With Todd Rundgren’s initial U.S. leg of his “Arena” tour finished, I caught up with Rundgren’s current bassist Rachel Haden to find out her thoughts on the tour and to see what she’s got next on her plate. Rachel is the daughter of jazz musician Charlie Haden and one of the Haden Triplets (along with Petra and Tanya of course). Being from a family overflowing with musical talent, it was pretty much a no-brainer for Rachel to become a musician herself. She has been involved in a variety of different projects over the years including being a member of The Rentals, that dog. and has recently recorded with Neil Hamberger on his album Neil Hamberger sings Country Winners.
So here’s the RetroBlog Q&A with Rachel Haden -
retroDan: Rachel, you’ve spent the summer touring the U.S. with rock icon Todd Rundgren who has been known to tour only with a short list of “regulars” (i.e. Prairie Prince, Jesse Gress, Kasim Sulton). How did you wind up becoming his bassist?
Rachel Haden: That’s a good question. I’m still asking myself that! Prairie is a good friend and recommended me. Thanks Prairie!
retroDan: What has it been like for you touring with Rundgren? any highlights? lowlights? funny stories?
Rachel: It’s been a very challenging and positive experience. I have grown so much as a person and musician on this last tour. Todd has been such a mentor to me. He pushes me out of my comfort zone. He encourages me like no one else has; not only to be the best bass player I can be but also the best person I can be. There has been nothing but highlights and lowlights and funny stories. One time Prairie and I went jogging in what we didn’t know was a swamp full of mosquitos…don’t ask. We turned around quickly.
retroDan: Any favorites off the current setlist?
Rachel: Yes. I would say “Today” and “Weakness” are my favorites thus far…
retroDan: I’m curious - while on tour, what do you do with your time when you’re not on stage?
Rachel: I like to work out in the Hotel gym (if there is one), have a shrimp cocktail with Prairie and watch a lot of TV Land and The Food Network. I also like to take walks and people watch.
retroDan: Rundgren’s summer U.S. leg of his tour ended earlier this month. Will you continue with Rundgren when he heads over to the U.K. in November? What are your plans in the meantime?
Rachel: I will be continuing with the band over in Europe and the U.K. in November. In the meantime I am continuing to write and record on Garageband in my kitchen; with the hopes of putting out a record of my own. My sisters and my brother and I are preparing for the up and coming Haden Family show August 24th at Lincoln Center.
[update: Rundgren will be touring in October as well. Dates are currently in the works. Check the TR Connection for the latest updates.]
retroDan: With your dad being a famous Jazz musician, and you and your siblings being all musically gifted, what was it like growing up with such a musical family? Was it anything like the Partridge family?
Rachel: It was very fun. There was always music being played. We really enjoy singing 3 part harmony and we did that a lot. It was just part of our life, and still is!
retroDan: How often do you get to see your family nowadays?
Rachel: We are all busy with various projects, so not as often as I would like.
retroDan: what were your early musical influences growing up?
Rachel: I listened to a lot of 4AD artists: The Pixies, The Cocteau Twins, The Throwing Muses, Dead Can Dance, Lush, Mark kozelek, His Name Is Alive…the list will go on forever if I don’t stop here!!
retroDan: Aside from all your musical endeavors, what else do you enjoy doing?
Rachel: I enjoy making salads and watching I Love Lucy. I would also like to get out a bit more. I could be a hermit at times.
retroDan: As you’ve mentioned earlier, you’re currently working on new material for your very own solo project. You have a fantastic voice. Even Matt Sharp (The Rentals) has been quoted in the past stating that your voice is the purest that he’s ever heard. Why has it taken this long for you to finally decide to record an album of your own?
Rachel: I’ve been wanting to put out my own music for quite some time now. I’ve worked with various people throughout the years and no one has really stuck with me. Aside from my sisters, it’s not easy to meet musical soul mates. That’s what I want and this takes time.
retroDan: Are those demos on myspace, material for the new album? I’m really fond of the tracks “My Valentine” and “I’m Away”, by the way.
Rachel: Yes. I’m hoping to re-record “My Valentine”…the production is not exactly what I had in my mind…”I’m Away” came out exactly how I imagined. I worked on that one with Jacob Holm-Lupo from Norway. I was lucky enough to be able to fly out there this past year and stay with he and his family. What a magical experience. I’d like to do a whole record there. The musicians I met were outstanding and real. Not to mention the country too.
retroDan: What’s your typical approach to writing songs? Do you start with a musical phrase? chord progression? lyrical idea?
Rachel: I start with a melody that is inspired by my surroundings or by sounds, like traffic or the drone of the refrigerator. Movies also inspire me. Then I just expand from there with chord progressions. . Lyrics usually come last.
retroDan: What’s the status of the Rentals? Will you be back with them after this stint with Rundgren?
Rachel: I’m not sure what the status of The Rentals is. I have not spoken with Matt for almost a year! Let me know if you find anything out.
retroDan: Any hope for a that dog. reunion?
Rachel: I would love that.
retroDan: I love your Magic Salad video on youtube. But, Rachel, is the liquid from the tuna-can really necessary???
Rachel: I know, but to each his/her own. I like it!!
retroDan: Of all the projects that you’ve been involved with, which ones are you most proud of?
Rachel: All of them.
OK, and lastly, the speed round…
- What’s currently playing on your iPod?
Rachel: Sun Kil Moon, Thomas Newman, Invisible Animals, Buffalo Daughter, Yann Tiersen, Ennio Morricone…
- Read any good books lately?
Rachel: Not lately..I was on a kind of reading kick last year. I read like 5 books in a month! The Bell Jar, The Stranger, Steppenwolf…those were a few of my favorites.
- Favorite movie?
Rachel: No one favorite movie, but I really love Fellini and Jim Jarmusch.
- Your pick: Pro tools or A tascam 4-track cassette recorder?
Rachel: I’m not good at working with programs like Pro-tools and Logic. I’d prefer to work with other people if I’m going to be doing that. I do love Garageband…and of course it all started with my Tascam 4-track. How I still love her!
- A favorite quote?
Rachel: All I know is I know nothing.
- See Rachel Haden along with the rest of the Haden family at:
Lincoln Center’s 25th Annual Roots of American Music Festival on Sunday, August 24th, 2008.
- check out Rachel Haden on myspace
- also be on the lookout for Todd Rundgren’s upcoming live DVD release (which features Rachel Haden on bass) that was filmed at the 14Jul08 Boulder Colorado show.
- and catch Rundgren (along with Rachel, Prairie Prince, Jesse Gress and Kasim Sulton) on tour this fall/winter. for more information about the new album Arena, visit Rundgren’s official myspace page