Thursday, January 24, 2013

NEW Q&A "Geeking Out with Lindsey Buckingham"

Geeking Out with Lindsey Buckingham 
by Alex Bleeker - Relix

Last month Fleetwood Mac announced a series of arena dates beginning in April. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees will kick off their first tour in three years with a show in Columbus, OH on April 4 before making their way through the United States and Canada, including stops at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The tour coincides with the 35th anniversary of the release of Fleetwood Mac’s classic album Rumors. When the group’s Lindsey Buckingham began doing press in conjunction with these dates, we enlisted Alex Bleeker (Real Estate, Alex Bleeker and the Freaks) to interview Buckingham.

In the winter of 2007 I came home from college wielding a freshly burned copy of Rumors; I was obsessed. Of course I had heard most of the music before, almost every song had been a radio hit. For some reason, however, even the familiar tunes sounded new to me. Fleetwood Mac was suddenly re-contextualized. The production was flawless, the hooks – irresistible, and the lyrics were haunting and universal.

At an obligatory meeting of old High School friends and future band mates in my Mom’s basement, we passed the bong and listened to Fleetwood Mac. My musical selection garnered sceptical reactions at best. “I don’t know dude, some of this stuff is pretty cheesy,” somebody quipped. You see, Fleetwood Mac had never been too popular with the “alternative” crowd. In spite of their overwhelming commercial success the Mac have never been “cool” ….until now.

In the late 70s Fleetwood Mac was a symbol of rock excess; the tyranny against which early punk and new wave fans struggled to rebel. But it’s 2012 now, and the music has broken free from the shackles of social stigma. Fleetwood Mac’s sweet melodic power and influence can not be denied. On the road with Real Estate, I’ve travelled all over the world, and met countless artists and musicians. I can safely say that a Fleetwood Mac influence is a universal given… it’s like saying that you like the Beatles.

Perhaps even more staggering is the re-emergence of Lindsey Buckingham as a solo artist. Buckingham’s own music, while still catchy, has never been afraid to take experimental risks. His body of work is the ever elusive blend of accessible and challenging. In this era of stale rock reunions, Buckingham continues to make work like this. The 21st century has revealed him to be a true legacy artist to be admired.

Speaking with Lindsey was a rare treat. He was well grounded and casual, but carried the confidence of someone who knows that the world has finally caught up with his true brilliance.

Alex Bleeker: This is very surreal for me; I’m a huge fan of yours.

Lindsay Buckingham: [laughs] Well, you know, I’m just a hard working guy. [It’s] not going to get too surreal, [but] I appreciate that.

AB: Well let’s start by talking about your new album_One Man Show_. So I see that it was recorded on one night, at one show, very simply, very raw. Did you record the entire tour with the intention of releasing this record or is this sort of off the cuff—you loved the show and thought you wanted to put it out there?

LB: No. We were two thirds of the way through the tour and I guess it started off because [there are] these guys who come out and they record shows on a nightly basis and somehow get CDs burned in time to put them out there as merchandise [by the end of the show].

AB: Kind of like bootlegs?

LB: [They] sell them just raw, off the console, and make [them in] a night. And I thought, “Well ok, that sounds ok,” but it sounded a little…I don’t know. Like it was missing maybe one control rod.

It sort of sparked the idea of that spirit, which is just to take stuff raw off the board and see if you have anything. But [you have] to look at it afterwards and have some level of appraising it; you know, making sure it’s something you’d want to put out there rather than just have some guys doing. And so we basically did the same thing—that was where the idea came from—we had my guy who was mixing [start] burn[ing] CDs every night, but we also put up a couple of mics in the halls, just to grab the audience…so it didn’t sound too hermetically sealed or too direct, so you could get some combination of what was coming off the PA and what was coming off the console.

That’s all we did. I ended up coming off the road, and I did one last leg, but this was all done during the time I took a break. I sat down, I went down to a studio and started putting on CDs and just started listening to them and [realized that] there really was nothing to be done. I shortened up spaces between breaks but you know beyond that there wasn’t really anything to do because there was nothing to mix, really nothing to do but get the timing between the songs right. That particular night [that we used for One Man Show ] just seemed to have a flow to it. I took it to the guy I use for mastering and gave it to him and said, “When you’re done, send it over to the appropriate party.” And that was it; it was so low-key.

AB: That’s cool, because I’m not sure what kind of a background you have regarding Relix, but it’s deeply rooted in Grateful Dead culture which has this history of live concert recordings. So I think it’s a perfect fit to be talking about this [considering] that audience.

LB: Well that’s great. To some degree I think if this had been me taking my band out with a way more moving part, it would have been a harder thing to contemplate doing to my satisfaction. However, because there was so little going on and the times where there were, [I got] little pieces of help. [For example,] I took a loop pedal but used it not as a loop, [but] just as a couple things that went start to finish as pre-records. I had some sort of arc in the set, but it’s so simple and so hard to screw up in terms of the audio of it. I think that’s what made it possible to do in such a raw form.

AB: It’s interesting that you mention the loop pedal, because I hear a lot in your record—things that possibly sound like they could be loops—like quick sort of guitar arpeggiations that are very repetitive. I was wondering if all of that stuff that you recorded is mostly played live in full takes or do you utilize things like a loop pedal or a sampler or anything of that kind, especially in some of your more recent albums?

LB: It’s all done live, all played live, all done in real time. I don’t really use loop pedals. You know I appreciate people and the way they use them and how they keep building on it, but it doesn’t seem to be something I [have] arrived at yet as an approach for recording live. There’s a little more that needs to go on, on a fanatic level. That’s what I think.

AB: It’s also relatively new technology, at least in the way that would be done so simply, but it is being utilized more and more by full bands these days. Which leads me to my next question: I have my own opinion on this, but have you noticed a younger audience showing up at your shows or showing an appreciation for not only Fleetwood Mac records but your solo work? Have you noticed any increase in that [demographic] in the past couple of years?

LB: Well, you know, I guess you can qualify anything I say by saying, “The longer you’re around, [the] younger people start to look.” But yes, I’d say that it’s probably true. Even if you were to take the solo work out of the equation and just talk about the body of work that Fleetwood Mac has. Sometimes it takes sowing those seeds and letting things take root and seeing what is going to make sense to people down the line. What’s going [on] in an album like Rumours makes sense to any number of generations on a mainstream level, but then you’ve got something like Tusk which is going to make sense to people that have a more indie sensibility. That’s been very gratifying because that’s what that album is all about.

If you now go back to just my shows, yes, I have noticed that. Well, first of all you have to notice who I pull in as a solo artist. I mean I’m playing to a thousand people a night, sometimes a little more and when you are doing this stuff which is way on the left side of your palette—to be more esoteric—by virtue of doing that, [you are] probably losing the lion’s share of the audience. You’re getting a certain faction of people who have a set of ears that are built a certain way [and] that are appreciating what I’m doing for a certain set of reasons perhaps; they’re appreciating why I’ve taken this sort of road that I have taken. In terms of balancing the small machine and the big machine, inherent in that process you certainly do get people who have been around for a while, but you [also] get a whole younger set of people, and I have seen that. So I would say yes, absolutely. There’s a good representation of audience members who seem to get what I do that might not make sense to a broader range of people.

AB: Well I don’t know if [ Relix ] told you anything about me, but I’m not a journalist or writer. I’m 26, I play in a rock band and I can confidently tell you that Fleetwood Mac and of course your solo work has had a tremendous influence and is particularly popular with musicians right now in a more countercultural community.

LB: You know, that’s one of the lessons you start to learn. And again, why being in Fleetwood Mac is so helpful and so meaningful is because I can go out there and undermine the brand, if you will.

AB: So you enjoy doing that!

LB: And I’ve been doing that for years. On the one hand, you’ve got this big thing that’s a selling machine. I mean not necessarily CDs or albums now, but just in terms of commerce, and then there’s this other thing, which has nothing to do with commerce. I sort of infer from the input I get from doing things [as of late] that my street cred has never been higher. The other lesson that you learn is that street cred and marketability don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. And that’s nice to know, because really, at the end of the day, music is for sharing, it’s for passing down, it’s for helping to infuse other people with a sense of religion and a sense of possibility and a sense of spirituality. To know that [I’ve] had some impact on that level, that’s what I’m doing this for.

AB: Well, that’s happening. It’s interesting what you said about music—being shared, passed down and continued along—and this is sort of a two part question: What is your relationship to music on the internet and the idea of file sharing that’s happening? Particularly your relationship to the original cut of Gift of Screws that I know was made widely available through the internet, which was quite different from what I guess they call the bootleg version. I suppose that’s [also] pretty available, but how did you feel when that happened? Did you feel violated at all, like it wasn’t something that was ready to be heard or were you sort of ok with it?

LB: Well some of those things, they got out because at the time I wasn’t necessarily thinking where that material was going and CDs, when you have CDs sitting around, you never know what’s going to happen to them. It is a viral world out there, [and] you just can’t worry about it that much. I don’t know, how do I feel about it? I mean certainly you can say that everyone’s income has been diminished via the value of one’s catalog; how it can be exploited has been diminished. But that’s just one way to look at it.

Another way is as the model of the large company, which used to be our benefactor and our large supporter in the day when it had some level of accountability in the 70s and 80s, when someone like Mo Ostin was running Warner Brothers. He was a man who had economy, he was a record man, he was a man who could make decisions for the good. Yes it was a corporation, yes it was a big company, but it was still—and it still does, to some degree, do the same thing, but you know the model of the large company has now become somehow far more broken, not only by what happened to the internet but by the fact that the umbrella of ownership under which all these companies fall has become so big that autonomy to make creative decisions for the artist has sort of [given way] to the decision making of the boardroom. To balance that out you sort of have a new frontier of musical landscape. It isn’t necessarily a frontier of potential profit in the same way that it used to be.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist out there. I find it hard for someone who got in under the wire and has no complaints about how well the music business has treated me at a financial level; I can only be sort of philosophical towards where it’s going.

AB: Absolutely. I think that’s a great way to look at it. I wanted to ask you some quick questions as a geeky fan, things I always wanted to know.

LB: [laughs] Ok.

AB: What kind of slap back are you using on Law and Order —on the vocals and maybe sometimes on the drums? Was that a tape delay? Was it a space echo?

LB: Law and Order, that was 1981.

AB: I just love the vocal sound on that record, especially with the delay.

LB: I wish I could remember what exactly it was. It’s not like we didn’t have digital outboard gear then, but more than likely it was a tape echo. I’m guessing.

AB: I often listen to that record, and whenever “It was I” comes on somebody invariably asks if it’s Stevie Nicks singing the lead before realizing that it’s your voice sped up. Is that a parody? Is that an intentional dig at all?

LB: No. Sometimes I would slow my voice down to make it come up a little smaller. And the funny thing about Stevie and me, one of the reasons that we blend so well when we sing is that our voices are not dissimilar; I mean she obviously has her own vocabulary of expression that I may not have in terms of her warble and all that stuff. But the timbre of it is very similar; it’s the mask of it, if you will, it’s a little bit nasal. So if you do that to my voice, which I think I did on that particular track, it does begin to take on Stevie-ism. It’s not the first time I would’ve done that.

AB: Do you speed up your guitar playing? That seems like a sort of signature for you but I was never sure if it was actually sped up or if you were able…

LB: Sometimes, sure, why not. I’m not the world’s…I’m not Eddie Van Halen.

AB: So like the solo at the end of “Gypsy,” is that sped up?

LB: Oh “Gypsy”? No, not “Gypsy.”

AB: No? That’s live?

LB: Oh yeah.

AB: This one’s tangential—if you had to give up for the rest of your life oral sex or cheese, which would you choose?

LB: Cheese.

AB: Did you ever—this is very random, very out of left field—have any meaningful interaction with Michael Jackson? Maybe around “Heal the World” or something?

LB: No, I didn’t. You know, the only thing I remember from that is [that] we were at A&M and I went into the bathroom at the studios…and he was in there, in the bathroom. He was in front of the mirror just sort of primping, I guess because they filmed that and whatever. And it just struck me how wound up he seemed to be. He heard the door open and someone walk in—and it wasn’t like people weren’t going in and out of there, but he just was in there by himself—and I just walked in to use the stall or the urinal or whatever, and he was just like “Uh!” and looked over at me; it was like deer in the headlights. I [thought] “Wow,” this guy is not that comfortable with himself. That was the sense I got.

AB: That’s interesting. Well, I guess we have to go, but thanks so much for talking to me.

LB: My pleasure! I appreciate your comments.

AB: Yeah, of course man. Seriously, keep it up. It’s rare for me to continue to like the work of people who are sort of legacy acts, like you are. So it’s high praise.

LB: Well, a lot of times it’s either that you paint yourself into a corner and then forget why you’re doing it, or you just don’t care anymore. Those are the two traps, and if you can avoid those, [then] there’s no reason you can’t keep reinventing yourself as long as you want. That’s the way I look at it.

Original Q&A taken from Relix Magazine

Cheese or Oral Sex?  Wow!... Now there's a question!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. How did I miss this interview until now?! NicksLive ROCKS.

Post a Comment