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Technology: Todd Rundgren

Living on the cutting edge.

You’re viewed as a man with his finger on the pulse of what’s new and cutting edge.

Music and an understanding of technology were always innate in me. I was fortunate in both regards that my father was, if not a musician, then a man of great taste. Career-wise he was an engineer. He knew all about electronics and he had a big collection of tools in the basement. 

 

So you were a chip off the old block?

I guess so. I was a loner as a child and I took some solace and fascination with technology. I wanted to build myself a robot to pal around with me, and also to protect me from bullies. That’s what led me to understand, at a very early age, how digital devices worked. At ten, I knew all about binary codes. Leaving school, I had a choice: learn how to programme computers or get into a band. 

 

Does any technology cause you problems?

Crappy design is crappy design. I spend a lot of time in hotels and I dread finding a cordless phone in the room. They’ve always got two lines and I can never figure out the combination of buttons to press to make a normal phone call. There are also technologies I eschew for other reasons. For instance, I’ve never owned a cellphone. 

 

As one of the first musicians to embrace the internet, we envisaged you snapping up the latest model the second it came out.

Actually, I lied. I owned one when they first came out but I very quickly realised I wasn’t compatible with the cellphone lifestyle. And as time goes by, I’ve gauged other people’s reliance upon the device and I won’t go back. It’s like watching them become heroin addicts and it’s funny, I don’t like heroin that much. 

 

How do people react?

Their eyes bug out. They can’t conceive of anyone not having a cellphone in this day and age, and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t. I’ve nothing that’s so important to say, I must say it right now.

 

What about samplers and auto-tuners that make stars of meagre talents?

Modestly talented stars are nothing new. I recall the era before The Beatles where we had essentially talentless, good-looking people like Frankie Avalon. I look at Taylor Swift today and I think, “I know where you came from.” She’s nothing but hair. 

 

What’s really the future – artists selling their music without using the internet? Is it possible to be more direct still?

Anything’s possible. Virtual presence – projecting a facsimile of one’s image to another location – fascinates me. I’m not trying to destroy the concept of live performance, but the future is happening now in music, in personal communications and many different fields. 

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