Friday, February 5, 2010

interview: The >Todd Rundgren: A Wizard, A True Star Preview

Todd Rundgren: A Wizard, A True Star Preview

The Quietus , February 5th, 2010 11:11
Dino Gollnick catches up with Todd Rundgren to talk about the UK premiere of his A Wizard, A True Star show

Tomorrow’s a very special day indeed – Todd Rundgren, one of the world’s finest and most underrated musicians, will premiere his seminal masterpiece A Wizard, A True Star to a UK audience in its entirety. The album that arguably forever destroyed Rundgren’s chances of mainstream success was light years ahead of the record buying public’s tastes in 1973 and initially sold poorly. Fast forward 37 years and Wizard’s intensely amusing and sometimes confusing mixture of totally out there tunes sits easily next to all time classics like Pet Sounds and The White Album, and continues to inspire legions of contemporaries from Hot Chip via Daft Punk to Simian Mobile Disco.

Prior to his London engagement, Rundgren’s been kind enough to answer some pressing questions...

What can we expect from the British premier of A Wizard, A True Star at the Hammersmith Apollo tomorrow?

Todd Rundgren: Well, actually the Hammersmith gig was supposed to be the world premiere as opposed to the British premiere. We’ve done the show, which is a theatricalisation rather than a note-perfect performance of the show, 11 times already in various cities in the US which works out to British fans’ benefit because we’re pretty confident in our ability to put it on now.

So did things go wrong initially?

TR: Oh, of course [laughs]! During our first seven shows there wasn’t a single night that went without any kinks - I remember the first night we got a little over-excited and swapped a couple of costume changes and I’m standing on the side of the stage ready to go on and suddenly realise I’m wearing the wrong thing. Fortunately the band is professional enough to vamp for the next two minutes so I can change into the costume I’m supposed to wear.

How did your US audiences generally react to the show?

TR: For me it’s a little hard to describe. I know that they’re paying attention to the music but there’s this other thing happening – many of them haven’t seen each other in decades and so it’s more than just a concert presentation, it takes on a quality of a reunion in a way.

Who’s in the band right now?

TR: We were fortunate enough to get Ralph Schuckett on keyboards; he played on the original album. We also have an incredible line-up of musicians on all of the other positions. The second keyboard player is Greg Hawkes, who of course was in The Cars. The reason why he fits in so well is that he actually owns a lot of the instruments that we used on the record, rare old synthesizers and things that would’ve been difficult to track down. But he just happens to have them and knows how to play them so he’s covered a lot of the textural stuff.

And then I’ve got my rhythm section, Prairie Prince on drums who originally played with The Tubes and nearly everyone else, and Kasim Sulton from Utopia. Jessie Gress is on guitar; he’s someone I’ve played with for probably 25 years now. And then we have our jack-of-all-trades, Bobby Strickland, who’s played with me during my big band revue era. He plays all the wind instruments and additional keyboards and sings and riles up the audience. He’s an incredible asset because I’m only on stage for half the show; for the other half I’m off-stage changing into another costume for the next song.

Who’s opening the show for you?

TR: The opening act will be me in some configuration or another. I’m my own opening act [laughs].

Why should anyone that doesn’t yet have a ticket for tomorrow's show rush out and get one?

TR: It’s probably too damn late now [laughs]. If you rush out tomorrow there won’t be a ticket. But maybe if you rush out in the next five minutes there will be a few left. Otherwise you’ll have to prepare for the next time we might possibly bring the show around.

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