Todd Rundgren Comes to Clearwater and Kasim Sulton Talks to The Suncoast Post
Todd Rundgren is on tour with “The Individualist, A True Star” which combines Rundgren’s hits along with his iconic “A Wizard, A True Star” album which was released in 1973 and widely loved by the critics and the fans. Todd came to Clearwater this week for a two-night gig at the Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre. It is an amazing and entertaining show of his hits and the “Wizard” album! He is on tour through November. This is a not to miss show by one of the musical geniuses of our time!
Todd formed Utopia in 1973 with Kasim Sulton, Roger Powell and Willie Wilcox. Rundgren has produced some of the biggest acts and albums of our time including Meat Loaf, Cheap Trick and Hall & Oates. He has been an innovator, from making the first music video to producing and playing all the instruments on his records. He is going to be inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame this coming Saturday night October in Cleveland.
Kasim Sulton has been playing bass with Todd Rundgren for over 45 years. Utopia had a top 40 hit when Kasim sang the lead vocal on “Set Me Free” in 1980. When not touring with Todd, Kas has worked with Joan Jett, Hall & Oates, Meat Loaf and in recent years toured with Blue Oyster Cult. I was lucky to get an interview with Kasim about working with Todd and his new solo record which has hit the charts.
Kas, I am so excited to see this show, The Wizard is such a great record!
KS: It’s a really, really good show you know it’s not a short show (laughs), it is a two and half hour show with an intermission. Todd goes through a lot of his catalog and then the first night is side one of “A Wizard, A True Star” and the second night is side two of the record.
Congratulations on your record Kasim 2021 and making the Top 15 that’s awesome!
KS: Yeah thanks, I mean you know it’s the first record that I’ve done that is completely produced by someone else. You know that my very first solo record in 1981 was done that way with Bruce Fairburn, who produced it. This one is produced by my good buddy Phil Thornalley, from London. He produced the entire record top to bottom and you know it pushed me out of my comfort zone on a number of occasions which I am completely grateful for.
I really liked the lyrics on “Fast Car”.
KS: That was one of the last tracks that we did for the record and “More Love” which is the opening track and “Fast Car” were the last two tracks recorded for the record and radio seems to gravitate towards “Fast Car” they really like that track. ‘Cause you know, I do what I do and hope people can relate to it. I think I did a good job on this record.
Are you doing anything recovery related musically?
KS: I have been working with Ricky Byrd (original Blackheart) who has been doing a podcast for the Phoenix House and I have that coming up next week. I am more than willing to talk to anyone about recovery and about my journey. Ricky does his recovery music really well and people really relate to him you know.
What’s happening with the RRHOF Induction?
I try not to ask about it (laughing) or who’s inducting him because he might not know and probably doesn’t know who is inducting him. I mean he is very happy for the fans and the fans getting vindicated for saying that the artist they know and love, that has created the soundtrack of your life is being recognized and acknowledged. I think that is what really pleases Todd the most after so many years. They tried for so many years to get him on the ballot and now he is and he’s inducted, so they are very happy and he’s happy the fans got what they wanted.
You just recently played Daryl’s House Club, how is that for you? Do you ever see Daryl?
Yes, I have played Daryl’s House five to seven times in the last 5 years.
I was there just before the pandemic and Daryl came to see me. We played when we did the Kasim Sulton & Utopia tour and maybe Daryl’s House was the second or third gig we did and Daryl came, sat and then watched the whole show. I was so pleased that he came and stayed, so that was a big thrill for me and it was great to see him. I’m sure if it wouldn’t have been good, he wouldn’t have stuck aroundI (laughs). He stuck around and I was able to have some conversation with him and it is always good to see him. I usually play there once or twice a year.
I saw the tour that you were on with them (Hall & Oates) in 1990.
I mean that was a great tour and you know I had a lot of fun with that band. Probably one of the best bands that I was ever in next to Utopia because of the musicians in it and it was two guys who are no longer with us, Bobby Mayo and T-Bone Wolk. I learned more from those two guys in the three years that I was with Daryl and John. First of all, Bobby Mayo was just one of the most brilliant organ players, piano players, guitar players that I had ever worked with. T-Bone was a musical encyclopedia and one of the sweetest most loving and caring guys that you ever could ever work with. So those guys made that band really, really special. I will never forget working with Bobby & T-Bone. Of course, the other guys in the band also, Charlie and Mike Braun, Daryl and John.
One thing I was reading about is this new podcast you’re doing, can you tell me a little bit about it?
That started off as you know I have always thought my story, I have a pretty good back story to my life playing music and being in bands. I started working with a manager a couple three or four years ago, that was friendly with a guy named Michael Simon, he did all the VH-1 Storytellers he’s got bunch of music videos and directs “Ridiculousness” that show that on cable. I have worked with Michael before and when I brought the idea of to my manager, I said you know should bring him in and talk about maybe doing a television show. We spoke to Michael he was into it, he thought it would be a really good idea. Then as things progressed it turned out that what might be the better thing to do is rather than try to get pitch meetings with Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Showtime or any number of places or network television. Let’s try a podcast first, so it’s loosely based on my life it’s about a rock guy who has children and has been around the block more times than he cares to count. You know trials and tribulations of being in bands and working with other musicians and having children basically sum it up. It’s like you know getting off stage after playing in front of 10,000 people and getting it in a private plane flying home, getting into the limousine to go from the airport to the house and you get a phone call from the Mrs. saying, by the way don’t forget the garbage cans have to go out tonight and we need milk. It’s just the position of that glamorous international jet setting pop star and having to shovel the sidewalk when it snows out (laughing).
Where can we find the podcast?
We’re looking at early next year for the premiere. We have six episodes already in post-production which would be a season one six-episode in podcast world and then we’ll do another six episodes probably later on this year and then we will try to get it up on onto some distribution network probably at the beginning of the year. It’s funny, poignant and well written by these two young kids out of Los Angeles, Ben and Chanel and we are just very excited about it
How did you meet Todd Rundgren?
It was a series of happy accidents. I was playing with Cherry Vanilla at the time in New York City. I was playing keyboards and Cherry took me into the band because I could sing and they needed to replace a guy by the name of Patrick Henderson, who was an amazing piano player. Through playing in that particular band, I met tons of really great people in the New York City scene. This was the mid 70’s and I was hanging out with people like Mick Ronson, Tony Zanetta and Leee Childers, the photographer. Hanging out at Max’s Kansas City and playing there in 1974. One of the guys who I became very close with was Michael Kanaan, the piano player, arranger and orchestrator and just a great guy. He kind of took me under his wing. I grew up on Staten Island and I was friendly with Earl Slick and Earl’s guitar player was playing with David Bowie at the time along with Michael Kamen. They did the Bowie “Diamond Dogs” tour together. I went over to Earl Slick’s house one day to take him to JFK airport and I walked in his front door and he said, “Do you feel like playing bass for Todd Rundgren”? I said “I don’t know, I guess”, and he said when we get to JFK , call Michael Kamen up and tell him you are interested in the gig and he will recommend you. I did just that and the next day Michael called Roger Powell and told him someone is interested in auditioning for the band. The next day I took a Greyhound bus up to Woodstock and that is how I ended up being in Utopia!
Vicky Sullivan Photos