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Guitar World (09/1992), The Cradle Will Rock < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

Guitar World (09/1992), The Cradle Will Rock

Guitar World, September 1992

The Cradle Will Rock

Ex-Fleetwood Mac fingerpicker Lindsey Buckingham goes his own quirky way with a richly textured, avant-pop masterpiece.

by Isaiah Trost with Brad Tolinski

To anyone at all tuned into music during the second half of the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the sound of Lindsey Buckinghamís vocals and lead and rhythm guitar was inescapable. As the musical visionary behind Fleetwood Macís rise to superstardom, he mined an impressive amount of platinum and gold while grafting his unique version of California folk-rock onto the rhythm section of what had been a British blues group.

In 1987 Buckingham, whoíd already released two albums on his own, followed the advice of his own best-known lyric, "Go Your Own Way," and officially split from Fleetwood Mac to face an uncertain musical future. Heís been silent for the past five years, but thatís been remedied with the release of a new solo album, Out of the Cradle (Warner Bros), a concentrated exhibition of expansive guitar skill and studio experimentation.

When Buckingham sets out to record a solo album, he takes it quite literally, playing almost all the instruments himself. Still, the focus is definitely on the guitar, with some surprisingly effective classical-style interludes. No surprise at all is the rich, multi-layered sonic quality of the album, which Lindsey co-produced with Richard Dashut, a veteran of the old Fleetwood Mac days. Acoustic overdubs abound, but the guitarist turns up the electricity for quite few grinding solos, as well.

Out of the Cradle is Buckinghamís statement of artistic and emotional independence from his former Mac cohorts. The opening cut, "Donít Look Down," is about a free-spirited bird flying after "the sound" that will take it home. Solitude, abandonment, madness and self-fulfillment are the albumís major lyrical themes. The musical weave is diverse, with folk, classical and Tin Pan Alley threads alternating with naked rock aggression. To his credit, Buckingham is an adult music creator who refuses to settle for "adult contemporary" complacency.

The fine print of the accompanying CD booklet indicates that the title of Buckinghamís new album refers to a 19th Century poem by Walt Whitman called "Out Of The Cradle, Endlessly Rocking." Buckingham wouldíve done just as well using the second part of that title.

GW: How would you characterize your playing approach?

LB: Well, Iím not a technical guy.

GW: I was thinking more about your picking. How did your finger-style evolve? It almost looks like youíre frailing, like a banjo player.

LB: I donít read music and Iíve never had a lesson, but how I learned to play is probably a fairly common story. When I was seven, my older brother brought home Elvis records, which I began to play along with. Scotty Moore [Elvisí original lead guitarist] was probably the first to influence my playing. Eventually, I moved on to a folk style based on the Travis pick. Instead of using two fingers, though, I somehow added a third finger, probably because I didnít know what I was doing. Thatís really the basis of it.

Later, learning how to play lead wasnít really any problem because I had been playing since I was seven. By the time I was 17 and encountering the music of the Sixties, I already had a certain facility which allowed me to play single-note runs.

GW: Who else would you count among your influences?

LB: Besides Scotty Moore and Merle Travis, anyone who was playing pop and folk in the Sixties. I guess you could add classical guys like Segovia and Laurindo Almeida. I was also influence by several blues-oriented players Ė but not many from the traditional school. If you look at Eric Claptonís playing, he tends to stick to a correct blues style. I was more interested in guitarists like Peter Green and David Gilmour, who took traditional blues and made it more ethereal or darker.

GW: In the course of your styleís evolution, did you just naturally use your fingers or did you ever use a pick?

LB: For some reason I just never used a pick. At the same time itís not that surprising; I was originally interested in folk music, where a lot of people play finger-style guitar. When I started playing lead, it never occurred to me to use a pick. When I first joined Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood tried to get me to use one, but I told him it was too late.

My listening experience is not that broad. Thereís a small spectrum of things that I understand and enjoy, but beyond that . . . . Maybe in some sense, this has worked to my benefit. My lack of schooling has probably made me sound somewhat original. The style of my guitar playing wasnít interfaced with any other musician until I was about 20 years old. For years I was just this kid listening to records, doing my own thing.

GW: At the outset of this interview, you said you were not "technical," yet you do have a reputation for being a studio whiz kid.

LB: It has nothing to do with knowing anything technical. I travel on my gut instincts. Iím usually able to hear in my mind what I want to get. My theory of recording is to turn the knobs until it sounds good. Iím a primitive in that sense.

GW: The album has a very three-dimensional sound, which you appear to accomplish by contrasting natural sounds with gated reverbs and compression.

LB: In general, I didnít really use any gated sounds or effects. What youíre hearing is either just the density of the track, or the way Iíve orchestrated the guitars. Iíll double or triple certain passages, which squashes the sound, or play dynamically so that the volume swells naturally.

We recorded everything in mono Ė no stereo spreads at all Ė and we recorded all the guitars directly into the board.

GW: You play an unusual electric guitar. Can you tell me about its history?

LB: Rick Turner, the guy who built it, used to work for Alembic, which made many sort of artsy/craftsy-hi-tech guitars. He kept bringing me Alembics what sounded kind of sterile to me Ė they were soulless. So I said, "Rick, if you want me to use one of your instruments, why donít you make me something that is a cross between an Alembic and a Les Paul?" And thatís what he did. My Turner guitar is basically a Les Paul with a parametric EQ. Itís very, very even. And itís much more effective for finger-picking than Les Pauls.

GW: Youíve used the nylon-string guitar on earlier records, but on the new album it seems almost like you made a conscious decision to make it the main instrument. Was that to open up the sound?

LB: The way some of these songs are structured, theyíre a bit dense, and using acoustic instruments allowed me to keep the sound light. The rationale behind not using a lot of electric was an esthetic decision. But when I do use electric guitar, it has a purpose Ė like when I want to play some teenage-sounding music [plays metal-style air guitar].

GW: What is producer Richard Dashutís role in your work together?

LB: Well, heís probably my closest friend Ė someone who knows me and whom I trust a lot. Itís difficult to say what he does. Richardís a sounding board Ė a sensibility that will give criticism when itís needed. Heís great with broad strokes and seeing the big picture. I tend to get lost in small details, so itís good to have him around.

GW: What kind of details?

LB: Every single one. The sculpting of the track, the architecture. Iím a writer, but before that Iím a stylist, an architect of structure Ė a person who accumulates details that hopefully add up to an interesting whole. And because Iím not Paul McCartney or George Gershwin as a writer, and never will be, my arrangements are an important factor. There are great songs that get made into bad records and there are bad songs that are made into great records. And thereís a whole area in between.

GW: Your approach to pop music is very baroque. Did Beach Boy Brian Wilsonís later productions, like "Heroes And Villains," "Good Vibrations" and "Surfís Up," influence you?

LB: Yeah. Obviously, the music itself was exciting Ė just its inherent sense of possibility. He also was an example of someone trying to move out of the realm of what was expected of him, whether or not he pulled it off. Brian chose to reject the formula established by such Beach Boys songs as "Little Deuce Coupe" and move into personal growth. Thatís a great thing you donít see dramatically demonstrated every day, especially by someone whose music you respect so much.

GW: Why did you leave Fleetwood Mac?

LB: Because I had a need to make a little jump for myself. I waited a little longer than I wanted to before jumping ship, but I wanted to leave when it was "karmically" correct to do so. Leaving was a tough decision, after all those years, but Iíd been chomping at the bit for a while. Joining a band and making music in that framework is a lesson in adaptation; individual styles become folded into the group sound, which is fine Ė youíve got to play ball. But you end up putting a lot of things aside. I wanted to tap into some of those potentials.

GW: Do you have problems with the record company in terms of the more eccentric edges of your work?

LB: Oddly enough, no. Ironically, "Wrong" is the first video we made from the new album. I was very surprised that the record company chose that song, because itís on the strange side. I think the company feels this album has a lot of depth to it, and maybe what we need to do is not shoot for the obvious one right away Ė their reasoning, not mine Ė and put out something a little more to the left and get AOR radio on it. If it crosses over, great, and if it doesnít we havenít lost anything except the cost of the video, and then weíll go with something else.

GW: Would you describe your music as avant-garde pop? Or do you think itís pretty much straight down the middle?

LB: I have a mainstream career with an esoteric sidebar. I donít think I have it in me to do Wilson Phillips, as far as California things go. I wouldnít know how to do that.

GW: What inspired your acquiring a more twisted sensibility? Was it other producers, people who were also pop, but a little odd, like Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, or Trevor Horn?

LB: Obviously, Brian did. But it was also partially a reaction to the Rumours album. The album was a huge success, but the phenomenon of its success overshadowed the music. People seemed more interested in the relationships within the band, and the music became secondary. Iíll get into trouble for saying this, but the record company at the time wanted Rumours II. I wasnít trying to sabotage anything. I just wanted to keep myself honest as much as I could. Whether I did, I donít know . . . Maybe it was a bit of a sabotage, but the axiom of "if it works, run it into the ground" loomed so large that I was scared and went off to do my own little thing. At the same time, punk and new wave were starting to sweep the music industry, and it gave me the courage to go ahead and try something a little more on the edge. The result was Tusk. You could probably pull my songs off that and make my first solo album. There was a certain backlash from the group and others after Tusk Ė a double album that was considered a "failure" at five million copies sold.

GW: Do you feel a kinship with other rock guitarists who seem to enjoy the isolation of the studio, like Robbie Robertson and John Fogerty?

LB: I donít put myself in that league.

GW: Do you think youíll continue to make solo albums in that fashion, or will you bring musicians into the studio?

LB: I want to try and reconcile both; as Jung said, "the reconciliation of opposites constitutes growth." Thatís my pretentious quote of the day [laughs]. I think it would be a big mistake to not continue my solo career Ė itís a big part of me. But getting a band together is also exciting. So, I think thatís my next step.

Thanks to Lesley Thode for the submission.

Date: 1992-09-01         Number of views: 1817

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