Neil Young: Chaos Is Good

By: Kayceman

Neil Young
Skyline Boulevard cuts a breathtaking path through towering redwood groves, stunning eucalyptus trees, rolling green hills and expansive panoramic views. It's the type of road that exemplifies Northern California's abundant natural beauty, and if you want to get to The Mountain House, a secluded restaurant that resides in the small, exclusive town of Woodside, California, it's the only route to take. Situated on the San Francisco Peninsula between the S.F. Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Woodside may not have always been home to wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, as it is today, but perhaps dating back to 1970 when Neil Young paid $340,000 cash for a 140-acre piece of property he named The Broken Arrow Ranch, it's been a place where the rich could get away.

The Mountain House is a funky old restaurant with an eclectic, well-stocked jukebox and bar, and it's a familiar, comfortable place for Neil Young. This is where part of the video for 1992's "Unknown Legend" was filmed and it served as the location for a rowdy set Young played with his incendiary garage band Crazy Horse on November 12, 1990 to celebrate his 45th birthday. But more important to us, The Mountain House is where we finally get to meet this very well known and often misunderstood legend.

Barreling down Skyline Boulevard, the stereo is blasting Young's 1979's epic double live album Rust Never Sleeps and I've got the air conditioner cranked but my hands are still sweating. I'm not late for my interview so I must be nervous. My neck is on a swivel, surveying the tiny driveways that break left and right, when out of the corner of my eye I see an old classic American car with a beat-up paint job. As I fly by the automobile I realize I'm definitely looking at Neil Young's 1950 Plymouth Special Deluxe and I've just passed The Mountain House.

I turn around, drive back and park my car under a massive redwood tree. There's not another house in sight, although I know they are around, not a person anywhere and I'm standing on the side of a pristine piece of land. I check my cell phone - not working. The Mountain House isn't only a convenient interview location for Young due to its proximity to his home, it's also desolate enough that he doesn't have to deal with anyone outside his circle – something he's battled most of his life.

When I enter the unopened restaurant it's like walking back in time. Everything is wood, old fashioned, a real classic vibe and things seems to be moving a tad slower. Young isn't quite ready for me so I kick back and go over my notes. When he walks up to introduce himself I'm afraid my clammy hands are gonna freak him out. I wipe them on my jeans, stand up and shake the man's hand. After exchanging pleasantries, Young walks outside to get some air, and I smile at the fact that he's wearing a bright red shirt that reads: CANADA.

If I had ever been here before I would probably know just what to do

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Young comes back in and we take a seat at a corner table. He hasn't removed his dark sunglasses and he won't at any point during our talk. We're sitting alone, no one else is in the room and Young is picking over a small plate of jumbo shrimp. I've been trying to interview Neil Young for more than a decade and there are a number of topics I plan to address, but before going back into the past I want to talk about the future. Specifically I'm curious about the film CSNY: Déjà Vu (released on July 25). Produced by Young, the film follows Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on their "Freedom of Speech 2006" tour and features music from Young's controversial Living With War album. With "embedded" Emmy winning, ABC News correspondent Mike Cerre (one of the first journalists to embed with a military unit during the U.S. invasion of Iraq) along for the ride, the film is a mix of concert footage, audience reactions, news clips and archival material set against the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. As political as it is musical, CSNY: Déjà Vu is yet another polarizing moment in the blindingly prolific, wildly diverse career of Neil Young.

Not one for small talk, it's the title of his film that first launches Young into passionate discourse. Clearly it's a nod to the CSNY album and song "Déjà Vu," which works well considering CSNY is the band that is once again touring here, but based upon the material it seems clear that Young is working a double-meaning, drawing attention to past American wars, insinuating that we're caught in a déjà vu cycle of war and peace. First it was Vietnam, then Desert Storm, then Afghanistan, then Iraq. Maybe Iran or North Korea is next.

Neil Young
"I don't think we're getting anywhere. I think we're repeating ourselves, failure upon failure," says Young. "I think we should try to address the root problem rather than the symptom, and the root problem is energy."

"We're really stupid and we've been stupid for a long time," continues Young. "This is a country that has more ingenuity, and if what we're known for is American ingenuity, Yankee ingenuity, whatever you want to call it, what happened to it? Where is it? Let's see it. It's in somebody's garage. I like to use the Internet to explore the world, looking for fringe technologies, and it's great. They're all out there. They're on YouTube, all these guys with their ideas - scientists, men and women around the world, universities, people in different countries. They all have different ideas of how to do things and get to zero point energy and all kinds of things that would help to change the world. I think when we can solve that problem then the need for war will go away."

Young is not only quick to point out how "stupid" he thinks America is, he puts the responsibility for our lack of intelligent decision making squarely on President Bush, demanding that "W" be impeached for (amongst other things) leading us to war on false pretenses, as he outlines through his song "Let's Impeach The President" from Living With War.

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