Belfast Telegraph

Meat Loaf: People either love me or hate me

NI-bound rock icon teams up with old sidekick Steinman for new album he rates as one of his best.

By Martin Breen

Almost 40 years after releasing one of the biggest rock albums of all time, Meat Loaf still expects to face criticism for his latest release.

The 68-year-old rocker has again teamed up with long-time collaborator Jim Steinman — who he worked with on Bat Out Of Hell and Bat Out Of Hell 2 — for his 13th studio album called Braver Than We Are.

Earlier this year there were concerns for the star’s health when he collapsed on stage during a concert in Canada, but now he is fighting fit again and is set to tour the album in the UK in early 2017, with a date at Belfast’s SSE Arena being pencilled in for January or February.

Back in the 1970s, he and Steinman faced two years of rejections for Bat Out Of Hell before being signed by Cleveland International Records. The record initially suffered negative reviews but has since become such a huge hit that it has sold more than 43 million records since its 1977 release.

In an interview with Sunday Life, Meat, as he likes to be called, said he expects a similar backlash from some quarters of the music industry for Braver Than We Are, an album he says is “completely different from anything else” on the market.

He told me: “We are going to receive it (criticism) now. It is going to be the same thing over again. It is every time. You either love what we do or you hate it.

“That is fine because there is nothing worse I hate than people going it’s okay.

“There is not another rock band in the world that is doing this kind of extreme, dramatic stuff — and it’s darker than Bat.

“The cover is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and they represent the music industry.

“That is who Jimmy and I have been fighting for 40 years.”

The first single, Going All the Way, a symphonic-rock epic like Paradise by the Dashboard Light and I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) (both composed by Jim Steinman) features vocals by Ellen Foley, who sang on Paradise, and Karla DeVito, who appeared in the Paradise video and sang Foley’s parts on the Bat Out of Hell tour in the 1970s.

Meat Loaf, whose real name is Michael Lee Aday, describes Who Needs the Young, the album’s opening track, as “the most politically incorrect song ever written”.

“That is why we open the record with it. It took Jimmy and me about four days to sequence this record. He knew about the character, he didn’t know it was based on him basically.

“I sing the entire album through the eyes of a 19-year-old kid. It is the same kid, just in different stages of his life. The first song on the record, Who Needs the Young, was written by Jim Steinman when he was 19 years old,” he explained.

When asked if this new album is his favourite he refuses to commit himself but does agree he puts it on an equal par with Bat Out Of Hell.

He said: “I loved the album Bat 2, I loved Blind Before I Stop and Hang Cool Teddy Bear but I put this on equal par with Bat Out Of Hell because if we got in a time machine and went back to 1977 and when Bat Out Of Hell was released it was in another solar system. Nobody was doing anything like that record and the same goes with this record.”

The musician and actor, whose film credits include Fight Club, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Focus, is returning to Europe for one final time to tour the new songs, with dates in Belfast and Dublin in early 2017.

He still rates a gig at Antrim Forum in 1982 as one of the best of his career.

When asked if this will be the end of touring for him, the soon-to-be 69-year-old replied with a resolute ‘Yes’.

He is adamant that he won’t get “roped” back after previously announcing his retirement from life on the road.

As well as tracks from the new album expect to see all the hits such as Bat Out of Hell, You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth and I’d Do Anything For Love.

“You don’t go on stage without doing Bat Out Of Hell,” he said.

Even though we will see a lot less of Meat Loaf the singer in future years, he won’t be far from our TV and cinema screens, as he explained: “I will just be concentrating on acting. I constantly get offers that I have to turn down. I just had to turn a co-starring lead role in a movie down about three days ago.”

But the showman, who lives in Austin, Texas, with his second wife, Deborah, hasn’t completely ruled out another album after Braver Than We Are.

He has previously indicated he would like to release a Christmas album of duets with other stars called Hot Holidays.

“We’ll see,” he told me.

“That hasn’t been taken off the burner. We’ll see how I am doing.”

The self-confessed workaholic is also writing a book called 100 Moments which will comprise of 100 short and no doubt fascinating stories about his rock and roll lifestyle.

For those who don’t already know, he has already survived 18 concussions during his life, and back and knee surgery in the past two years.

“Who knows (when it will be released. Maybe when I’m dead,” he quipped.

When asked how he chills out he replies stoically: “I am always working. I am either building a show, working on lights or stage sets.

“I read a lot of Shakespeare and I work on the characters that are in Shakespeare.”

Next year a musical based on his and Jim Steinman’s music from Bat Out Of Hell opens in Manchester and London’s West End.

“That is Jimmy’s baby and that has been his dream for 50 years and I am so happy that he is doing it,” said Meat Loaf.

“I will probably, after the tour is over, go into Manchester and see it.”

While he may be hanging up his touring boots, it is clear that he is set to go out with a bang as Braver Than We Are has all the signs of being another major hit for this veteran rocker’s musical partnership with Steinman.

- Braver Than We Are is now on sale. The album has been released digitally, on CD and vinyl this weekend.

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