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12 Rods On Recording, Performing With Todd Rundgren

Progressive pop combo 12 Rods is one of the latest bands to be making noise out of Minneapolis, and this time around they've done it with the help of '70s pop-rock icon and studio wizard Todd Rundgren.

Due out on June 20 from V2, the group's second full-length, "Separation Anxieties," was produced by the legendary Rundgren, and as vocalist-guitarist-bassist Ryan Olcott told MTV News, getting him interested in producing 12 Rods was easier than expected.

Our previous record [1998's 'Split Personalities'] was self-produced," Olcott began. "We needed someone to kind of point us in the right direction [on the new LP], show us some of the studio ropes and other pop songwriting ropes. So I wrote a big wish list and gave it to [our A&R person], and Todd was the first one to call us back and say he was really interested in working with us.

Olcott speculated that Rundgren's interest came from the strength of the demos for "Separation Anxieties.

He

thought that the songs were pretty well in order," Olcott said. "This batch of songs, compared to the last record, had a lot of the fat trimmed. The songs are little more cut-to-the-chase and straight-to-the-point, rather than a lot of seven-minute songs with 20 different parts.

I kind of realized that I was writing songs that had too much stuff going on in them for people to really latch on to," Olcott recalled. "So I figured I'd write some three-minute pop songs, and Todd heard those.

After signing on as producer, Rundgren paid Olcott a songwriting compliment by not suggesting many changes to his work... though Rundgren did display some impressive language skills.

He didn't really do too much to the songs, arrangement-wise," Olcott explained. "He just fixed up some my lyrics when it came to tenses and more grammatical stuff. I'm not exactly a literary major.

In contrast to Rundgren's reputation for intense production and his own trademark sound,

Olcott said his approach to recording 12 Rods was very straightforward.

We went in there assuming that [Rundgren] would put the stamp on us," said Olcott. "But to our surprise, he just decided that it's better to capture what we do live and use that as a framework. To him, the songs kind of wrote themselves.

He kept it the standard bass, guitar, drums, and some samples," he added. "Everything was done in a couple of takes.

According to pop legend, Rundgren has been known to play many of the instruments on the records he produces, as well as provide backing vocals. With 12 Rods, that wasn't the case.

It was quite the opposite with us," said Olcott. "He didn't play a single instrument or sing a single note. He just engineered and enjoyed.

We had a really good time in the studio," he continued. "He was really easy going. You just have to work at his level and we have good work ethics when it comes to working in the studio.

That

solid relationship carried over to the stage recently, when Rundgren joined the band at the Metro in Chicago during a concert to celebrate the completion of the album.

We world-premiered one of his songs," Olcott said. "The song is called 'I Hate My ISP.' Then he did two of our songs with us afterward.

Rundgren went out of his way to avoid stealing the limelight at the show. "He knew that it wasn't really about him," Olcott said, "but there were a lot of his fans in the audience yelling, 'Where's Todd?' and stuff.

We did interviews with him afterward," Olcott continued. "And of course many of the interviewers were big 'Toddheads,' and they'd ask him a bunch of questions, and he would just say, 'Look, you have to schedule a different interview to ask me those questions. This interview is about 12 Rods.' He would only talk about 12 Rods, which is pretty commendable. The interview was for us, and he was just there representing the production side.

Now

that "Separation Anxieties" is about to be released, 12 Rods is preparing to promote the album with a tried and true approach.

Excessive touring," Olcott said of the group's future plans. "A sick amount of touring. V2 is working on a single called 'What Has Happened?' which is being spun on 20 or 25 radio stations right now. Starting in July, we will be on the road indefinitely. As far as I am concerned, that's the only way to break us... endless touring.

To catch 12 Rods on the road, here's their current tour itinerary:

  • 6/24 - Hartford, CT @ The Meadows
  • 7/5 - Atlanta, GA @ Cotton Club
  • 7/6 - Wilmington, NC @ Marrz
  • 7/8 - Boston, MA @ Bills Bar
  • 7/9 - Syracuse, NY @ K-Rock-A-Thon
  • 7/10 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
  • 7/11 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
  • 7/12 - Utica, NY @ Capt. Trips
  • 7/13 - Erie, PA @ TBA
  • 7/15 - Nashville, TN @ Jack's Legs
  • 7/16 - Memphis, TN @ Last Place On Earth
  • 7/17 - Little Rock,

AR @ Vino's

  • 7/18 - Fayetteville, AR @ J.R.'s
  • 7/19 - St. Louis, MO @ The Side Door
  • 7/20 - Chicago, IL @ Double Door
  • 7/21 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue