San Francisco Chronicle (Under the Skin) Interview
Although his previous solo album came out 14 years ago, Lindsey Buckingham didn't spend all the intervening time working on his latest record, "Under the Skin." The Fleetwood Mac guitarist started this album some time ago, with bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood from the big Mac on rhythm, almost 10 years ago.
"I guess the three of us being in the studio became an interest of somebody's, and we ended up shelving that material for the live album," Buckingham says. "Then, when I got back in another year, whatever, working on it, there was this interest in doing a Fleetwood Mac album. So all of that material would have been a solo album, but it got diverted into a Fleetwood Mac album."
Buckingham, 57, is conducting phone interviews in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton on a sunny day in New York. He played a sold-out show two nights earlier at Town Hall, the historic downtown theater rich with memories of the Weavers and the live album the folk group recorded there for Buckingham. On Monday, he brings his current solo tour to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.
His new record is a quiet, intricate affair, almost entirely acoustic, with little drums or bass. Buckingham recorded the songs in the past couple of years while touring with Fleetwood Mac, carrying a 16-track Korg digital recorder with him and holding sessions in hotel rooms on days off. He finished the record at home and mixed it himself.
"I thought, 'Screw it -- this is what it is. I don't care if it's correct or not. Let them fix it in the mastering,' " the notoriously fussy recording artist says.
Of course, Buckingham's idea of low-fi is clean, crisp, sonically scrubbed and processed recordings with each and every sound on the track dialed in to his exact specifications. He claimed the mastering engineer complained about sibilance in the vocals. But Buckingham, who has produced most of the Fleetwood Mac albums on which he played, is noted for spending endless hours tweaking recordings in the studio. The all-acoustic tracks may have only encouraged those tendencies.
"There was more space to put the production on, so you could get aggressive with your use of delays and stuff on the vocals," he says.
Born in Palo Alto and raised in Atherton, Buckingham and his high school girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, went to Los Angeles to record their 1973 album, "Buckingham Nicks," which producer Keith Olsen brought to the attention of Fleetwood, the bandleader of Fleetwood Mac, when he was looking for a new singer-songwriter. Their first album with the group was Mac's first million-seller. Their second album with the band was "Rumours," the landmark 1977 album that sold more than 15 million copies and was one of the most popular albums of its era.
Buckingham has quit the band and returned a number of times since the 1987 album "Tango in the Night," which featured the brilliant Buckingham production of "Big Love." In 1997, he returned to the fold to supervise the band's new live album, "The Dance," and tour the world again. In 2003, without Christine McVie, the group recorded "Say You Will" under Buckingham's supervision and hit the road again.
"On 'Say You Will,' I had the best time I think I ever had with Fleetwood Mac," he says. "I think the reason, as much as we all missed Christine, was there was a space left for me onstage to be a guy. A lot of testosterone going on up there, and I was having a ball. Stevie, on the other hand, I don't know how she felt about it. I think at the end of the day maybe she wasn't too happy with that."
"Under the Skin" is also filled with songs celebrating Buckingham's newfound joy in family life. He and his wife, the former Kristen Messner, whom he married in 2000, have three children: Will, 8; Leelee, 6; and Stella, 2 ("The 2-year-old will be graduating from college and, if I'm even still here, I'll have the drool cup for sure.").
"So many of the people I know who were parents back in days past," he says, "were not really there for their kids. They had to make tough choices about where to be or how to be. But everybody was sort of conducting their lives the way they thought they had to, and the children suffered. It was something I never even contemplated during those years. I had such a nice upbringing and I never wanted to dishonor my parents and the way they brought me up by doing a crappy job as a dad, or as a husband, really. So once all of that passed and it seemed possible, it didn't seem very probable. I was lucky enough to meet someone, and now I have three kids. And, yeah, it's great."
Fleetwood Mac is still very much alive, just sleeping. Nicks recently called and asked Buckingham to come over. Fleetwood was there, too.
"Mick will usually be in cahoots with whatever is going on with Stevie," Buckingham says. "It's not about anything other than wanting to grease the machinery. They were saying next time we tour, we're going to move the mikes closer together and you're going to look in Stevie's eyes. I didn't say anything. Other than we did this play, I suppose we can do that play, too.
"A couple of months ago I went over there and she hands me a set list of what we're going to do a year and a half from now. So that's what going on now -- everyone wants to get out there at some point. The question is under what terms, or are there any terms. There seems to be a certain amount of political agendas to sort out. But, you know, whatever."
Buckingham is taking "Under the Skin" on the road with three sidemen from the past Fleetwood Mac tours: guitarists Neal Haywood and Brett Tuggle (who will double on keyboards) and percussionist Taku Hirano. He says he is partway through recording his next solo album, planned for release next year, but Buckingham has a history of letting these projects stretch out.
In a phone interview 25 years ago, when punkhood was in full flower and Fleetwood Mac was riding the top of the charts but oh-so square, Buckingham, in a defensive moment, told me he would rather be in the Clash.
"Did I say that once?" he says. "Funny thing is that Fleetwood Mac is probably way more hip than the Clash now. No, I don't want to be in the Clash. I was a guy who wanted to rock and wanted to do certain things. It was always a lesson in adaptation for me. Tearing certain things down and doing what was appropriate for what already existed as the band. That's probably one of the reasons I had so much fun on the road a couple of years ago. It was just more unleashed. No, I want to do exactly what I'm doing now."
2006-11-05 Number of views: