The Popdose Interview: Ken Caillat
Ted: From the outset, I should admit that I’m not the biggest Fleetwood Mac fan out there. For years, I worked in adult contemporary radio where Fleetwood Mac’s music never went away. When you hear “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Don’t Stop,” and countless other songs from The Mac’s catalogue over and over week after week, year after year, fatigue and burnout are going to set in — no matter how big of a fan you are. I was fairly certain that through the sheer repetition of the songs that I played on the air, I had heard everything there was to hear on Rumours.
And then I read Ken Caillat’s book, Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album – which helped me hear Rumours with new ears. Ken — who co-produced the album — created layers of instrumentation and vocals coupled with a lush production to make a sonic feast of an album. I heard musical flourishes and vocal nuances in ways I hadn’t before, and much of that was due to what Ken detailed in his book. His dedication to superior sound quality, and an ear for what works on a song and what doesn’t, made him an integral part of the band. Without Ken’s expertise and guidance during the recording process, it’s possible that Fleetwood Mac would have had some success with the album, but they wouldn’t have achieved the level of superstardom that awaited the group after the album’s release in 1977. Once I finished the last pages of Making Rumours, I knew I had to speak to Ken about his book and the way in which music production has changed since the album was made over 35 years ago. So, I dragooned my colleague, Matt Wardlaw, into co-hosting this podcast because he also read Ken’s book and wanted to know more about the back story of the making of this classic album.
Matt: We live in the age of the rock book. It seems like every single person that ever touched an instrument or stuck their head inside of a recording studio is putting out a memoir about the experience. And as you can imagine, the mileage varies depending on which pages you’re turning
The subject becomes even thornier when you consider an entire book dedicated to a single album. It takes a special album to warrant a large page count. But there are indeed certain albums — those special albums — which have so many stories just begging to be told. With an album like Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, where do you even begin? There were so many layers that came together to create that particular piece of work. There were so many different personalities. And that’s where Ken Caillat comes in as the man who is very likely the most qualified person to tell the story from an objective point of view.
The individual storylines that were in play on a daily basis with Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were dizzying. Any one of them could have been enough to sink an album or the entire band, but somehow, it all held together. Caillat was one of the ringleaders charged with the task of making it all work and finding a way to fit the various complicated pieces together into one final finished masterpiece. A masterpiece is indeed what was left on the tapes when Caillat and the band wrapped up work on the album which had become Rumours. All of these years later, the legend of Rumours continues to grow and thanks to Ken’s book, we know a lot more about what really happened within those studio walls.
It’s quite a story and it was a real pleasure to get the chance to spend some time talking with Ken to unlock the answers to a few more questions that we had after reading the book. Additionally, we used our conversational time to get Ken’s thoughts on the modern recording methods of today and the pros and cons that come along with the technological advances that have been made since Ken worked on Rumours.
We hope that you enjoy it as much as we did!