Dubbed as something of a maverick, American musician, producer and multimedia artist Todd Rundgren shunned the traditional “rock star” status bestowed upon him to explore other musical directions and creative fields.
After getting his first break with his prog-influenced band Utopia in the early 70s, Rundgren restlessly wrote and produced many albums over the following decades, never leaving a stone unturned when it came to musical influences, touching on elements of prog rock, electronic music, pop, synth and new wave.
As well as working as a producer for the likes of XTC, The New York Dolls, Meatloaf and Badfinger during these years, Rundgren also became a pioneering force in computer technology and multimedia; facets that fed into his musical work, including organising the world’s first interactive concert and releasing the first commercial music video back in 1982.
But when referencing his musicality, it’s his ability to convey a narrative in his compositions that drew musician and artist Sofie to his music over a decade ago. The NTS Radio DJ and Stones Throw affiliate hails this story telling element as a direct inspiration for her songwriting and arrangements when writing her debut album Cult Survivor. Drawing on her own tales of heartbreak and raw memories, like Rundgren she captures these stories through unconventional pop motifs and striking lyricism.
Here she unpacks his impact on her and pays homage to his music with a mix of favourites from his extensive back catalogue.
Cult Survivor is out now on Stones Throw.
Why does Todd Rundgren mean so much to you?
Todd Rundgren truly tells a story, weaving intricately through the combination of instrumentation, lyrics, and arrangement, and there’s no other artist quite like him. His chord combinations are so fun to try and replay by ear! I’ve listened to his music for well over a decade, and I have never tired of it.
What makes a Todd Rundgren record so unique?
Todd’s songs possess an intense amount of emotion which is communicated to the listener; every single song of his hits me straight in the heart. Seldom will music transport you the way his does!
When did you first hear Todd Rundgren music and what impact did it have on you?
Actively, I think, to the point of needing to look it up, was “A Dream Goes on Forever” from The Virgin Suicides. It was one of the first soundtracks I ended up trying to buy, I was maybe ten or eleven?
Any standout memories from dropping a Todd Rundgren track in a set?
I love playing a track of his to close out if I’ve had a good night, as my way of saying goodbye or if I’m trying to relive a high school La Boum type dance situation.
How has Todd Rundgren impacted you as a producer?
More as a songwriter first and foremost, and how he approaches his arrangements. “Tiny Demons” for example, off Healing? That record could have been written today, sometime in the future, whenever — it’s both classic yet boundary-pushing. I want to make music that isn’t necessarily tied to this fixed element of what’s popular now, or what’s necessarily deliberately against the grain, too purposefully provocative. To me the art lies within making music that’s not necessarily placeable within the dimension of time, it could have been written twenty years ago, and will still be listenable within the next twenty years, for example. That’s the kind of music Todd makes.
How did you approach this mix? What did you want it to say about Todd Rundgren and his music?
I’m not sure any mix will ever do his incredible discography justice, so this is a modest attempt at trying to catalogue my favorite songs to share with you, and to let his music speak for itself! I play my old favorites, but also his newer material, for example from his 2019 release on Cleopatra Records.
What would you say is Todd Rundgren’s biggest legacy on electronic music?
I want to shy away from just the term ‘electronic’, and rather just give my humble opinion on the legacy Todd Rundgren has left on music in general — as an indelible musician, unparalleled by any other.
Todd Rundgren – Tiny Demons
Todd Rundgren – It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference
Todd Rundgren – A Dream Goes on Forever
Todd Rundgren – Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel
Todd Rundgren – I Saw the Light
Todd Rundgren – Love Is The Answer
Todd Rundgren – Just One Victory
Todd Rundgren – Hurting For You
Todd Rundgren – Hello It’s Me
Todd Rundgren – Can We Still Be Friends
Todd Rundgren – Afterlife
Todd Rundgren – The Truth Is
Todd Rundgren – Happy Aniversary
Cult Survivor is out now on Stones Throw.