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“I talk to ghosts”

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As a singer, he’s the voice behind Bat Out Of Hell — the fifth biggest selling album of all time. As an actor, he’s braved Shakespeare and working with David Fincher. But, on first speaking to Meat Loaf about his new album Hell In A Handbasket, (out in the UK on February 27) the most pressing question isn’t about any of those things…

Before we start, how do we address you?

Meat. I’ve been called that since I was a baby [laughs]. It’s not a stage name. Then, when I was about 13, I stepped on a coach’s foot and he screamed, “Get off my foot, you hunk of meatloaf!” And that was it. The only time that I’ve ever been called Mr Loaf was in a 1972 theatre review of As You Like It.

How does Hell In A Handbasket stand out from your previous material?

I have Chuck D rapping on a version of Tom Cochrane’s Mad Mad World. I already had Lil Jon on the record, and when I started to research the rap and hip-hop world, I began to appreciate the art form and the poetry involved, so I wanted a rap guy to do Mad Mad World. The producer said, “You want Chuck D. Your son-in-law is one of his best friends.” So I called Scotty [Ian], my son-in-law, who’s in Anthrax, and said, “I need Chuck D.” An email came saying, “Chuck meet Meat. Meat meet Chuck.”

You rocked in the Seventies and Eighties — you must have some crazy Ozzy Osbourne-style anecdotes?

I never was Steve Tyler or Ozzy. I tried drugs, but I don’t really drink. I get horrific stage fright, so I have a shot of tequila to calm my nerves, but that’s three hours before I go on. I despise the taste of beer. I don’t like vodka, don’t like Scotch. Champagne makes me want to gag. I’ve never been that clichéd rocker. Groupies cursed at me because I wouldn’t take them home. I’d go, “I can’t do it” and they’d go, “Well f*ck you then.” I don’t have many wild stories from the Seventies or Eighties. The Sixties, though, were crazy. I did acid and hung around everybody like Hendrix, Daltrey, Joplin, The Dead. A lot of those English bands would come over, you know, Bonzo Doo Da Doo Wop Diddy, or whatever.

And how do you relax now?

[Laughs] I don’t do anything. I listen to the news all day. I go back and forth between channels, and just shake my head going, “These people are whack!” [laughs]. NBC is all skewed to liberals, CBS is kind of split, MSNBC is real left-wing and Fox News is real right-wing. Then at night, I sit at my computer and play strategy games. I don’t remember the names — one is about knights and one is about gladiators.

What did you want to be first — actor or musician?

I never figured on music, I figured on acting. I was originally cast in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as Billy Bibbit, but there was a writer’s strike and I ended up doing The Rocky Horror Show instead. I had the time of my life in London. I made friends with a Pakistani taxi driver. He was a member of the Playboy Club and he took me. You could gamble there in those days. I went in with £40 and came out with £23,000 — I was rich, dude! £23,000! I went and bought an apartment.

Is there a group of fans who know you best as Bob from Fight Club?

That was sort of a departure for me — it was a better script [laughs]. David Fincher is such a great director. One of my agent’s clients is in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. My agent went to the premiere in New York and he texted me, “I just saw David Fincher,” so I texted him back saying, “Go back and ask him when he’s going to hire me again.” David laughed and said I’m always on his list.

You’re known as someone who’s had a lot of near-death experiences — what was the closest you came?

I rolled into a river in a car. Got hit in the head by a shot put. I was on a commercial airliner landing in DC when the wing hit the runway. That was great [laughs]. I’ve had 18 concussions. I think I had a 19th, but I didn’t go to the doctor, so it’s not official.

Did you ever see ‘the light’? Did your life flash before your eyes?

Nah, I’ve never seen that stuff. But I believe there’s something when you die because there are ghosts. I’ve seen them, I’ve been around them. Some are just energy left behind, and some are intelligent. I’ve had conversations with them using a K2 meter, which lets them answer “yes” or “no”. I chased one across the room once. And when we were making Bat Out Of Hell I saw a blonde girl in a white dress. I went downstairs and told the guys, “There’s a groupie up on the balcony,” and they go, “How would she get up there?” Everybody went up and no one was there.

Finally, what exactly wouldn’t you do for love?

This was a huge discussion between me and [writer] Jim Steinman. Jim said people will never figure it out, and I said “Jim, do you really think audiences are stupid?” Obviously audiences are stupid, because I’ve been asked that question a million times. It’s the line before every chorus. Lines like “I’ll never stop dreaming of you every night of my life” or “I’ll never forget the way you feel right now”. I would do anything for love but I won’t do that. And so I add you to my stupid list [laughs].

Hell In A Handbasket is released on 27 February

Image: Rex

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