It isn’t exactly a Batman-Commissioner Gordon arrangement. But when Neil Young needs the guys in his old backing band Crazy Horse, they’re there, says guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro. Recent sessions, the first in nine years, were for “Americana,” a reworking of vintage American folk songs. There’s also the new two-disc “Psychedelic Pill,” which they’ll preview at the Bridge School Benefit in Mountain View this weekend. “I love ‘Americana’ because those were the songs my mom sang to me,” Sampedro says of “Clementine” and “Oh Susannah.” “We played our ass off on that stuff, and I looked at Neil and said ,‘Isn’t it cool how we just sound like us no matter what songs we play?’”
So you live in Hawaii now, where you grow exotic fruit?
I grew up in Detroit, and I’ve always had a garden. When I moved to Hawaii, I went to this natural farming class with this guy from Korea named Master Cho. He has this whole other technique of farming that he learned from the Japanese. So I took the classes, where you grow mold and you ferment stuff, and then you spray it back on the plants. So I passed that class. And then one day I get a phone call saying Master Cho was coming to Hawaii to give a master class where you could become an instructor. And they wanted to bring him by my house. So I called Neil — who lives in Hawaii — for support, and he came by and watched it all go down.
Was Master Cho suitably impressed with your skills?
That morning, I didn’t know what to do — should I pull weeds? Clean up the garden? But I said, “Hell, you know what? I’ll do what my mom always did!” I ran to the store, bought some apples and made Master Cho some apple pie. It was still hot by the time he got there. So he invited me into his master class, and now I have a degree to teach natural farming. So mangos, papayas, bananas, pineapple — I’ve grown all of that.
Do you ever just get sick of fruit?
Oh, no! My freezer’s full of it! And in Hawaii, there’s a whole culture of sharing and trading. So I give stuff away, and the next thing I know, some mahi-mahi shows up or some lamb. And nobody’s stressed out, there’s nothing going on there in the entertainment world, and every conversation you have is like, “Did you see that cloud that drifted by yesterday, that big one?”