Interview: Meat Loaf, musician

IN A hotel that seems très Glasgow, there are lots of photo-op possibilities for Meat Loaf.

The place is unapologetically over-the-top, in keeping with the man, so how about these bordello booths in a terrifying shade of red – would he mind clambering inside one to recreate the cover of Bat Out Of Hell, 43 million shifted and the fifth bestselling album of all time?

"Uh, yes sir, I would mind," drawls the rock legend. He'll do anything for love, and for promotion and general gimcrackery, but he won't do that.

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So we return to his room on the third floor and he points to a coffee table and we sit either side like we're round a campfire at some weekend woodland retreat where fellas rub sticks in an attempt to reclaim their masculinity. And here Marvin Lee Addy – that's his real name, Jeremy Paxman might address him as "Mr Loaf", but I've to use "Meat" – will spend the next hour trying to convince me that he's really quite shy, and really quite dull.

"An ordinary day for me? Uh, I get up at 9.30 and the house starts. The business is run from there and three people come through the door whether I like it or not. I'll make myself a coffee, go to my den, turn on the TV and scream at the news. Fox will be on and I'll go: 'You guys are stoopid!' Then CNN: 'What is wrong with you people?' Then MSNBC: 'That's the most illogical argument I've ever heard!'

"After maybe three hours of that I'll check what's going on with my fantasy baseball team and my fantasy basketball team. Then my people will start asking me a load of questions. My answer is almost always: 'I dunno.' Then it'll be four in the afternoon and I'll start to think maybe I should be taking a shower. My wife will force me to go outside with the dogs, our West Highland terriers Angus and McKenna, and after about ten minutes I'll be like: 'Enough, I've been here too long!' So basically what I'm telling you is, I'm kinda boring."

There are lots of terrific Meat Loaf stories; unfortunately many are untrue, including the one about him hurling his butler through a window because he'd fitted a padlock to the fridge ("I've never had a butler"). And the biggest myth concerns his assumed wealth, re Bat Out Of Hell, with Wikipedia claiming the 1977 rock-opera monster still sells 200,000 copies a year. He loves the online encyclopedia although on this occasion it's wrong. "I've gotten cheques for maybe $600,000 for Bat Out Of Hell. Everybody else made millions."

But kinda boring men, and especially those who've suffered a few health problems, including stage collapses and their voices deserting them at the crucial moment, and who at the age of 62 should perhaps be taking things a bit easier, don't normally sing songs on their comeback albums with choruses which go: "Woah! I can barely fit my dick in my pants!"

"Damn right they don't," says Meat Loaf, grinning like an idiot. "But I'll let you into another secret: I'm really quite prudish. When those lyrics were first presented to me I was like: 'Hell, I wanted to shock my audience, not kill 'em!' So they lay there for September, October and through November and then I was like: 'Damn, that chorus is so good, I gotta sing it. But not as myself. That's why I had to become Patrick."

Has Meat Loaf just retired one of the silliest, most unflattering and unforgettable handles in all rock? Not quite; Patrick, the soldier who has battleground flashforwards about lots of women who turn out to be the same diabolical dame, is merely the persona adopted for the concept album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. In every other way – shrieking vocals, a squall of guitars, song titles with brackets, everything and the kitchen sink – this is classic Meat Loaf, and given all he's been through, that's remarkable.

Dressed mostly in black, his hair greying at the temples and his face moving into its most characterful phase to become a better match for his big boxer's nose, he admits he feared it was "career over" when, having whipped a 2007 Newcastle crowd into the usual gothic frenzy, he began to sing Paradise By The Dashboard Light and nothing came out.

"It was devastating. Basically, I had a nervous breakdown on stage. Even for a Meat Loaf show, that wasn't in the programme." There was more to it; he was suffering from a cyst on his vocal chords, although this was to pop harmlessly. He blames being worked like a dog. "I had managers who just didn't care about me." So he sacked them all.

The new team – some of whom are with him in Glasgow today, researching the second Mrs Meat Loaf's Scottish ancestry on laptops for my benefit – includes Rob Cavello as producer who the star wants for all future albums, otherwise there won't be any. On this one, there's top support from Jack Black, Justin Hawkins – who nibbled on Meat Loaf crumbs from the great man's table as a member of The Darkness – and Hugh Laurie.

"I was guest-starring in House, heard he played piano, so invited him along to the sessions. He was real nervous, which surprised me, but Rob took him outside for a smoke, a chat about motorcycles and maybe a snort of something, and he came back and did great."

Meat Loaf's life seems to have been one big, overblown drama so you can understand him stressing just what a regular guy he is. Few would downplay their fathers' attempts to kill them, but he has a go.

"My dad was drunk, an alcoholic out of his mind because my mother had just died, and he came at me with a knife. But lots of kids have similar stories. Think of all the parents who murder their children. I've never been like: 'Oh God, poor me.'"

He gave a lift to a hitchhiker who turned out to be Charles Manson. On the day of John F Kennedy's assassination he had his car commandeered by an FBI officer and was sped to the hospital to await the arrival of the presidential limousine. He's been struck on the head with a shot put, fallen three storeys, tumbled off stages and been diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – not a firm of solicitors but a heart problem.

Meat Loaf needed a good lawyer to help secure him a bigger chunk of the mega-proceeds from Bat Out Of Hell but ended up being "screwed twice over". Here too, though, he refuses to be bitter. "Everyone from the 1970s had trouble getting paid. I remember me and Freddie Mercury swapping hard luck stories, getting madder and madder and cursing those sons-of-bitches. But I'm not angry with the record industry any more and the same with my dad. Yeah, I was upset by what he tried to do to me, but afterwards I went back to see him. Everything is what it is. The moment you start bearing grudges your life is ruined."

Without embarrassment, he says he's made "good money" from real estate, that he "totally gets" economics and that he'd become our Prime Minister if asked. That's perilously close to confirmation of his "kinda boring" status but, at the last minute, he pulls back, saves himself and indeed rock'n'roll.

"I can't blame the bad men who run music too much because if I was asked to put on a gorilla suit and climb the Empire State to promote this record, I'd probably do it. There's a lotta competition out there now. Amazon are offering a deal on my album and one called Little Immaculate White Fox by this chick called Pearl – whatdyaknow, that's my daughter. They tell me power ballads are popular again; well, I've got a couple of beauties here. And the rockier stuff; I can still do that. Mostly, though, people want drama from me and they got that all over everything. The curtain opens and the blood runs across the ground."

Hang Cool Teddy Bear is out tomorrow on Mercury www.meatloaf.net

• This article was first published in The Scotland on Sunday, April 18, 2010