Life In Utopia
Coinciding with the release of the Utopia Live In Boston 1982 DVD - released in the UK by Sanctuary Visual Entertainment – TotalMusic Online's Andy Basire decided to get the lowdown on what really happened in camp Utopia all those years ago from the horses mouth (so to speak) by tracking down bass player Kasim Sulton for an e-chat.
TotalMusic-Online: What do you consider to be the most fully realised Utopia album?
Kasim Sulton: Without a doubt, it would be Adventures In Utopia. We sat down during pre-production meetings for that record and talked about how we could make a record that our fans would embrace, radio would play and we could all live with. We looked at the current list of Billboards Hot 100 Singles, focused on the top 10 and proceeded to write songs that were similar to our style. If you listen to some of the songs on that record they are very close to what was considered a 'hit' at the time. A perfect example would be Boston’s More Than A Feeling and the Utopia song The Very Last Time. There is an obvious connection between the two without risking a law suit. It worked too because Adventures… included Utopia's only top 20 hit, Set Me Free.
TotalMusic-Online: So which album serves the Utopia legend least well?
Kasim Sulton: When we gathered to start recording the follow up to Adventures…, Todd informed the band that we would be doing a 'parody' album of Beatle songs [which] might not have seemed like the best idea at the time but the fact is as much as we were a band, it was still Todd's band and his ideas usually trumped anyone else’s. We were lambasted in the press for that record. It also didn't help that just before the record was to be released, John Lennon was assassinated and the last thing anyone wanted to hear was an album of Beatle sound alike songs.
TotalMusic-Online: You used to regularly swap instruments live, what was the thinking behind that and did it always work?
Kasim Sulton: Everyone in the band was multi-instrumental so I think it was part, ‘let’s give the audience something different during the show’ and part ‘we're so confident we can pull this off, damn the torpedoes… let’s have fun!’ I personally always looked forward to those portions of the shows because I loved playing lead guitar. As far as it working or not, no one ever asked for their money back at the end of the show because Todd played drums on one song or Willie played bass. It was part of our charm.
TotalMusic-Online: What do you recall about the tour this new Utopia Live In Boston 1982 DVD documents?
Kasim Sulton: Our aim was to do what we thought we did best, 3-4 minute power pop tunes. We were very comfortable with each other at that time. We liked being together. We laughed a lot and constantly made fun of the world, the music business and one another. We had been together as a band for about six and half years and weren't concerned with much beyond making our records, touring and playing as much as we could. We knew that we were a really good band who executed our songs extremely well on any given night, so we were just enjoying what we were doing. If I'm not mistaken, one of the shows we did on that tour was the first ever live broadcast of a concert on a cable TV station (USA Cable Networks recording a show in Los Angeles), the best part of that show was Todd coming out, jumping in the air and immediately falling on his ass in front of a few hundred thousand viewers.
TotalMusic-Online: The end of Utopia was apparently a pretty difficult period?
Kasim Sulton: We were getting frustrated. We were still willing to make records but each successive one sold less and individual band members were voicing their concern that we do things differently, but if Todd didn't agree it was pretty much a dead subject. He has a way with a pout that makes life miserable. So, yes, it was difficult. The last record was anything but a love fest for us in the studio and I was sorry that it ended the way it did but I'm not sure that any 10 year relationship ends with smiles and laughs.
TotalMusic-Online: Any plans for the original line-up to ever play live again?
Kasim Sulton: 2006 will mark the 30 year anniversary of the line up that included me in the band. I would love nothing more than to get together for a reunion tour, play a few major cities and document it for the fans but ... that’s me. There are three other people that would have to agree to do it and only Todd and I have continued actively touring since 1985. I will say that I'm pulling for us to do something to celebrate our time together, but whether it happens or not is a guess at best.
The full transcript of this article (including Kasim’s recollections of his years working as a Blackheart with Joan Jett, recording Bat Out Of Hell and touring with Meatloaf can be downloaded here