On February 13, 1999, I interviewed David Crosby for the second time.
The first, in August 1997, had occurred over the phone and was for my old website, also called The Old Grey Cat, and focused almost exclusively on the formation of his band CPR, which he’d recently formed with guitarist extraordinaire Jeff Pevar and his son James Raymond. (I’ll post it here at some juncture.)
This time, though, the talk took place face to face, in Atlantic City, where Crosby was headlining at one of the casinos with partners Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. What I remember most: He prowled the room like a caged lion, pacing, pacing, pacing.
We talked for, maybe, 30 minutes, covering everything from his group CPR to CSNY, which was in the process of recording the Looking Forward album, and the hot topic du jour, President Clinton’s impeachment. The interview became the cover story for Da Boot, a fanzine I was involved with at the time; and it was eventually featured on my website, of course.
Me: With CPR, you’ve developed a more jazz-oriented sound.
DC: That was sort of there inherently from the beginning because both Peev and James are that level of players. They play very complex chords quite naturally. They aren’t really interested in playing ordinary stuff. Since I quite naturally go there vocally and we quite naturally build harmonies like that… there’s a certain element of more modern kinds of music in there. There’s some Crosby, Stills & Nash in there, too, just because there’s me in there.
Me: So CPR’s an ongoing unit?
DC: Absolutely. Actually, as much fun as I have with CSN and CSNY, I probably have even more fun with CPR. It’s a very, very special chemistry. Music isn’t about building blocks. It’s not like you get a pound of drummer and a pound of bass player and a pound of guitar player and mix and stir. It’s about chemistry. Real ones happen rarely. Out of 2000 bands that try in 2000 garages, one of them will have a real chemistry. And this one has it. If I could find a third band to do it I’d be in three bands. There’s no such thing as too much good music. That doesn’t exist.
Me: Speaking of great music, you’ve been in the studio with CSNY. How did that come together?
DC: I’m not sure why Neil’s doing what he’s doing. You’d have to ask Neil. But I’ll tell you how it works from my perspective. He walked in, had a Gretsch guitar. We played him a song. He liked it. He said, “Let me play on that.” We said fine. “Can I sing on it, too?” We said, of course. The guy plays and sings great. So we played him the next song. He said, “I like that. Can I play on that?” Eight songs later, I said, “what’s going on here?” He said, “It’s as plain as the nose on your face, Croz.”
Me: Were they songs CSN had already recorded that he came in and overdubbed or did the four of you record together as an ensemble in the studio?
Me: I know you guys re-recorded “Turn, Turn, Turn” and some of your older songs…
DC: They’re not getting in. No, it’s going to be all new stuff. We have more new stuff than we can fit onto one album, already. The way it stands right now, we’ll do a 40-city tour starting in July.
Me: Speaking of Neil, on your last CPR tour, you guys did “Ohio.” What led you to do “Ohio” as opposed to any number of other Neil songs or any of your songs?
DC: That’s very close to my heart. I was there when he wrote it and the incident that inspired it is very large in my head. Here you have American students who were killed for doing something that they have a Constitutional right to do, which is the right of assembly, the right of free speech. They were killed for it. Murdered. None of the Guardsmen who were photographed shooting them ever did any time; they weren’t even taken to court. That justice does not sit well with me. I don’t want people to forget about it. [Nixon and his people] thought they were above the law. That’s why they did Watergate. They assumed they could get away with it. They assumed they could get away with shooting students and they assumed they could get away with bombing countries. That’s the nature of power. It corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Me: What’s your take on the Clinton impeachment?
DC: It’s the silliest bunch of shit I ever saw. In the first place, lying. Of course he lied – he’s a politician. “Politician” means “liar.” If you look up lying in the dictionary, there’s a picture of a politician underneath it. All politicians lie all the time. It’s their stock in trade. So for them to get all head-up and snooty and say “he lied” – they all lie, every day. That’s what they do.
Now the rest of it…for a guy who’s a Rhodes Scholar to be so fucking stupid that he can’t keep it zipped, it’s a fucking joke. Whoever’s handling him, whoever’s trying to keep him going…I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Washington, man, but they have girls there that look good enough to take home to mom who can suck a golf ball through a garden hose – and keep their lips zipped. There’s no reason he had to be messing around with [Monica Lewinsky]. It should have been, “Bill, third door on your left, you got 32 minutes.” If the guy’s desperate for it then take care of him.
Don’t fuck up our economy and our country, which happens to be working great. And the people made it as clear as a fucking bell. Everybody in the whole country said, “Excuse me, we don’t care! We don’t give a fuck who blew him. We like it that the jobless rate is down and…” They wrote it in fiery letters on the wall: Quit fucking up. We want the country to work. And it is. Admittedly that’s more Alan Greenspan than it is the President, but the President’s team is the ones who’ve got it working good. The Republicans are the people who gave you the Savings & Loan scandal. “Hey, let’s let a few people skim off the top 20 percent of the money in the country and then have us pay for it.”
Me: Talk about your low-interest loans…
DC: It’s a fucking joke, man. I’m met Clinton several times and I like him. He’s not a bad guy. He’s a charming guy and he’s very bright. He just doesn’t know how to keep his pants zipped.
Me: Will the CSNY album be out before the tour?
DC: Yeah. We’ll be in the studio everyday we’re not on the road for another month or so finishing it. We’re already starting to mix some tunes. It’s, uh, it’s going to be an amazing record. Neil came with all acoustic stuff. So there’ll be a definite quotient of acoustic music on it. I’ve got one basically acoustic and percussion kind of song, a very fast Latin thing called “Dream for Him.”
Me: You had that on the last CPR live album, Live at the Wiltern.
DC: We did it and it’s really good. Then they’ll be a couple where we all sat down and just got the track together. Nash has a couple of the strongest songs I remember him ever having. He has one called “Heartland” that just slays me. I can’t get it out of my head. And, of course, “Half Your Angels” which we’ve been doing for a long time.
Me: You seem to be undergoing almost a creative renaissance.
DC: Yeah. I think it has to do with my near brush with death and then the birth of my child and finding James. I used to write three things in a year that I really liked. This year I’ve written 13. I’ve got five pieces of lyrics in my bags that I haven’t even gotten the music to yet. And more come all the time.
Me: It’s almost as if you’re at that place where the muses are coming through you.
DC: I’m scared to say it but, yeah. I don’t know, but maybe the thing’s out there to be tapped all the time, but your own bullshit gets in the way. Before I was either too stoned or then I was too sick or then I was too scared…but lately all I am is pretty happy almost all the time. I wake up in the morning and here’s this little boy who’s 3 who loves me. And, uh, that’s pretty good shit, man, I haven’t found anything better. My wife and I have been together for 21 years now and we still love each other. I’m in two of the best bands in the world. I mean, how bad could it be?