Jim Steinman -- the man who also penned his 1977’s classic Bat Out of Hell album, which sold 43 million copies globally, 14 million in the U.S.

Bat Out of Hell - The Musical, directed by Jay Scheib, had its world premiere earlier this year at the Opera House in Manchester, England, and opens tonight (June 5) in London’s West End at the Coliseum. It is produced by Michael Cohl for Iconic Entertainment Studios (Spamalot, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Rock of Ages: The Musical), David Sonenberg, Randy Lennox for Bell Media and Tony Smith.

Originally conceived by Steinman for the stage in 1975 and performed once under the name Neverland, in 1977, 40 years and many script revisions later, Bat Out of Hell  - The Musical is now about some rebellious teens in post-apocalyptic Obsidian, ruled by the tyrannical Falco. Strat falls in love with the leader's daughter, Raven, and sets out to rescue her.

Billboard spoke with Meat Loaf about the production, his relevance nowadays, his new TV series, and his former Celebrity Apprentice boss, Donald Trump.

I just drove here, sun shining, top down, listening to Bat Out of Hell. Great driving album. Know every word.

Yeah. David Letterman got a lot of speeding tickets listening to Bat Out of Hell.  I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s what he told me.

What is your role as associate producer?

Talking about it. I was only given associate producer -- it’s like an ego credit, but I’ll take it.

You haven’t seen the production yet -- are you going to see it here in Toronto or London?

I can’t get to London. I can’t believe they’re gonna close the West End show. I’m having a really hard time with that one, and they would bring the entire cast over here. Mathematically very expensive.

It has to be the rowdiest musical theatre crowd.  Hard to sit there with arms folded and not sing along with dramatic gestures.

You’re probably right. I know from looking at film pieces -- other than the trailer -- I think they watched film of me [Laughs], the energy, because it requires an incredible amount of energy.  At the same time, you have to, as an actor, totally believe it and you have to become it. You have to become the character you’re playing. You can’t be one of those actors that sits outside himself. You have to let go and let the character, like a ghost, almost possess.

For 40 years, you’ve been singing these songs…

And I’ve been possessed every night.

But not as the character named Strat in the land of Obsidian. Was that part of Jim Steinman’s original concept in 1975?

No. It was Peter and Tink and Wendy and Hook. It was called Neverland. The original, which didn’t have anything from Bat…has one song from Jim’s original concept, which is the opening song on the new record [Braver Than We Are], “Who Needs The Young,” which is the first song that Jim wrote at the age of 19.

You have 40 years in the business. Few can say that and people are excited about the musical based on your album.

Yeah, I know. But they don’t write real songs anymore. It doesn’t exist. I was watching The Voice and Bruno Mars -- who I happen to like a lot -- they introduced him as selling 170 million singles, which Bruno Mars has made basically no money off of. They used to introduce people and say they’ve sold 20 million albums.

You were at a rare time. You won’t ever see an album selling 40 million copies again.

No, nobody will ever come close to us.

You also have a musical named after your album. That is also rare -- and cool.

The music industry does not recognize me as a musician. They don’t. They recognize me as an actor. [Record biz legend] Clive Davis has admitted that the one thing he missed out on [signing] was me and Jim Steinman. And then he got Jim Steinman to get involved with Barry Manilow and Barbra [Streisand]. But that’s the one thing that he says he’s missed out on. I’ve been to his Grammy parties; I’ve been to like five of them. I don’t like parties much, but I go because I want to see who’s singing -- every time he’s introduced me, he’s been very kind. I had lunch with him at the Four Seasons in New York once. So I’ve forgiven him.

The fact that you’ve got these young singers and actors taking on this role for the musical, who know what responsibility it is and have their own connection to the album, that’s pretty special.

The only thing I’m worried about with them is that they don’t rely too much on the audience, the energy from the audience, that they produce the energy to get to the audience.

A boisterous audience could be distracting.

I have no clue. I’ve always said I can give the same performance to four trees that I can give to 400,000 people. The energy in that room will not change. I spend five hours before the show in my dressing room doing nothing but preparing and when I enter the stage, I’m basically a serial killer.

Will there be a walk-on for you when you finally see Bat Out of Hell – The Musical?

Oh, I don’t know. I’m not going to get in the middle of that. Let them have their moment.

What are your plans this year?

I’m doing a series right now called Ghost Wars with Vincent D'Onofrio in Vancouver. We finished the pilot. And if they pick it up, then I’ll do another run. I’m playing the town bully. Perfect [Laughs]. And then I have a film in October. It’s not titled yet. It has a script, but they’ve changed the title three times, so I don’t know what it’s going to be.

Lastly, you were on Celebrity Apprentice in 2011. Donald Trump is now your President. Is that shocking to you?

No. He’s intelligent. He’s like me in the sense that he will hire the best people for the position that he can find. And he will then listen to them and I would say probably say 70 percent of the time he will go with their recommendation. And probably 30 percent of the time he will go, “I think it’s better if we go this way.” His daughter’s really intelligent. Don Jr. is really intelligent. So is President Trump.

He may be upset with me because in 2012, they asked me, ‘So what do you think of Donald Trump as a President?” and I said,  “Well, I think he’ll make a great Secretary of the Treasury.” And he said to me, ‘Why wouldn't you say I’d make a great President?’ I said, ‘Because you’re not really running. If you were running, I might have said you’d make a great President.”

And then he ran. Are you happy with how it’s going?  It’s been pretty tumultuous.

Well, it was tumultuous with Obama. Obama was a little too peaceful and he let people get away with way too much. And it’s going to be hard to reign it in without looking like a bully. But he’s only been in office a little over 100 days and, I’m sorry, people are crazy.