Photo credit: Olaf Heine
A Conversation with Joe Walsh of the Eagles
Mike Ragogna: Joe Walsh, how are you, sir?
Joe Walsh: Fantastic, how are you, sir?
MR: Pretty well. Let's dive right into your latest news. The headline reads, "Joe Walsh is auctioning VIP Eagles seats, and a meet and greet for the final Eagles show of 2011 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on November 19th," which is significant because the concert is sold out, and this is a way someone can still go. Now, this is in association with Gaden Shartse. Can you go into some detail about that?
JW: Gaden Shartse monastery was one of the oldest in Tibet; it goes back to the 15th century. When the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1950, all of the monks had to go into exile, so they went to India. The Chinese have, since then, pretty much destroyed the original monastery, but there is a Gaden Shartse monastery now in India. There are about 3,000 monks, and they're trying to carry on these ancient Buddhist traditions. Tibet had treaties with the U.S. and England -- they were protectorate treaties -- but the other countries didn't do anything, and China marched in and destroyed probably one of the oldest religious traditions in the world. They're non-violent, and they do nothing but good in the world. Of course, the head of all of this is the Dalai Lama, and I've gotten interested in this and in Buddhism over the years, and I'm trying to help these people out, because they are having a tough time.
MR: Is there anything the United States could be doing that could protect further whatever remnants are left in China?
JW: I don't think there's much the United States could do. I don't think they'd do it if they could, because the United States has great hopes for the future with China, and would not want to stir up the hornets about something that China feels is internal. However, Tibet was an independent country, and Tibet doesn't even exist anymore. Heightening public awareness on this is something I can do. The Gaden Shartse monks tour the United States; there's about 10 of them that come over, and they take three days and build Sand Mandalas, perform rituals and dances, and give lectures and teachings. That's the way they raise money, and they take that back to the monastery, so if there's any Buddhist monks, and if anybody becomes aware of them, check them out; it's amazing what they do. They're great people, and just heightening the awareness in general of their situation is something that I can do can be fruitful, and that's what I'm working at.
MR: As I mentioned, this is significant because the MGM Eagles show on Nov. 19 is sold out. What are the details concerning the tickets and how people can make donations?
JW: It's an auction on eBay, and there are some very nice people at eBay that are concerned with non-profit organizations, and people trying to raise money for good causes. When a celebrity is associated, they will put something on eBay for auction -- I appreciate that very much from them. The money will go to the Gaden Shartse monks and the monastery. Also, you'll get to come and hang with me for an evening, at the last 2011 Eagles show. Next year 2012, is our 40th anniversary. Much to our amazement, we are all still alive, and we are. We're alive and we're not done yet, so next year, we are going to put another show together around the 40th anniversary, and pull out some archived stuff for visuals and all. So, this is the last show with our current production; we're going to go out swinging, and whoever wins the auction will come and be my best friend for the evening.
MR: Yeah, I want to win that auction.
JW: [Laughs.] It may change your life.
MR: [Laughs.] Joe, you guys already did. There were a couple of Eagles concerts that changed my life, for sure. And you guys are no strangers to social causes, like how Don Henley tries his best to support Walden Pond.
JW: Don has several environmental causes; all of us are involved in some projects that we believe in that we think could do some help. We kind of do it low-key, though; we don't do it with a great amount of publicity. This is one of my particular things, the Gaden Shartse monks. I guess Don is the leader of causes; he's got a lot to do every day with all of the causes he's involved in. I really think highly of him for the amount of time that he puts into that stuff.
MR: It almost seems like when some reach a certain level of fame and notoriety, they feel like they have to give back in some way. I imagine it can be a wonderful realization, huh.
JW: Yeah, you know we're very blessed, like I say, to still be alive and to be able to make music for people. We're very blessed -- we have grandparents who have been with us for the whole boat ride, and we have young people come hear us for the first time. As long as people come, we'll play our music. The things you do now is to pay back. All of our fans have been so good to us and we're just trying to find some causes that people may not be aware of and see if we can help them out.
MR: And this auction will raise consciousness about the Gaden Shartse monks. Joe, 40 years, what do you think of that?
JW: Well, it sure went by quick. That's the digital age, isn't it? It was February about 20 minutes ago. Things are going pretty fast. I guess if you sit down and draw a timeline, it's 40 years, but my God, it sure doesn't seem like that on this end of it. We never thought about now, then, but here we are. We're in our '60s, and we're still these kids in these bodies that are starting to slow down, and we still got that spirit. We still go about our music that way. Forty years. I don't know what happened.
MR: I guess your song "Life in the Fast Lane" doesn't apply much anymore, does it?
JW: No, not to us! There are those out there where it does. The Grammy parties still go on, but we don't go to them anymore. We've got children and families now, and adult responsibilities. We don't party like we used to, but we sure know how.
MR: Not trying to stray off the Gaden Shartse topic too much, but it's got to be a thrill to look back at "Life in the Fast Lane" and realize it's one of the best commentaries on American culture ever.
JW: Yeah, there was that whole era in the '70s and early '80s, people were wild and joyous and carefree in their youths, and it was great to be a part of that. That is a comment and an observation on the way everybody used to be. Basically, those days are pretty well gone, but it's great to have been a part of it.
MR: A culture, pretty much documented in virtually every movie and many recordings of the era.
JW: Oh, yeah, in those days we would stay up for a couple of days and record, and whatever that was we called "art."
MR: What do you call "art"?
JW: I don't know anymore; it's changed. We've gone from analog to digital, I have a solo album coming out that I've been working on for a long time, and it's finally done. It's titled Analog Man. In the old days we would go in the studio, and there were knobs everywhere; now you go in and there's a mouse. You have to retrain for the digital age; music has gone digital; record companies are gone. I would not know what to tell young musicians who ask me for tips on making it.
MR: That leads to the question I ask every artist I interview: what advice do you have for new artists?
JW: All I can say is you've got to, at some point, get out and play in front of people. You've got to put in your 10,000 hours doing that; you can't be a legend in your parents' garage. You've got to get out and play in front of people, and you may suck, but that's part of it. You learn how to do it in front of people, and you can improve your craft and the word gets out. You play for nothing at first, and if nobody comes, that's OK. You get out and you play, and you start from there. It never gets worse than that, it only gets better. All of us, that's what we did; we played in front of people, and when we weren't on stage, we were playing guitar with each other, helping each other write songs. That is what I would say to young people now. Get visible on the Internet, and play live. That's the only chance you got, the way I see it.
MR: Joe, are all the Eagles still pals after all of these years?
JW: Yeah, we are; we're grumpy old men -- Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon -- we're a foursome like that. We get along great, and we get better than we ever have, and we still have got it when we get on stage.
MR: Which brings us back to the sold-out, final Eagles show of 2011 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, and the auctioned tickets.
JW: If you get on eBay and you win, you come backstage, we'll hang out and take pictures, then I will take you onstage and I will show you what it's like, and you will have really good tickets for the show. I'll take care of you -- we'll put it that way.
MR: Thanks so much for spending time with us here.
JW: An interview is only as good as the questions you ask, and you asked some great questions.
MR: You're really great, Joe. Thanks and all the best.
JW: Thank you so much.
Transcribed by Theo Shier
IMPORTANT: The Joe Walsh auction will run until Nov. 13, 2011 (www.ebay.com/joewalsh).
About the Gaden Shartse Cultural Foundation:
Gaden Shartse Cultural Foundation was established in 2006 with the mission to help preserve and share the ancient Tibetan traditions and culture. Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, much of this rare and ancient culture has been destroyed. We feel that this rich culture, once hidden and preserved behind the Himalayan mountains, has much to offer the world at large. It is our mission to not only help preserve this precious culture, but to share its ancient wisdom with the people of the United States. To do this we have partnered with Gaden Shartse Monastery and Thubten Dhargye Ling Buddhist Center to help host the Sacred Earch and Healing Arts of Tibet tours here in the USA. This is the official tour group of the internationally recognized Gaden Shartse Monestery. The tour was created in 1989 and has been visiting the United States to fulfill their mission of helping to spread peace, harmony, compassion, and tolerance through cultural exchange, interfaith dialog, and Buddhist teachings.