'Skin' Tight


October 20, 2006


As the sonic architect of "Rumours" (1977) and "Tusk" (1979), guitarist Lindsey Buckingham created some of the most elaborate walls of sound in rock history. And though he's hardly been prolific as a solo artist, that music has been nearly as lush as his work with Fleetwood Mac.

When Buckingham did his last solo tour in support of "Out of the Cradle" (1992), he was accompanied by a "guitar army" with seven other ax slingers. That's one reason why the long-awaited follow-up, "Under the Skin," comes as such as surprise.

With nine originals and two well-chosen covers, the songs on Buckingham's fourth solo disc keep the focus on his guitar and vocals, and they are some of the most direct and emotional tunes of his career. The artist hopes to foster that vibe on an intimate club tour that brings him to the Park West next week. We spoke shortly before he hit the road.

Q. Tell me about making "Under the Skin." The perception is that you haven't made many solo albums because a) you're a perfectionist in the studio, and b) whenever you want to do one, you're distracted by that other band you're in ...

A. Well, there are actually a couple of tunes on here that go all the way back to my last attempt to make a solo album, which was before [Fleetwood Mac's 1997 album] "The Dance," when I got into the studio with Mick [Fleetwood] and we began cutting some tracks. Word got around, and that lead to an intervention of my intentions, so that was put aside. But there are two songs there that hearken all the way back to that time, which are "Down on Rodeo" and "Someone's Gotta Change Your Mind."

Everything else was written much later, because for some reason, after those songs were in the can and waiting to find a home, I wasn't writing at all. Most of the songs from "Under the Skin" were recorded on the road. While we were on the road with Fleetwood Mac, I had a cheap eight-track that we'd wheel into the room and set up, and I would just record. I had become increasingly interested in the application of a single guitar chord, trying to make that succeed in doing the bulk of the work on a track. The intention was to make an album that sounded more or less like you might be sitting in a living room playing to someone.

Q. What inspired you to finally start writing?

A. I think part of it was that there was the sense that I had gotten all this other stuff off the books; it was almost like "No, can't do that until I deal with this." Not a very logical thing, but that's the way it has played out. The other thing was that Fleetwood Mac spent years on the road exposing our personal lives, and almost caricaturizing them. When you have two couples broken up -- and in my mind, neither one had really worked through their things or gotten closure -- you have to get through that before you can move on to other stuff.

Q. And that's difficult when you're being reminded of it every night.

A. That's right! All that kind of stuff obviously wasn't very healthy, so it took a while. Then, you know, I met a very beautiful lady named Kristen [Messner, whom he married in 2000], and we somehow hit it off and now we have three children. Many of the things I have been striving for as an artist in terms of improving my skills and the obsessive qualities it takes to keep pushing and pushing yourself, when I look back, it wasn't necessarily being noble. ... When you have a kid, you realize what is important in life.

All of that figures into the subject matter of a lot of these songs. It's all very, very personal. It's probably the most personal collection I have ever put out.

Q. The album really does have a very intimate vibe. It's ironic, because in the shorthand of rock history, you are the master of the wall of sound.

A. Yes, but this gave me a lot of space to go almost over the top with vocals and guitar, because you're not really competing with anything else. It was an interesting process.

It does create a challenge in terms of presenting a show that was going to resonate with the album, because when we started rehearsing with the band, I said, "We can't just present a body of work here; we can't just get on stage and start rocking out. It would be wrong with this album." We are rocking out a bit by the end, but basically, the way the show is running now, we have quite a few songs with me just coming out by myself, and then the band does some ensemble pieces. And then at the very end everyone loses their hearing!