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Todd Rundgren on Working with Kanye West, Skipping His Rock Hall Induction: “True Halls of Fame Are for Retirees and Dead People”

"The saga continues in some sense or another," Rundgren says of his yet-unreleased work with Kanye

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Todd Rundgren Interview
Todd Rundgren, photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images

    If you live in Maui, like Todd Rundgren does, you do not have to apologize for just chillin’ your way through the pandemic. Rundgren, though, has done anything but that.

    The veteran multi-hyphenate — producer of landmark albums for Meat Loaf, Grand Funk Railroad and others, as well as his own robust repertoire — has been characteristically hard at work and, save for being off the road, has not slowed down a great deal during the past 19 months. He even went “on tour” earlier this year with a series of virtual concerts, performed from Chicago and targeted to specific cities.

    Rundgren has also released four singles during the past year or so, slated for his next album, Space Force. That includes collaborations with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo (“Down With the Ship”), Narcy (“Espionage”) and, most recently, with Sparks (“Your Fandango”), whose debut album, when the band was known as Halfnelson, was produced by Rundgren. He’s on the road once again, with tour dates into mid-November. And, after three consecutive nominations, he was elected for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, though he famously won’t be attending the October 30th ceremony in Cleveland.

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    Few of his endeavors, however, raised eyebrows as much as Rundgren’s ongoing collaborations with Kanye West. Though he doesn’t appear in any of the credits for the rapper’s chart-topping new album Donda, Rundgren confirms he’s been working on and off with West, though the experience has been a bit frustrating.

    “My contributions ranged from taking something that’s kind of fragmentary and raw and trying to give form to it to sometimes just adding background vocals and then just not hearing for weeks what the hell’s going on,” Rundgren tells Consequence. “I’ve had two conversations with him; one of them had no musical contest at all, it was just his life story in a way. I don’t know when it was considered to have started, but at some midpoint they were going to complete it last year, but apparently it went on and the concept would continue to change… The record would be humming along for awhile and then nothing would happen for awhile.

    “So I don’t have a handle to grab in that sense. I have no idea where he’s at or what he’s thinking in terms of music — or if he is. There are so many other participants in the record, literally hundreds, so it’s hard to separate things. It’s hard to tell whether he is causing things to happen or just reacting to things. That’s all speculation on my part.”

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