By Jed Gottlieb
Friday, March 6, 2009
Fleetwood Mac’s saga is like a “Friends” story arc. Couples break up, things get interesting, couples make up, things get less interesting, then the cycle repeats itself.
This makes Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks rock ’n’ roll’s Ross and Rachel (only sub out annoying drama at Central Perk, sub in genius song-writing and cocaine). And though the romance between the two may be long over, Buckingham and Nicks aren’t done with each other yet.
With the Mac back (minus the retired Christine McVie) at TD Banknorth Garden on Wednesday, Buckingham phoned the Herald to talk about the band’s first tour in half a decade and when we can expect a new album. Then Nicks called with her own take on the saga’s next chapter and to remind us that, even in their AARP years, the two’s tempestuous relationship isn’t about to end.
Herald: Without a new album to promote are you going to dig into your back catalog for older, more obscure stuff to play in concert?
Buckingham: It’s a funny thing because you get into that area and it really underscores part of what makes Fleetwood Mac such a good band. There’s such a disparate range of sensibilities. What one person considers to be a worthy, obscure gem is not what another feels is right. When you include all of the songs that have been radio songs for us it defines about 80 percent of our set. The extra 20 percent is up for grabs.
Have you had a big hand in putting together the deluxe reissue of “Rumours” that’s due in May?
Not really. I’m not a huge fan of those repackagings anyway. But in light of the fact that there is no new album, it makes sense to have something out there to help the marketing of the tour. Certainly there are some curiosities on there, but I haven’t had much to do with it. I did put the kibosh on a few things that I didn’t think should make the cut. So I’ve had an editorial hand in it, but that’s it.
You’ve done two solo albums in three years, which seems like a furious pace for you. Are still writing like a madman?
Kind of, yeah. When we got off the road in 2004, I told the band, ‘Don’t bother me for about three years.’ And they didn’t, which was great. It allowed me to step up the writing frequency and get out and tour. But we had committed to do a tour months ago, so I had to cut my own tour short. The finer points aside, it was very satisfying to get to spend a few years doing my own thing. It has stepped up my creativity and put me on a whole new wavelength.
Do you recognize when you write a song if it will be for Fleetwood Mac or for a solo album?
Not really. There are certain things I write that are esoteric or idiosyncratic that I know will go on a solo record. But in general, if you look at the lion’s share of “Gift of Screws” (Buckingham’s 2008 solo album), much of that would work as Fleetwood Mac. It also comes down to the band. If they go “eh,” then it becomes a solo piece. (Laughs.)
How far along are you in planning a new Fleetwood Mac album?
We aren’t far along in any specific sense. My mantra is to work on my dynamic with Stevie. She was a little uncomfortable when we got on the road last time, for whatever reason. Part of it was that she missed Christine, part of it was that I was getting 50 percent of the face time onstage and she wasn’t used to having a guy get all that space. I think it threw her context out a little. So this time around I am very much wanting to make everyone as comfortable as possible and have that be the most important thing. But we have discussed, when this tour is done, going into the studio. The only specific we know is that we are leaning toward finding an outside producer. I think it would help to have an overviewer. It was pretty hard taking the reins last time. Not so much with the music but with the band politics.
Have any producers in mind?
We had a short a list, but I have no idea. We’ve talked about everyone form Daniel Lanois to Dave Stewart to Rick Rubin. That pretty much runs the gamut of approaches. We have to meet with a few people and see how it feels.
Looking back, does it seem like everything great that you’ve done as a band has come out of turmoil?
That’s absolutely true. Obviously “Rumours” was the personal turmoil and then “Tusk” was the artistic turmoil. Then a lot of stuff after that was dealing with levels of disillusionment, at least for me. Or it was about dealing with lifestyles that were getting out of hand on some level.
Herald: You’ve been busy on the road for the last three summers. When did you have time to plan this Fleetwood Mac tour?
Nicks: The last three summers on solo tours and two years ago a tour with Tom Petty. I went out for seven shows and I stayed for 27. Tom asked me to stay and I said, “There’s no way I’m not going.” My manager said, “OK, but this is your vacation. Tom Petty is your vacation.”
So when did the Fleetwood Mac reunion come together?
We had a meeting between two and three years ago to talk. Lindsey had really been working hard on his solo work and decided he was going to get those one or two or three CDs done and tour behind them. He ended up using up a lot of his songs for “Say You Will” and that really didn’t fulfill his need to be a solo artist and, well, that album wasn’t the best experience for any of us. Lindsey made a decision to take a couple of years off and work on his solo stuff so he could enjoy Fleetwood Mac again. We all said, “Go ahead, have fun, rock on!”
I asked Lindsey if there was another rarity like “Silver Spring” waiting to be dug out and done live and he wasn’t sure. What do you think?
I suggested that we do “Storms” (from “Tusk”) on this tour. We have never done it onstage. The last tour we pulled “Beautiful Child” out and we’d never done that before and it went great. But what we do always comes down to is what sounds good. We’re just thrilled to play our body of work that we’ve worked so hard on over the last 30 years. We really shy away from the “Greatest Hits Tour” label because we think it sounds cheesy. It’s not just the greatest hits, it’s the familiar songs that everyone loves.
And you’re ready to jump into the studio as soon as this tour is over?
I would very much like to do that. I think the world should have one more kickass Fleetwood Mac record. This tour could go on for 135 shows, but when we come off the road we will be a finely tuned, well-rehearsed band, which is the best thing to be when you go into the studio because you’re already hot. Your chops are up, you’re singing great, you’ve been playing fantastic music for a year. And writing on the road is really fun. Not to mention that we already both have enough songs to do a record now. But it all depends on if we’re having fun and enjoying each other.
In the past it seemed you recorded or toured because you had to, it was your career. Now it seems like you don’t have to, you want to.
That’s right. Lindsey has children. He didn’t have children 10 years ago. Mick (Fleetwood) has 6-year-old twins. John (McVie) has a daughter in college and so he and I are the only freewheeling ones. At this point in our lives, especially for Lindsey and Mick, if they’re not having a good time, they need to go home and raise their kids and make music in their home studios.
What do you think of the “Rumours” reissue?
It’s pretty awesome. It’s the songs before they came to fruition, almost like the five of us sitting in your living room playing for you. Listening to it, I could rise up above my body and go back there and remember what an amazing group of people we were in those years. As I was listening to it, I thought, “This could so be now. This sounds like a brand-new band just coming out.”
It’s that fresh?
It is so amazingly fresh. But Lindsey and I joke that we could never get a record deal in L.A. today with this sound. People wouldn’t know if we were folk or country or rockabilly. Well, they said the same thing when I moved to L.A. in 1971. But when you hear this band, this really young band, and you hear Christine’s amazing keyboards and John and Mick, the bassist and drummer of life, and then stick that under Lindsey Buckingham who can do anything on the guitar, it’s spectacular.
So much of your great stuff came out of the band being a mess. If you are all on great terms will it be harder to make a great album?
No. Lindsey and I and our tragic, uptight way of doing things to each other is still the same in so many ways. In many, many ways, Lindsey and I are still the same people that we were when we met at 16 and 17. There’s a part of our relationship that remains unchanged. It doesn’t matter that he’s married with kids. It doesn’t matter what my life is. When we’re together we can still be incredibly teenage. And we still write about each other a lot. We’re still great sources of inspiration for each other. When we’re 90, whoever goes first, the other one will be sitting on a bed alone. We’ll never run out of stuff to write about.
Fleetwood Mac, Wednesday at TD Banknorth Garden. Tickets: $147-$47; 617-931-2000.