Three Questions with Lindsey Buckingham
It's only been three months since the release of your most recent album, Under the Skin—your first solo disc in 14 years—and you're already at work on a follow-up?
Yes, we have some material that we need to sort of deconstruct, a lot of songs. I'm touring behind Under the Skin this month, in March, half of April and during June and July, and in between and during the fourth quarter of 2007 we'll be getting that album all finished up. People have been saying it's a rock album, but I don't know what it's gonna be. [Under the Skin] is not a huge radio album, obviously. It's one of those things that's gonna coast along selling a couple of thousand a week and by the time we get to the middle of the summer maybe we will have sold 150,000 or 200,000 albums, and I would be very happy with that. Then it will just be a question of whether we wanna do that again or [something bigger]. The [rock concept] is just a whole different game, stepping up to a set of expectations with radio and other parts of the machinery. I really don't know. But Under the Skin is sort of an art album—I didn't put it out there to try to go platinum.
Speaking of art albums, Tusk has gone from an ill-received, so-called "flop" to a benchmark of experimental pop during its 27-year lifespan. Do you feel a sense of vindication at that?
It certainly wasn't well-received over at Warner Bros. [laughs]. Tusk was an exhilaration and a disappointment, and I never doubted that it was the right thing to do. We came off of Rumours, which was sort of this Michael Jackson level of success, way beyond the music, and were being asked to make Rumours 2. But all this [new] stuff was coming over from England and America and it was very inspiring to me as someone who was producing and trying some different approaches. I always imagine the Warner Bros. executives sitting in the board room listening, and going uhhhhhhhhh? [laughs]. The real disappointment was that a year later when it didn't sell 16 million albums but as a double album only sold whatever it was—three?—the band said, "We want you to produce, but you can't do it that way anymore." Well, it's very hard to backtrack, so that was the reason I started making solo albums —the left side of the palate, all those things that were suddenly disallowed in a band situation. Tusk was the point of departure, the point at which I drew a line in the sand and began to define myself the way I still define myself. And now you have Mick [Fleetwood] and probably even Stevie [Nicks] saying that's their favorite album.
Word is Warner execs also weren't too excited over the direction you took on Under the Skin. True?
It wasn't that they didn't like it, but I had a lot of material and some of it was more rock, some with Mick playing drums. And I think their idea was to combine some of the songs from Under the Skin with some of the rock songs and basically make a more normal album. In theory that gives them more to work with in terms of radio—if radio's even something that exists for me at this point. But that just didn't feel authentic to me. I didn't think it was making much of a statement. They're just at a point where, with the Tower Records of the world closing, their model continues to break down. And at companies like Warner, the people who have the jobs have to answer to someone who's more bottom-line oriented. I think about Fleetwood Mac and all the incarnations they went through until they found Stevie and myself. After Peter Green left, [Warner chairman] Mo Austin kept them on the label while they did album after album that were sort of non sequiturs, as people floated in and out of the band. Mo just let them stay on the label. That would not happen today. There would not have been a Fleetwood Mac in today's climate.
NOFX's Fat Mike Speaks
You're headed to town for the ninth annual Punk Rock Bowling Tournament. How many have you played in?
We've been there for every one. I wouldn't miss it. Everyone's got their convention, and finally punk rock has one. The first year there were 22 teams and we placed third—that was the best we ever did. Now there's 120 teams or something, and probably a thousand punk rockers at Sam's Town. I love that it's there because it's just the funniest hotel-casino ever. They have the laser-and-water show. It's not Cirque du Soleil, but it fits.
How do you feel about The Killers' co-opting the Sam's Town name for their second album?
The record no one likes? I actually didn't even know they did that. I've heard of The Killers, but I don't think I'd like to hang out with them. Most bands that make it big aren't real cool people.
You're in the midst of a four-night run in LA in which you've promised to mix up the setlists and play 75 different songs. How's that going?
Two nights ago we did most of Punk in Drublic, and a couple of the songs were just total disasters. But that's NOFX for ya. We really don't take it too seriously.
Punk in Drublic is widely considered NOFX's definitive album. Playing it live 13 years later, how did it sound to you?
It's funny, I was actually thinking, "Man, this isn't as good as I thought it was." I like my melodies, I just don't think I sing very well.
NOFX celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Does it boggle your mind that you're still in the band you started when you were 16 years old?
Yeah, it's crazy. I've got my 40th birthday on Tuesday, and I'm still with the same guys, and we all really love each other. We've always kept our egos in check. The rest of the band realize that I'm the best songwriter so they don't even bother writing songs. That's what breaks bands up—everyone wants to write songs.
You also have a show scheduled here with your other band, [all-covers outfit] Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. And you guys are actually playing Sam's Town Live!?
Yeah, I love to play casinos like that. We did that once a long time ago at a small casino on the Strip, and it got shut down after four songs. We like to play shows that are uncomfortable. We played a Pirates baseball game a couple months ago. They hired us for three nights, and after the first night we got booed so bad they fired us.
Speaking of uncomfortable, the video footage on the Gimmes' Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah is so awkward ...
That's my favorite record I've ever done, because it made no sense at all. It was beautiful, just totally and completely absurd.
So are the Gimmes still available for private functions?
Yeah, give us $25-$30 grand and we'll do it.
Coming to Town
JUBILEE DIVE (4 stars)
Former alt-country cult fave Slobberbone tweaked its lineup, added keyboards and changed its name. But the boys from Texas still rock hard, just in a more tuneful way. The music still hinges on Brent Best's trademark growl and killer lyrics, which have more room to spin a yarn under a broader melodic tapestry.