Name: Mick Fleetwood
Progress Report: Iconic rock and roll drummer chats about tequila, Hawaii, befriending Nicole Atkins, and the future of a little band called Fleetwood Mac.
As a lifelong devotee of Fleetwood Mac, I jumped at the chance to chat with drummer extraordinaire and founding band member Mick Fleetwood. In addition to his percussion duties in the mighty Mac, Fleetwood busies himself a variety of side projects — including a soon-to-be-opened restaurant in his current hometown of Maui and playing shows with his side band, The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band. Fleetwood was also recently tapped for an appearance in “Off The Record” a newly launched web series (sponsored by Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo tequila, no less) that pairs iconic rock musicians with emerging artists to talk about music-making. It was both funny and very surreal to chat with Fleetwood about his involvement with Cabo Wabo (he and Sammy Hagar are longtime bros), his pairing with Nicole Atkins (he liked her vibe), and the current goings on with his day job in Fleetwood Mac (they are Rumoured to be recording and touring in 2012). Mick has a reputation for being not only a great drummer, but also one of the most charming guys in the business, which proved to be true. He was friendly and chatty, even when I had to cut the interview short by dropping the phone and running out of my hotel due to a fire alarm.
STEREOGUM: Hey Mick. Are you in Maui right now?
MICK: Yes. I’m here. This is my home.
STEREOGUM: First of all, I’m so curious. How do you know Sammy Hagar?
MICK: Well, I was aware of him way back in the day, even before he had joined Van Halen. Van Halen was on Warner Bros, which is the same stable that Fleetwood Mac currently resides in. I got to know him after he took over as the lead vocalist, which was really a pretty terrifying thing—to take over as lead vocalist for an already well-established band and replacing an already famous, bigger-than-life lead singer. I got to know him as the years went on and he would often come out to Fleetwood Mac shows. I really respect him. He really puts his heart and soul into his work—he does that with Cabo Wabo and he did the same thing with Van Halen. He carried them into an entirely new chapter in their career … and that’s not an easy thing to do. He’s a greater singer than people realize. He’s way more talented than most people realize. His music is often overshadowed by his personality. He’s just such an open, gracious person … and one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. I really respect and love him.
STEREOGUM: So is that how you got involved with “Off The Record?” Via Sammy?
MICK: They approached me — or my people, as it were — and I thought it looked like fun. The Cabo Wabo people had done a lot of homework and found a bunch of emerging artists that might be a nice fit. Around that same time, Sammy came to Maui. He phoned me from the airport when he landed. So when I saw him a few days later we talked about it and he told me I should definitely do it … and that was how I got involved. It sounded like fun for me. Plus, I’m opening a restaurant here in Maui next year, so I figured I might get some tequila.
STEREOGUM: So how did you get paired with Nicole?
MICK: They had a list of around 20 different artists for me to consider and I was just really drawn to Nicole. I really didn’t know anything about her or have any preconceived notions about her beforehand. The video is really all about her. She really didn’t need any mentoring from me — she’s already worked really hard and really knows what she is doing — but I saw this person who just made this great record totally on her own and who could now possibly be taken right off the rails by success. Maybe I could give her some advice about how to keep your feet on the ground in this business, which is something I have experience with. It was really just this fun conversation about art and creativity. I hope she becomes wildly successful. It was also nice to see someone who just totally loves what they are doing and will be doing it forever, regardless. That was the Fleetwood Mac model, basically. We didn’t know what was gonna happen. We never thought we would become really rich or anything. We were just happy to put food on the table and be able to travel. It was basically just fun to talk about the creative process with someone and play a little music with them. Plus, I feel like I made a new friend. A really talented friend.
STEREOGUM: It’s interesting hearing you talk to Nicole about your early days in Fleetwood Mac. Do you ever tire of young musicians wanting to hear you tell about the making of Rumours again and again?
MICK: No, not really. I’m usually happy to talk about it. You know, previous to that album John McVie and I had already encountered a certain amount of success, especially in Europe, with Peter Green in the early incarnation of Fleetwood Mac. Talking about Rumours used to kind of piss us off because that’s all anyone ever wanted to know about, which was really our own fault for having been so open about everything that went on during the making of that record. You know, the all of us falling in love and out of love within the ranks of the band. It became this soap opera around Rumours, which is obviously a well-worn story at this point. We wanted to talk about the music and all anyone wanted to hear about was who was jumping into bed with one another. It wore very thin, but there was nothing we could do about it … it just became part of the fabric of Fleetwood Mac. In truth, looking back on it now … I’m OK with it. I think we all are. In knowing all that stuff, people became personally involved in our story — and with us — as real people. People feel like they really know us as individuals — or like characters from some sort of funny play — and they sort of do. It ended up being this very pleasant, soulful, organic thing between our fans and us.
STEREOGUM: It’s very interesting talking to you about this. I’ve interviewed some of your bandmates in the past — most recently Stevie — about the weird phenomenon of having your life become totally mythologized. Few bands have experienced that as acutely as you guys have. Stevie seemed to be really into that idea. People love Fleetwood Mac and Rumours so intensely — obviously, because of the songs — but also because they have such an attachment to the people who made those songs and relate so intensely to what you guys were going through at the time. It’s fascinating. Maybe less fascinating if you were one of those people who experienced it firsthand, but still.
MICK: Yeah. Nicole and I talked about that a lot, actually. There are times when you wonder if you’ll honestly ever be able to play music again, but those experiences end up benefiting you later on … it just doesn’t always feel that way.
STEREOGUM: I heard you were opening a restaurant in Maui. How has that experience been for you? The restaurant business might even more harrowing than the record industry.
MICK: It’s hair-raising, I can tell you that. If I still had any hair it would have all fallen out. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I already have a small wine company, but this will be a really good dining experience with a music component and it’s located in a really beautiful setting. The experience of bringing it all together and putting a team together … that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 months or so. We hope to be open by March of next year. I’m really involved though, it’s not just my name. In addition, I have a great blues band that I play with from time to time and occasionally we’ll just take off for a couple of weeks and do a kooky little club tour in Australia or something like that. Beyond that, when Fleetwood Mac comes roaring back, which it will, I will answer the call with my drumsticks in hand.
STEREOGUM: There have been statements from your various bandmates that Fleetwood Mac will be getting again in 2012 to start touring and possibly recording. You guys have been doing this for so long, can you imagine a time when you’ll want to stop?
MICK: I can imagine the possibility of that. As an old geekster, I look at people whom I consider mentors and inspirations — people like BB King and John Lee Hooker … you know, I can remember listening to BB King back when Fleetwood Mac first started! You look at them and think, well, they never stopped. They’ll just play until they drop because that’s what they do. People like Bob Dylan or Elton John continue to tour and play endlessly — not because they need the money, God knows they don’t — but because that’s what they must do. I don’t think I’m necessarily that kind of person. I’m interested in having a nice life, an actual life, outside of the business. You know, if Fleetwood Mac has the opportunity to do a couple of more big world tours over the next, say, seven years or so, I’ll be there. The band is great right now. Everyone is healthy and happy. Where we go wrong always has to do with getting everyone on the same page and in the same place at the same time. Since 1967 that has always kind of been my job to keep the band going; even through all the transitions and through the crazy success … and I actually get tired sometimes. It’s slowing down a bit, that mad desire to always rally the troops. In the past I had to be the one to say, “Hey! Come on guys! Let’s go! We’re all really liking each other right now so let’s go do this and that the other!” Now I prefer to defer more to Stevie. We all know that we’re never going to walk onto a stage without her there, so now I’m more likely to just say “Stevie, tell me when you want to do this and we’ll all turn up.”
STEREOGUM: Well, she’ll never stop. She is always on tour.
MICK: Yeah, she’s like a BB King type. She is always working. She works herself too hard, in my opinion, but she can always always go out and tour. That’s her life. She loves it. She is one of those people. But touring on her own she doesn’t have to deal with the trauma of balancing four differing opinions and the worry of everyone getting along. It took years and years before she and Lindsey could end up on a page that they could both comfortably exist on … and they know how to do it now. We’ve moved past that point of me having to be the slave driver. Plus, it’s really not appropriate anymore. We’ve more than given ourselves to the world of Fleetwood Mac. It will be back and it will be great.
(FIRE ALARM SOUNDS)
STEREOGUM: Thanks, Mick! Maybe my hotel is on fire? I gotta go!
Mick Fleetwood talks with Nicole Atkins for Cabo Wabo’s “Off The Record”