Michele Rundgren interview

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Michele Rundgren, wife of rock icon Todd Rundgren has been a fixture in the realm of all things Todd since the mid-eighties. Throughout the years, Michele has served many a role in “Todd’s World” including production manager during the “Nearly Human” recording sessions, singing backup during the ‘89-’91 tours, a TR-i dancer during Todd’s interactive tour and a rocker mom to Todd’s three sons. Beloved by Todd-fans the world over, she has made it a point to be open and accessible to all fans. and in an unprecedented move, Michele has even offered fans the opportunity to stay at their place while in Kauai. intrigued? Let’s see what Michele has to say..

RetroDan: You and Todd have called Kauai home for little over a decade now. So give us the real scoop on life in Kauai. Living in paradise can’t be as perfect as it seems. …or is it?

Michele: Most of it is perfect BUT we are the kind of people who can make anyplace we call “HOME” work….and…we chose wisely. It is frustrating for me not to have venues to perform in but the relaxed atmosphere, safety, and beauty is almost an equalizer. When we lived on the mainland, life was hectic and could be interrupted by the negative parts of celebrity (crazy people yelling outside your kid’s bedroom window, “Todd, get out of my head!”). There is NONE of that here. Todd is not a celebrity here. He’s Rex, Randy, Keoni, & Rebop’s Dad. Or MY favorite, Michele’s husband. Because of the radio show and my Emcee work for charities people recognize me before they do him. It’s such a kick. I’m a big fish in a lagoon on Gilligan’s island.

RetroDan: a couple weeks ago you made a big announcement on Rundgren Radio that you’ll be allowing Todd Rundgren fans the chance to stay at your home while vacationing in Kauai. Can you explain how all this came about?

Michele: We couldn’t figure out what to do with all of neato crap. Todd designed the new house and wants everything in it to be specific for each room. We have collected some wild and wacky things from all over the world and thought it would be a bummer to put them all in boxes or take them to our SF place. AND,…. the market sucks for selling our house…so we thought we’d see if there was any interest in living in our world for a week. If not, it goes on the market in June with no further rentals past May.

RetroDan: So how do Rundgren fans go about renting your home?

Michele: Head over to michelerundgren.com then click on Hale O Hua Li’iwhich means: House of Runt

RetroDan: You mentioned previously during the “Rundgren Radio” interview that Todd isn’t included in the vacation rental but there are still some cool perks for the guests during their stay, right?

Michele: Yep. Our house is within walking distance of the radio station where I work. If you’d like to come on down and hang out while I’m on the air…. You will all be my guests. Say Hi to the folks back home, request a Todd song….or not (No Aerosmith. Please. HA!) But probably more fun…..for every guest that stays…..they get to go through Todd’s closet and choose ONE item.

RetroDan: the new Rundgren house - the dream house. Can you tell us a bit more on what your new house is like?

Michele: Since it is Todd’s dream house and he designed it, I will have to let him divulge the details.

RetroDan: Michele, you’re currently keeping busy with projects of your own. can you tell us a bit more about them?

Michele: Well, for 2 years, I have been bringing Todd’s dream house to fruition. I am also in the final stages of writing a musical with my writing partner Debra Ryll. It USED to be called “Jihad, The Musical” but a vigilant Todd fan (I think it was Janet) e mailed Todd so he could warn me that the name had been taken. UHG. So, we’re thinking of titles. Synopsis: Two Soccer Mom’s decide the only way to save the world is to take down organized religion….in between bake sales, car washes, and endless loads of laundry. I have not given up on my Club idea for Kauai. It is an uphill battle for locations let alone permits and licenses. I’ll probably open it when Todd is 90!

RetroDan: you’ve mentioned in a past interview that if you had to choose between stand-up and music, you’d choose music in a heartbeat.

Michele: Even though I had great success with my stand up (I only experienced dead silence after one joke) BUT it made me realize that, in comedy, you can fail every 20 seconds. I might have been good at it but it didn’t “fulfill me”. Music does. There is something about opening your heart and voice and exclaiming it into the air……and the sharing of the emotions that come from listening and performing with the audience is better than sex. OK, OK, now there will be some people, on the TR forums, who will go after me saying I was talking about my sex life. I AM NOT!!!!

RetroDan: Do you currently have an outlet for your singing?

Michele: I wish. The club my band performed in, every Friday night, couldn’t get it’s lease renewed. Time shares are trying to take over my paradise.

RetroDan: any recordings or demos that us fans might enjoy? Since you have Todd’s recording studio in the house, i’d like to think that you have tons of recordings of your own.

Michele:I am sad to say that I do not have any new recordings since I left the mainland. I was busy raising 4 boys, starting new schools, my radio show, theater, and Emcee work. I EmCee countless charity events. BUT!!!!! I am currently writing a record with one of our dear friends, Kenny Emerson (Kenny wore one of Todd’s wild jackets, designed by Rachel Culp, when he accepted his grammy). We’ll be recording this winter. In fact Todd and I both sang on Kenny’s next record. I will let fans know when that comes out. Todd is singing in Hawaiian and he kicked ass!

RetroDan:wow! can’t wait to hear it!!

RetroDan: years ago, back in the Utopia Times/Nexus days, i remember vaguely about a project you put together with Shandi Sinnamon called Venus Envy. Whatever happened to that? did you guys record anthing?

Michele: We did record. The Letterman gig had Gold Mountain Management signing us to a management contract. We recorded 4 tunes and shopped it. At that time Todd asked if we might collaborate on a little project he had already named, Rebop. His reasoning (and my hope) was that I would sign a record deal, record, and tour. We thought it could take up to a year before a tour would commence so we had 90 days to get pregnant. 4 or 5 labels were REALLY interested ins signing us and than……they found out that the Rebop was in production. It all went away. Second Wind would be the last tour I would sing on….I just didn’t know it.

RetroDan: So what’s it like being a “Rocker Mom”? Can you give us a glimpse of a typical day in the life of Michele Rundgren?

Michele: If I described what I do in a day, it would take up 3 pages, make men faint, and have every woman saying,….”Yep, that’s my life, too.”

RetroDan: Is Rebop now in high school? Is high school any different in Hawaii compared to the states

Michele: It IS different. My boys’ schools didn’t ALLOWED them to wear shoes to school until 9th grade. Everyone is barefoot. Our island didn’t have a school baseball program good enough for Rex & Randy so I found Mid Pacific Institute before we even moved. I check a billion coaches out and Mid Pac had the best. So, when Rex & Randy each hit 10th grade, they boarded on Oahu and came home on the week ends….except during BB season. We had to go there. Rebop goes to a private high school on the north shore of Kauai. Like Father like son…he doesn’t like school.

RetroDan: Is Rebop interested in baseball like his older brothers?

Michele: Nope. He got Dad’s computer brain. He also sings in the deepest voice I have ever heard on a skinny 15 year old. I have my fingers crossed he’ll inherit the family business. We’ll see.

RetroDan: Now Rex played for the Carolina Mudcats this year. What does he think of North Carolina? [RetroDan lives in Raleigh, NC]. I understand you and Todd fly to Raleigh quite often to watch him play. you know, you are welcome to come by and visit me anytime while you’re in town!!

Michele: Thanks for the invite but we spend most of our time at the ballpark! My eyes AND chest puffs up when I see Rex play. I can’t believe he is the same Rexy I coached 20 years ago. I am also so proud of the man he has turned out to be.

RetroDan: It was a bit dissappointing for this Todd fan in particular to see that Todd wasn’t able to schedule a TNC show or a solo show here in NC even though Todd spent a lot of time here watching Rex play! how about a solo show (with Kasim, Prairie and Jesse, of course) at the Mudcats stadium??!!!

Michele: The Mudcat’s owner would love that but we don’t think he has a very big market down there. It might look odd to have 100 fans and just the team in the stadium seats. HA!

RetroDan: well, i think you’d be surprised how many of us here are Todd fans. plus, we’d make sure to be extra loud when Todd plays at the stadium!!!

RetroDan: Fee Waybill of the Tubes was recently interviewed on Classic Rock Revisited in which he still seemed a bit bitter about how the rest of the Tubes chose to do Love Bomb with Todd Rundgren instead of staying with ProducerDavid Foster like he wanted. What are your thoughts on Fee’s dim view of Todd and Love Bomb (which personally is my favorite Tubes album by the way).

Michele: Fee doesn’t have a dim view of Todd. He still comes to see Todd and I talk to him a few times a year. I love Fee. The rest of the band was VERY happy that TR produced us. David Foster had replaced some of the band members with session guys on our hit record “Outside Looking Inside”. With Love Bomb, David wanted TOTAL control over songs and musicians…meaning The Tubes could have one side of the record and DAVID would have the other. Would YOU do that? David was also one of the people who kept telling Fee to leave the band and go solo. I think it would have been better for Fee’s career to have Foster produce but not better for The Tubes.

RetroDan: Nearly Human and the whole “Big Band” tour during those years (89-91) is probably my all time favorite Todd period. in recent years, Todd had mentioned doing a similar big production tour like a R&B Soul revue type deal. He even mentioned doing it with Donald Fagen. Have you heard anything about that?

Michele: It came close. Donald had to first go out to support his solo record and then shocked us all by touring again as Steely Dan. I helped produce a benefit concert for our school with Donald & Todd (of course I hired myself as a background singer. So cool to be singing background vocals on the old SD hits). The crowd LOVED it. Maybe someday.

RetroDan: is it really true that “Arena Rock” will be Todd’s next project?

Michele: Arena Rock, MAN!

RetroDan: any words of wisdom for the retroblog.net readers here?

Michele: If you can get through the laundry, concentrate on doing what makes you happy. Geez, maybe I’d better follow my own advice!

RetroDan: OK Michele, one last thing…the speed-round!!

- Your favorite meal?

Dungeness Crab with garlic bread

- Your current favorite CD?

It changes every week

- Your current favorite TV show?

I haven’t had time to watch TV for 3 months!

- currently reading?

I always read three books at a time. Alan Greenspan The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, Bill Clinton Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World and Re-reading Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens’ latest books

- the last movie you watched?

I took Rebop to see SuperBad (I admit it…I laughed my ass off)

- a favorite quote.

“I love you, Mom.”