Over time, most rock stars become very good at accumulating things – houses, ex-wives, cars, and especially instruments and studio gear. Legendary rocker Todd Rundgren is exactly the opposite, at least when it comes to the latter two examples: He's pared his music-making essentials down to a single laptop and guitar, and that's all he used to record his new album, State.
"I have an audio I/O box to go with it, but basically everything is in the laptop," Rundgren says. "I don’t use any real vintage hardware any longer. That’s always been the object as far as gaining control of the studio environment, going back to when I built my first studio, Secret Sound, in New York City. The whole point was to not have to pay studio bills anymore and not be looking at the clock. But it was also to have the liberty to do anything I wanted with the equipment that I use and to use it for creativity, rather than just using the studio to capture pre-existing instruments.”
Key to Rundgren's recording process is Propellerhead Reason. He has utilized the software for eight years now, and with its expanded recording capabilities, he's been able to do away with Pro Tools. "When I first started with it, it had no recording capabilities," he explains. "It was just all virtual synthesizers. Now that I can record with it, I can do everything on my laptop with Reason and all of the various plugins and rack extensions that are available in it."
The heavily electronic nature of State was inspired, in part, by Rundgren checking out some new music – he lists Skrillex as one current artist he researched. But he also says that hearing younger bands praise his earlier work caused him "to use the virtual equipment in more creative ways. I had to go back and say, ‘What was I doing that was different than what I’m doing now?’ As it turns out, I was just being more experimental with the facilities. I think that’s what has been appealing to a newer audience."
When he brings State on the road (the tour starts 5 May in Woodstock, New York), Rundgren will be playing guitar, and he'll be joined longtime band mates Prairie Prince on drums and Jesse Gress on guitar. "There will be some kind of human interaction and improvisation between the players," he says, and then adds with a laugh, "It won't all be machinery."
State will be released on 9 April. On the following pages, Rundgren walks us through the album track-by-track.