If you live in Western Australia, chances are Gavin Bond knows more about Todd Rundgren than you do. I don’t say this to start a fan war, but the man’s enthusiasm for the musician, even via email, is just plain infectious. If you don’t know who Todd Rundgren is or are neutral to his music, be warned: Bond’s passion will hook you to find out more or to take another listen.
The good news is, beyond being a devoted fan, Gavin Bond is also a talented filmmaker whose latest documentary “Todd Who?” can help you out with just that thing.
Premiering at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival on July 11th, “Todd Who?” will not only educate you about Rundgren’s legacy and musical achievements but entertain you with its following of Bond’s own journey through fanhood.
In our recent interview, Bond shares insight into the film’s development, his relationship to Rundgren’s music, life as a filmmaker versus film reviewer, and a memory he cherishes from his time spent making the film.
Documentary Drive: You know the six degrees of separation theory or, even better, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” where it is suggested that anyone in Hollywood can be linked to actor Kevin Bacon through six acquaintances or less? As I was looking at Todd Rundgren’s biography and the amount of influence he has had, it struck me that the same concept could essentially be applied to his career in the music industry. Do you think this is a fair assessment—do all roads inevitably lead to Todd Rundgren?
Bond: Yes, that’s true. I can just about find a connection between Todd and every living and deceased artist. It annoys the crap out of my friends.
Documentary Drive: When was the first time you heard Todd Rundgren’s music and was it love at first listen?
Bond: I heard his hit single “Can We Still Be Friends” on the radio in 1981 and it grabbed me straight away. Truth is though, it wasn’t love at first listen when I purchased the corresponding album. Todd is an indulgent/experimental artist and it was all a bit too weird for my MOR/Hall and Oates music taste back then. It wasn’t until 2 years later that I reached enlightenment and Todd’s music really connected and grew on me.
Documentary Drive: “Todd Who?” was at one point originally a short film. Why did you want to expand it into a feature-length documentary?
Bond: Actually my first version was a 60 min doco that was overly indulgent and (as some of my friends brutally informed me) boring. My co-director Ian Abercromby and I then cut the film down to a bright ‘n breezy very Aussie flavoured 30 min short film so we could enter it in festivals. After traveling the US in 2014/2015 to attend a handful of film festivals where “Todd Who?” played as a short film we were lucky enough to track down some international musicians to interview. We have now completed a feature length version with extra overseas interviews that we believe still retains the short version’s style, mood and appeal and does far more justice to Todd’s stellar achievements.
Documentary Drive: What type of planning went into the making of the film?
Bond: I always wanted to try to convert the masses to Todd.
After an aborted book attempt I was inspired to make a self-funded modestly made doco about him after seeing/reviewing “Searching for Sugarman” and “Springsteen and I”. When I was able to interview Molly Meldrum and Daryl Braithwaite (totally off the cuff) when they were in Perth for Telethon in Oct. 2013, that really kick started the film. I then wrote my narration pretty swiftly. That wasn’t hard as I have been wanting to tell this story for 30 years. Tracking down clips and other interviews was a little more time consuming. But I loved every minute of planning the project as it’s obviously a passion piece.
Documentary Drive: These days it seems rare for people to find an artist whose career they’re able to grow with and whose songs they love just as much as they did when they first heard them. What is it about Todd Rundgren or his style that has been able to sustain that musician/fan relationship for you?
Bond: First and foremost, it’s the music. I just love his unique chord progressions and his songwriting chops. But then I discovered, on top of that, just how prolific he was/is, his insightful lyrics and his philosophical and cynical outlook on life. Every album he releases is just so different from each other and is always based on an interesting concept. He always challenges me and never disappoints.
Documentary Drive: The film features interviews with numerous well-known Australian and American music personalities. Can you share one thing that you learned from these interviews that you didn’t know about Todd Rundgren before?
Bond: The main thing I discovered is that no one in the rock music industry really thinks Todd is underrated. They all seemed to hold him in the highest regard and they all tried to convince me that Todd doesn’t really care that he isn’t more well-known or famous.
Documentary Drive: In addition to being a passionate Todd Rundgren fan, you’re also a passionate cinephile. You’ve been a film critic for many years and have even hosted your own film review show on Perth public access TV. What is it like being on the other side now as a filmmaker? And are there any aspects or challenges that you didn’t expect?
Bond: My foray into filmmaking (2 indulgent docos…my 2012 film “Buff” is about movie fandom) were direct extensions from my experiences producing and hosting a film review show on public access TV. Ian Abercromby, who ran our TV show behind the scenes, made both docos with me, on a minuscule budget and borrowed equipment, in between our mundane day jobs. Editing was a challenge as it was time consuming and technically challenging. Getting any film funding is close to impossible and having it screened and accepted at fests is also hard work as it is extremely competitive and, at times, deflating.
Documentary Drive: For any Todd Rundgren newbies out there who see “Todd Who?” at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and are inspired to go home and buy one (or all!) of his albums, where do you suggest they begin?
Bond: It’s hard to go past his 1972 double album masterpiece “Something/Anything” in which he played every instrument on 3 of the 4 sides. Good follow-ups are his groundbreaking 1973 psychedelic opus “A Wizard, a True star” and his deeply personal 1978 “Hermit Of Mink Hollow” which is jam packed full of emotive ballads.
Documentary Drive: Finally, what is one of your fondest memories of making this film?
Bond: Definitely hearing my “Countdown” heroes Molly Meldrum, Daryl Braithwaite and Dragon’s Todd Hunter gush to me, one on one, about how influential Todd is and what big fans they are. I always suspected it but had never ever heard any Australian artists actually say it.
For more information on “Todd Who?” be sure to visit the film’s official Facebook page.“Todd Who?” screens July 11th at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Tickets are currently available through Moshtix.