Illinois Entertainer, November 1984

Lindsey Buckingham: Insane Or Not Insane

By Bill Paige

People may still be looking for a reprise of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours LP, but Lindsey Buckingham is really only interested in writing new acts. The 34-year-old FM guitarist/producer has just released his second solo album, Go Insane, a sonic vibration that weaves eerily between fantasy and reality, and is anxious (perhaps even over-anxious) to get started on another one. His interest in exploring new ways of shaping sound and making music has clearly surpassed that of his collaborators (the tepid rehashings of Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood's Zoo practically blanch in the light of Buckingham's innovation). So why even bother with a group that had the nerve to blame him for the public's cool reception to Tusk, probably the best record Mac will ever make?

"There has been pressure on me to go into the studio-you know, like, this week kind of thing," Buckingham says with a slight tone of annoyance. "Everybody looks at me going, 'Well?' There's pressure from the band's lawyer-who is not my lawyer-and from the band. Mick and John basically. Stevie doesn't care. She's in the middle of working on an album, but she could say, 'Sure, I'll do an album now.'

"Her commitment represents maybe three weeks in the studio, recording the basic tracks and then doing her vocals, which is all she ever does anyway. If I were to commit to doing an album right now, you're talking six or seven months, every day, unless I put my commitment to Fleetwood Mac on the same level that Stevie's going to do, which is, 'Find yourself another producer and I'll come in and lay down my parts,' which I just can't imagine myself doing. It would just seem so perfunctory."

That's how Buckingham takes his music these days-very seriously. He has a state of the art recording studio in his garage, next to his bedroom and across the hall from a large bathroom where most of the vocals to Go Insane's centerpiece, "D.W. Suite," were recorded. For about six weeks after the drowning of Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Buckingham holed up in his LED sanctuary and created a tribute not only to the band's drummer, but to what many contemporary American musicians regard as California's greatest natural resource.

"Dennis wasn't really a friend," Buckingham explains, "but he dated Christine for about three years so I knew him fairly well. He created for me a window into the inner workings of the Beach Boys. Of course, Brian Wilson had always been such a big influence on me that when Dennis died, it got me thinking about the Beach Boys and the rough time that they've had all around, really, and the fact that Brian went from a very commercial format into a far more experimental vein and how he suffered for it. That plus the things I'm trying to do were all sort of floating around...Basically I wanted to remember him on vinyl."

There's no question but that Buckingham sees definite parallels between the approach he is taking with his solo career and Wilson's fatal disinterest in perpetuating a myth in which he never believed anyway. Buckingham never sought the commercial acceptance garnered by his considerable input to Fleetwood Mac's first two albums after he and Stevie Nicks joined the group in 1975. The sounds were merely a part of his acute musical instinct, and people just happened to like it. A lot. Nine years later, Buckingham's ideas are in many ways more sophisticated than they were in 1975, and as a result more difficult for masses of people to penetrate. So much the better for people who enjoy the challenge of a complicated piece of music. For if anything, the record has more going on than is easily grasped in a three-minute listen.

"It's a lot of work, isn't it." Laughs Buckingham at the hyperbolic suggestion that it takes about an hour to listen to every song on Go Insane. "If I have one complaint about the way the album turned out, it's probably that at times it tends to be perhaps a little bit dense. Too dense. I'd like to take the whole thing down just slightly. Sort of bring the camera in a little closer, so to speak.

"But that might be more work actually," he adds. "There will be less going on, but everything will be bigger, subjected to more scrutiny. So we'll see."

Buckingham, with a little assistance from producer Gordon Fordyce, achieved many of the sounds on Go Insane with the help of the sophisticated computer-controlled Fairlight synthesizer. "We may have overused it," he admits, commenting on the LP's "busy" sound. Any sound that can be recorded by traditional analog methods-from the sound of a headlight being smashed to the irregular beat of a tree branch on a windowpane-can be programmed into the fairlight's keyboard, processing that sound into a musical note. The results are scattered throughout Go Insane in the form of unexpected blasts of noise that throw the listener a little off balance.

Peter Gabriel, Thomas Dolby and Laurie Anderson are considered among the most commercial/experimental musicians toying with the dimensions of the Fairlight, Synclavier, Oberheim and other computer-assisted keyboards. Coincidentally, Buckingham and Anderson met and established what he calls "a telephone relationship" not long after Go Insane was completed.

"We've got a lot to talk about," he says, mentioning that they had just spoken earlier in the day for about half an hour. "We talk about our work. We talk about the fact that sometimes we're miserable and sometimes we're not. She's someone from the art world delving into music and I'm someone from the music world delving into art. Hopefully.

"I'm actually using that keyboard in a more fundamental way," he continues. "Laurie's way ahead of me, but maybe I don't want to use it that way. I want to keep a certain amount of musicality-or at least what I perceive music to be. The definition of music is fairly relative anyway. Everything is music."

Anderson's name also pops up in a conversation about the possibility of taking songs from Go Insane and Buckingham's first solo effort, Law and Order, on the road. The best shows he's seen lately are Anderson's visual tour-de-force United States and Talking Heads. "Not this last tour but the one with Adrian Belew," he points out. "I believe there's safety in numbers.

"I would like to take something on the road that was different," he says. "But I'm not gonna go overboard. You need enough people up there, and I'm probably rationalizing because I just can't afford it. There's nothing you could do on this album that could be done with a standard four-piece combo anyway. But at some point, I think I've got a lot of spastic energy onstage that I think I could use to my own good ends."

That's not the kind of cocky confidence one might expect from a guy who was profiled in Rolling Stone as "Lindsey Buckingham, Lonely Guy-Handsome millionaire rock star, 34, seeks soul mate for long-term relationship. Must be willing to relocate to L.A. No drugs."

"I thought it was pretty funny, really," Buckingham says, referring to a recent article by Michael Goldberg. "I'm getting all these applications now.

"When a writer is doing a feature article like that, they practically move in for three days and observe what's going on," he explains. "That puts you in a vulnerable position as an artist. You kind of run out of things to talk about and you end up talking about just about everything there is to talk about. It's true I haven't been dating heavily (since breaking up a six-year relationship with Carol Ann Harris, to whom Go Insane is appropriately dedicated). But in Los Angeles it's a little tough finding the kind of people you might want to find.

"I isolate myself really well," Buckingham adds, hoping to give the impression that not all of his loneliness is thrust upon him. "I have three telephone lines at home and I put two of them on hold almost all the time. About four people have the other number, so that makes it nice and quiet up at the house. There are so many people that call who just want something."

Right now, about all Buckingham wants to do is get started on making another record for himself. His studio is in the process of being rewired, so while he spends time on the phone and on the run, promoting Go Insane, the ideas are piling up.

"In another month or so I'll be ready to start pretending I'm working on another record," he jokes. "That means getting my bearings back and getting a feel for what it is I want to do this time. I have a lot of ideas, but they aren't specific until I try them out. I could take 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' and try them out to see what will happen. That's going to be more the approach this time."

At the rapidly approaching turn of the century, Buckingham hopes to be still entertaining, and possibly doing more behind the scenes work than he is now.

"I would like to try producing a few groups for a while," he says. "I don't know. Hopefully I will go gracefully from being an artist to being able to manifest whatever my art is with other people. Or, maybe when we're old and gray we'll still be out there doing it."

Thanks to Karen for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.