"You can't ask us how we met. Absolutely not. And you can't ask us about Woodstock," says David Crosby of his enduring friendship with Graham Nash, before adding: "Well, we met in a gay bar. I guess I'll have to come clean - we're transsexuals." Then he and Nash burst out laughing. No wonder their on-stage repartee has been compared to that of Abbott and Costello, or Cheech and Chong.
The pair are touring their new album, Crosby-Nash, which mixes protest songs about the Enron scandal ("They Want It All") and nuclear waste buried in the Yucca Mountains ("Don't Dig Here") with the mellower offerings - "Lay Me Down", "Jesus of Rio", "Milky Way Tonight" - that we've come to expect of them.
"We write songs that are about something, that make you feel something," Crosby stresses. "To us, that's the essence of it. We've always written love songs - love found, love lost, unrequited love.
"But we've always added to them: part of our job is to be the town crier and carry news from here to there. We respond to the world; things affect us, and what we do is write. How long have we been singing 'Military Madness'? We still start the set with that song! And it's still absolutely true. Graham wrote that song about his father going away to the Second World War. I would have gone to fight that war, but not these ones.
"There's no reason for us to be in Iraq," Crosby expands. "The guys we've got at the moment think it's really cool to send the armies out there and kick some Arab ass," he drawls, in a mocking impersonation of George Bush Jr.
Last year, Crosby and Nash campaigned for John Kerry, the Democrat candidate for the US presidency, and took part in the Vote for Change tour. "Bush's re-election was devastating," Crosby says. "European audiences know which side we're on but we tell them anyway. I despise this President and his people. They are misrepresenting the United States and doing great harm."
You get the feeling that the 60-plus duo are on a creative roll again, that music matters as much to them as it did way back when they first got together in the 1960s. "I'm here to make music - that's what they put me here to do," Crosby asserts, seemingly intent on making up for the years lost in a cocaine-induced haze that he documented in his autobiography Long Time Gone.
"For a long time, I was very self-destructive. I had to go to prison for a year in Texas to kick the habit. Graham believed in me, and that helped me make it. Not only is he my best friend but he's also the best musical relationship in my life. The only thing that even approaches it is the connection between me and my son, James Raymond. He'd been a musician for 20 years before he found out I was his father. That was a lightning bolt! He's such a good musician, and he's in our band."
Crosy and Nash play the Royal Festival Hall, London SE1, Saturday; Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Monday (www.crosbynash.com). 'Crosby-Nash' is on SanctuaryReuse content