In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
| July 10-16, 2008 firstname.lastname@example.orgThe anti-rock star
Todd Rundgren has become one of our most influential artists by turning his back on fame
by Ben CorbettI was 20 years old in 1968,” says Todd Rundgren. “I already had and quit an internationally recognized musical act. I was producing and engineering records for other people and just writing a little bit of my own on the side, and I had no well-developed world philosophy, I just wanted to make a living at music. I had written songs for The Nazz, but they were all fairly derivative and none of them was really about anything more interesting than getting your heart broke by a girl. [Laughs] Now I’m a frickin’ grandfather.”
In 1973, when Rundgren’s hit “Hello, It’s Me” rose to #5 on the Billboard singles chart and critics were tagging him as the next Beatles, he reached an impasse: Take the road of pop stardom and become a commercial hit factory, or stay true to the music, follow the voice and evolve as a musician. Rundgren followed the voice, and whether the decision was deliberate matters little. In interviews, the multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist insists that he lucked into the hit anyway, and that the residual royalty checks were only vehicles to fund future expeditions into a native musical ozone where Rundgren courts the muse.
“When I make records, ideally the effect will be to provoke thought, not simply to give pleasure or make people forget things,” says Rundgren. “I realize that, in the past, my music has meant that to some people. They feel down, and so they listen to one of the songs and it makes them feel better. I’m not necessarily doing that kind of music much anymore. Particularly with the latest album, there’s a sense of urgency. I’m a little more concerned about the world that my children and their children are inheriting, and I’m not interested in providing anesthesia.”
You won’t often see the tag “classic rocker” next to his name, and because he never got hemmed into a genre or got comfortable resting on his laurels, the 60-year-old production whiz continues to expand his musical turf. With his forthcoming album Arena, Rundgren continues his legacy of experimentalism, now shifting back to simpler times with everything focused around the big rock guitar sound.
“I don’t want to call it a throwback,” says Rundgren, “but a dated look at a certain kind of music that I call ‘Arena Rock’ which is written to be performed in arenas. Or maybe it worked the other way around; it sounded like it belonged in arenas and suddenly wound up there. But the quality of the music is usually determined by a certain simplicity, a guitar-centricity, a kind of anthemic quality with heroic elements every once in a while that causes the involuntary need to pump your fist and wave your Bic lighter in the air.”
Rundgren’s new band consists of drummer Prairie Prince of The Tubes, guitarist Jesse Gress, keyboardist Matt Bolton and Rachel Haden of The Rentals, the bassist and multi-instrumentalist who he picked up from an inadvertent connection to The New Cars reunion that Todd joined in 2006 after Ric Ocasek refused to tour. (Maybe as a joke, maybe as revenge, Ocasek put Rundgren “On Notice” on The Colbert Report).
“It was a curious experience,” says Rundgren of his time with The New Cars. “Fun to do at times. A little disappointing in other ways. Things started off kind of on the wrong foot when we went like three weeks into our tour. Elliot [Easton] broke his collar bone and our whole tour just, ya know, stopped. Then every subsequent tour we did, we were just paying off the debts of the first tour.”
For Rundgren, known not only for his stint with The Nazz beginning in 1968, a 1970s run with Utopia, and 21 albums now under his belt as a solo artist, but also his prolific work as a record producer (arranging albums for Grand Funk Railroad, The New York Dolls, and most notably, Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell), recording and performance go hand in hand.
“If you don’t have one you don’t have the other, at least in my realm,” says Rundgren. “If I didn’t have original material to play, I’d eventually end up being a backup musician and eventually probably not playing at all. People still have kind of a ’60s somewhat ivory tower image of musicians that The Beatles created. They got so popular that they could essentially retire to the studio, make records, and never tour live, and still become fabulously wealthy because of it. But those days are past. Musicians have to, first of all, find a gig playing. Then if you’re lucky enough to do that, then you can start taking the kind of liberties that an artistic approach would engender. There may come a time when I’m either so completely out of touch or so musically exhausted that I’m not writing anymore. But I always imagine that at some point in the future I’m gonna get an idea about something that I want to write about, and then I’m on to another record.”
When he’s not making records, Rundgren is innovating technology, a trend he says he’s moving away from these days. But if you open up Rundgren’s self-designed and maintained website www.TR-i.com (Todd Rundgren interactive), a spotlight flashes across every advance he’s made through the entire four decades of his career while banners fade in and out, revealing an artist’s statement. For instance, as a producer: “Records to most people just represent twelve songs on a piece of black plastic (fade) but records are really a whole lifestyle (fade) I give artists the kind of record they want to have (fade) I really don’t think in terms of a group’s musical potential as much as I think of its recording potential (fade) I try to show people a new avenue to explore (fade) hopefully one that is different from what they’re accustomed to exploring.”
This manifesto captures Rundgren’s mind and philosophy that has evolved over the years, and Todd Rundgren Interactive echoes back to his early 1990s work and the album No World Order, where listeners could take samples of Rundgren’s music and stitch them together to create a mood. Releasing that album in both digital and CD formats, Rundgren was one of the first musicians to market and sell digital recordings of his music to fans both via Internet download and on disc. With a name usually associated with new technology, Rundgren has lately been scaling back, getting simpler.
“Right now I’m trying to make things as simple as they can possibly be,” he says, explaining his love-hate relationship with technology. “I don’t even use the typical tools that people use anymore. I did this entire recent album on my laptop. I live in Hawaii, ya know. I really enjoy just sitting around and staring off at the sky, and I don’t need a whole lot of technology to make me happy, and I never have. I assimilate the technology too easily, and it makes people think I’m fascinated with it. The problem with human beings is once we know something, we never forget it. If all of the televisions on the planet disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn’t be long before someone had reinvented them, because we already have the concept and we already know how they work, and so eventually we would reinvent everything we had destroyed. Any book we burn will eventually be rewritten. The solution is not about us with or without technology, it’s about us and the way we think.”
On the Bill
Todd Rundgren will perform with Will Hoge at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, July 14, at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030.
Respond: email@example.com to top