With millions of albums sold and roles in over 60 films, Grammy-winning artist Meat Loaf has enjoyed one of the most enduring and multifaceted careers in entertainment. Loaf’s seminal 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, featuring songs by collaborator Jim Steinman, is one of the most successful albums of all time. Currently Meat Loaf is in Nashville, finishing production on his latest album Braver Than We Are, which not only re-unites him with Steinman for the first time in over 20 years, but also with previous partners Karla DeVito and Ellen Foley (the latter memorably dueting on Bat’s teen lust anthem “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”).
A fall tour, his first in two years, begins Oct. 23 in Temecula, Calif., setting up a busy 2016 for the artist. In a wide-ranging interview with Billboard’s Ray Waddell, Meat Loaf weighs in on the new album, Donald Trump (on whose show Celebrity Apprentice Loaf appeared on in 2011), and the wild ride that has been his career.
Billboard: So talk about the new record.
Meat Loaf: It’s completely different from anything else.
Anything else you’ve ever done, or anything else, period?
Anything else that’s out there right now. There are a couple of normal rock pieces but, for the most part, it’s completely different. When you hear the opening track, your mouth’s gonna hang open. You’re either gonna take the CD and throw it against the wall, or you’re going to go, “I gotta see what’s coming next.” The first song people will either love or despise, which is the way I like it. The opening number is pretty wild. It’s not long; the second song is long, and the third song is really long, and the fourth song is kind of long, and then the fifth song goes into a “down and out kind of guy,” and… what’s the sixth song? I can’t remember pass that.
Are you using any Nashville pickers on the album?
Just my guitar player, Randy Flowers, who lives here.
When might we be able to hear this record?
Some time in March. My brain is so focused on this record. We just had Ellen Foley, who sang on “Paradise,” and Karla DeVito in, and that song is so complicated. It’s almost 12 minutes long, and it’s all vocals, with the three of us singing. We weave in and out, we sing together, then somebody sings a line, and somebody else sings a line, then we sing together. I am the only person that knows how it goes together, and then, somehow, we forgot to have Karla sing a part, so now the producer [Paul Crook] is on the phone dealing with that right now. I don’t know how she got out of here without singing that part, we just started putting it all together and it wasn’t there.
So these are songs by Jim Steinman?
They are. One of them is the first one he ever wrote, and it’s actually the song that opens the record. Then there all these new pieces he’s written to older songs, so people may have heard some pieces. Not too many people, just those hardcore fans know these things, there’s like 400 of them. But he’s re-written a lot of stuff, and so it’s new in that regard.
Thematically, is the new album like anything you’ve done in the past?
Not really, no. It’s not like anything. There’s a couple of songs that you would say, “OK, he’s done that style before.” And then there’s Steinman’s style, and then there’s songs that are so far out there it’s like, “what the hell am I listening to?”
I see you have some tour dates coming up.
Yes, I had to get the band back together, and we had to go play. So we’re walking hills and riding bikes and stretching and lifting weights and doing everything I can do to get in shape to do that.
You have an interesting touring history. I read your book….
I have another one coming. It’s called 100 Moments. It’s 100 little short stories. It’s all about the stories I remember, but I’m also getting stories from Jim and most of the people that have worked with me, because things went on I don’t remember, and I’ll say, “oh, yeah, I remember that now.” We’re collecting. And I’ll have a ghostwriter, ‘cause I can’t write. It would be like reading a first grade book.
When might we see this book?
Oh, it will be a while. We’ve got this tour, then we’ve got to mix, then we’ve got to do video, photo shoot, EPK, then promo, then we go into rehearsal in May for a June/July/August/September tour, and then… I don’t know what I’m doing.
You’re a multi-faceted artist, where does touring fit in for you?
You used to make a record and do a tour to promote the record. Now you make a record to promote a tour. I don’t know how these publishers are still in business.
That’s true, but if you’ve got the live chops, you’ve got a career — and you’re a pretty experienced live performer. Is that rewarding?
Yeah, the nights my voice is on and the show’s really good. But I’m not singing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I love Jagger, I’m not putting down Jagger. If I was singing Freddie Mercury or The Eagles, that’s a whole other deal. I’m singing Steinman, and that’s three-and-a-half octaves on a lot of songs, nothing less than two-and-a-half octaves. If I was doing a blues show, I could do seven nights a week. Most bands, their range is maybe an octave, maybe an octave-and-a-half. Sammy Hagar, his songs range about that, but he’ll shoot it up an octave just to riff around on it, because he’s a great singer. When my voice is really on, I have a ball. When I hear things and I want to go for ‘em, and I can’t get to ‘em, it pisses me off.
There’s a certain expectation from fans who want to hear those songs how you slayed ‘em on the original records.
Yeah, when you’re 26, your voice has a certain timbre. When you’re 68, your voice no longer has that timbre. I’ve had three vocal surgeries now, and three sinus surgeries. Adele canceled a tour with a hemorrhaging vocal cord, I did a tour in Australia with a hemorrhaging vocal cord. I was spitting blood every night on stage. And I’ve got nothing but grief and major hostility. I gave those people everything I had and more. I had flown 44 people to Australia, we’re all sitting there. Insurance wouldn’t cover the band and everybody going back, so I just said, “OK, let’s go.” In New Zealand at the last show, I was warming up, and it was like you’re slicing a vegetable and you cut your finger really bad and it’s bleeding everywhere, that’s how blood was coming out of my throat. It was just running out of my throat.
You’re killin’ me, man. And they criticized the show?
Oh, man. We did a thing called the AFL [Australia Football League], I thought it was like halftime in the middle of a field, which I’ve done for NFL, and World Football League finals, the other Rugby league final, which was all at halftime, with fireworks. These were the cheapest people I’ve ever seen in my life. They said, “we’re gonna have 100 motorcycles,” they had three.
Doesn’t sound like you’ll be going back.
Well, I don’t know, there’s a promoter that’s interested in bringing us back, and if we can go back, I’m going back. Not for the AFL, but I’m going back to tour and kick their ass.
You’ve been touring since at least 1971.
I was touring before that. My first band got together in ’67. From the end of ’67, we opened for everybody you can think of except Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
A lot of the bands that toured then, including you, all have careers today because of the work and professionalism they showed back then.
Yeah, I already had that professionalism, because I’d already studied acting in high school for three years, and college, and done plays. I had the discipline of a football player and the discipline of an actor going in. So my whole career has been very disciplined. That’s why I’m still here.
You must enjoy the live part, or you wouldn’t continue to work as much as you do around the world.
Yeah I do like the live part. First of all, I’m not bragging, it’s just a fact, I have the best rock and roll band behind me in the world [The Neverland Express].
Are you doing anything around the 40th Anniversary of Rocky Horror?
I just flew to L.A. and we did an Entertainment Weekly shoot with Tim [Curry], Susan [Sarandon], Barry [Bostwick], me, and Pat Quinn. And I just got an email, Entertainment Weekly wants an interview with me, and Jimmy Fallon wants me to come on The Tonight Show, so we’ll se if we can work those in.
Well, it’s a great movie. Roadie [from 1980] was a great movie, too.
I’ve done a lot of great movies people haven’t seen. [Laughs] I’ve done 61 total. Crazy In Alabama, A Hole In One, a movie that Arthur Miller wrote called Focus with Bill Macy and Laura Dern. There’s some really good… I don’t know about the films, but the characters were really difficult, and I worked hard on them, so I’m really proud of ‘em.
Having been on Celebrity Apprentice, obviously you know Donald Trump pretty well. What do you think of his presidential candidacy?
Donald’s very, very smart. I don’t want to get myself in trouble here, but if anybody knows how to put people to work, it’s Donald Trump. That I know.
He fired you.
But I won. Because we already knew a long time ago that John Rich and Marlee [Maitlin] would be the final two, so the rest of us said, “OK, whoever comes in No. 3 is the winner.” I came in third, so I won.
Are you content with how your career has played out?
Not even close. I’ll never be happy, I’ll never be satisfied, until I’m dead. I told the band, if I die on stage, leave me laying there, play “When The Saints Go Marching In,” then get the audience to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” And, if leaving me laying there is too morbid, remove me and then do those songs.