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Keyboard (04/01/2004), Tuggle--Filling some mighty high heels with Fleetwood Mac < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

Keyboard (04/01/2004), Tuggle--Filling some mighty high heels with Fleetwood Mac

Keyboard, April 1, 2004

Brett Tuggle -- Filling some mighty high heels with Fleetwood Mac
by Stephen Fortner

Harry Potter fans may notice the name rhymes with "muggle," but there's nothing unmagical about this keyboard wizard. As with everything in his career, the story of how Brett Tuggle got his breaks just screams rock 'n' roll, and we mean the kind where the audience holds Zippo lighters on high. "I was 19, and my band had opened for Mitch Ryder in a club in my native Denver," he recounts. "Mitch's band needed a guitar player, they liked what they heard during our set, and I got invited to tour and record with him." Guitar? Seeing as he was also on Hammond in that opening act, this can be forgiven. Lightning struck again in 1979 when Tuggle was re-discovered by producer Keith Olsen, who convinced him to move to Los Angeles to play keyboards with rising star Rick Springfield. Brett also co-wrote and performed on David Lee Roth's 1988 hit "Just Like Paradise." Other names on his resume include Chris Isaak, the Jimmy Page-David Coverdale band, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, and guitarist Steve Lukather.

Currently Brett is currently on tour with Fleetwood Mac, one of rock's best-loved and longest-running supergroups. So far, their tour has covered the U.S., Europe, and Australia, with another U.S. leg is slated for this May through July. (Visit www.fleetwoodmac.com for show dates.) Keyboard caught up with the Mac at an arena show in central California, where we found that although radio DJs sometimes file them under "soft rock," there's nothing soft about the way they rock out live.

How did you get the gig with Fleetwood Mac?

It's Mick Fleetwood's fault! [Laughs.] I met him in 1992 during his project Zoo, and we became friends as I worked on an album of his. In 1997 he told me they were putting "the big lineup" back together, and he enlisted me to support Christine McVie by playing extra keyboard parts, and guitar when necessary.

Christine McVie, whose keyboards and voice have long been a big part of their sound, is not playing this tour. How did you deal with stepping into her shoes?

At the beginning, there was a little bit of, "Okay, Christine's gone, so this Tuggle guy had better be great." It was more of a feeling than something spoken outright. Christine had retired after the tour for The Dance; the road was no longer fun for her and she was just over it. There's definitely a space to fill with her gone, but one thing that's helped is my work in Stevie Nicks' solo act. It calmed the initial fears and gave me some familiarity with the music and people right off the bat, so that now I feel I've found my place in the band's direction.

How do you define your role within the band?

You know, I've never been about "Where's my keyboard solo, dammit?" Which is why I'm totally okay with the fact that I'm in the supporting cast here. I really try to become part of the rhythm bed laid down by John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. That in turn enables Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham to cut loose onstage, and they've created so many great songs that it's actually a lot of fun to focus on empowering their thing.

What gear and techniques empower your task?

My pride and joy is a 1958 Hammond B-3 organ. We run two Leslie 122s, one by my rig and one at stage left. At one time, they would've been overpowered by guitar amps and such, but monitoring today is good enough that you can hear them onstage. On top of the B-3 I have a Generalmusic ProMega 3. It's got a great weighted action and acoustic piano sound, and I use it for EPs too. That faces the band, and to the right, facing the audience, there's a 76-key Korg Triton Studio for strings, synth parts, and controlling the offstage rig. I'll let [tech and programmer] Michael Bernard say more about that. [See sidebar, above.]

On Stevie's solo album The Wild Heart, the story is that Prince came in and played the 16th-note bass line on "Stand Back" with two hands. We get around this live by assigning a slap delay onboard the Triton so that two notes sound when I hit a bass key. That way, my left hand hits eighth-notes, which makes it easier for my right to focus on that fat synth comp, for which I layer the Triton with a Roland XV-5080. Michael plays the octave string figure everyone knows from the choruses.

Your career is a model for any keyboardist aspiring to arena-rock greatness. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were coming up?

Here goes, but don't make me sound too preachy! Everyone can dream of being a great player, and though that's a good thing, don't forget to set short term, attainable goals. They add up. Make deadlines, even for the little projects, and enforce them.

What's your favorite thing about this tour?

All of the people in Fleetwood Mac are the real deal; they're serious music lovers as well as talented musicians. Lindsey's guitar playing is way underrated by the mainstream music world, he's an adventurer. He can take something seriously left of center, then slam back into a resolution that knocks you on your ass. That's typical of the very high energy we have onstage. Though a lot of the songs have simple rock arrangements as compared to jazz fusion or prog rock, that energy makes every night interesting and challenging. I love it.

Thanks and props to Mac backup singer Jana Anderson for her assistance with this article. Visit her at www.janaanderson.com.


Date: 2004-04-01         Number of views: 2000

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