When you release 21 full length albums from your own projects and over 40 albums as a producer for other acts, I think it's safe to say that being labeled under legendary status is a given. Working in the studio with acts such as The Band, Badfinger, New York Dolls, Grand Funk, Hall & Oates, Meat Loaf, The Tubes, Rick Derringer, The Psychedelic Furs, Cheap Trick, Paul Shaffer and Bad Religion, to name a few. Todd Rundgren has been involved in the making of countless hits as well as a few of his own. One of those being, “Bang the Drum All Day,” which is still played in just about every major arena in existence.
I have to admit that I am a little star struck at the moment. It's not every day you have the opportunity to interview a legend like Pennsylvania born, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer Todd Rundgren. As you can imagine it is a little nerve racking, but today is the day I sit down with him to converse about life, past, present and future. Ok, I can do this, just breathe deep.
I look back on my 48 years of existence and I have to say that my life has been pretty good. While I feel that it's longevity has lasted for about forever and a day there has been a few things that I could always count on to be there, family, love, heartbreak, excitement, pain and Mr. Rundgren’s historic career. Spanning 50 years and still going what possibly can keep ones self still pushing forward in the same line of work. Todd says, “I just refuse to except that time has any bearing at all. In my own head, I'm still in some other more ideal age frame. Not adolescent because there are happier times for me, so I'm mentally still in my mid-30’s.”
Looking forward in a career, you have a tendency to put a time stamp on the future. Rundgren tells me that even though every once in a while he gets a reminder of how old he actually is, he hasn't really thought about putting an end to it. “I have made a resolution at one point that I wasn't going to waste my time,” he says. “If I'm going to make records, I'm going to continue learning in the process. A lot of people don't have a career like mine mostly because they haven't had the combination of things I have been blessed with. Early on, I thought I was going to be a producer and engineer. I had a band but I really didn't like that dynamic. Not being in control as an artist, but as a producer you have that control. I feel that in some cases, I have had a more successful career as a record producer, because I haven't had a record like “Bat Out of Hell” or “Were An American Band,” which were very successful. Although that freed me up to follow my own muse. I wasn't dependent on my musical career to provide for my livelihood.”
The word success can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people so I like to have an artist define it on a personal level. Todd tells me, “Success means to be able to continue in what I do and not give it up for something else. I'm still able to make a living as a musician even though being a producer has gone by the way side along with some of the other traditional things in music.”
There are things in your life that you truly enjoy, favorites. With everything he has been involved with throughout his storied career, I decide to put him on the spot. There has to be a favorite project of his own. “Ringo’s All-Stars,” he says. “We are going into the fourth year now. That continues to be a lot of fun. With that I get to perform in front of crowds that are much larger than what I would get to perform in front of on my own. There is a production level that I wouldn't be able to afford. That includes how we travel. I get to live a life that I wouldn't be able to afford if I had to pay for it. So there are many things within that project that stand out making it my favorite.”
As the topic changes to influences he tells me how keeping himself open to as many musical influences as possible has worked for him. I turn it around and ask how it feels to be so influential himself. His answer starts with a long pause, “To be honest, I'm never aware of that unless somebody points it out. I know of certain artists that who have gone through some trouble to point it out. I have worked with some artists that because of my influence have wanted me to work with them. Beyond that I'm completely unaware of my influence on artists as a musician, but when it is brought up it is quite humbling to me.”
With a non-stop schedule like his, just completing a tour with Ringo and going on the road for his solo tour, I'm interested on what is coming up for him. “I'm really excited to start working once again on a side project with The Roots,” he says. “There isn't really a schedule set up at this time. They are writing all the time and have a studio inside their rehearsal facility, inside NBC. They are recording tracks, but not always do they complete and turn them in. They will send me their recorded music and I will write a song over it, sing it and send it back to them. So we have four or five of those done and when it turns into a dozen, perhaps it will turn into a record.”
With writing over so many years for both himself and other artists and countless songs in the catalog coming up with new and fresh ideas has to prove difficult but yet he continues to do it. Writing and inspiration go hand and hand. “Good question,” Rundgren says. “Funny, I get inspiration from all over, but lately I'm finding it has been coming from the music on television. What's playing in commercials and things like that. There are some pretty aggressive compositions out there grabbing your attention. Every once in a while I will ask my kids what they are listening to and that will start me off on a YouTube adventure that leads into some pretty inspiring stuff on the sidebar.”
While we could go on forever and after the nerves had subsided so many questions kept popping into my head unfortunately time is short and we had to close this conversation up. What an honor this has been. To take Todd Rundgren off my bucket list is nothing short of amazing. Be sure to see Todd Rundgren at the Mahaffey Theater on February 14th when Todd takes the stage.