Marvin Aday — Meat Loaf to you and me — is the man who "would do anything for love" (but not that!). He's gone from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" to Bat Out of Hell in a career spanning the stage, screen and radio.
In a recent phone interview with MTV News, Meat Loaf discussed his role in "Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny," why he's never hated anything more than performing on "American Idol" and how his work continues to influence a whole new generation of artists.
MTV: Tenacious D claim everywhere that they're the greatest rock band of all time. Where does that leave Meat Loaf?
Meat Loaf: I guess at number 2.
MTV: Is that a happy number 2?
Meat Loaf: [He laughs.] That's fine. I like ["Pick of Destiny" star] Jack [Black].
MTV: Your role in "The Pick of Destiny" is entirely sung. Could you sing the answer to a simple question, say, who you play?
Meat Loaf: I play Jack's father, and he's a religious zealot — absolutely a complete control freak. He's got his wife trained and his other kid trained, and everything is in its place — the dinner table is set perfect, the kitchen is perfect, everything is perfect except for little Jack, and little Jack is far from perfect. He's going to teach him a lesson.
MTV: How did you become involved in this film?
Meat Loaf: For five years, Jack Black has been saying he wanted me to play his father. In every interview he did he always [said], "I'm gonna make the movie 'Tenacious D,' and I want to make Meat Loaf play my father." Every interview. And my daughters, Pearl and Amanda, they kept reading it and [would] call and say, "Jack said it again, Jack said it again." I said, "When he calls me, I'll tell him I'll do it." He did call. He called me himself.
MTV: So he started talking about you in this film well before there was even a film?
Meat Loaf: Oh yeah. Well, he and [co-writer/co-star] Kyle [Gass] had it in their heads. I think they had been wanting to make this film for a very long time — I mean, for five years. So it would be, what, six and a half years ago now that he started talking about it.
MTV: Were you a fan of Tenacious D before this movie?
Meat Loaf: I'm a fan of Jack Black. Jack was originally going to play me in the VH1 movie ["Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back"].
MTV: At that point, though, you had met Jack?
Meat Loaf: No. I had never met him. I just saw him in movies that he had done, and I had heard some stuff from Tenacious D. I said, "This is the guy to play me. He's got the energy, and he understands it." He was going to [play me], then his career took off and [this] movie got postponed. He tried, and I said, "Well, the guy's an idiot if he does it." I said, "Let me see — a studio picture over the Meat Loaf story? Let me think about that for a minute. Gee, I don't know, that's a hard decision."
MTV: Interesting you talk about this continuum from you to Jack Black in terms of high-energy performance. He's a theatrical performer. There's a lot of bands like that these days.
Meat Loaf: Well, that's what I'm hearing. That's what somebody wrote the other day. They gave a review of the new album, and they said that Meat Loaf is gonna have two albums on the chart: My Chemical Romance and Meat Loaf.
MTV: When you look back now do you think about how your career has influenced a whole generation of artists?
Meat Loaf: A few years ago in Spin magazine — I don't know, about 12 years ago — they listed the 25 or 50 most important things in rock history, and they listed Bat Out of Hell at #7. It had an influence on Guns N' Roses, because Axl Rose made a statement about it, [and] Kurt Cobain in several interviews mentioned [it]. And a couple of other grunge bands in the '90s were talking about it also. So I think it's had an influence. I'm so used to being by myself, being alone in the parade, that it's hard for me to deal with people saying Chemical Romance and Panic! at the Disco and Killers [are similar].
MTV: When you say it's hard for you to deal with, you mean just because you're more of a loner in your work?
Meat Loaf: I've always been a loner and all of a sudden they're coming out, and that's OK. Because after this, I'm going away, so it's time for somebody else to take the realm.
MTV: You're still doing film work?
Meat Loaf: I'm doing film, yeah.
MTV: Just no more music?
Meat Loaf: Well, I'm not going to beat the horse to the finish line like I did with [the recently released Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose].
MTV: How did performing with Katharine McPhee on "American Idol" come about?
Meat Loaf: Oh, they just asked me, and it was a moment of sheer terror. I've never hated anything so much in my whole life.
MTV: Why, because of the way it was performed?
Meat Loaf: One, for the way it was performed. Two, just the whole — I don't know, it was just very strange. I could never get the monitors right the whole time in rehearsal or anything, and I was just trying to get the song performed, and it was just a big mess. I have performance anxiety. I'm getting a little better now because I've done so many in the last month that I'm getting better at it.
MTV: Have you always had performance anxiety?
Meat Loaf: Always, always. There's others now I'm finding out as well. Rod Stewart has it. I was reading an interview with Rod, and he was going on about how for years he just wanted to curl up in a ball. And I did ["The Tonight Show"] in, what, '96? They told me I had two minutes to go on, and I ran and hid under a desk. They had to go, "Come on, get out, you're on." If you ever see a replay, I'm kind of being shoved out there as they're introducing me.
MTV: Is it one of those things where once you get onstage it washes over you?
Meat Loaf: No. Well, it did. See the problem with "American Idol" is that I didn't have any music for the first 12 or 14 bars. I was trying to sing from the house speakers, so I could barely hear. I kept trying to get quieter and I kept getting more nervous and quieter and more nervous, and then I was out of time. And when you get out of time on ["It's All Coming Back to Me Now"], the way the chord structure is, the notes don't work.
I had to be live in New York the other night, and I came in early, but it didn't make any difference. I came in four bars early, I sang, and all of a sudden I realized what I was doing. I just repeated two lines. But with that song [from "Idol"], man, if you screwed up, you screwed up. It was a mess. It was a very strange vibe, I think because it was a competition. Usually when you do TV shows, it's like a talk show, not a competition. But this was a competition, so it was a very strange vibe backstage. Now I know why Prince didn't show up until 10 minutes before he went on. They were freaking out.
Meat Loaf: Yeah. He didn't show up until about seven or eight minutes until he was going on. They had an idea to do something with Burt Bacharach where we all went out and sang again, but then they canceled that. Prince showed up, so we were OK.
MTV: Do you think at this point people know you more for your singing or acting?
Meat Loaf: I don't know. I think maybe some of the younger generation are hip to "Fight Club" and that kind of thing, and then you go back to silly movies like "Spice World," which was an absolute — I can't even deal with that. I've been in 43 films now. You haven't seen them, you've only seen about seven. Most of them you don't know. If you just watch HBO, you've seen seven.
MTV: What do you think is your favorite or your best work of all the 43?
Meat Loaf: A movie called "Focus." It was written by Arthur Miller, with [William H.] Macy and Laura Dern. "Fight Club" is pretty good. I want to try and erase this "BloodRayne" from the list. "The 51st State," what we shot was really good and what they edited was a little cliché for me, but we shot some great stuff. The last scene with Sam [Jackson] when I die is really fun to watch, I like that one. Actually, this little movie called "Rustin," I like that character a lot.
You might have seen seven of these. Then you can go down and find "To Catch a Yeti" in '95, which was a Disney thing that they spent less than a million dollars on, with a motorized puppet that you can hear in the movie. Every time it moves, it goes, "Vrrmmmmm." They broke the bank. In the first scene when I'm with the puppet, I said, "I can hear him. Wait, I can hear him." And they said, "Don't worry about it. We'll fix it in post [-production]." I went, "Oh, OK." It played on the Disney Channel about 400 times, and every time if you just watched it, you could hear the little monster going, "Vrrmmmmm." It was pretty funny.
MTV: So what kind of movies do you do now?
Meat Loaf: It was very odd — an Academy Award winner two years ago made this statement: "From the minute I read the script, I knew exactly who this guy was and exactly how to play him." Well, if that would have been me, I wouldn't have won the Oscar because I would have turned the movie down, because any time I finish reading the script and I say, "Oh, I know exactly how to play this guy, I know exactly who he is," I'll turn it down every time.
MTV: Tell us about your upcoming flick "Urban Decay."
Meat Loaf: That's a big giant mess. The producer ran off with the money, and they haven't paid the Teamsters, and [the Screen Actors Guild] has confiscated the film. So there you go. That was a cool little thing, though. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I did 22 pages in one day. It was all monologue.
MTV: Will it ever see the light of day?
Meat Loaf: No, not unless I get someone to put it on my reel. They've got, like, $3 million in it. It's one of those horror movie things. I play a radio DJ that hates the world. After I did "BloodRayne," I got nothing but horror-movie offers. But I got "Urban Decay," and I liked the character; I thought he was interesting. It was about a homeless cannibal in Los Angeles, and we were helping to track him down through the radio. I was safe in my little booth.
MTV: Is there a role in your career that you could have done and you didn't and you regret it?
Meat Loaf: Nope. I've turned down a couple of studio pictures that were very big, but when I saw the role that I turned down, I was really happy that I did, because I would have been miserable. I've done studio pictures with smaller roles, and I'm really miserable. I'd rather do an independent where I go in and shoot 22 pages in a day and work, and have it be the most difficult thing ever, than to sit around for four months in a Holiday Inn Express — three days a week doing nothing in the middle of Oxford, Mississippi. I'm just not that kind.
I don't want to be a prop, and some of the studio movies, when they offer you smaller roles, you wind up being a prop, and that's what you feel like. I think that I'm better than a prop — maybe they don't, but I do. "Let's get Meat Loaf, he's a good prop." Well, Meat Loaf doesn't think he's a prop.
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