Cover Story

MICK'S NEW MIX Fleetwood utilizes local artists for Island Rumours and distinct Hawai'i flavor

Reinterpret, reinvent, revisit. Those three Rs are the formula for Mick Fleetwood, founder of the renowned Fleetwood Mac, and his new Island Rumours Band.

"I've always been a musician, but I have entrepreneurial tendencies outside of Fleetwood Mac," Fleetwood said in a phone interview from his sprawling home in Kula, Maui.

"On June 24, I turn 60. My family lives here. I've always felt, in my mind, that with the dynamics of Fleetwood Mac, we could move the band throughout the years. In truth, I wanted to put together a new band that capitalizes on the chemistry of the players - that's what's second nature to me. You can't force it; and when you get into a project like this, everyone has to feel comfortable. And I think this Island Rumours Band is real comfortable."

Fleetwood - and his Island fans - will find out how comfortable when the new group makes its world premiere at Saturday's second Diamond Head Crater Celebration.

For Island Rumours, Fleetwood (drums) tapped local singers-musicians Willie K (voice and guitars) and Eric Gilliom (voice and guitars), Hawai'i songstress Raiatea Helm (voice and 'ukulele), and veterans Rick Vito (voice and guitars) and Lenny Castellanos (bass). He also acquired the services of Lopaka Coln (voice and percussion), after hearing his percussion artistry on a Henry Kapono album.

The intent was to introduce a new version of Fleetwood Mac, with new players who could revive some Mac marvels from the past, but featuring a refined contemporary, global, and yes, Hawai'i personality.

"The plans are to take what we have, in terms of approaching originality, and showcase the people playing," Fleetwood said. "We all live in Hawai'i; we're not hustling records (yet) because everyone has his own private stuff (individual careers). But we're trying to do is to get the lay of the land, do some local work, maybe some corporate stuff, and connect to a charity. And have fun. The soul purpose of this band is joy."

It's also been quite an adventure.

"I'm loving the whole experience," said Fleetwood, who has been living on the Valley Isle three to four months of the year, dating back to 1972. Besides his farmland on Kula, he has acquired lodgings at Napili, where he relocated his mother from England last year.

Island ingredients have penetrated his classic rock sound this time around - think ki ho'alu, falsetto, 'ukulele and Polynesian songs.

"You'll hear some Hawaiian slide guitar," he said excitedly. "With Raiatea Helm, you have a 22-year-old lady with great charm, and yes, she'll sing some Stevie Nicks songs.

"I never knew Willie K personally, but I was very aware of seeing him play," Fleetwood recalled before securing the Maui resident's services, along with that of Willie's Barefoot Natives partner Gilliom.

"He's not afraid to be on stage reciting Shakespeare," Fleetwood said of Willie. "His is a wild imagination, from all accounts, and there are no boundaries, just a lot of fun - with Eric, too."

Fleetwood knew what he didn't want to do - and that was to stifle the existing careers of the local musicians.

"This is all about expansion, to feel free," he said. "They have their own careers, but now they have something else they need to be serious and committed to, and I feel we'll all benefit from whatever we'll do.

"Finding Lopaka was just a joy; he's so connected to his father's (Augie Coln) music. Rick is much more studied than a creature like myself; I run off emotions and feelings, he goes into the whole cultural thing. He's having real fun, plugged into slack key, having a ball with Willie and Eric. It's all about a mixture of tone and approach."

Fleetwood Mac observes its 40th anniversary this July, and drummer Fleetwood is the only member who's been involved in the group from day one. The prime players include bassist John McVie, keyboardist Christine McVie, singer Stevie Nicks and singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Signature hits include "Rhiannon," "Say You Love Me," "Go Your Own Way," "Dreams," "You Make Lovin' Fun," "Tusk," "Don't Stop" and "Hold Me."

The arrival of the Island Rumours Band - the name was inspired by one of Fleetwood Mac's biggies, with the Island spin - doesn't mean the end of the road for
Fleetwood Mac.

"Fleetwood Mac
is alive and well, from all accounts, and going out next year to do some touring," said Fleetwood. "There have been periods of my life when I put the drumsticks down a little too long, rushing into other projects - which is not healthy for an old-time musician like myself.

"So I keep the faith of the playing ethics; with the new band based here, it's so much easier. Where it goes, I don't know. But it's a real group, all professionals and not strangers, capable of understanding when they walk on stage. We've all been around the block before; maybe not Raiatea, not so much with her. But for her, I get the sense that this is quite mind-blowing. She's so aware of whom she's playing with - people who are well known in the Islands.

"I just liked her stage presence the first I saw her. She had presence, no razzmatazz, and she's going to enjoy the power of doing more contemporary things once she's really, really into this. We're honoring all of where she's coming from (she can share her iconic falsetto 'Alika' tones, alongside 'Rhiannon' from the Nicks songbag), and the Island Rumours Band, I have a sneaking suspicion, will have a lot of pop culture interest and a whole subculture."

Fleetwood expects to be Maui-bound for a long time. He didn't use another "r" word, retirement, but Maui could be his ultimately chill-out spot.

His twin daughters, 5, are attending a Maui prep school. Another daughter works as a massage therapist on Maui, so they're all part of the local scene. Still another daughter lives in Los Angeles.

"I still have a home in L.A., but I would never trade this," he said of his Kula holdings. "I've learned, over the years, to appreciate musicians. I don't intend to be a lonely percussion player (in his advanced age), playing in my front room. I do enjoy that, but I always look to reach out. I'm a bandmaker, a musical alchemist of sorts. I'd like that printed on my gravestone."