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Billboard (08/18/1984), Buckingham Into "High-Tech Folk" < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

Billboard (08/18/1984), Buckingham Into "High-Tech Folk"

Billboard, August 18, 1984

Buckingham Into "High-Tech Folk"
Go Insane Fleshed Out With Computer Colorations
by Sam Sutherland

Los Angeles—His new solo album marks his boldest step yet into self-production and electronic instrumentation, but Lindsey Buckingham isn’t kidding when he dubs the project "a high-tech folk album."

The Fleetwood Mac songwriter and guitarist cites a combination of his sophisticated, largely self-contained production approach with an undeniably passionate array of themes in explaining that description. But Buckingham clearly isn’t aiming "Go Insane," which reached stores last week, at a more limited audience. Since releasing his first solo album in 1981, he has changed managers and found a new production partner, engineer Gordon Fordyce, with both shifts viewed as influences on the richer pop ambitions of the new material.

With the new set moved from Asylum, Buckingham’s label for his "Law and Order" solo debut, to the sister Elektra label, promotion staffers are keying efforts to the fast start for the title single and the appropriate surreal, special effects-laden video clip now airing on MTV.

For the music behind the push, however, the most crucial partner in Buckingham’s revamped team is the computer, the Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument). Since adding the Fairlight to his existing array of guitars, basses, drums and signal processors, Buckingham has taken his home 24-track studio into a new realm of orchestrated pop songs: to such familiar signatures as electric and acoustic guitar and an often cheerfully thrashing approach to rhythm work, Buckingham can now add simulated woodwinds, strings and additional percussion, and a broad spectrum of sound effects, earthly and unearthly alike.

"Some have accused me of doing my first solo album within ‘Tusk,’" he chuckles, commenting on the evolution of his self-contained recordings, which first reached public consumption with that two-disk set, Fleetwood Mac’s most ambitious studio project. "It’s odd, because it’s something I’d done lone before joining Fleetwood Mac."

Indeed, he notes that his garage studio, where several "Tusk" tracks began life, has been equipped for 24-track recording for several years. He now has his own Studner 24-track machine, but keeps a second MCI 24-track on hand, and records through a Neotek console originally designed for PA applications. A variety of outboard signal processors, including digital delay lines and echo, complete a basic tracking facility where much of both "Law and Order" and "Go Insane" were recorded.

The key tool however, is the new Fairlight, which Buckingham is quick to distinguish from synthesizers. "There is no real synthesizer on there," he notes. "What you’re hearing is a Fairlight, which is closer to the old Chamberlain in that you have a library of actual instrument sounds recorded on floppy disk.

"For someone who considers himself a colorist, which I do, the number of colors was just increased radically." By either referring to existing instrumental samples from his floppies, or sampling new sounds to create additional tonal colors, Buckingham was then able to build the often dream-like orchestrations heard in the new songs.

Indeed, he says his approach to writing the new material was shaped in large part by that interest in orchestrations, rather than a simpler and more conventional process of melding melody and lyric.

While preparing the initial set of home recordings that would form the core for the new set, Buckingham began developing a loose conceptual thread through the often feverish, stream-of-consciousness lyric bent that often suggests shifting views of often obsessive relationships. It’s this emotional element that Buckingham invokes when he terms his "high-tech folk album’s" context "high touch," alluding to social forecaster John Naisbitt’s influential "megatrends," a best-seller in which pop art trends are cast in terms of the need for human values behind technology’s dazzling surfaces.

"In this case, I think we sort of succeeded in using high-tech tools in a way that allowed the ‘high touch’ aspects of the song to come through," Buckingham says. He gives much of the credit for the finished album’s often head-spinning production effects to co-producer Fordyce, enlisted at the suggestion of Elektra A&R chief Roy Thomas Baker when Richard Dashut, Buckingham’s studio partner since his Buckingham Nicks days, bowed out.

"I had about 15 songs by then, and I took them to Roy, who threw about half of them out," Buckingham notes, adding that Baker’s executive production reflects that editorial influence. The songs Baker liked—"I Want You," "Go Insane," "Play In The Rain," and "I Must Go"—steered the revised concept toward the complex delirium which prevails now.

Buckingham acknowledges that the album’s lavish overdubbed vocal arrangements are the outgrowth of his interest in fleshing out his work, rather than just reinforcing his own vocal character. "I’m always striving to de-personalize vocals. Laurie Anderson does that; she’d found a way to break things down by changing her vocal approach, in her case by not singing at all."

As for management, he’s excited about his new deal with Michael Brokaw at Kragen & Co. While still good friends with former manager Irv Azoff, Buckingham theorizes that the current MCA Records chief "was sort of coming to the end of his rope" as a manager. "He had already signed Stevie (Nicks). I don’t think he was too interested in me personally. But, at some point in time, when I was looking for a solo deal, he said, ‘I can get you one at Elektra.’"

Buckingham’s hopes for the new album’s fate are buttressed by his work on the first video clip, for which he helped guide conceptual development. But he downplays the likelihood of any live work, citing both the intricate production sound of the songs and his reluctance to rely heavily on his Fleetwood Mac material.

Thanks to Lesley Thode for the submission.

Date: 1984-08-18         Number of views: 1566

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