It’s prolific year for Todd Rundgren?.
Already part of Ringo Starr‘s latest All-Starr Band, with playing and writing credits on the new Postcards From Paradise album, Rundgren will be releasing his 25th solo studio album, ?Global, on Apirl 7th (and will be touring to support it). And the musician has teamed with Norwegian electronic musicians Emil Nikolaisen and Hans-Peter Lindstrom for “Runnddans,” a 39-minute song suite inspired by Rundgren’s 1973 album A Wizard A True Star.
Clearly age (he’s 66) is not slowing the rock veteran down at all. “It isn’t necessarily that I’ve been prolific recently,” Rundgren tells Billboard. “It’s just all of these things that I’ve been working on for the past couple of years are kind of coming out at the same time, so it seems like I’ve been working my ass off — so let’s pretend I have.”
Billboard has the exclusive premiere of “Rise,” from Global. Listen to it below.
Rundgren says he “hadn’t really been pondering making a record” of his own and was instead focusing on the “Runnddans” project before the Global idea popped up. “I was tinkering around with that when I came up with a song, and (‘Runnddans’) wasn’t really songs, anyway,” Rundgren recalls. “And I thought, ‘I’m just gonna detach myself for a second and write something, and that was the song ‘Global Nation.’ ” An offer from Cherry Red Records to make an album came along shortly after that, and Rundgren notes that “the record business being what it is nowadays, if somebody offers to pay you to make a record then you take the opportunity.”
“Global Nation” gave him a jumping-off point for the rest of the album, which Rundgren calls “a kind of a planetary consciousness record. Most of my albums have been insular and about self-examination, and this is a little more about the collective and the issues that face everybody. I wanted to make a record that was sort of simultaneously like a cheerleading record but at the same time not letting anyone forget that we have issues that can only be addressed collectively.”
There’s a positivism that flows throughout Global in tracks such as “Rise,” but Rundgren confesses that he had “an existential crisis in the middle of the record because of ISIS and police shooting innocent people and all the other stuff that makes you want to get really cynical. So I essentially just stopped watching the news after awhile so I could finish the record.”
Rundgren — who last fall released a Todd Rundgren at the BBC box set — will be touring extensively to support Global, staring April 2 in Denver with dates booked into mid-June; he’ll be accompanied by a DJ and two singer-dancers “to humanize the whole thing, but I’ll be taking care of most of the music myself.” Come October, meanwhile, he’ll be back on the road with the All-Starr Band, his second tenure with Ringo and this time part of a lineup the ex-Beatle has called his favorite one yet. “This is the first time he’s gotten musicians that get along with each other and have mutual respect for each other and at the same time have a degree of musical expertise where we can all make significant contributions to each other’s material,” Rundgren says. “I know that he hasn’t always been able to line it up like that before.”
The alignment also allowed the All-Starrs to become a vital part of Starr’s just-released new album. “That was all kind of an afterthought, actually,” Rundgren says. “We were at the end of a tour last November and Ringo was wrapping up the album. In one instance we had this little song we were jamming on during sound check and Ringo said, ‘Let’s write something for it and finish it and then I’ll record it and put it on my record,’ and that was ‘Island in the Sun.’ And another time Ringo came into the dressing room one day and sat next to me and said, ‘You fancy writing a song wtih me?’ And I said, ‘Well, sure. How much time have we got?’ He said ‘A couple days.’ (Laughs) He had a demo track and an idea of what the song should be about and I had a couple days off right after the tour, and I put together a demo and sent it to him and he finished it off in L.A. and now it’s on the record.”