On the road to Utopia with
By Gus Bernadicou
Punk Globe: Kasim, could you please give the readers some background on yourself?
Kasim Sulton: Well, lets see... I've been a professional musician for the past 35 years. Playing, touring and recording with artists that range from Joan Jett to Celine Dion.

My credits include (but are not limited to) being the Bassist on Bat Out Of Hell, Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself For Loving You", In Todd Rundgren's Utopia for 10 years, touring with Cheap Trick, Richie Sambora, Patty Smythe, Jon Bon Jovi, Hall & Oats, Mick Jagger ... The list is somewhat endless.
Punk Globe: You started out with the ever-so-hot Cherry Vanilla, is that correct?
Kasim Sulton: I did. Cherry was the first person on the NYC music scene to recognize that I had some talent. She took me into her band as a pianist when I could hardly play that instrument. She also introduced me to all her close friends who at the time were pretty heavy hitters in the music business.

Basically I went from a somewhat sheltered existence on Staten Island to hanging out with people like Mick Ronson, Michael Kaman and Earl Slick.
Punk Globe: Did you guys record together?
Kasim Sulton: We recorded a dozen or so of Cherry's songs but they were mostly demo's. I don't know if there are any copies of them but it would be a great to hear them now.
Punk Globe: You then made a move and got your power-pop on with Todd Rundgren?
Kasim Sulton: Through Michael Kaman and Earl Slick, I heard that Todd Rundgren was looking for a bass player. Since bass was my first instrument I thought, 'what the hell', I'll throw my hat in for the audition and at the very least, have the experience of auditioning for a national act. Turned out I got the gig.

The hardest thing I had to do was to tell Cherry I was leaving her band although I think she understood.
Punk Globe: In Utopia your talents began to shine; you played bass and keys, wrote songs, and sang. Did you consider yourself one of the key members?
Kasim Sulton: Fortunately for me, that was a pivotal period in time for Utopia. Todd didn't want to be the focus of a four man band. He had a very successful solo and producing career and wanted to keep a lower profile in Utopia. His name was removed from the billing and it became simply Utopia. So the emphasis was shifted away from just Todd to the other three members as well.

Everyone sang, everyone contributed to the writing process and we all had equal say in all creative and business decisions.
Punk Globe: Starting off prog and ending as 80's programed pop, was Utopia's goal to get a hit or were you guys just changing with the times?
Kasim Sulton: Utopia was very much an experimental band. We were capable of a wide range of musical styles. The first album that I recorded with the band had extended songs with each member soloing as well as three minute 'pop' songs.

There was a point where we consciously wrote songs we thought would be 'radio friendly' and we did have some success - a top 20 hit with 'Set Me Free' but we mainly concerned ourselves with doing what pleased us as musicians first. If our audience liked it, that was great but we weren't about to sell our collective souls or compromise our musical values in order to sell more albums.
Punk Globe: Utopia recently announced a reunion tour. Any plans for gigging all over the globe, or recording a new album?
Kasim Sulton: That was really a one off gig. Unfortunately we didn't even have Willy Wilcox, the original drummer with us. It was great to do and I'd do it again in a second but I doubt it could happen again. Everyone is busy with other projects and putting together a tour that would make financial sense doesn't seem likely.
Punk Globe: You've played with Patti Smith, Meatloaf, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, and tons of other people. What are some memorable moments that you tend to reflect back on?
Kasim Sulton: First one that comes to mind is recording Bat Out Of Hell. Todd agreed to produce that record when no one else would go near it. Jim Steinman tell the story of performing a song or two for Clive Davis and hearing him say it was the absolute worst music he'd ever heard. While we were in the studio, it was all I could do to keep from laughing at these complicated 8, 9 and 10 minute songs. Once we finished the record I thought I'd never hear it again.

About a year later I was driving from NYC to Woodstock listening to WNEW FM and something came on that sounded vaguely familiar. I recognized it a few seconds later as the album I did. Of course that was the start of one of the biggest selling debut albums of all time. I think it's around 45 million copies to date.
Punk Globe: You played on Tom Robinson's last "punk" album, how did the recording come about?
Kasim Sulton: Tom is a wonderful guy and he's also a Todd fan. Todd was asked to produce his new record and after listening to Tom's songs decided he like to do it. We (Utopia) were touring in the UK and Europe at the time and there were some sessions booked while we were in London. Todd asked me if I'd like to song some background vocals with him on a few tracks and I jumped at the chance.
Punk Globe: Do you find it to be a different experience when you record an album with a band compared to hitting the road with them?
Kasim Sulton: The majority of my experience in regards to recording and touring with the same band has been with Utopia. Most other acts I've worked with it's either one or the other.

Whenever we recorded a record we tried to keep in mind that we would eventually have to play most of that material live so we never went overboard with ear candy or instrumentation that couldn't be reproduced on stage without having to use backing tracks. Todd is a stickler for not 'cheating' on stage.
Punk Globe: Desert island time...five albums, GO!
Kasim Sulton: Sgt. Pepper;
Asia (Steely Dan);
Want One (Rufus Wainwright);
Axis Bold As Love (Jimi Hendrix);
Surfs Up (Beach Boys);
Punk Globe: You've released solo efforts since the 80's, have you always thought they represented you the way you wanted? Weren't you a big superstar in Canada?
Kasim Sulton: Canada? Someone mentioned that to me once. I'll have to check my BMI statements. Seriously, the only record I wasn't entirely happy with was my first solo album Kasim. It started off being produced by Roy Baker. We had a difference of opinion and I wound up finishing it with Bruce Fairburn. Bruce was a great producer but I think my songwriting wasn't very strong. Looking back, I'm glad I did it but I think I would have been better served waiting another year or so and trying to improve my songwriting.
Punk Globe: You have a new "project" coming out...details, please!
Kasim Sulton: I'm doing something very special on my next record. First, it's the last 'proper' CD I'll be doing. After this, I'll just release songs as I finish them instead of waiting until I have 10 or 12 to put on a disk.

I'm soliciting my fans to submit pictures of themselves that I will place on the cover. All these individual pictures will be placed in a mosaic that will be my portrait. Much like art pieces that resemble The Statue of Liberty or the Mona Lisa which are made up of other smaller pictures. So ... if anyone reading this has any interest on having their picture on the cover of my next CD the can go to www.kasimsulton.com/the-project There you can find out all the details on how to submit.
Punk Globe: Will it be a return to power-pop?
Kasim Sulton: It will be pop and I'd like to think it will be powerful but I don't know that my music falls into the power pop category. It's just good music.
Punk Globe: Any special guests? (..Todd Rundgren is big into dance music these days..)
Kasim Sulton: Yes there will be special guests. Todd has agreed to join me on a track, friends like Paul Gilbert, Andy Timmons, Michale Urbano, Mark Rivera and a host of others will be scattered throughout.
Punk Globe: In your live set you've played "Afraid Himself To Be" by Jason Falkner, any plans to work with the power-pop star in the future?
Kasim Sulton: Can you please tell Jason I would LOVE to work with him? I think he's playing with Beck these days although I'm not sure. I've always been a big fan of his from his days in Jellyfish to his solo work. I think he's brilliant.
Punk Globe: Any websites you would like to plug? What is the best way for people to keep up to date?
Kasim Sulton: www.kasimsulton.com

And of course that face bookie thing.
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the time, any advice for our readers out there?
Kasim Sulton: Go with your gut.
Don't get angry too much and if you do get angry, dont' stay angry.
Be kind to others.
Listen more and talk less.

Have a story the world needs to hear? Follow the trend @Bernadicou or email gus@punkglobe.com