Wednesday, November 25, 2009


A Wizard: A True Star - An Interview with the Legendary Todd Rundgren
November 25, 1:08 PMClassic Rock ExaminerSonya Alexander
Todd Rundgren
onlineseats.comAt the end of the 60s, in the haze of the late stage of Beatles pop culture craze, lots of young men wanted to form bands. Some did so successfully, others didn't. One who did so successfully was the inimitable, enigmatic Todd Rundgren, who's progressive outlook and true musical skills keep his music as fresh, intimate and satisfying as a long embrace from an old friend. I recently had the good fortune of interviewing this brilliant, humble man via phone. Since he lives in an area of Hawaii considered the "Kansas of the islands" because of the frequent power outages, it took us a couple of tries to connect, but we eventually did.

Examiner: How long have you lived in Hawaii?

TR: I started coming here in the mid-70s to unlax. After Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992, I figured that would be the best time to get some property here.

Examiner: Does your family live there with you?

TR: My children, I have five, are all grown up. My wife comes and goes, depending on what projects she's working on. I enjoy being alone, I enjoy my own company. It's the best thing for my work.

Examiner: You've had many personas as a performer. Which one are you now?

TR: A performing artist. I'm touring now. Have four dates on the mainland coming up. Like to mix it up by doing live shows. We already performed seven shows this past September and we'll be in Amsterdam and England next year.

Examiner: How was it doing "Live from Daryl's House," working with Daryl Hall again? How was it to work in such a casual atmosphere as opposed to in front of an audience?

TR: It was fun and relaxed. We cooked sausage. There was no rehearsal. though, and no dallying around once we started. Daryl and I have toured together before, as recently as a couple of months ago, at the closing of the Spectrum in Philly. In the early 70s, I did the album "War Babies" with him.

Examiner: You've toured with Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band. How was that experience?

TR: Fun. That was a while back. Toured with him a couple of times.

Examiner: Who were some of the musicians that were part of the group when you toured?

TR: Let's see....Nils Lofgren, Joe Walsh, Simon Burke, Burton Cummings, Zak Starkey, Ringo's son. He rotates the group, so it's always a different line-up.

Examiner: How would you define "rock and roll"?

TR: It's not a term, but a period of music, just like 'folk music'. People like to think that any music that has a guitar is rock and roll...that's not so. The Beatles weren't even rock and roll, though some of their earlier tunes were. They were pop. They grew into something more sophisiticated than rock and roll.

Examiner: How did you get into music?

TR: Well, the Beatles redefined music during those times. They showed that if you got four guys together, it was feasible to accomplish something in music. My first band was Woody's Truck Stop, which was kind of bluesy. Nazz was built from the remnants of that group. Its sound was more like The Who, the Beach Boys sound.

Examiner: You had an androgynous look during your early solo career. What was that influenced by?

TR: It was the times. Glam rock, dressing up, was in. Jazz musicians even went from suits to sequined dashikis! Might break out some of the same costumes on this tour, with some alterations...!

Examiner: What is it that you love about music?

TR: That it's essentially mystical. You don't really know how it works, really how you're able to affect people's emotions. It's magic. It's what keeps me interested. The depth, the subtlety. I guess I'm lucky that I was born with a sensibility to not only use the medium for myself, but to also know when it's working. A musician has some obstacles to overcome that are unique to his vocation. I was into record producing early on, so that keeps me going when I'm not singing. Some musicians are forced to do other things besides music if they don't do more than one thing.

Examiner: What do you think of current music?

TR: The most economically stable seems to be hip hop. But that doesn't mean I'll be doing a song with Kanye West anytime soon! Many of the rock bands are leveraging Blink 182, but that's losing energy. A lot of today's music is phenomenal, but doesn't have legs. Music is in natural hibernation. Live performance is the essence of music. If a performer can perform live, he can always make a living. If a performer can make a million in a year in record sales, he can make a million a month performing on the road because the split is completely different between record sales and live performance.

Examiner: What are some of your favorite songs?

TR: Oh, probably most of Burt Bacharachs. (laughs)

Examiner: What are some of your songs that are your favorites?

TR: I don't think about that. I don't like to think of myself defined by a single song, that's too simple. I like to focus on what I haven't done yet.

Examiner: What inspires your music?

TR: Silence inspires my writing. I'm always looking for transcendance in my music. I like to write about things that matter to me and that are revelatory.

Examiner: If you had to pick one word to describe you, what would it be?

TR: Contrarian. (laughs) I'm not that way on purpose. I like to do what only I can do, which is usually what no one else wants to do...!

Examiner: Every venue is different, has different types of audiences. Any you prefer?

TR: There are some I refuse to play.

Examiner: Which ones?

TR: Bogard's in Cincinnati. Didn't like the venue itself. They had shoddy hiring practices, crew would show up high or drunk, then disappear as soon as the show was over. A musician should be able to transform a venue and make it uniquely his own. I had an album called Arena, and during that time, only played one arena, but I still had to create that ambiance wherever I was. Often musicians play gigs they get, not that they want.

Examiner: Anyone you haven't worked with who you'd like to?

TR: Well, I think that creating heroes is dangerous because you're ultimately disappointed. But, if I had to name someone I have reverance for, I'd say, as a songwriter, Elvis Costello, and, as a guitarist, Eric Clapton.

Examiner: Anything happening with

TR: No, not really. I'm not into social networking, though I pioneered its use. I'm not that needy of attention and I don't have an agenda. I don't even own a cellphone!

Examiner: Are you prepping for your upcoming California show?

TR: No. Those seven shows we did recently were prep. I'm currently finishing up an album of Robert Johnson's songs. Delivering them to my label in about a week. Little difficult because everyone's covered him, so I'm trying to make sure my take isn't pedantic. I'm not a blues singer, I've done R&B. There's a difference. Blues is straight ahead. I do tend to move straight ahead, though, in the way that I work, and try not to run into a wall!

Examiner: What's the name of the album?

TR: Todd Rundgren's Johnson.

Todd has four upcoming shows in December. Don't miss a chance to see this proto-glam rock necromancer of ingenius songs do his thing. For more information, go to:

Blog post "here comes the sun"

Aloha from Hawaii: the HCTF Todd Rundgren interview
Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 2:54 PM

Todd Rundgren has been busy performing his classic A Wizard, A True Star album in full. Originally planned as a one-off show in London in February 2010, the production was brought to the States by fans who didn't want to (or couldn't) make the trip to England and demanded (in a polite way) that the show was staged on their side of the big pond. Rundgren played seven shows on a five cities tour in September .

He will be touring the US West Coast again in December before bringing the tour to a close (for now) with shows in London and Amsterdam in February. The performances were received quite well. The staging involves a lot of costume changes - his wardrobe is designed by his wife Michele - and theatrical props to act out the different characters of the album. Video is being used to underpin some aspects of the show most notably using footage of George Bush walking into a locked door.

Todd Rundgren lives on Kauai, Hawaii. HCTF spoke with Mr. Rundgren on the phone.

Performing complete albums has become popular recently. Whose idea was it to perform A Wizard, A True Star in full?
"When I was in England last year for the Arena tour my English promoter asked me to do something special and suggested A Wizard, A True Star. A lot of the younger UK artists had been mentioning the album as a big influence and samples of it turned on their records. So the promoter suggested to to stage a production of the original. When the news broke fans in the States clamored that they wanted to see it too and so those shows happened over there. They did their utmost to promote it and we only had the show basically, taking care of the production and the logistics."

Technology has moved forward big time since the release of the album in 1973. Is this making things easier to replicate the songs on stage?
"Back then we didn't have samples. We cobbled the sounds together in the studio in anyway we could. We recorded the album just before the synthesizer arrived and became affordable. We did a lot of treatments. Nowadays most of those sounds and effects are built into the instruments."
"There is a song on the album - Dogfight Giggle - that is basically noise. No need to play that, so we play the tape and I can cut to a little video presentation. I started experimenting with video in the Seventies, when it was very expensive to use."

You made changes of the running order of the album when you play it in concert. Why is that?
"It was released on vinyl - there were no CD's back then, so I had to deal with the cut between the two sides which had consequences for the running order.I still wanted it to come off as a theatrical show. Is It My Name? is a good rock song, but it's not a sensible song to end the show with before my traditional encore Just One Victory. So I moved When The Shit Hits The Fan/Sunset Blvd and Le Feel Internationale to the end of the set to reprise the album's start."

© Lynn GoldsmithJust like Sgt. Pepper?
"That makes it's more Sgt. Peppery, yes. I have been performing Just One Victory as my encore for years and years. The audience know it's all over after that. No need to ask for more after I have played that (laughs)."

Your former band Utopia was the opening act on some of the USA shows, although it wasn't bille as such. is that going happen again?
"It made sense when three of members of the band were on stage, but we won't be doing it again. Roger Powell is not coming to Europe. He is no longer a professional musician - he is a computer programmer now and he doesn't want to travel. Fortunately we have an excellent replacement. Ralph Schuckett, who played on the original A Wizard, A True Star album, will be joining us."

So what are you going to play besides "Wizard"? You could do the Pink Floyd thing and play two albums. Your latest studio album Arena before intermission and then AWATS.
"That happened on some occasions. It could happen again, but we like keep the element of surpise for the audience. Ten again, we will be performing next week, so the cat will be out of the bag by then."

Arena was performed in sequence. How did that come about?
"That happened because of the time aspects. I turned 60 last year and there was a huge party here on the island that lasted two weeks. We decided to perform and the band learned the songs one by one in sequence. It was pre-produced that way. We had a world premiere of the songs for the guests on my birthday. We took it on the road before the album came out and exposed the audience to one hour of music thee hadn't heard before, which was a bit of challenge for them."

A Wizard, A True Star dates:

12/01 San Francico, CA - Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
12/02 Sacramento, CA - Crest Theatre
12/04 Los Angeles, CA - Orpheum Theatre
12/05 Ventura, CA - Majestic Theatre
02/06 London, UK - HMV Hammersmith Apollo (Press Release)
02/08 Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Paradiso

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Posted on November 24, 2009 - by Abhijeet Ahluwalia
Todd Rundgren “The internet works!! Yes, it’s having an effect!!”
Featured Interview News
There are prog rockers, there are producers. And then there’s Todd Rundgren. In any given year of his 40 year career, few artists would have been as active both in front of the microphone and behind the mixing desk as Runt. I could keeping waxing lyrical all night long and still not cover all he’s done, or the impact he’s had. Little wonder then, that British fans are foaming at the mouth at the prospect of seeing Todd perform A Wizard, A True Star in its entirety.

A theatrical show replete with costume changes and props, the extravaganza was initially conceived on tour in England in support of the 2008 Arena record. “Last year’s English promoter came up with the idea,” Todd explains to me over the phone from Hawaii. “Younger acts and electronic artists had been name checking it in interviews and citing it as an influence, and we thought this was a better vehicle to attract a better audience. Word eventually got back to the US and some fans didn’t want to wait until 2010 to see it live, so they got together and did the promotion themselves! We didn’t go to a promoter, it was someone who runs an online station that only plays my music.”

What started with one show in Ohio quickly ballooned into several as crowds took to the idea in the way only a dedicated fan-base can. It is an overused cliché in the music industry to describe an artist’s fans as ‘the most hardcore’ or ‘rabid’, but Todd Rundgren fans are the rare set to whom such definitions can actually be applied. But, even amongst them, there was some unease over the choice of the record to perform.

To understand the significance of A Wizard, A True Star (AWATS), you have to place it in the context of Rundgren’s previous work, the popular Something/Anything? The album remains his best-selling work and got him one of his biggest hits – Hello, It’s Me, which went to No.5 on the Billboard charts. Which is why fans were forgiven for being completely flummoxed by his follow-up, AWATS. It was a complete change of sound and parked very firmly in progressive rock territory. The recording sounded muddled and cacophonic at first, because there was so much going on. Yet, the faithful persevered – slowly picking it apart, layer by layer, to uncover what was arguably the defining prog rock record of the decade.

“A lot of people gave up after Something/Anything? because AWATS was so different from anything I had been doing up till then, and other records at the time,” reflects Todd, then laughs as he says, “The rest of my fans have been with me the whole time and survived the change, and lots of other bizarre excursions and hip-hop experimentations!!”

In fact, the complexity of AWATS became a bit of a stumbling block for Todd himself: “I went back to deconstruct the original master tapes because people couldn’t figure out what to play! I had to do remixes of just certain parts like guitars or bass so we could accurately reproduce the music part of it.”

Did that also force his hand slightly when choosing which musicians would back him up? “Yes,” is the straightforward reply. “It would be tempting to call up people I know who had no direct connection with the project, but I didn’t know if I was on solid ground myself, so I wanted familiar faces. For e.g. I had to fill in the keyboard slots so I first asked Greg Hawkes if he would join, and he was important because he has a lot of the original keyboards that were on the record. He actually has them and remembers how to play the stuff!!” says Todd, laughing heartily like he often does.

“Then I got Roger Powell because he had played some parts before. Unfortunately he is gainfully employed!!! He has a real job he has to go back to, so I went back further and got in touch with Ralph Schukett, so he’ll be pianist in London and Amsterdam.”

Of course, what makes this tour so special is the fact that there is a theatrical element added to the music, giving fans a visual element to the emotive music. This, in itself, presented some unique problems. Not all venues can accommodate this show, so immediately the touring scope was a limited one. And, as Todd points out, people already have a ‘mental movie’ that goes with the record, so he had to create something that, while fresh and interesting, didn’t completely clash with what fans had visualised. Imagine taking the best book in the world and making it into a movie. Then chuck out the script, and replace readers with ridiculously dedicated fans, and you being to get a glimpse of the effort that went into creating this tour.

“We concentrated on reproducing the fashion sense, based it on weird costumes back in the 70s and then that expanded to 12 costume changes. Which means there are music passages where I’m back stage going through a frantic costume change! We have modern day production gimmicks but …a lot of the essence of the song comes from the costume.”

What makes the European shows a fascinating prospect is what the opening act of this opus will be. In the US there were Utopia songs played, amongst others, but Todd remains tight-lipped on what European audiences will get to see. “There will be an opening act but I’m not going to elaborate,” is all he’s willing to divulge.

He’s a lot more forthcoming when confronted with a trickier subject. Cynics would see this entire idea as a way for an old musician to make a quick buck. Certainly, if this was true, Todd wouldn’t be the first musician to try doing it. Is this whole tour just a ruse then, Mr. Rundgren?

“I’m not making any money!!” Todd manages to splutter out after laughing. “I was lucky to break even at the end of the American leg because we have a larger band, crew and production. We’re coming over to Europe and only doing 2 dates with so many people. There is no big payday, at least not yet. As for my age I don’t feel any shame because I’m in my 60s and still have an audience. People did better than me (in the 70s) yet I’m the one who’s still around. My heroes are BB King and Tony Bennett, people who play till they collapse. That’s what a musician is. I could start lying about my age and getting cosmetic surgery but the whole pop-star thing doesn’t last long.”

In fact, Todd has been able to experience the joy that is reserved for very few musicians – seeing fans grow up and bring their children to his shows, thus exposing a whole new generation to his music. “Most tours have been a cross section of age groups. Part of it is the natural evolution of fans becoming parents and forcing their kids along, and some kids come on their own!”

He even credits some of this to the ubiquity of music on the internet, a topic that can and has generated miles of column inches. For Todd though, it’s quite simple: “The internet works!! Yes, it’s having an effect!! It is the domain of a young audience and they’re using it do discover stuff radio isn’t giving them. I’m meeting fans that have discovered me last year and they’re 25. When fans are young they don’t have compartmentalised attitudes towards music. They’re open to different styles and music. With so much stuff I’ve recorded over the years, they’re bound to find something they like!”

All this talk of new generations of fans and 70s prog rock does beg the question – how long can Todd Rundgren go on touring? It is a lifestyle that can take its toll on the youngest of bodies, let alone one that has been slaving out on the road for 3 decades, winning fans the old fashioned way – through the sheer brilliance of a live performance, night after night. Todd himself is realistic about his physical condition and where that leaves him.

“My back is weak. About 2 years ago, I did a tour of Japan and there you play smaller venues where they charge a lot for tickets; these are really tough gigs. In between 2 shows, I wrenched my back really bad, and had to complete the tour on painkillers. I would do the show but the rest of the day was complete fucking misery. Sometimes, the day began by crawling from my bed to the bathroom. Literally crawling. Then I’d somehow get my shoes on and walk around until everything loosened up for me to move, for the 2 hours I’m on stage.

“At 20 you don’t think about it. As you get older and your performance becomes more refined, your day revolves around those 2 hours on stage and the rest is a regime getting ready for that. That’s how it will be for me, the only question is will I crawl or walk!! It’s more and more a mental game; there’s nothing you can do about the atrophy attacking your body but hey, this is way better than a coal mine.”

All through this conversation the one thing strikes me is how amazingly light hearted Todd manages to be at all times. Even a graphic description of the aforementioned day of ‘complete fucking misery’ is said with a chuckle, and I can just imagine him grinning away as he patiently answers my questions over the phone. And that’s what makes Todd Rundgren such a great musician. There are lots of creative geniuses in the music industry. Many have attempted grandiose live shows, some have even succeeded. But it is rare to find a talented, critically lauded musician, who is also popular with the fans, but still manages to keep his sense of humour through the darkest of times. I didn’t ask him if the title was auto-biographical, but I realise I never needed to. Here’s to Todd Rundgren – A wizard, a true star.

Todd Rundgren performs the British Premiere of “A Wizard, A True Star” at the HMV London Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday 6th February 2010. Box Office: 08700 603 777. Book Online:

Rundgren Radio tonight moogy klingman

Radio show day! Special guest: Moogy Klingman! 8:30 pm Eastern im sure moogy will ahve some great stories an rumors are he has some rare tracks to share from his musical past.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On Line Article SPINNER.COM

Posted on Nov 23rd 2009 12:30PM by Pat Pemberton

Todd Rundgren Performing 'A Wizard, a True Star' Album on TourPosted on Nov 23rd 2009

"Carole King was one of the world's premiere songwriters before I ever stepped in a studio," Rundgren, whose early hits 'Hello It's Me' and 'I Saw the Light' were often compared to King's work, tells Spinner. "It's just that why would you want people to see you in terms of someone else? You don't want people saying, 'Oh, I heard this guy Todd Rundgren.' And then have someone else say, 'Oh, yeah. He's kind of like the male Carole King.'"

So after his 'Something/Anything?' album introduced him to the Top 10 list, he recorded 'A Wizard, a True Star,' an eclectic album that was anything but radio-friendly. When he turned in the stream-of-consciousness record with its extended melodies, varied genres and prog-rock leanings, his label was miffed -- they had planned on something more like, well, Carole King. "They were expecting a different kind of record than I delivered," Rundgren says.

Rundgren will perform the album in its entirety during a four-city California tour that begins Dec. 1 in San Francisco. The live performances will feature plenty of theatrics, with Rundgren wearing numerous costumes, including a full space suit.

"From a performance standpoint, my biggest challenge is the 12 costume changes," says Rundgren, a visually conscious performer whose video for 'Time Heals' was the second to air on MTV. "I don't actually get a breather anywhere in the show."

Rundgren, who performed the album at select venues in September, would like to add more dates but only if it works financially. He admits he's not sure how far he can take a show spotlighting a commercially unsuccessful album.

"The shows we did in September were a great proof of concept in terms of where we could possible go with this," he says. "But it's still not a mainstream thing, if you know what I mean. At this point, it's still something that mostly my own cult appreciates. So it's not like I can take it to the wilds of Arkansas."