Talking about his new
album and the mystery surrounding Fleetwood Mac’s landmark Rumours.
By RANDY HARWARD
When BLURT (as Harp magazine)
caught up with Lindsey Buckingham at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival in Park
City, Utah, he was promoting his first solo album in 14 years: the acoustic Under the Skin. We asked him if he’d
make us wait as long for another platter, and he hinted it was already
happenin’. Eighteen months later, he’s unveiled Gift of Screws (Warner Bros.), an electric album ablaze with
elegantly, insanely arresting songs as good as those he wrought in and out of Fleetwood
Mac. BLURT got him on the phone to talk a couple of weeks before Gift arrived.
BLURT: Thanks for not
makin’ us wait.
Well, yeah. It was because I told the band not to come
knocking for a while. And it worked like a charm!
BLURT: Your songs have
a grace and madness to them. Like on Gift
of Screws, “Wait for You” has that fun, bouncy pop sound like “Holiday
Road” or “Go Your Own Way” but it also has this down and dirty vibe. “Great Day” is like that too, with a fun,
positive lyric, but eerie, intense guitar.
That sounds like a capsule report of the entire album…
BLURT: To what would
you attribute that? Your experimentalist nature? How do the two things complement
I don’t know if I think about it quite that specifically.
It’s probably hard to be that objective about what you do. But to take it in a
more general way, my whole life I’ve been rooted in the pop song; the reason I
started playing was because my brother started bringing home Elvis 45s. And so
everything from the very beginning was rooted in listening to three-minute
songs, or 2-1/2 minute songs and teaching myself how to play them with a chord
book. The way I’ve always played guitar has always been to some degree in
service of some kind of overview of what the song needs, not necessarily what
the guitar part needs, per se. So you start with that, and that probably gives
you that more stable side of what you’re talking about.
I found myself in a band in which the commercial success that we had presented
freedom but it also presented limitations in terms of what was expected of us.
So you see the double-edged sword: You have autonomy, the freedom and maybe the
credibility to choose. But you also have to have the perspective to use all of
that. And so, to work outside… a commercial formula has always been the
liberating force for change and growth over a period of years, as opposed to
repeating formulas for strictly commercial reasons.
So I think
you do get those two things that have sort of become more and more refined as
one over time. You can find more disparate elements of that, if you look at
say, Rumours and then you look at Tusk… You’re almost looking at the two
things as separate entities. The task, or the drill, to some degree, has been
to try to make all of that more [cohesive].
BLURT: And yet the
song “Gift of Screws”-is inspired by Emily Dickinson, but sounds like garage rock.
Yeah. I’m not a scholar of Dickinson, but I was leafing
through a paperback book of her poetry one day-because we’re always looking for
things that are public domain to rip-and I came across that. That’s an
interesting, sort of completely eloquent, rather obscure, presentation combined
with a kind of animal instinct.
BLURT: The fluttering,
cascading guitar parts-like on “Time Precious Time”-are ear candy. How did you
happen upon the technique?
I did something like that on the last solo album [“Not Too
Late”]. It’s not that hard to do. It might be something that I hadn’t come
across as an application until that particular song. I mean, the last album, Under the Skin, was really all about fingerstyle guitar; it was as
much about what I didn’t do as what I did do. There was no lead, there was no
bass or drums. It was about taking only the fingerstyle and applying production
techniques. In the course of making that album, I was looking for as many
variations of fingerstyle as I could. And that’s probably why I came across
that kind of arpeggio roll, and tried to find a way to use it.
As far as
how I came across the idea for “Time Precious Time,” I was actually watching a
Terrence Mallick film, The New World,
and he was using what I think is a Wagner piece, but very atypical for what I
think of as Wagner. This orchestral piece, kind of swirling up, and up, and up,
and then back down, and getting louder. Incredible piece. And I thought how
cool would it be to articulate something like that in a song. So I got to that
arpeggio picking, and I had to find a tuning that would sort of approximate
what I wanted to play. The picking structure was first, and then the singing
over it, and then the melody and the picking for the verse.
BLURT: What keeps you
from showing off your guitar playing on an instrumental album?
It goes back to what I was saying: I am a fan of the pop
song, or how it gets restated in a more hard way, but [still is] a concise,
two-, three-, four-minute song for the most part. It’s the form that I’ve
always loved and that I find the most intriguing and I try to pursue. There are
a lot of guitarists out there who play for the sake of their playing, in a way.
And whatever I’ve done, whether it’s been solo work, certainly in Fleetwood
Mac, you always try to find stuff that is going to make the song a better… And
in doing that, quite often you’re coming up with things that aren’t that
noticeable. People don’t always appreciate what you’re doing because what
you’re doing sinks into the fabric of something. You have to listen with a
certain kind of ear in order to become that aware of it. And I’m a fan of that,
too. It’s really all in service of the song. And I think there has been a
tendency to sort of not pick up on what I’m doing sometimes because of that.
But that’s cool; that’s the trade-off.
[Go HERE for part 2 of
our Buckingham interview, in which he dishes on the Mac and of course the album Rumours.]
[Photo Credit: Kristen Buckingham]