Q&A with Crazy Horse's drummer Ralph Molina - has performed on all releases by the band from 1969's

"That music, the arts in any form, are not a platform for political rants...we all know what’s going on in the world around us...fans go to be entertained, not to be reminded of what we already know..."

Ralph Molina: Crazy Horse's Beat

Ralph Molina is an American musician, best known as the drummer for Neil Young's backing band Crazy Horse. Born in Puerto Rico, Molina has been a member of Crazy Horse since they were formed in 1962 as Danny & the Memories. He has remained throughout the band's many personnel changes, and has performed on all releases by the band, with and without Young. Molina's style of drumming is characterized by simple, but steady beats and fills. Neil Young has played with a lot of drummers during the past 50 years, but he always comes back to Ralph Molina, whom he first met during the Buffalo Springfield days, when Molina was a member of the Rockets. Like his Crazy Horse compadres, Molina is the furthest thing imaginable from a cookie-cutter virtuoso.

Crazy Horse / Photo by Henry Ditz

The Rockets were a Californian psychedelic rock group, consisting of band members Danny Whitten, Leon Whitsell, Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot. They had been together since 1963, when they began as a doo-wop vocal group, of all things, called Danny and the Memories. After several name changes, stylistic changes, a Sly Stone-produced single and relative fame on Los Angeles' nightclub scene, they released a self-titled album in 1968, through White Whale records. In late 1968, they got in touch with Neil Young, an old acquaintance they had interacted with in '66, when he was still a member of Buffalo Springfield. After leaving the aforementioned band a couple of times and releasing his first solo album early in 1968, he saw them perform at the Whisky-a-Go-Go club, and impressed with what he saw, Young invited the group for a couple of jam sessions, with Whitten, Molina, and Talbot accepting the invitation. "I can start playin' the guitar, and Ralph can pick it up on the wrong beat and play it backwards," Young told biographer Jimmy McDonough. "That happens all the time. Never happens with professional groups." He doesn't mean that as an insult. It's that kind of raw, from-gut-playing — and a knack for earthy backbeats that lope along with elemental grace underneath Young's signature fuzz-toned flights — that helped Molina lay the foundation of "Down by the River," "Cinnamon Girl" and other timeless classics. “We don’t know the songs; we don’t have charts," Molina said of in 2011 of his work with Young. "We just start playing. The magic just seems to happen … " The proof is clear on any Crazy Horse recording from 1969's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere to 2012's Psychedelic Pill.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music and Rock n' Roll industry?

That music, the arts in any form, are not a platform for political rants...we all know what’s going on in the world around us...fans go to be entertained, not to be reminded of what we already know...

What were the reasons that make the 60s to be the center of music researches? Where does the creative drive come from?

The 60s were an influential turning point in music, it went from...doo-wop, surf music, etc., to a more of a political awareness time in music...

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Honestly, all my acquaintances on my journey, were each an experience on their own way...  best advice? ...ME, I told myself, if I wanted to continue being blessed, and playing music, I had to stop... to have faith... I tell that to the younger lads, when they ask, how we are still playing, I’ve seen to many friends pass in an ugly way... and I learned playing on just crazy horse albums, was a more rhythmic thing, than playing with the “ big guy”...it’s more... feel...emotion…heart and passion...

"The 60s were an influential turning point in music, it went from...doo-wop, surf music, etc., to a more of a political awareness time in music..." (Photo: Ralph Molina on stage with Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

The...tonight’s the night” recordings...we would just hang out at S.I.R. Studio, playing pool…tequila etc...and usually around 12 or 1am... we didn’t have to say a word, we looked at each other, walked to our instruments, and played...it was an emotional and passionate experience, and I believe it shows on that record...

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I have no fears of the future, the future is, what it’s going to be, for us all…we don’t know, so why fear it? ...to me, the music of the past, had more to do with... hope... romance... a more positive message... you didn’t have to “de cypher” the songs... they hit you right in your face, they reached your soul. My hopes, are the hopes of us all... oneness ...hope... friendship and peace... no division....

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I don’t think I’d “change anything” it’s a huge cycle... music will come and go, and come all the way around again... music will be of the... times...

What touched (emotionally) you from the Rockers era? Why do you think "Crazy Horse" music continue to have such a devoted following?

Honestly not a thing touched me, from you call... “the rockers era” ...as for Crazy Horse? ...I don’t know, I think and believe, our following knows and hears in the way we play with the ...big guy” ...that it for real. We don’t pose or suppose, we as the four-man unit, play, not with the greatest of chops, but with... passion... feel... heart... when they see us, they see four guys, unaware of the audience, not out of disrespect, but that we are in a zone, for us and for them... it’s like we are playing from four diff., planets, and meet in the middle.

How has the Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?                                        Ralph Molina, 1969 / Photo by Frank Bez

Rock counterculture nor whatever, will change my views of the world...nor my journeys... my view has always been, that, “there’s more... hope, giving, love, giving and sharing, that you don’t see, when you look through the eyes of the world... I look through the eyes of my...heart....

What is the impact of music and 1960s culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications? 

All of that, will continue after you and I are gone...this racial thing, it’s not a color or whatever thing, it’s a...heart thing...an awareness thing...it’s about a...deep in your heart thing...what have riots done for it? ...instead of...taking a knee...take a heart...politics? ...how do you change it? ...this too will continue long after we’re gone...revolutions? ...no...riots? No...one person? No...one government comes in, it goes, and then another one comes in... nothing but...gridlock…me, I’m for...term limits for all in government...3 yrs. per... till it gets right... keeping the same people in year after year... will stay the same... next time Michael, let’s talk about music... love and hope...lol...

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Tough question... 1890-1910s peace... white picket fences...love... Norway... quaint... a time where there was no... division...

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