Even if you've never owned a Todd Rundgren record, you probably know his hits, including the bizarre anti-work anthem "Bang on the Drum All Day." A songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and fearless experimenter, Rundgren has also produced records for everyone from The Band to Bad Religion. He released his 24th studio album, the electro-world-fusion-y Global, earlier this year, and plays a sold-out show at Stage AE on Saturday. He caught up with City Paper before embarking on his next tour.
Global has some really cynical moments and some sincere-seeming moments. Where are you coming from here?
I was trying to be something of a cheerleader, I guess, particularly for the planet and for the people who care about the planet. [I've never] done a specifically ecological record before, and I just felt like it was time to do one. To try and get people to feel like they can work together on problems and get them solved, somehow.
- Venting for change: Todd Rundgren
"Blind" has some scathing words for climate-change deniers. Are you venting or trying to change people's minds?
I don't know whether it's possible to change people's minds. It's probably venting. When you ask [someone] a direct question like, "Do you think humans are having an effect on the climate?" And the first thing they say is, "Well, I'm not a scientist." If that's your answer, then you just shouldn't have an opinion at all — just shut up from there on. It's like, you're making yourself seem more credible because you know less. I don't understand why other people don't get as angry as I do about it.
You've always been prolific ... have your creative juices slowed over time?
Not really. I don't make as many records as I used to, but I've found that lately there isn't any sort of bottom or limit to my ability to come up with new material. I've been working on a project with The Roots where they send me tracks that they've recorded, and I write and sing songs over top of that, and that's going pretty effortlessly as well. I figure that as long as I have a clear head about what I want to write about, the material will come to me and it won't be subconsciously a copy of something I've already done. Even though I realize that's always possible.
Have you ever had the fear of alienating your fans by getting too weird?
Because I was a record producer, I never had to worry about the economics of my own music. I never had to fret that an album wouldn't sell enough, and I'd be out of the business. It was never me consciously trying to tweak the audience — [I was just] taking full advantage of the freedom I had created for myself. That kind of attitude just never went away. [Laughs] I still try to think of my music-making as separate [from] where, more or less, the industry is at. The only purpose it serves is to satisfy my musical curiosity, and [hopefully] my fans enjoy watching that process.