These days, Mick Fleetwood is playing drums on the next Fleetwood Mac album . . . and making his acting debut in a film based on a Stephen King story . . . and writing his autobiography.
But that still leaves a few odd moments of free time and the lanky, 44-year-old rock veteran doesn't like sitting around. So tonight, on one of his otherwise unoccupied evenings, he'll hit the stage at Sasch in Studio City with Mick Fleetwood's Zoo, a long-running, informal band made up of friends who accompany Fleetwood during the long stretches when his more famous band is idle.
"It's nothing organized: they're all just buddies of mine and we occasionally do a gig," said Fleetwood of Zoo, whose other members are guitarists Billy Burnette and Steve Ross and bassist Kenny Gradney.
Burnette writes most of the material, though they also perform old Fleetwood Mac chestnuts like "Oh Well" and "Rattlesnake Shake," and '50s rockabilly tunes by Burnette's father, Dorsey.
"I like to play, and the Mac doesn't exactly get on the road every few months," he continued, sitting in his Malibu home. "We don't have a record deal or anything, so there's no pressure.
"I've never done anything that didn't feel good, or done something just for the sake of the money. God knows I've needed money in the last couple of years, but to get so desperate that you do something you're not enjoying. . . . I'd prefer to get on a tramp steamer and goof off."
Fleetwood laughs when he talks of his financial woes, but things weren't so funny three years ago.
The money came in quickly after the enormous success of 1975's "Fleetwood Mac" and 1977's "Rumours," but Fleetwood says he tied most of it up in extravagant real estate purchases. And when the band's sporadic schedule stopped the flow of income, the drummer and sometime manager of one of rock's most successful bands declared bankruptcy.
"People said, 'Oh, come on, Mick, you can't be going broke,' " he recalled. "(Fleetwood Mac guitarist/singer) Lindsey Buckingham kept saying, 'What do you mean, you're going broke? You can't be! You always took care of everyone else. . . . ' Well, it happened."
Fleetwood proudly showed off a photo album full of snapshots of the lavish Australian mansion and huge estate that proved to be his undoing. "I went out in style," he said with a grin. Now, he says, even the expected bonanza of a Fleetwood Mac album isn't crucial. "Financially, it's gonna be great," he readily admits. "It's not the make or break of me, but it's gonna be very nice."
That album has been in the works for some time now. "There's been two Halloweens, Lindsey's had two birthdays, and Christine (McVie) has got married during this project," he reports. But he expects it to be finished in a matter of weeks and in the stores early next year--more than four years after their last LP, "Mirage."
"If we kept the pressure on to make an album every two years, this band would have probably broken up, or been a different band," Fleetwood said. "But Stevie (Nicks), Lindsey and Christine have their solo projects, and so do I a little bit. Every three years or so someone gives a little nudge: 'Are we gonna make another album or not?' "
This time, Fleetwood nudged Buckingham, who'd already started work on his third solo record. The guitarist put his LP on hold and the band started working together, though Nicks was involved in her own projects during much of the time Fleetwood, Buckingham, McVie and bassist John McVie were recording.
"But even when she's not doing something else, she isn't usually in the studio that much," says Fleetwood. "Thank God, in a way, that this album took as long as it did because she really didn't hold up anything. It became a little bit of a problem, but now she's definitely finished her other stuff, and when she comes back in a couple of weeks she'll finish her vocals and we'll redo anything she feels super-strong about."
Actually, Nicks will return to the studio after a stay in the Betty Ford Center. "It's ironic that she went in when she did," Fleetwood observed, "because she was so burned out that a friend of mine and I were just about to talk to her about it."
As for the album (produced by Buckingham and Richard Dashut), Fleetwood promises an LP more adventurous than 1982's "Mirage" and more cohesive than the experimental, sometimes unwieldy "Tusk."
Said Fleetwood, "Very loosely put, it has all the ingredients of the band you saw in 'Rumours,' plus the excitement about doing something new, the way Lindsey was on 'Tusk.' But those two sides meet properly now."
In the meantime, Fleetwood is writing what he promises will be an extremely honest autobiography with Stephen Davis, and acting in "The Running Man," an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in which the rocker plays the 85-year-old leader of the resistance in a violent future society.
"My biggest problem, quite honestly, is just learning the lines," he said. "I left school when I was about 14 1/2, and ever since I just had this academic block. I want to be able to get a script, absorb it, and be able to learn five or six pages a night without dying, you know?
"Besides music, acting is the only other thing I know that I would love to do," he continued. "The last few weeks have woken part of my brain up, and I need that. I don't sit down and write songs, so when I'm not working with Fleetwood Mac, I've had periods where I was just sitting around, not doing anything. Things like the Zoo are really necessary to have fun and be active, even if it's just for a couple of days here and there."