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Q&A: Crazy Horse's Frank 'Poncho' Sampedro on 37 Years With Neil Young

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Do you know of any plans for this upcoming tour? What kind of set are you going to do?
No. In fact, on Monday I'm heading to the ranch there, and we're gonna start working on what's going to happen with the show and dig up some old songs and mix in these new ones, and see what we can get going. 

 The 2003-2004 tour was mostly Greendale. Do you think this one will be more focused on the catalog?
Here's what I hope. And as you know, I don't really know any more than you, really. But I hope that we play a few songs from Americana, maybe a couple of things from the next album and then some of the hits, or not hits. However you want to look at it. [Laughs]

I guess lots of those songs weren't hit singles, but a song like "Powderfinger" is still a classic that everybody wants to hear.
Sometimes I think about that. I love playing "Powderfinger," man. I just wonder, "How many times do people really wanna hear this?" You know?

I think quite a few.
Really?

Oh yeah. My god, definitely.
Well, that's good to know. Because sometimes I just go, "Are we just repeating ourselves until someone tells us to stop?"

No, no, no. People live for that stuff.
That's funny. I was looking at a list of songs last night. I was going like, "Damn, if we play one of the future songs, it's like 20 minutes long, and then we play "Hurricane" ... we're at 40 minutes. Then we do "Fuckin' Up" or "Cortez the Killer," and there's room for maybe four of five shorter tunes. 

I don't know long the shows are going to be. But I really enjoyed the Ragged Glory tour, where we got to play three hours and we really got to just let it hang out.

David Crosby once said you guys were horrible musicians, and you should all be be put to sleep.
I actually like David.

But he says you should be put to death!
On the last CSNY tour, they played L.A. I went down there after work and they were soundchecking. The minute Crosby saw me, he said, "Oh shit, Poncho's here! There goes my job!" [Laughs] I felt good about that. [Laughs

I don't know what David was doing back then when he said that. He may have just been talking shit. He's really a nice cat. 

The story goes that when you guys cut "Cortez the Killer," the board went down and you lost the entire last verse. Is that true?
Yeah. True. Check it out. What David Briggs did …We didn't know the power went out. In the room we were playing we had power, but where he was recording, in the control room, they lost power. When they got power back up and running, David ran the tape back and listened to right where he lost us and kept listening to us playing, and then he punched and started the tape back in right in time with where we where. [Laughs] So that verse is gone. 

I don't know if I should tell this, but we were there ...  It was a sunny day at Zuma Beach, and this guy came by, and I smoked angel dust with this guy, and then Neil came up and said, "Let's try this song." We never played it, and I was like, "Oh, shit."

If you listen to the first recording, I thought the second chord was the first chord. Neil was emphasizing the first one, I was emphasizing the second one. [Laughs]. But you know, it goes around in a circle, so it doesn't really matter too much. 

Tell me more about the next Crazy Horse record.
It has the most in common with Ragged Glory. You know, songs like "Love and Only Love."It was such a change from Americana. It was refreshing. We cut it in the same place that we cut American Stars 'n Bars, in the living room at the white house. 

A lot of Neil's bandmates get irked when he changes his mind about something. I get the sense that he just can't force himself to do something he doesn't feel like doing.
I think he gets a little burnt out with whatever he's doing, and then he'll come up with something new to do, and at that point, everything else that he's ever done disappears and he becomes 100% into it. I remember when he was doing this rockabilly thing, and I go, "You've got to be kidding." And he says, "No man, this shit is unreal. I could play with this band forever. We could play anything." He believes that 100%, until the day it's over.

Well, thank God he decided it was time for Crazy Horse again.
The only thing I was worried about was our age. How many more years do we have? 

If I told you a year ago that you were coming up on a year with two Crazy Horse albums and this tour, you probably wouldn't have believed me.

I would say, "Let's wait and see." Right now, today, I'm telling you October's far away.

But the August shows are in two months.
Yeah, I think we got those going on. 

I guess you've learned to never count on anything until it happens.
I think if we get started we'll keep going, but it just … I don't mean to jinx anything, but you just never know what's going to happen, like I said. I could fall down the stairs. Billy could twist his wrist opening a door. So many little things could happen that you don't think of. But theoretically, yes, we're going out and we're gonna do the whole tour, but over the years, I just learned to hold my breath and not count on anything too much until we're ready to go. 

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