Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Adding Neil Finn to Fleetwood Mac has been a huge and lovely success

DON’T STOP
The New Zealand Herald
Sept 12, 2019

 From the September 12, 2019 edition of Time Out
New Zealand Herald

Mick Fleetwood talks to Karl Puschmann about the new-look band and touring with Neil Finn Downunder

Adding Neil Finn to Fleetwood Mac has been a huge and lovely success, Mick Fleetwood tells Karl Puschmann.

IF, AT times, it’s been a particular torture being in Fleetwood Mac, is it then safe to assume that joining Fleetwood Mac is also painful and fraught?

“Oh yeah,” Mick Fleetwood says. “We hung him up by his toenails.”

We’re talking, of course, about Neil Finn, the newest recruit to one of pop music’s greatest and most enduring bands, Fleetwood Mac. Finn was brought in, along with Mike Campbell, former guitarist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, to join the Mac last year as replacements for long-term member Lindsey Buckingham, who left under fairly acrimonious conditions.

Today, however, Fleetwood’s in a chipper mood. He’s full of beans and excitement for tonight’s show in Sydney.

“It’s a show day,” he says, when I ask how he’s going, “It’s a circus.”

And, just like a circus, the show must go on. That means there’s not much time for talking, so I cut to the chase. The big question everyone in New Zealand wants to know is how Neil Finn came to join Fleetwood Mac.

It turns out Fleetwood’s been a Finn fan for more than 20 years.

“I’d always been a huge fan of his, unbeknown to him,” he says.

“Not only the artiste in him, but the songwriter and the singer in him is — for me and many other people, and especially for you folks there in New Zealand — something very special. But I always followed him as an artist and loved his songs.”

The fan eventually met his hero after they both played a benefit gig for Paul McCartney’s wife Linda, who had recently died.

“I met him at an after-party and we spent the whole night chit-chatting,” he says.

“I actually said, way back then, ‘One day, it’d be great to be in a band together’.”

Prophetic, perhaps, but not immediately meant to be.

“That was that; we went off into the night and never saw each other for another 18 years until I bumped into him backstage at an awards show in Auckland,” Fleetwood says, referencing the 2015 New Zealand Music Awards that he attended as a surprise guest. “Ever since then we’ve remained very close family friends.”

Soon after, Fleetwood returned and spent about six months in the studio with Finn and his son Liam, drumming on their excellent joint album, Lightsleeper, which was released last year.

“That was really where the magic of putting together this funny puzzle of us becoming very, very close friends happened,” Fleetwood says.

“So, when this all came up with Fleetwood Mac it felt eventual. I asked him whether he would be up for doing what he’s doing and it’s been a huge success.”

“So,” he says, capping off his story, “that’s how it happened”.

The other question fans want to know is why it happened? Buckingham’s sudden departure, both shocking but, perhaps, not unexpected.

In the 52 years Fleetwood Mac has existed (the band formed in 1967), roughly a dozen musicians have cycled through the band — a tally that does not count its six current members, which include Christine McVie on vocals and keys and iconic singer Stevie Nicks.

The only constant in all this time has been Fleetwood and his old mate John McVie on bass.

Which is only fitting, seeing as the band is named after them, although Fleetwood clarifies that it was long-departed founding member Peter Green who came up with the name, “somewhat ironically”.

So, when asked what’s kept them going through all the band’s tumultuous periods — in-band romances, marriages, adultery, divorces, backstabbing, bickering and monumental cocaine use — Fleetwood simply says, “It’s probably stubbornness or the English grit in me where, no matter what, you keep going with a stiff upper lip.

“Me and John McVie just aren’t giver-upperers. We always had the nucleus of a band. We don’t sing. We are the rhythm section.

“When Peter Green left it was a huge blow to us but it was a lesson learned — that you can survive and come out when you think you can’t,” he says. “Having done that once in such a major way it became sort of a habit . . . We just keep going. And we haven’t done that badly if you look at what we’ve been able to pull off.” He laughs and says, “I’m being a little facetious,” which is true, when you consider what they’ve “been able to pull off”, is selling more than 120 million records, releasing a string of hits that are woven into people’s lives and being part of a band whose current live show, even with four members in their 70s, remains vital and unmissable. “The truth is it’s sticking at it and going, ‘Why wouldn’t we try that?’ The trying became the next step. It could have been we tried and we failed,” he says, before giving an example.

“Look at what we’ve done with Neil and Mike. We could have looked at what was a huge change at a very late date in this band’s history, the parting of company with Lindsey Buckingham, that could have been, ‘We’re done’. But we all looked at it and said, ‘We don’t want to be done’. The question was how do we do this with integrity?

“And it’s not been anything but a huge and lovely success. But we might have failed in the trying. We might not have been able to find those right people to put in the band, and you wouldn’t be talking to a present member of Fleetwood Mac.”

So, there you have it, the secret to Fleetwood Mac’s half-century of success; don’t stop thinking about tomorrow and go your own way. There’s probably a song or two in that . . .



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