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Todd Rundgren Discusses His New Memoir, ‘The Individualist’ (The Interview)

todd rundgren the individualist book cover

Todd Rundgren (Photograph: Jean Lannen)

Todd Rundgren’s lengthy awaited autobiography The Individualist bears a title apt for a musical iconoclast who has steered his 50 yr profession with cussed independence and uncompromising inventive imaginative and prescient, battling the “Blue Meanies” of the music business.

His sensible new e-book carves an illuminating window into the psyche of some of the fearlessly artistic and unique musical forces the world’s ever seen, chronicling snapshots of his life with disarming candor and incisive reflection. A troubled childhood, musical adventures as a groundbreaking artist and producer, using psychedelics as a artistic software, private relationship struggles that almost upended him, assembly soulmate/spouse Michele Rundgren juxtaposed towards an ongoing relentless religious quest makes Todd’s autobiography compelling studying and a prime contender for music ebook of the yr.

The Toddfather discusses the ebook under …

Rock Cellar: How does being a self-described “Individualist” paint an image of you from childhood to the current?

Todd Rundgren: Properly, to begin with as a caveat, I’ve been an individualist all of my life however the guide truly ends 20 years in the past. (laughs) However that was probably the most fascinating a part of my life, I assume. After I turned 50 I settled into being a dad or mum and dealing extra steadily on the street, so issues obtained much less fascinating. However I don’t actually know what individuals’s expectations are whenever you’re writing an autobiography as a result of I haven’t completed one earlier than and I haven’t learn a number of different individuals’s life tales.

I determine you’re gonna get some combination of precise revelation after which in all probability a superb dollop of manipulation, (laughs) as a result of it’s your personal story and also you’re allowed to inform it any approach you need.

I simply devised this conceit that may information me via the method of it so it didn’t devolve right into a bunch of blathering. Primarily I needed to choose vital moments in my life and attempt to separate out the emotional facet of them and simply inform the story. Individuals typically once they’re telling a narrative are reliving it emotionally, and that may type of colour your recollection — so I attempted to maintain issues separate in order that the precise occurrences had some factual foundation to them, (laughs) they usually weren’t like what I hoped had occurred.

todd rundgren the individualist book cover

Rock Cellar: So did you all the time really feel like an outsider in a means guiding your personal life’s journey?

Todd Rundgren: In that sense, yeah. I’ve no objectivity about the best way my thought course of differs from anyone else’s, nevertheless it’s simply that I see the world typically in these kind of phrases. I see my emotional reactions to what occurs round me as one thing separate from the precise actuality of what’s happening. Typically you don’t actually course of what’s occurred till someday after the very fact, however I’m continually making an attempt to determine what classes life is making an attempt to show me whereas I’m experiencing it.

Rock Cellar: You described engaged on the guide as “homework.” What have been probably the most troublesome passages to put in writing about, and have been there any reactions about your life that you simply come across whereas delving deep into your previous?

Todd Rundgren: Properly, the toughest issues to write down about are all the time your personal failures and shortcomings. Everyone has them and no one needs to speak about them, (laughs) so I feel once more separating the occasions from the feelings surrounding the occasions helped me to kind of objectivize that in a method. If I simply type of doc my very own actions it may virtually turn into obvious what it’s that’s motivating me.

Typically I understand precisely what’s happening and why I’m making the choices I’m making and typically I’ll child myself about it and solely understand it in some type of retrospect. So it’s an try to teach myself, in addition to properly the reader, when it comes to what my true motivations may need been or what I may need achieved in a different way with out on the similar time getting right into a regretful state of affairs as a result of you possibly can’t undo the stuff that you simply’ve completed already.

Rock Cellar: You got here from an sad childhood like many. A lot of your music hinges on profound magnificence. Do you assume crafting lovely music was your means of achieving transcendence over the darkness of your upbringing?

Todd Rundgren: Properly, I kind of marvel. There’s a principle that really completely satisfied individuals can’t be artistic (laughs) as a result of no one identifies with them. The sort of music that I selected to make was reflective of how I felt. I used to be all the time interested in the extra romantic and weak revelatory expressions, the place individuals are actually making an attempt to be trustworthy with you. It might be solely one thing that you simply’re solely making an attempt to do however at the very least you’re making an attempt.

You could not truly be able to full honesty with your self, however a minimum of you’re not hiding your feelings or pretending that you simply’re not feeling one thing. I’ve all the time been interested in artists like that and artwork that displays that. In that sense, yeah, you would say that sad individuals make one of the best artwork (laughs) as a result of they’re simpler to determine with. People who find themselves glad and jolly on a regular basis and nothing ever appears to hassle them — I’ve a tough time figuring out with them.

Rock Cellar: You enjoy your reminiscence of seeing The Who and Cream at a Murray The Okay package deal present in 1967 on the RKO Theater in New York Metropolis. How did seeing The Who influence upon you as an artist and when it comes to placing on a present?

Todd Rundgren: Properly, on the time we didn’t have MTV so we by no means noticed the bands carry out that a lot in the event that they hadn’t come on tour within the States. There weren’t a variety of movies and there weren’t a number of video retailers for displaying you what was happening in England particularly.

So to truly see The Who within the flesh was superb. Regardless that I had examine their antics, to truly see a band like The Who within the flesh for the primary time was actually revelatory. It wasn’t simply the truth that they smashed their devices up there (laughs), it was that that they had elevated the presentation to one thing else.

You have been used to The Beatles tapping their ft and smiling however that was about it. That was as a lot present enterprise that they placed on.

Rock Cellar: Do you assume seeing The Who and being impressed with their visible presentation impacted on the way through which you conceived your stay presentation, particularly with Utopia’s Ra tour?

Todd Rundgren: It definitely was a component, however there have been different acts who have been making an attempt to be equally outrageous when it comes to their presentation like The Loopy World Of Arthur Brown together with his flaming headdress and flying in on a wire. Half the time he’d crash into an amplifier and that might be the top of the present (laughs).

However yeah, that concept of upping the ante, I feel British musicians had extra of theatrical music corridor background. It got here much more naturally to British musical acts so as to add theatrics into what they have been doing.

I keep in mind seeing Genesis early on when Peter Gabriel was nonetheless within the band and he primarily had a bit podium and he would sink down behind the rostrum and placed on a unique costume or hat or put make-up on, one thing like that and pop up and do a track after which disappear behind the rostrum once more and are available out in one other guise after that (laughs).

And so simple as it was, it was greater than any American acts have been doing. Probably the most theatrical factor that any American act did was Jim Morrison falling lifeless throughout “The Universal Soldier” (laughs) and simply mendacity there on the stage for 5 minutes.

Rock Cellar: You’ve all the time been a serious fan of Eric Clapton as a guitar participant. You didn’t write about this within the guide, however what was the expertise like once you jammed with him onstage at Madison Sq. Backyard in July 13, 1974 on “Little Queenie” — enjoying his “Blackie” Fender Strat in addition?

Todd Rundgren: Nicely, it was terrific excessive, to start out with, however as quickly as I acquired on the market I broke a string earlier than the music had barely begun. Eric gave me his guitar to play; that was the superb factor about it. He was beneficiant sufficient and unconcerned about what number of notes he was gonna play or something like that (laughs). He simply reflexively handed me his instrument and that was an actual excessive.

I’ve all the time recognized him to be a very nice man and remarkably so, contemplating what a profession he’s had. And yeah, that was one other nice second for an enormous fan boy. (laughs)

Rock Cellar: You’re infamous for by no means doing the identical factor once more all through your profession. Within the ebook you state, “I always gravitate for the less obvious.” Are you able to hint the genesis of your refusal to evolve to conference?

Todd Rundgren: Nicely, I used to be lucky to get into document manufacturing very early on, as a matter of a reality earlier than I had a profession of my very own. I did fairly nicely at it in order that freed me from the financial burdens that numerous musicians undergo. I assume most individuals need to discover one thing that’s type of reliable and identifiable that they will model and can fulfill viewers expectations.

Then you definitely kind of construct a profession round that. However each time I might make a report it was a brand new, liberating expertise as a result of I used to be making it for myself. I wasn’t making it in accordance with any person else’s standards. I did that a lot sufficient, once I would produce different individuals, so each report for me was a chance to experiment and I didn’t have to fret about my financial well-being.

After some time I felt that was virtually a duty I had, ‘trigger not everybody was in my place; not everybody had the posh of creating a dwelling at one thing else or one thing intently associated and having to outlive solely by yourself output.

Rock Cellar: In your guide you share that you simply’re “hard to impress” by anybody, however a type of individuals was the favored radio character Wolfman Jack. Who else in your life truly impressed you as an individual?

Todd Rundgren: I met George Martin at one level and realized in assembly him that there was no direct connection between us — however the truth that he redefined in everyone’s thoughts what a producer was made it potential for me to turn out to be profitable as a report producer myself. I consider I met him at a celebration celebrating Grand Funk‘s “We’re An American Band” going platinum or one thing.

So George impressed me, and all the time has. He was very gentlemanly and clearly fairly musically educated. What he did for The Beatles was spectacular, from to start with recognizing the potential within the band after which granting them the liberty to go the place they wanted to go when it comes to their evolving musical life. So I used to be all the time impressed with him and getting to satisfy him briefly was a terrific expertise.

As talked about, I’m an insular individual, so I don’t exit of my means typically to satisfy individuals and I don’t cling a lot within the social milieus the place you’d meet lots of people. Since I moved to Kauai, if I’m not on the street working I’m simply at house holed up. (laughs) I don’t even exit of the home once I’m at residence.

One different individual got here to thoughts and I didn’t get to satisfy him however Burt Bacharach got here to my present the opposite night time in San Luis Obispo (California) and he apparently stayed for nearly the entire thing, that was nice however I used to be simply sorry that I didn’t get to satisfy him as a result of he’s certainly one of my all-time musical heroes.

Rock Cellar: There are lots of passages in your e-book about your travels all over the world. How did that have out of your consolation zone impression on you as an individual, artist and have an effect on your worldview?

Todd Rundgren: Properly, it’s totally different world now than it was then. A whole lot of the locations that I went then you’ll be able to’t go to anymore, like Iran and Afghanistan, otherwise you shouldn’t go there. (laughs) However on the time I had loads of questions concerning the veracity of varied claims of mysticism in Asia and different locations within the Center East. I used to be to expertise it firsthand. That’s simply sort of the best way I react to issues. Individuals like to speak about issues that they haven’t absolutely skilled as if that they had, and I like to have the ability to converse with some authority (laughs) if the subject comes up.

However extra importantly than that I’ve a sure confidence about issues that different individuals might not. It’s like virtually nobody I do know had gone and existed by themselves within the Muslim world, ergo they do not know what Muslims are actually like. So it’s helped me hold a cool head when individuals get loopy (laughs) about this stuff. Individuals get loopy about Muslims these days however I’ve had firsthand expertise. I do know there’s individuals’s motivations; you’re introduced up in sure spiritual traditions however most individuals don’t take that significantly as a result of they’ve by no means absolutely thought-about anything (laughs).

So individuals inside these issues aren’t naturally good or dangerous or anything; they’re simply all varieties of excellent and dangerous and all kinds of clever and ignorant within the issues that they profess to consider in, and I had an opportunity to verify that.

Rock Cellar: Within the e-book, you write about being in your travels and also you’re in Kathmandu and also you heard a totally shaped music concept and having no entry to an instrument you needed to visually conjure the keyboard and the chord voicings. Do you recall what track it was, and did you nail its essence when you have been again residence?

Todd Rundgren: Yeah, I feel it was a track referred to as “Lost Horizon.” I used to be in Kathmandu (Nepal) and it was having that impact on me; the air was very skinny and clear. So far as capturing the track itself, I feel I did a reasonably good job of it. It wasn’t everything of the track however as soon as I had the kernel of it I might flesh it out later.

Rock Cellar: With Utopia, notably the latter day band (which just lately featured in a RockCellarTV episode), when you have been main the cost, a democracy appeared to exist inside the band with different members additionally stepping to the fore as writers for the collective good of the unit. What made that lineup work so nicely for a few years each as a stay act and within the studio?

Todd Rundgren: Yeah, there was a great kind of number of approaches we had, too; not everybody had the identical strengths and never everybody had the identical preferences when it comes to music once they would write for themselves. So it was mixture of issues that tempered it out, and finally outlined the sound of the band which was like alt-pop. We might play that progressive rock as a result of that’s the place we got here from, however in the long run we turned increasingly more song-oriented.

Prog-rock was not a viable style (laughs) by the point we acquired to the early Eighties, so we tailored with altering occasions and the truth that everybody had barely totally different tastes and totally different ranges of expertise truly was an asset for the band.

Rock Cellar: In your profession, you’ve written your share of mind-blowing chord modifications. Understanding you may give a special solutions tomorrow, what music would you decide that’s blessed with a few of your private favourite chord modifications?

Todd Rundgren: Nicely, I don’t have the identical sort of objectivity about it that somebody who was not concerned within the writing would have, however I might assume that a music like “Can We Still Be Friends?” has one thing about it as a result of so many different artists tried to cowl it.

Robert Palmer did it, Rod Stewart did it and Colin Blunstone (of the Zombies) did it and God is aware of who else did it, however there have to be one thing about it that different artists hear that appeal to them to it.

It have to be one thing concerning the chord modifications, as a result of the phrases will not be ridiculously mental or something. (laughs) However on the similar time, the construction isn’t typical and the modifications aren’t typical.

There’s a musician referred to as Peter Schickele, he goes by the identify of P.D. Q. Bach, and one of many issues that he would do is take typical musical buildings that induce you to assume they’re going a sure place after which he’d purposefully go another method with it.

That all the time amused me lots and in some methods informs the best way that I write songs. I don’t like them to have essentially a standard construction and even resolve in the best way that songs often do this make you kind of really feel that is the top of 1 part and the start of one other part.