Todd Rundgren: On a ‘Global’ Mission to Save Planet Earth (Interview)

Todd Rundgren: On a ‘Global’ Mission to Save Planet Earth (Interview)


One of the most prolific artists in rock, Todd Rundgren has never been satisfied just crafting hits like Hello, It’s Me, I Saw the Light and Bang the Drum All Day.

A multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer and electronic music pioneer, Rundgren has fronted bands that include the Nazz and Utopia. On April 7th, Rundgren drops his 25th solo studio album: Global.

Rundgren, who plays all the instruments on Global, mines the rhythms of reggae, Philadelphia soul and prog rock to produce an album of memorable tunes with a message.

Tracks like This Island Earth, Holyland and Blind are wakeup calls to those who ignore the dangers of pollution and climate change. Malala Yousafzai, champion of education for Pakistani girls, and civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks are celebrated in Earth Mother.

hires-01Pop diva Miley Cyrus is name-checked on Evrybody while Soothe is a ballad that evokes Steve Perry. But the main theme of Global is that our future on Earth is at risk.

Rundgren told Rock Cellar Magazine that it might take a catastrophe for people to do something about preserving the planet. And by then it will be too late.

Todd Rundgren: It’s when New York City winds up underwater – that’s when people start to pay attention, unfortunately. People don’t tune in until something like that happens. I guess the ludicrous part is that the debate continues, the whole idea that people who brag about not being scientists should be allowed to have an opinion at all. People who say, “Well, I’m not a scientist but this is blah, blah, blah.”

Because the rest of us are trying to deal with it while these guys are just hoping Jesus will come back and shut the whole thing down. Just so you won’t have to take responsibility for it.

Probably the biggest bane to us dealing with these problems is the human potential for inertia. The fact that people just hate changing – which is the essence of conservatism. Conservatism means to resist change, to hold onto the past for as long as possible.

Unfortunately, that past is gone. There is no past to hold onto any longer. At a certain point, even somebody like me, who is somewhat cynical and skeptical, even I will get fed up at some point and have to put my two cents in…and Global is essentially my two cents.

hires-11Rock Cellar Magazine: In Earth Mother you reference women like Rosa Parks and Malala. What inspired you to write about them?

Todd Rundgren: The record is in part about cheerleading, it’s not just about scolding. I don’t think that that would in the end be productive. And I guess the two sides of it are first of all, acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do, and second of all, let’s do the work together and joyfully rather than looking at it as a labor or a chore. It’s an opportunity for us to redress the mistakes of the past and to ideally open up a bunch of new possibilities for the future.

And that considering the stakes, nobody can afford to sit out, that we need everybody to pick up the mantle, pick up the gauntlet and get on with the work. I think that people on one hand may tend to think, if they have an antiquated attitude about women, that they have a certain place and they’re only supposed to do certain things and “us menfolk” will deal with authority issues, which is fallacious to start with.

But also I think sometimes women themselves feel like they may not have the power or the right to take the lead in some of these issues. And I think that that’s a fallacy as well, that it can’t be done without everybody participating.

And so I wanted to just put out a little reminder there that we need all hands on deck.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Speaking of everybody, Everybody sounds like it might be another sports stadium anthem like Bang the Drum.

Todd Rundgren: (Laughs) Yes, that’s it, I’m not making enough money off of Bang the Drum anymore!

That little diddly song, it was a goof that I recorded. I actually dreamed most of the song and then rushed into the studio and recorded what I thought I heard. And it never got released as a single at the time. My relationship with the record label was pretty dismal and they weren’t very aggressive with my releases so nothing happened with it.

And it found its way into the public ear through strange channels like DJs playing it on Friday drive time because it just fit in with everybody’s “It’s the weekend, the hell with it” attitude. But also, I was surprised to learn that it became a scoring celebration song for a number of teams. It first started with arena sports like hockey and basketball. And then it found its way to the Green Bay Packers.

That’s when people started to hear it on television during football games. And then the Rams adopted it as well.

The crowds just started doing it. Why I don’t know. Then organ players started learning it. I think maybe it’s because the basic instrument in there was this cheesy organ. And every ballpark has one.

Rock Cellar Magazine: And your voice, it doesn’t sound like you.

Todd Rundgren: Well, I wasn’t trying to sound like me at that particular point. I was putting my Jamaican on (laughs).

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