Song Hits Magazine, May 1985

Lindsey Buckingham

Interview by Steve Wosahla

He's done everything from recording his vocals in the bathroom to tapping Kleenex boxes for rhythmic overdubs. The word creative just doesn't seem adequate enough to describe Lindsey Buckingham, one of the world's greatest one-man bands.

He is best known as the guitarist of Fleetwood Mac, the crazed frettmaster who stalks the stage like Frankenstein and twirls the studio dials with enough verve to make the word clever seem like a cliché.

After five albums with Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood, Buckingham recorded Law and Order and now, Go Insane, an autobiographical saga based on painful events in his personal life. In particular, the album chronicles his break-up with Carol Harris, the blond model who adorned the cover of the Buckingham-produced Not Shy album by Walter Egan.

Buckingham, who has also produced hits for John Stewart, most recently played on five tracks on Christine McVie's first solo album and one for drummer Mick Fleetwood. He showed up as the bass player for a Kingston Trio reunion concert broadcast on public television but the curly haired musician from Los Angeles keeps a low profile. He admits to virtual anonymity in the city but also encourages it.

His house, secluded in the hills of Bel Air, provides a sweeping view of such California highlights as Dodger Stadium and the beautiful Malibu coast. But Buckingham is often holed up in his garage which doubles as his 24-track studio. While on hiatus from Fleetwood Mac , Buckingham's main collaborator is a Fairlight synthesizer machine which is supposedly capable of producing any sound imaginable. Not a bad toy for someone who grew up with the Beach Boys, now listens to Japanese koto and Chinese ensemble music and plays with pop music for a living.

Steve Wosahla: Having used the Fairlight system to produce much of the instrumentation on your new album, are there any limitations as to the types of sounds you can get?

Lindsey Buckingham: Well, apparently, not. They've got some new things that are coming out that are even more incredible, but it's still gotta be music. You can take technology so far before you have to sort of stop and re-evaluate I guess. I'm very happy to have the Fairlight. I love to work with colors. It opened up a lot of new vistas on this record. But at the same time I try to use it in a fairly more organic way than some people might. I don't know-I'm still learning.

SW: I've always been fond of something you said about recording, that you have to become totally absorbed in your work and allow yourself to be overwhelmed by it.

LB: Well, you do. You have to allow yourself to be completely vulnerable. It's really important. The way I work is so much like a painting. You have to allow yourself to be so vulnerable that the work will just dictate its needs to you.

SW: You really achieved the insane feeling both in the disheveled look on the album cover and in the driving urgency of the music. Did you have to psyche yourself into that state of mind?

LB: No, a lot of the subject matter had to do with a real live break-up. Actually it wasn't a break-up per se. It was a sort of slow deterioration of a relationship which had four wonderful years and a couple of sort of very gray years. That's in a sense what is being talked about-the effect that watching that has on you and has on both people from their perspectives. Everything can be very gray. The black and white just seems to go away and it's hard to tell what's even wrong sometimes. It can be a kind of trying situation.

SW: Is it hard to know when to end a relationship?

LB: It's hard to know when to call it quits, yeah. You hope that things will get from one side to the other and things will hopefully start working themselves out again, but you can only take that so far. All the intense emotional presentation that's on the record was not performed per se. It was going on a year or two previous to making the record and it was still not resolved when the album was being made.

SW: How are you feeling now?

LB: I feel that having addressed a lot of these things and having gotten them down on vinyl was quite cathartic and helpful to me. Halfway through the album things got pretty resolved I'd say. Not resolved but pretty much finished. So I feel pretty good. I've got a lot of material and I'm looking forward to just getting back in the studio.

SW: The album has a healing and comfortable side to it. Would you agree?

LB: Yeah, I'm glad you said that, because there is a disappointed painful side but I felt that it had a certain optimism to it, certainly by the end of the record anyway. I feel like it was healing for me in some senses. I make the joke flippantly but it was probably a lot more fun and a lot cheaper than say, going to a shrink.

SW: On "Go Insane," did you ever feel like you lost your creative power?

LB: I think it's almost a weekly occurrence. You go from feeling strong and feeling really good to times when you just don't. That song is not about going insane for all time but for the fact that we all go insane from time to time. There are times when we tend to go out a little bit and you're walking on that edge.

SW: Do you think most artists or musicians feel insecure before each album?

LB: Before their next project you're dealing with fairly insecure people I'd say.

SW: Do you include yourself among them?

LB: Oh sure. Probably. Not all the time. It's very difficult when you put yourself on the line. It takes a good deal of courage to keep doing it. Every time you get through a project, you think, "Well, that's great, I really accomplished something." But on a day to day level, to keep the optimism that you can create something worthwhile is a rather tricky business. You know courage isn't really the absence of fear. It's just sort of dealing with fear.

SW: Do you think a lot of rock 'n' rollers don't challenge themselves enough because it's easier to keep making hits?

LB: Well, I don't know if they go unchallenged. Having been in a band that sold as many records as Fleetwood Mac did, there's an upside and a downside to that. There are so many possibilities out there that people will not approach because their motivation is to make money. My motivation has never been to make a lot of money. My motivation has been to be creative and make myself feel good and hopefully make other people feel good. Having been in a group that sold that many records got to the point where everyone was saying, "Oh gee Rumours must be the greatest album ever made because it sold the most at the time." That equation was rather faulty to me. I felt that there was a great discrepancy between what was going on with the stir that was created and what had been really accomplished internally as a group; what had we accomplished on that record?

SW: You followed up Rumours with the double album Tusk that many people called experimental. What were you trying to accomplish on Tusk?

LB: The Tusk album was an attempt to not only confound people's preconceptions about what the group was or what pop music was, but it was also an attempt to make sure we weren't trapped in the commercial machinery which is very entrapping. It's not necessarily the most cohesive album but then people say that about the Beatles' White Album as well. It's got so much variety there.

SW: Do you still feel you can be as experimental and really challenge people with your music in Fleetwood Mac?

LB: Not really. There was a point during the Tusk album when everyone in the group seemed to think this was an interesting thing that was going on and later on because it hadn't sold as much (as Rumours) they decided it wasn't such a good thing.

SW: Was there any resentment toward you?

LB: I don't know. There probably is but that's a long time ago, long gone. Consequently Mirage was in my eyes a very reactionary album. The group's collective will dictated that we return to a slightly more conservative format. I don't think we can ever go back to the kind of spirit or eclectic mood that was created on the Tusk album. I don't think the other members of the group would want that and I don't think that's my place to impose it on them.

SW: Would you say that you and Christine are the closest musically in Fleetwood Mac?

LB: There is certainly a bond there. Maybe not musically, that's too broad. Maybe instrumentally. I think that if she and I just sit down and play piano and guitar it all flows together as if we were plugged into the same brain sometimes. In terms of overall musical sensibilities I wouldn't say so. My style tends to be structurally and otherwise experimental. In terms of history I'm sort of between Christine and Stevie.

SW: Are you looking forward to recording a new album with Fleetwood Mac?

LB: Well, yes and no. I would like to get another solo project out first because I have one sort of waiting in the wings. The one thing I would like to do is pare the whole thing down and have a slightly less dense album. Fewer things with each of them a little bigger.

SW: Having produced other artists rather successfully and loving the studio, do you see your future in production?

LB: Oh yeah. I think I still have a few more albums in me. Hopefully, you go from one area gradually into another. I think there's a lot of things I could do. I think I'm now just learning not to worry about things. I'm really one of those consummate worriers. Now I'm just starting to realize that a lot of things are possible. Keep your ears and eyes open, just do what you're doing, don't worry about it and look sharp.

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