Roger Daltrey is sounding slightly croaky on the phone from London.
But The Who lead singer is fine, he insists, after a laser procedure to remove pre-cancerous cells from his throat, which has had him on vocal rest for more than a week. The annual doctor checks, and operations, have become a regular part of life for Daltrey, 75, since cells were first discovered and removed in 2009.
“I’ve got the usual cold that I end up with after I have it, but I’ll be fine,” says Daltrey, “I just have to be kind to myself for a couple of months, no singing for six weeks minimum.”
However, Daltrey sounds powerful from the first track on The Who’s self-titled album with songwriter guitarist Pete Townshend. The band’s first offering in 13 years officially dropped today, and Daltrey spoke about it with USA TODAY.
The Who cuts off Houston concert:Roger Daltrey loses his voice, postpones more shows
Question: You’ve had some voice issues during the last leg of your tour, how is it going?
Roger Daltrey: This summer was hard for me because I go for a check every July, and I went for a check literally four days after a gig at Wembley Stadium (in England). And my vocal chords looked so bad after that show, that my doc, who’s a genius, kind of freaked out. He usually treats me in his office with his lasers, but he said, ‘I’m going to have to wheel you in for another full-blown operation because it’s not looking good at all.’ That kind of freaked me a little bit. I couldn’t do it then because there wasn’t enough recovery time for the September tour. So I had to do that whole second leg of the tour with this little woodpecker on my shoulder, nibbling on my brain going, ‘I hope your voice lasts.’
But I went back, it was much better. He managed to treat me in his office with lasers. It’s not something I can get rid of. It will slowly come back. But as long as I keep on top of it, it shouldn’t interfere with our work.
Q: What is Roger Daltrey like on no-talking mode ?
Daltrey: I just sulk. It’s impossible. Trying to write notes for conversations is an absolute joke. And you can’t answer the telephone, that just rings. I completely shut off communication. I’m even bad on emails.
Q: How does a rock star stay in your kind of shape?
Daltrey: I got very lucky early in life. A good chemist warned me off of chemical drugs. He told me never to touch them. I might be the only rock star in the world who didn’t take cocaine. But I didn’t get into all those naughties that you see for the people who did get into them. I got lucky. I smoked a lot of pot. It was always a recreational thing. But we’re talking 40, 50 years ago.
Q: You hate the smoke, but do you take marijuana now?
Daltrey: I like CBD oil. There’s no THC in it. You don’t get high. But it just calms you after shows, and it lowers the adrenaline, which is one of the hardest things for singers. You come off stage, you’re so pumped, it takes four or five hours to come down. And then it’s 4 o’clock in the bloody morning. CBD oil is much better than sleeping pills. That’s one thing I had been addicted to. But I still take them if I cannot get to sleep. I care that much about the next show.
Q: What about the alcohol?
Daltrey: I can take it, leave it or not. It doesn’t bother me. If I go out with friends, I’ll have two or three glasses of wine, that will be the limit for me. I can’t handle it anymore, it doesn’t agree with me.
Q: You’re defiant against people who won’t like the new album from the first song “All This Music Must Fade.” Do you feel that?
Daltrey: It’s a really good song. It’s a different type of music out there. Young people will probably hate our music. But it’s what we do, you either like it or you don’t, and I don’t really give a (expletive) if you don’t.
I’m glad we made this album, and I understand why it’s so important for Pete to have this out there. He doesn’t want to be thought of as a writer of old nostalgic hit records. He’s a man of today, we’re musicians of today. We’re not dead and (expletive) buried. And we’re not doing a pastiche of our music from the ’60s.
Q: What does it mean to you to play a benefit concert in Cincinnati in April for the first time since 11 people died in that tragic 1979 concert?
Daltrey: It’s simple. We want to have positive closure. For us, as a band, it’s been 40 years of mourning. It doesn’t go away. Every Dec. 3 that comes around, it comes back. It just seems we’re on our last touring legs really. Who knows how much longer it will go on? It’s the right time after 40 years to do something really positive for the youngsters who were killed that night. We should treat the night as a celebration of letting go.
Q: How is the work on your planned movie on (late-drummer) Keith Moon?
Daltrey: Still working on it. It takes a long time, it’s a very tricky subject. I don’t want to make a Who biopic. That’s why this film is difficult. I want to do a movie about this guy called Keith Moon.
Q: There’s a ‘Pinball Wizard’ section in (‘Rocketman.’) What are your memories working with Elton John for that trippy version in 1975’s ‘Tommy’?
Dalltrey: I was playing a deaf dumb and blind kid, and I used to become that when we were filming. I just stayed away from everyone. I shut myself down. It was the only way to do it. But that was all shot in a day. It was a pretty wild day of work. Surreal.