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Todd Rundgren's working hard to stay relevant

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015

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Don't ever think of Todd Rundgren as a slacker.

The multi-instrumentalist and recording studio pioneer -- a hitmaker since he was 19 years old with the band the Nazz -- released two albums this year, his own "Global" and "Runnddans," a collaboration with a pair of Norwegian electronic artists. Rundgren has also spent a significant amount of time on the road, both with his own ensembles and as part of Ringo Starr's All-Star Band.

But he takes a light view of how busy he's been.

"It isn't necessarily that I've been prolific recently," Rundgren, 67, says by phone from a tour stop in East Kansas City, Mo.. "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," he adds with a laugh.

Rundgren's hard work has a purpose, however, even beyond the usual creative muse. Both "Global" and its predecessor, 2013's "State," delved into the electronic realm, which Rundgren can take some credit for influencing via musical experiments throughout his career. But for him it's not just that EDM is the future; it may be the only path to ensure that he'll have a future relevance in music.

"The object is really to try and attract a younger audience," Rundgren explains, "because most of my audience is as old as me, sometimes older, and they are literally disappearing. Not to make light of it, but when people get to be our age they become infirm and they don't go out as much and they do literally pass away.

"So if you want to continue to have an audience you're gonna have to circulate more people in, and the people most likely to come in is a younger audience. And the music they listen to is EDM, so that's where I'm trying to find a place for myself."

That's tricky business, Rundgren acknowledges. Though his career has certainly been eclectic its most memorable moments are pop hits such as "Hello, It's Me," "I Saw The Light" and "Can We Still Be Friends," as well as his work with Utopia, which Rundgren considers "a jam band with some singing." EDM, on the other hand, champions beats and grooves and not a great deal of lyricism.

But Rundgren is confident he can use the two forms to complement each other -- and maybe even bridge whatever gap might exist between the two.

"That's my contribution, sure," says Rundgren, who's currently touring with a traditional band and will be on the road with Starr again during 2016 as well as working on new material. "Simply having a 4-by-4 bass drum and a bunch of weird noises over it, there aren't a whole lot of requirements that go along with that and nearly anybody can do it on a laptop though not everybody can do it well.

"It gets a little bit more challenging to put your personal imprint on it, and my imprint is essentially my voice and what I'm doing with it. So there's a lot of ways to kind of own it if you feel like you have to, and the way I own it is essentially applying my sort of traditional songwriting sensibility to that music and finding a way to make it all work together, which is exciting."

Todd Rundgren

Wednesday, Dec. 9. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $20-$60.

Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.

Web Site: www.thefillmoredetroit.com

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