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An interview with Todd Rundgren

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Musician Todd Rundgren participates in AOL's BUILD Speaker Series to discuss his new album "Global" at AOL Studios on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, in New York. Musician Todd Rundgren participates in AOL's BUILD Speaker Series to discuss his new album "Global" at AOL Studios on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, in New York. (AP photo/Evan Agostini, Invision)

Long one of rock's most colorful and unpredictable figures, Todd Rundgren has carved a singular and unparalleled career in music.

From his early days with Philadelphia based band The Nazz to a successful solo career as a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter to his work producing artists as diverse as Meatloaf ('Bat Out of Hell'), XTC ('Skylarking'), Grand Funk Railroad ('We're an American Band') and Hall & Oates ('War Babies') and as band-leader in Utopia, Rundgren's lasting contribution to popular culture is unquestioned.

No stranger to working in sundry musical permutations, Rundgren has been known to perform unique arrangements of his best-known material, but he surprised concert-goers last year with a career-spanning show covering the classic hits and deep cuts, all faithfully presented the way fans remember them.

One such show from that tour was filmed and recorded and released last Friday as 'An Evening with Todd Rundgren: Live at the Ridgefield,' captured last December 15 in Ridgefield, CT. The show is available in five formats: CD, vinyl, mp3, DVD and high definition Blu-Ray. Rundgren called on Monday to talk about the new release and his five decades in music.

Rundgren: Sorry we didn't make the Betamax release.

Dow: (laughing) I hear Beta is coming back! On 'An Evening with Todd Rundgren: Live at the Ridgefield,' you cover a lot of ground 25 songs from throughout your career. When you put together a setlist for a show, how do you decide what will make the cut?

Rundgren: This show is doubly unique in that we had a master of list of about 50 songs to draw on through this show because after almost 50 years and over 300 songs, it's always hard to whittle it down to a single set. I sit down about an hour before the show and pull songs out of that master list and build a unique set every night. So this show wouldn't necessarily be the show that came to your town. The reason we do that is because if we played the same thing every night, we would always get tired of it. And also, we have an audience that tends to come to more than one show and this gives them an opportunity to hear more of the material than they would hear in any one particular show.

Dow: You were here in June as a member of Ringo Starr's longest-serving All-Starr Band.' You've also played in other versions of the band. What have you learned from your years with Ringo?

Rundgren: There's not a lot of criteria for getting into the band. You need to have had three hit records at some point in your career. This is possibly the first time that, aside from meeting that criteria, everyone in the band kind of has an equal appreciation for what everybody else does and also has the ability to make a contribution to someone else's music. This turned out to be a lucky grab-bag of players that turned out to be the band that he had always wanted to put together.

Dow: In your role as a producer of other artists, you have a reputation for getting great material from the artist but the road to completion is sometimes a little bumpy. Is that fair to say?

Rundgren: Well, it can go smoothly or it can go bumpily. Sometimes you're working with an artist who is not used to giving up control over what they're doing and you have to deal with that. That can also be productive, I guess. That sort of conflict can actually refine what you're doing and make a better final product. It's a complicated position and isn't the same all the time. Unfortunately, since the record business has changed so much, that part of the business - that Svengali aspect - doesn't exist so much anymore. More often nowadays, you're going to be collaborating with someone and sending things back and forth and at some point you come to consensus about what you've got and at some point you just run out of time (laughs).

Dow: There have been books written about you but none written by you. Do you think you'll sit down at some point and write your autobiography?

Rundgren: As a matter of fact, I'm in the process of wrapping that up right now. I've been, quote 'writing my autobiography' for about 20 years now (laughing) - ever since I made an aging and defunct book deal about it. The process started to feel like homework to me so I was having trouble getting it completed. But at this point - 20 years later - I've accumulated enough pages that I'll be able to complete it at the same time that my next record comes out which will probably be in the spring.

Last modified on Friday, 02 September 2016 19:34

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