Todd Rundgren’s ‘Space Force’ Album Moved to 2022
Todd Rundgren’s Space Force album was announced more than a year ago, with an expected release set for 2021. Ongoing production delays in the music industry have now pushed the release date to sometime in early 2022.
Space Force follows 2017’s White Knight, which found the veteran songwriter and producer collaborating with a wide range of musical peers, including Joe Satriani, Trent Reznor, Donald Fagen and Joe Walsh. The new album will follow a similar path, but with a twist, Rundgren tells UCR in an exclusive interview. He handled the majority of the songwriting on White Knight, but began with tracks that were largely written by his collaborators this time around.
Four songs have been released from the album so far – a purposeful return to the early days of his career when several tracks would preview a forthcoming record. “Espionage,” created with Muslim hip-hop artist Narcy, was the first offering. Rundgren then released additional pairings with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and with Sparks, the latter of which finally arrived some 50 years after Rundgren produced their debut.
Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and guitarist Steve Vai are among the others featured on Space Force. During a recent conversation to discuss his upcoming tour, Rundgren shared more details about the pending album.
You have this new album, Space Force, that’s been taking shape. We’ve heard a few things so far including the song with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and the Sparks collaboration, which people were really excited about. What’s the current status of the album itself?
The album is delivered and we had hoped to have it out this year. The issue is, if I were on a different label, it would be out this year. But I’m on Cleopatra Records, and they’re very much into the material releases. They’re an old-fashioned label, in a way. They don’t want to stagger the releases of the various formats. They want online, CD and LP – vinyl and everything – to all happen at once.
The sticking point is always the frickin’ vinyl. You know, all of these vinyl plants shut down when we started making CDs. Now, suddenly, somebody wants to make a bunch of vinyl LPs, and there’s just too much demand on the few plants that are remaining. It takes months to get a vinyl release scheduled and manufactured. That’s essentially what happens. So, even though I delivered it in plenty of time – I delivered it July 4th weekend or something like that – there would have been plenty of time to get it out this year under normal circumstances, even in the old days of vinyl. But I don’t know, somehow, when they tried to schedule a vinyl release, they couldn’t get it in time to release this year. Essentially, as far as record releases are concerned, the year ends in mid-November.
Looking at the single art for “Espionage” and “Down With the Ship,” is Space Force a concept album?
No. The difference between White Knight, which was the last collaborative album, and this one is that on White Knight, I mostly wrote everything. There were some instances in which someone else wrote [portions of] a song; it was never a whole song. It would be a fragment of a song, and it might even be just a few chords or some changes. Almost all of the songcraft [on White Knight] is mine. I wrote almost all of the songs and I would assign them to people, ask them if they wanted to do them. On this one, it’s kind of the opposite way around. Almost all of the songs came to me as demos that were never completed. So, you can look at the songs on Space Force as songs that you would never have heard unless I had somehow gotten my mitts on them.
There’s a song by Thomas Dolby that essentially was a lost demo. He sent me an MP3 and I said, “Well, this sounds pretty good. Can you send me the stems?” He says, “I don’t know where they are. I don’t know if I can even find them.” I had to reconstruct the entire song from a single MP3. That was pretty much how it went with almost all of the songs. There’s a song with Neil Finn, “Artist in Residence.” It was just a demo, but he had a song there. He just didn’t have a record! [Laughs.] So I’d take songs and song fragments and turn them into completed records, something that you’d be glad to play for somebody else.
Listen to ‘Your Fandango’ by Todd Rundgren and Sparks
So, there’s been a real birthing process for this record. How do you know Neil and Thomas?
I’ve known Thomas for a long time. I met him [some time] in the ‘80s, when his first album came out. I think Utopia was playing in London, and he showed up at our hotel to give me his first album. I’ve known him that long. He probably doesn’t even remember that, because he probably did it for any number of artists. But I had known him through the ‘90s when he and I were both working in computers and music. You know, he started a company and for a long time, he didn’t make any music at all. You know, he was just doing computer stuff. So, I’ve known Thomas for a long time.
Neil, I’d never met before. But I was a Crowded House fan. When it comes time to do these collaborations, I just start calling people up and pitching them on the idea. For this particular one, I said, “I’m really interested in things that you’ve lost interest in. Something where you had the fire at the beginning, but you lost it and never finished it. And it’s gathering dust somewhere and may never be finished, unless somebody else puts fresh ears on it and tries to complete it.” I didn’t know Neil before that, and I’d never spoken with him on the phone or anything like that. As a matter of fact, I’ve never met him in person. I met his son, but I’ve not met him. [Laughs.]
When you’re making these cold calls to people you don’t know, have there been people you’re a fan of that surprisingly, don’t have interest in working with you?
Certainly. And sometimes, it isn’t like that. I had called Pete Townshend about doing something on White Knight. I hadn’t talked to him in years and years. You know, he expressed to me that he just wasn’t that hot on music at that point. He wasn’t hot on records. He said, “I can’t figure out what the point of making records is anymore,” because of all of the problems of getting paid and that sort of thing. He was very down on just the very concept of making records, but we had a 45-minute conversation anyway. It was just great to connect with somebody for a while, and just talk about music in general.
I talked to Chaka Khan about it and she was very much into it, then when I tried to get back to her, she had completely forgotten that we ever had a conversation! Sometimes, it turns into something that will work and then sometimes it doesn’t work – but that isn’t because it’s a bad idea to try to do it. It’s just that somebody may not have the right thing for the skills that I want to apply to it. A couple of people have out-and-out refused. We tried to contact The Weeknd and he just said, “I’m too busy.” Younger artists are the most difficult, because they think old artists are trying to steal their hotness or something like that. But you know, for me, it doesn’t bother me if someone doesn’t want to do it. I have plenty to do. [Laughs.]
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