Since the 1960s, Todd Rundgren has been a singer, songwriter, producer and instrumentalist. He also pioneered the use of the computer in music, and created multi-media effects on stage. Todd Rundgren's new album Liars, examines the subtle and blatant lies that are woven into our lives.
Always on the cutting edge of technology, Todd Rundgren was one of the first to write and produce his albums while singing and playing all the instruments himself. For decades, he has been in demand as a producer for other artists as well as a guitarist and keyboard player.
After playing with the Philadelphia group Nazz in the late-1960s and early-'70s, Todd became a successful solo artist, scoring hits such as I Saw the Light and Hello It's Me. He's also known for his innovative use of technology in music, and was one of the first to use samples and sequencers. Todd also pioneered the world's first commercial music video and first interactive audio CDs.
Todd explains his philosophy in employing technology. "I get fairly aggressive in learning what the possibilities are. And, in that sense, I may do more than what is necessary to incorporate something new like a sampler or a sequencer or some other new type of technology. I see this as being a pattern that's been repeated all through my career, and is likely to still be repeated. There will be new technologies that I won't necessarily embrace right away, just because I don't know how they relate to what I'm doing. But if I can find a reason, then I'll usually get nutty with it sometimes. I'll use the technology often in ways that it perhaps wasn't intended to be used in the first place," he says.
On his latest album Liars, his first CD of all-new material in more than 10 years, Todd Rundgren created songs that reflect how much dishonesty we accept in our daily lives. He explores the lies that are told by politicians and preachers, as well as the dishonesty in some human relationships.
"People proclaim to be honest but they're not curious. It's so easy to believe something that isn't true unless you're simultaneously curious. So if you do want to be honest, the truth must be pursued. It is not going to come looking for you. And that's the biggest human flaw that makes a casualty of the truth, is likely laziness, is likely that people just are too lazy to find out what the truth is, or they'd much prefer the untruth that they currently believe," he says.
In 1998, Todd Launched his PatroNet technology, the Internet's first direct artist subscription service, conceived with his own fans in mind. An outspoken critic of the corporate attitude of the music industry, Todd hopes his concept will be a model that can be embraced by artists and consumers.
"There is the technology available, not only the technology but the economic models available to make music healthier and to more greatly satisfy both artists and audiences. What they should be doing now is aggregating all their catalogs in a way that they can be offered in subscription services, the same way that all these channels of video is aggregated into your cable service. You buy cable service from one entity, and music should be the same way," he says.
Todd Rundgren's current tour features a revolutionary LED [light-emitting diode] lighting system and an amplifier-free sound system that uses digital technology to simulate the sounds of traditional amps. The guitars, bass and keyboards are plugged into laptop computers and run directly into the sound system of each venue.
"We definitely want to put on a show for people. The first thing, of course, is to have the right selection of songs and to be able to play them. But once you do that, you want to make it interesting for yourself as well as for the audience, interesting and challenging for yourself. And so adopting these new technologies and dealing with the challenges of incorporating them are actually a way to keep us more interested and engaged in what we're doing," he says.