In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
David Crosby is a rock music legend. As a member of 1960s electric folk band The Byrds, and later as one of the pillars of the super group Crosby, Stills & Nash with an occasional Neil Young kicker, he’s been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame on two separate occasions. Over the past 50 years, he’s crafted and sang some of the most stirring and socially responsive songs in history, including “Ohio,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” and “Long Time Gone.” He performed at the Monterey Pop Festival with Buffalo Springfield in 1967, at Woodstock with CSNY two years later, and regularly continues to perform shows with both his band mates Stephen Stills and Graham Nash and as a solo act. When we caught up with him, he was preparing for a solo Spring tour of the West Coast while finishing up a pair of solo records that he hopes to release at some point later this year.
David Crosby: A question that I wish an interviewer would ask me is, “What are you doing next?”
The A.V. Club: Okay, so what are you doing next?
DC: I’m finishing up two solo records that I’m making at the same time. One of them’s already finished; the other’s about three-quarters of the way finished and both of them are going to come out this year.
AVC: Are you working with the band Snarky Puppy for any of those? You’ve been collaborating with them recently for the album Family Dinner Volume Two, correct?
DC: I’m working with their bandleader and composer Mike League. Michael League is also the bass player in that band, writes all the music, and started the band. He’s my friend and is just a fascinating guy. He produced the first one, the one that’s already done. He did a very good job.
AVC: Lately, you’ve been performing an acoustic piece called “What Makes It So” on the road. Will that end up on either of these records?
DC: “What Makes It So” is on the first one. Yes, that’s gonna be on the one that Mike League produced.
DC: An elephant.
DC: Because I love elephants! [Laughs]. That was fun.
AVC: Have you been around many elephants?
DC: No, it’s on my bucket list. I want to go to Africa and find a really great hotel with good food right above a water hole where I can sit, have breakfast, and just watch the elephants play in the water.
DC: The movie I’ve seen the most times, boy, that’s a tough one. It would have to be a toss-up between Apocalypse Now and the first Star Wars. I think the first Star Wars.
AVC: What do you like most about the first Star Wars film, and why do you keep going back to it?
DC: Alec Guinness.
DC: Yup, Obi-Wan. Alec Guinness classed up that movie. Nobody else in that movie knew how to act. Nobody else had a clue of what they were doing. The young guy was a complete loss, absolutely couldn’t act his way out of a bag, but Alec Guinness carried that movie. He was such a class act that it elevated the film to be a joy to watch.
DC: I believed for a long time that some politicians could sometimes tell the truth.
AVC: What caused you to change your mind?
DC: Watching politicians!
AVC: Going back to the 1960s you were probably more idealistic about things than you are today. Was there a moment when you realized that none of the politicians could be trusted?
DC: You know, some of them can, it’s just so rare. I kinda trust Bernie [Sanders]. I think he’s a decent guy, but my general opinion of politicians is that they are squid shit. They’re just the lowest form of life.
DC: There’s a site on the internet that swears up and down that I’m worth $46 million and that I’m one of the most highly paid and richest guys in show business. I really wish it was true! Then there’s those where it’s like my mother was raped by a martian and that kind of thing. National Enquirer-type stuff. They just make it up.
AVC: You’ve endured a lot of that tabloid stuff through the years. Does it ever get to you?
DC: Nah. It’s just part of the cult of celebrity which is really a load of crap.
DC: Does that include… no, you’re talking about food? [Laughs].
AVC: Yeah, strictly speaking about food.
DC: Let me think about my world travels because I’m a pretty conservative eater. I don’t eat things like squid or octopus or some of the more exotic things that people eat. Maybe the little pickled vegetables that they give you with every meal in Japan.
AVC: How many times have you been to Japan?
DC: Oh, a number of times. I love it there.
AVC: What’s your favorite part about visiting Japan?
DC: Wow, where to start. The Japanese National Treasury Sword Museum.
AVC: What draws you to that place in particular?
DC: I’m a student of the blade technology that they developed back around the 1200s, 1300s, 1400s when they started making really amazing Samurai swords.
AVC: Do you collect any yourself?
DC: A little bit. I can’t afford to collect the really big ones.
DC: The first concert that I ever went to that I can remember was The Kingston Trio in Santa Barbara.
AVC: How was the show?
DC: It was great. They were great.
AVC: Did that spark anything inside of you as a budding musician? What was your takeaway from that event?
DC: That people could sing folk songs and actually get people to pay for it, which I thought was a pretty neat idea. At that age I already loved music and singing a little and was entranced by the whole thing. It was really great to see them onstage to see just how much fun singing on stage could be.
DC: Hmm. You know, most people would say I got to meet the president, and I did get to meet the president—two or three times—and I liked him.
AVC: Which one?
DC: Barack Obama. I got to meet Jimmy Carter and I liked him too. I got to meet Bill Clinton and I liked him too, but I really like Obama. But the most interesting thing for me was getting to go to CERN. You know what CERN is?
AVC: No, I don’t.
DC: CERN is where they have the Hadron Collider right outside of Geneva in Switzerland up above the Swiss/French border. It’s where they do scientific research the way it really should be done. It’s brilliant people from all over the world trying to push back the boundaries of science and learn more about how things actually work. Physicists, particle physicists, astrophysicists; really brilliant people. It’s fully open-sourced. Anybody can read the data, and they don’t do any military stuff at all.
AVC: Were you able to see the Hadron Collider when you visited?
DC: Yes! We were in the control room when they were running it. It was a thrill. There’s a gigantic room with about 100 different screens with various people sitting at the screens controlling various aspects of the four different stations that peel off high-energy particles and do stuff with them. There’s a buzz of intelligence and directed effort that’s really a pleasure to watch.
DC: I think when I was a druggie and went to prison. That was pretty embarrassing. It was not a cheery part of my life, but I don’t regret it because it got me off drugs and that’s a wonderful thing to do.
DC: When I was a kid I did and it was not a happy experience for me. Fortunately I learned that that had consequences, not so much punishment for me, but I saw that it hurt somebody else and that really got to me.
AVC: What was it that you took?
DC: I stole some pictures of someone that really mattered to someone.
DC: Well, like I’ve said, I met three presidents, but actually, I’d probably say the Dalai Lama.
AVC: Wow, what’s the Dalai Lama like?
DC: Oh, he’s a sweet old guy. You would love him. He’s a truly decent human being and his concerns are for the lives and happiness of the whole human race. He doesn’t pick sides or judge people. He’s an elevated consciousness. He’s an immensely sane, and wonderful, and kind human being. I think he’s probably the best human being I’ve ever met.
AVC: What was your conversation with him like?
DC: It’s elevating. He has a clear picture of what reality is and he’s not willing to surrender to greed, and stupidity, and anger, and ignorance, and all the things that bring humanity down. He’s consistently working to elevate himself above those things and he does.
Bonus question from actor Natalie Morales: Who is someone that you’re a big fan of that might surprise us?
DC: Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He’s the voice of science and scientific thinking in the United States and the world. He’s the most visible proponent of scientific thinking and he’s very unflinching about it. He knows that it’s correct and vouches for it in a very intelligent and very firm way, which I really appreciate. There’s so many people out there saying, “No, the world is flat!” and he’s the voice of science saying, “Well, actually we’ve measured it and no it’s not.”
AVC: He’s a great Twitter follow. Do you follow him on Twitter?
DC: Yes, I do.
AVC: You’re an active Twitter user. What’s your approach to social media, because you pretty much take on all comers?
DC: I don’t do the clever insider method of Twitter the way that for instance [The Roots drummer] Questlove does. I mean, he must be right because he’s got close to three million followers, but then again he’s on The Tonight Show every night. No, I just talk to people. I write on Twitter exactly the way I’m talking to you right now and if it doesn’t fit into 140 characters I move on and modify it into a different version. Another thing I do that a lot of people don’t is I answer questions. If you send me a question on Twitter I’m very likely to answer it. Now, if it’s extremely dumb, I probably won’t.