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Posted GedsJeans on 12 May 2013 - 11:42 PM
I've never posted on a Rush message board before. I've read them for years (this one much more than the others) but, for whatever reasons, just never decided to get my feet wet. After last night's phenomenal show at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, I decided to change that - even if only for a day. There are some things inside me that need to come out and I felt like this was the only place I could release them.
I'm a 31 year-old woman from NYC and a Rush fan since 2003. Last night marked my 14th Rush concert and my VIP package awarded me a great ticket right in front of the very man whose plaintive riffs stole my heart 10 years ago: Alex Lifeson. (I'm pretty small, so he never noticed me standing there gazing up at him with a potent cocktail of loving tears and adoration in my eyes, which was perhaps for the best. It was a very emotional night for me and getting any sort of eye contact from a member of Rush might have legitimately caused a fainting spell!)
I think that most Rush fans are, to an extent, somewhat broken and emotionally fragile people. Not ALL of them, obviously, but the more I meet and speak to at shows, and the more eyes I gaze into as I pass them in the hallways of concert venues, the more I believe that the 3 talented misfits who comprise Rush have managed to produce music that reaches into the hearts of every other misfit on the planet and pulls them into that warm and comforting nimbus where they know they will always be safe. And understood.
I am one of those broken people. I was an "accidental" child born to a mother who was violent and resentful. I was sexually abused by my father until I was in my teens and never told anyone. I was a compulsive cutter, a complete outcast in school who was abused verbally and physically. I had no social skills, grew up despising all other children and was terrified of men. For the most formative and important years of my life, I was such an introvert that something as simple as going grocery shopping gave me anxiety attacks. I spent the majority of my life feeling like I had no place on this earth. I felt unloved, unlovable, worthless, filthy, confused and full of a sadness so infinite that it sometimes felt like my heart was smothering in my chest. I had no interest in music, in hobbies, in dating. My only true joy was in painting, but because I lived on my own from an early age, I rarely had the money to buy decent art supplies. I was a lost and completely broken human being who was merely existing without living at all.
Anyone who tells you that music cannot change your entire life has obviously never been at the very end of their own rope, like I was.
I will never, ever forget the first time I heard Rush. Sitting on my bedroom floor in front of my stereo system on an overcast day in October, I stumbled onto Q104.3FM while station surfing. Suddenly, streaming out of my speakers in impossible, shimmering, twisting ecstasy came Alex Lifeson's Limelight solo. It pierced through my heart like an arrow and I remember an awe-struck, prickling sensation spreading fast as wildfire throughout my entire body. His guitar cried out in sorrow and my heart answered immediately in understanding. But then the notes that followed twisted and danced and spiralled off into the most nakedly honest and raw joy I'd ever heard. It felt like, in the space of only 30 seconds or so, he had told my own personal story and created a happy ending for me where there had been none. The euphoria and pure, delicately screaming joy of that final, spiralling note that he rides into oblivion awakened something inside me that I couldn't fully understand but never wanted to let go of. Alex had jump-started a heart that had been dead for nearly 2 decades. I had no idea who he was, I had no idea who the rest of the band was or even the name of the song. I only knew that if I could hear that sound again, that sparkling guitar full of hope and promise, that teeming wall of rapturous sound that wrapped around it, then somehow everything would be okay. That was the beginning of my love affair with Rush. They reached me in the most beautiful and profound way possible, at a time when nothing and no one else could.
I have never loved a band so much. I've never felt this way about music before, so consistently and for so long. I've never felt so deeply connected to 3 people I don't even know. I've never felt that I owed SO MUCH to a group of complete strangers. As they played The Garden last night, I reflected on all of this and broke down and cried. Right there in front of me, a mere 15 feet away, were the men who had saved my life and they didn't even know it. They would NEVER know it. I doubt they realize just how much the fruits of their livelihood affect the lives of those who hear it, how significant they are to the lost and hurting who stumble across their music. I'm still a broken person, but Rush was the bandage that helped me begin to heal. They were my rainbow in a life of nothing but clouds. I can only hope to God that they know how special they are. I often wish that I could meet them and just hug them and tell them "thank you", but it would never be enough. For what they have given to me, for what they have given to us all, there is no hug long or tight enough and there can never be enough "thank you"s.
As The Garden wound softly to a close last night and the boys retreated for a short break, I thought about the lyrics. "In the fullness of time, a garden to nurture and protect". Whether Rush realizes it or not, we all are their garden to nurture and protect.... and they have done a damn fine job.
So to all the other misfits out there... to all of you who, like me, have found solace or love or hope or healing in the music of these 3 wonderful men... my heart is with you, I understand and I raise a glass today to you, to Rush, to new beginnings, to the strength to carry on despite all odds and to the camaraderie that exists within this incredibly unique fanbase.
If anyone made it through this entire message, thank you from the bottom of my heart for obliging me. :') And most of all, thank you RUSH!!!
Posted Tombstone Mountain on 03 July 2015 - 06:20 PM
Who loves ya baby?
Hey guys...the setlist...it's all about you!
How can you not "like" this?
Posted jamie on 20 April 2014 - 12:12 AM
Posted Tombstone Mountain on 16 July 2015 - 03:28 PM
Howard Ungerleider: This is your Life
By Pope Francis
Yukon Blade Grinder reporter
My heavens! What a treat to be invited to Yukon Blade Grinder land. As THE man of the cloth, I find it quit humbling to have an opportunity to sing the praises of one Howard Ungerleider. So rich is his body of work. So diverse a resume of accomplishments and achievements. One could simply spend days upon days documenting them...but not me. Think about it. It's been written the entire world was created in just 6 days, so I can't give more than this to Howard without feeling guilty. I'm here, as they say in some parts of the world, to get my swerve on and share some thoughts about one Mr. Ungerleider.
I traveled all over God's green earth to find the real story. It wasn't easy. As with any assignment with the YBG sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. In the end, it was all my pleasure.
How it all started:
Ungerleider was born in New York in 1952 and moved to New Jersey when he was 12, spending his teens in Paramus. He credits his father, a former drill sergeant in the military, with instilling a strong work ethic in him. Success comes from the sweat of our brow, and sometimes from a boot in our rear. That gave him the tools to not be afraid to get his hands dirty.
Kudos to Dad--job well done!
His grandfather played mandolin with the New York Philharmonic, and Howard taught himself a little piano and guitar, which he played in a couple of local bands. Meanwhile, always cruising for the action and the next step up the corporate version of Jacob's Ladder, he volunteered at his high school theater where he first started running lights. He went to what is now Monmouth (NJ) University studying theater and drama right up to the moment when a prank got out of hand and he was shown the door. “It was stupid,” he laughs about the reason for his dismissal. No worries my son...you're forgiven! We all fall short. For example, the Yukon Blade Grinder didn't even pay the fuel tab for my papal jet to go interview Geddy and Alex. The bill is in the mail.
But before his dubious exit, he was on the student council, where he booked concerts and once worked with a New York Agent named Sean LaRoche. So he started showing up at his New York office, thinking if he met him he’d get a record contract for his band. All in God's good time my son.
LaRoche’s secretary kept putting him off, saying he was out of the office, at lunch — whatever — to get this kid to leave. After three weeks, Ungerleider figured out her schedule and marched into LaRoche’s office when she was out. LaRoche, who couldn’t believe this kid had gotten into his office, was even more flabbergasted that he was asking for a record contract. That's using the brain the good Lord gave us all Howard.
From dreams to a bowl of dust? NOT for Howard!!!
“Listen, there’s probably 20,000 bands out there and only one will make it, and it won’t be yours,” LaRoche told Ungerleider. “Now do you want to learn about this industry or do you want your life to be a pipe dream?” Undaunted, Howard was ready for his real "education".
LaRoche wrote some names down for him and sent him out the door. Perhaps crestfallen, but not deterred, it was his ticket to his job as an office boy making $75 a week for another agent, Jeff Franklin, then one of American Talent International owners. As always, Howard was able to learn what he needed to step up to the next level. He went from getting coffee to working in the mailroom, with Franklin seemingly screaming at him all the way. He got his big break when he overheard Franklin chewing out a room of agents because they couldn’t get a gig for Fleetwood Mac at a $3,500 package, with an extra $750 for the opening act. On the way home, Ungerleider stopped by Fairleigh Dickinson University and sold the deal to them — for $8,750. The applause of metal heaven reign on you my son!
Now an agent himself, Ungerleider worked with Deep Purple and Ronnie James Dio and did very well. “I developed a tough reputation, and they would often send me to collect the money from a gig,” he laughs. So tough in fact, he was the inspiration for the immortal tour manager "Ian" from the movie Spinal Tap. He's the one who made sure the motel accommodations were right. He made sure Alex had mandolin strings, and the band had bread that needed no folding.
Ian from This is Spinal Tap
Inspired by Howard Ungerleider
But as he traveled with the bands, they would always ask him what he thought of the show. He would be blunt. “Sometimes I’d point out that there was no ‘show’, just a band playing music.” He would make suggestions, particularly about the lighting, and the band would have him talk to the lighting director about his ideas. This blossomed into a moonlighting gig as a lighting consultant.
“In 1972, I was working with Blue Öyster Cult, and their booking agency was ATI,” Elliot Krowe says of his early days with Ungerleider. “Howard was always in the offices there, and we were introduced. He was available for work, so I hired him to do advance work for me on the BÖC tour. Subsequently he hooked up with Rush and they’re first foray into the states was on tour opening for BÖC, and his first lighting design was done on my system as an opening act.”
40 Years of Vision and excellenceAs the crazy overflowed at the agency, with partners fighting and threatening legal action against each other, Rush needed a tour manager for their first U.S. tour, and the prospect of working for a band looked good. In the summer of 1974, he was sent to Canada by his company to help a new band as they started touring regularly. That band was Rush and Ungerleider has played a crucial role in the success of their tours and production for nearly 40 years. 40 years! That's Moses territory right there, and Howard was certainly traveling the Promise Land in America. For so long he wore the Tour Manager and Lighting Design/Director hat and has been on the road with Rush for every tour except the Roll the Bones tour. From the early days opening for Kiss and Aerosmith, to the breakout 2112 shows, the blockbuster success of the Moving Pictures tour, introduction of lasers on 1984's Grace Under Pressure tour, triumphant return and astounding South American audiences on the 2002 Vapor Trails tours, to the Time Machine, and the current R40 tour, Howard has been instrumental in the look and feel of the band's performances. While the band provides the all important soundtrack, Howard sets the scene and creates the drama with precise and powerful lighting and video cues. He is an indispensable member of the band--thus says you-know-who!
One of the great perks of being a Yukon Blade Grinder correspondent, and the voice of God on Earth, is that I get to meet so many wonderful people. Geddy and Alex were next on the docket to meet for this homage to Howard. Flying into Toronto, admiring the skyline and after eating a healthy meal of poutine, I got the chance to visit with the two and get their thoughts on such a long a happy union with Howard--so rare to see such commitment these days. Little did the two men know that I've been a fan since day one, myself seeing them live countless times (Vapor Trails is my favorite album, though Totem is my favorite song). They were surprised to see me in my VT shirt.
As we sat down in the offices of Anthem Entertainment, it was so nice to get Canadian hospitality--and friendly smiles. Eschewing the customary decorum, I told them to call me Frank. After all, I'm just a guy myself who enjoys a drink and a laugh:
Geddy and Alex, so nice for you to take time from your busy schedule on this tour break to speak with me. You're big fans of the YBG I see. I'll bet you didn't know I was a big fan of your music.
Alex: Actually now I recognize you from the concert in Germany. You were fifth row in Koln right? I knew I recognized that hat. You were nuts that night
Geddy: I remember the "Sermon on Mt. Nerd" that was telecast all over the world when you were denouncing Vapor Trolling. Thanks a lot big guy...I mean Frank.
No problem, no problem my sons. Tell me what are some of the things you love most about Howard?
Geddy: Two things. 1) He can tell a story. A great storyteller. My goodness he can captivate a room with his storytelling
Alex: Truth be damned..er sorry...I mean, I've been at some of these events and many times it's being told in a way that I don't remember. But who cares they're great stories.
Geddy: Absolutely the truth. Howard is gifted in that department. Bring you to tears with his humor.
Give me just one example of a good story from Howard
Geddy: My favorite is when he worked as tour manager for us when we opened for Blue Oyster Cult. We had a problem getting all of the money owed us. So, he said he went into their dressing rooms with his beloved pet ferret. What was his name Al?
Alex: Slinky. He kept this thing on a leash and walked it every day for Christ's...er I mean Pete's Sake.
Geddy: Yeah. Well anyway. He went into their dressing room with Slinky and put him in Buck Dharma's pants. He said if he didn't get the money he was gonna tell slinky to bite his cod off. We got paid, but I doubt that story is true.
Alex: I dunno Ged. We only lasted two shows with them after that, then Kiss came into the equation. No great loss, but I think it played a hand somehow.
Nice. Loyalty is a quality God admires. Tell me another...these are great.
Alex: There's the "Big Gulp" incident at Rochester. I couldn't believe that one.
Geddy: Well, Rochester was the worst horror story. When we played there at the auditorium and the show was about to start. As Howard called the house lights and the place went dark, a huge Big Gulp came over in the air, flipped upside down and doused the complete lighting board and we had to do the whole show that night with just spot lights only because all of Howard's consoles, including the back-up, were flooded with ignorance and a Big Gulp. After that show, he started to do things a bit differently. For ten years he had that ferret on a leash, sniffing out trouble before it happened.
Alex: Nothing but spotlights that night. I still think it was Howard's Big Gulp though.
Geddy: But, the show was one of our best shows. Howard even came on stage to help sing Limelight.
Alex: He's got a really good voice. Surprising. He performed a miracle that night. Literally turned water in to wine. I'm sure you're familiar with that exp<b></b>ression. Right Frank?
Oh yes. One of my favorite stories. So, where's the ferret now? Is it dead?
Alex: Oh yeah, long gone. I think Slinky's been stuffed and is on Howard's tour bus for good luck.
Geddy: Been working like a charm I must say.
Wow. Yukon Blade Grinder readers will love that one. Tell me the other thing you love most about Howard?
Alex: The other thing is that no one, and I mean no one, can get a room full of people drunker, quicker than Howard Ungerleider.
Geddy: Amen to that.
Alex: He is a mixology expert. He can mix drinks with the best of them
Geddy: An alchemist in every sense of the word. My favorite is "Photo-bomb". That'll kick you in the rump
Alex: That's a good one. Though when I reflect on the crew party after the Clockwork Angels tour he made these drinks called "Jesus, Joseph, and Mary"...three levels of awesome sauce right there.
It fills my heart with joy to hear such things. Beautiful. In closing, when Howard reads this edition of the Blade Grinder, what would you like him to know about how you feel about him? Your career is coming to a close...what would you like to say?
Alex: Thanks so much for being there Howard. All of this happened because you were a part of the team. We learned so much together, and been through so much life. Good times and bad. You really are the 4th member of the band. We love you.
Geddy: Howard. Herns my man. You're the best. Come live in Toronto so I don't have to see Alex so much. I need an excuse to get away sometimes.
Touching. Very touching to hear those words. I remember flying back to the Vatican with my head swimming about this story. How could I wrap up a story such as this with a fitting tribute to the best lighting director the planet has ever seen? Well Howard, it's been said that when God was making our world the first thing he did was create light. However, I have a feeling if God was tired that day, or was otherwise occupied and needed someone to step in and make light a reality---he would've called you.
Thank you my good man...from all Rush fans!
"Sermon on Mt. Nerd"
Posted Rushman14 on 10 June 2015 - 11:01 AM
Posted x1yyz on 09 May 2015 - 09:28 PM
On a more serious note, CA figured prominently into the setlist not only because it is their latest work and they are still pushing it as such, but also because it shows that Rush is not a band to rest on their laurels. So many other bands who made it big in the 70s/early 80s never moved past that time. They linger around, milking their past hits for all they are worth, and rarely put out new material. Rush has certainly pushed themselves and explored new territory, they have never stopped writing new material, and that is fantastic. Would you honestly still like Rush as much as you do if they hadn't released any new music since 1978 or 1981?
Bring on the Clockwork Angels!
Posted tapehead2 on 28 June 2015 - 01:19 AM
Posted Blue J on 29 April 2015 - 12:38 PM
I've loved this band for more than 35 years. And I know there are those who haven't gotten to enjoy them for nearly that long. If you are a new fan, just within the past couple of years, I truly feel for you- I'm sure we would all like, in a perfect world, in a vacuum, for there to be so much more time and energy ahead for them than there is. But this upcoming tour will be the last for Rush as we know them.
I still look forward to whatever may lie ahead- even though I know it will be different.
Posted KennyLee on 22 July 2014 - 03:39 PM
I was actually a little nervous. Gerry Hilera was scheduled to play with us but unfortunately could not make it. Our guitar player, Andy, took the violin leads and the guitar parts. On an already tricky (for me anyway) keyboard pattern while singing I was picking up a few things as well that I wasn't counting on. Wasn't 100% sure it would work but, overall, pretty pleased with it.
It will now be part of our repertoire since we do not need a 4th player for it.
Posted 1-0-0-1-0-0-1 on 13 November 2014 - 10:24 PM
Luckily, I got a PM from Lost In Xanadu last week, and he volunteered to help. He went back and figured out who had reached 2112 since the last badge was given out, and in most cases, found out the exact date in which they reached it. For those whom we couldn't pin down a date, we made estimates -- sorry, best we could do. So now we have a complete list of all the people who are missing badges, in order.
I'll be posting those badges in the coming weeks, in order, starting with the earliest ones. bluefox4000 just reached 2112 tonight, so he'll get his ASAP.
Again, special thanks to LiX for the invaluable help in bailing me out and compiling all that data.
Posted sullysue on 22 August 2014 - 05:31 AM
And, and very special message to RR: You, my friend, started a unique, wonderful and lasting place of camaraderie that has no match. Thank you so much.
It’s my immense and humble honor to induct those who joined TRF in its first year into the Force Ten Alumni. And, with that, I present the first three inductees, the TRUE original TRF members:
On behalf of the entire membership of The Rush Forum: Welcome to the TRF Force Ten Alumni.
You may now take your bows, clink your glasses and make your speeches.
Posted hcm on 11 June 2015 - 09:26 AM
Posted gudbuytjane on 20 May 2015 - 04:55 PM
The bits of our interview with the Canadian prog legends that didn't make it into the magazine.
On the eve of a US tour that may be their last, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee talk to Classic Rock in a wide-ranging interview covering their entire career. They discuss their greatest work – from their zinging, Zeppelin-influenced debut album through to epic masterpieces such as Xanadu and La Villa Strangiato and on to their 2012 concept album Clockwork Angels. They talk about the complexities in drummer Neil Peart’s lyrics, the obsessive nature of their fans, and the good times and the bad times in their long history together. They also address the question that all Rush fans in the UK want answered: will they ever play here again? But first we take them back to 1974 and that first album, Rush.
When you think of the time when you made that record, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Alex Lifeson: I remember how exciting it was to be in the studio – even thought we could barely afford it.
Geddy Lee: It was a great time for us, and there’s some great raw stuff on that record. The first Rush album really stands up better in some ways than some of the later things.
That album was the only one the band made with drummer John Rutsey, who left Rush in 1974 and was replaced by Neil Peart. It’s now seven years since John Rutsey died. How do you remember him?
Geddy: John was an odd gentleman. A difficult person, in the sense that he had a hard time dealing with himself. He was not a happy guy, and had demons that he wrestled with. And when you’re that kind of person it’s hard for you to deal with other people. There was a lot of conflict and secrecy in the band when John was in it. We couldn’t really read him and he didn’t really care to share that much with us. And when Alex and I started pushing the music in a new direction, he eventually said: “I can’t get behind this.” That was the end.
Alex: John left before the album was released in the United States. But he was part of this thing. He had the same dreams that we had.
In those early days, did you always believe that Rush would be successful?
Alex: I don’t think we ever thought we would be big. The dreams we had then were of making more records and touring; playing in front of bigger audiences. We were playing high schools and bars. That was our world for six years. As a Canadian band your chances of getting a record deal were slim, and getting out of Canada even slimmer.
Geddy: We were never that kind of obnoxious band that said: “We’re gonna be huge!” We just hoped we could be as good as bands we thought were good – Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and Yes and Genesis. When we toured with Kiss in 1975 we couldn’t believe we were playing in America and travelling around. It was all so new and exciting to us. And we honestly thought it was probably the last time this would ever happen to us, so we should enjoy it. I think I still have the keys to every hotel room from that tour. I kept them because I never thought I’d ever be in Lubbock, Texas again. And in fact I haven’t been to Lubbock, Texas again.
For all the success that you’ve had since then, were there times when you felt that – outside of your core fan base – nobody gave a shit about Rush?
Geddy: Oh, there were lots of times in our career when we felt it was such an uphill struggle. Many years ago, before we did 2112 [in 1976], we thought we were going nowhere fast.
And later on?
Geddy: There were times when we didn’t feel we were getting mass appeal, but it wasn’t something we were looking for.
Alex: We’ve always been aware of the loyalty of our fan base. And it’s shifted over the years, of course. In the eighties we lost some of the older fans from the seventies. And with all the stuff that’s been happening in the past five or six years there’s been another shift, with a whole new segment of younger fans plus all our older fans. There have been points where there’s been less interest in general. But we continued to tour through those times and we’ve always done well touring.
The mid-nineties seemed to be a difficult time for Rush; the albums Counterparts and Test For Echo were widely ignored at a time when alternative rock had changed the musical landscape. Did you feel, deep down, that Rush had become irrelevant?
Alex: With every new era of music, whether it was punk or the whole Seattle scene in the nineties, it was supposed to have carried a nail for our coffin. But we’ve ploughed through those times. Yeah, there have been times when maybe in a broader sense we seemed irrelevant. But we’ve always managed to continue. And really, we never cared whether we were relevant or not.
Rush are a progressive rock band in the broadest sense; the music has constantly developed across the years.
Geddy: I think that’s true. In a way, we’ve always been searching for a new us. That’s been our curse and our blessing – we always think there’s a better version of us to be done on the next record.
Alex: I don’t think all our records are completely successful, from a creative standpoint. But we always tried with each record to do exactly what we wanted to do.
Geddy: And really, any criticism we’ve had was fair game for the time [laughs]. When you’ve been a band as long as we have, and been through the ups and downs we’ve been through, you take everything in its stride. We’ve made a lot of mistakes on record, but we’ve been able to learn from them and move forward. We’ve aged well because we’ve been able to apply the things we’ve learned. It’s all part of evolution.
What are those mistakes you’ve made on record?
Geddy: I don’t know if entire albums fall into that category, but certainly there are songs that I don’t feel great about.
Geddy: Just recently I listened to the song Neurotica [from 1991’s Roll The Bones) and I thought, what the f**k was that? It’s just a strange tune. I feel we’ve had a very up-and-down career as songwriters, but one thing that’s always held true is our honesty about what we’re doing. Like it or not, this is what we are [laughs].
Certainly you’re renowned as a group of virtuoso musicians. And if there is one Rush song, above all others, that captures you all playing at the top of your game, it has to be the classic La Villa Strangiato, the nine-minute instrumental tour de force from 1978’s Hemispheres.
Alex: It absolutely is. It’s epic. There are so many parts to that song, and everybody shines on it. My recollection is that it was only a few takes to record the song. In fact if you listen closely during the guitar solo you can hear the previous solo ghosting underneath. I remember us playing the whole song in one piece and then we dropped in for that solo.
There’s another epic – Xanadu, from the previous album, A Farewell To Kings – that you also recorded in one take.
Alex: With Xanadu, we ran that down once to get the sound and levels, and then we hit ‘record’ and played the song and it was done. Pat Moran, the engineer on that record, was shocked. Seldom did a rock band do one take of a song that’s eleven minutes long. He was blown away.
It was after those landmark albums of the late seventies that the modern Rush was born, with songs that were shorter and more direct. And from Neil Peart there was a new approach to lyrics, in which he ditched the fantasy and sci-fi themes of 2112, A Farewell To Kings and Hemispheres.
Alex: We just felt we were working to a formula that was a little stale. Hemispheres was really a difficult record to make. It was written in a key that was very difficult for Geddy to sing, in a really high register, the whole record. It was time to move on.
Geddy: For some of our fans, records like Hemispheres, that’s their favourite Rush. And when we started changing and our songs got shorter and more tuneful we lost those fans.
The 1980 album Permanent Waves was really the bridge between the old Rush and the new Rush, the link between Hemispheres and the modern rock of 1981’s Moving Pictures.
Geddy: Permanent Waves really is kind of a bridge album, and a hugely important record for us.
Alex: I don’t know what it is about the chemistry between us, but I think without Hemispheres we wouldn’t have gone to Permanent Waves the way we did. Permanent Waves was really a hybrid of Hemispheres and Moving Pictures. We still had some long tracks on there – Jacob’s Ladder and Natural Science – but also shorter songs like The Spirit Of Radio and Free Will.
Which do you think is the unsung classic in the Rush catalogue? For some fans it’s the 1984 album Grace Under Pressure.
Alex: Grace Under Pressure is a good choice. Signals is a bit like that too – overlooked because it came after Moving Pictures. Looking back, I think Grace Under Pressure suffered in production, but the songs are really strong and there’s great diversity on that record. Counterparts is another one. There’s a lot that I really like about that record. There’s a feel about it, a tone and a mood.
Geddy: When we were doing Grace Under Pressure it was a pretty low time for us. We weren’t sure of the kind of band we wanted to be. There was a lot of experimenting. And there was rejection from different producers that we’d hoped to work with – that was a bit of a reality sandwich we had to swallow [laughs]. We ended up pretty much producing that record on our own, and it was hard.
On the albums that followed Grace Under Pressure – Power Windows in in eighty-five and Hold Your Fire in eighty-seven – the band’s sound became increasingly dominated by Geddy’s use of synthesisers. How do you feel about those albums now?
Geddy: Those records were also experimental. Power Windows was a high note. That was a great record. Some of the work we did on Hold Your Fire was very positive, some of it less successful. So there were a lot of ups and downs in those years. But the cumulative body of work, the best from those years, stands up pretty well.
Alex, you’ve said in the past that you felt marginalised in thas period, your role as guitarist limited. You said you were frustrated. Were you also depressed?
Alex: Honestly, no. I’ve been fortunate that way. I’ve been down at times, yeah, because I’ve felt trapped or bored. But depressed? Not really. It’s not in my nature.
Geddy: It was a difficult time for us. Alex was resistant, of course, because more and more keyboards were coming into the band.
Did that lead to arguments between you?
Geddy: I think it’s more in our nature to quietly harbour resentments than to go on attack mode. But we had some pretty bold conversations, I’d say. All the cards were on the table.
Toto guitarist Steve Lukather says that his band used to fight over music. Did that happen with you?
Alex: I can’t say we ever did. There was never a personal issue. If we had a disagreement over something, whether it was musical or otherwise, we always talked it out.
Is Rush is a genuine working democracy?
Alex: It always has been. And it wasn’t just a majority that ruled, it had to be unanimous in any decision. So if two guys wanted to do something and one didn’t, then you talked about it, you worked out the pros and cons, and at the end of it, if there was still that one that didn’t want to do it, it didn’t get done. It wasn’t worth having the bitterness over some seemingly meaningless decision.
Is Neil equally open to discussion about the lyrics he writes?
Geddy: I am a fan of Neil’s, and I love being a collaborator with him, because he is so objective and easy to work with. We’ll be recording songs, and stumbling over a word or something, and if Neil is not in the studio we’ll get him on the phone and discuss it. He’ll even allow me to suggest lyrics – a word that might work well – and he’ll accept it or he’ll come up with a better one. He’s really a pleasure to work with. With Neil there are no hissy fits, ever. And also, over the years he’s become more and more sensitive about shaping the lyrics to make my job as a singer easier. He looks back at some of his lyrics from the past, the things he’s given me to sing, and he doesn’t know how I did it [laughs].
Alex: When it comes to lyrics, Geddy is very free with the scalpel. He does severe editing, because he wants to be able to know clearly what the idea of a song is. Ged’s got a great sense of what the presentation of those lyrics needs to be for everyone to have an understanding of what’s going on. Ged’s got this way of paring it down to its essence. And it makes the delivery more convincing for him, and that’s what he’s all about. And Neil’s really good about that.
Geddy: You focus on what works, not what doesn’t work. And if it was ever something that meant a lot to him, we’d have to discuss it conceptually: why is it not working for me?
Have there been times when Neil has written a lyric that you don’t understand?
Alex: His lyrics are not easy. A lot of times I have no idea what he’s talking about [laughs].
A lot of people were baffled by the story Neil wrote for the Rush’s 2012 concept album Clockwork Angels. Did you get it?
Alex: Oh, with Clockwork Angels I was probably more confused than ever.
Geddy: I understand it quite fine. I spent months working on those lyrics and discussing them with Neil. We went back and forth with some aspects of Clockwork Angels quite a lot, to make sure that it came off more universal and less overtly proggy.
Alex: Neil is so patient with that sort of thing. If I’d written a song and it was being dissected the way his lyrics are dissected, and then rewritten and rewritten, I don’t think I could do it. Especially with ten or eleven songs on the record. I think I’d have strangled Ged. And then strangled myself.
If you were to pick one song to illustrate how great a lyricist Neil is, which would it be?
Geddy: I love Bravado, from the Roll The Bones album. That’s a song in which very little was changed in the lyrics from its original inception to the final version.
Alex: I think The Pass is really beautiful. That was one of those songs that happened very quickly. Resist is another one. I love the lyrics in that song, they really speak.
As a Rush nerd of thirty-five years’ standing, I’d say that this band, more than any other, brings out the geek in its fans.
Geddy: I think there’s truth in that, for sure [laughs].
Do you understand why?
Alex: Maybe because we take it more seriously in one way. Maybe our music, and the lyrics, are geeky?
Maybe it’s the detail in your work. There’s so much of it to obsess over.
Geddy: The fans love detail. As we do. We put a lot of detail into our music and our album covers and the film and our live show. We try to have a lot of stuff to keep people amused and entertained.
Alex: There is certainly a lot of detail to obsess over [laughs]. It’s not just shallow music to make you feel good, that’s for sure! It’s serious music. And I guess we’ve been doing it for so long, that is the label we’ve earned.
Rush are also, for many fans, a lifetime obsession – once you’re in, there’s no getting out again.
Geddy: Ha ha. Yeah, that’s also very true.
Some fans – myself included – like to savour the moment whenever a clock ticks over to 21:12. The last time I did this, holding up my phone to show my wife as I declared: “It’s Rush o’clock!”, she rolled her eyes.
Alex: I think your wife and my wife would get along really well [laughs].
Have you ever done that?
Geddy: I haven’t. But maybe if I’m in an airport at that time of the evening and I see a digital clock...
You allow yourself a little smile?
Geddy: Yes, I do.
It’s this level of geekiness in the fans that was so well-portrayed in that famous scene from the film I Love You, Man, when two buddies are at a Rush show, watching you play the song Limelight, and singing every word to each other. It’s all rather embarrassing, and we’ve all done it.
Geddy: Well, that movie definitely hit upon that thing of going to a show and letting go and enjoying the moment. And I think that’s an important thing to remember when you love rock music: that there is a sort of freedom in allowing yourself that sense of abandon, and digging your band. From the outside looking in it can be embarrassing, for sure.
With such a loyal fan base, Rush are the biggest cult band in the world. Is that, for you, the perfect scenario?
Geddy: Pretty much, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Alex: For us, having that cult status for so long was a real safety net. You could be sort of famous, really well-known to a small pocket of people, and carry on an existence that was perfectly normal. There is a degree of discomfort that comes with being famous, but it’s part of the job. And, hey, there are worse problems.
Geddy: I think for many years people didn’t know much about us, and we were never crazy about doing a lot of press. But as time has gone on we’ve grown more comfortable with ourselves, more comfortable in our role as a band and more comfortable around people, and I think that has contributed to our appeal. When people see this band, how we’ve stuck together and remained friends for all this time, I think that makes people feel good about the possibility of long-term relationships [laughs].
Alex: And despite the success and the fame that comes with it, I think you can balance it. With fame you can’t just shut it off and be a dick. You have to be at least a little bit open and gracious. I think you have to give some time to people that support you, who care about what you’re doing and are moved by it. It’s a matter of courtesy. I was raised by my parents to be very courteous. It’s in me, and I’d feel badly if I brushed somebody off or was rude to somebody.
You’ve talked about this band being in its final stages. When it’s finally all over, will you stay active in music?
Geddy: Most definitely. It’s in my nature to be productive. I like to be active. So music will always be something I hope to do in whatever context it is. Also, musicians and artists don’t retire. You either work or you stop working. When people talk about retirement it infers punching the clock, and I don’t like to look at my life like that.
Alex: The idea of retiring – sitting on a beach in Florida, that sense of retirement – is not what I would do. I would travel. And I would be as active as I could be. I get these offers to play on people’s records, do some production, and I would pursue that even more. I love writing. I’m always writing music when I’m home. And I always want to play guitar as long as I can.
Clockwork Angels was such a big success. It was number one in Canada, number two in the US, and was widely acclaimed as one of the best albums Rush have ever made.
Alex: I felt like we’d really accomplished something with Clockwork Angels – a record that did really well at this late stage of our career.
Geddy: I wanted to tour that album forever. I had so much fun on that tour.
Are you already thinking about another album?
Alex: Geddy and I have talked about getting together on our next time off and just writing for the fun of it. Neil loves recording and always has.
Geddy: But to do another record, it has to have that one hundred per cent commitment from all of us. I don’t think you can go into a Rush record, or any Rush project, half-assed. You’ve got to really want to do it.
Geddy: The conversation about future albums has to wait until after this current tour. But there is no negativity about it.
You’ve said there will be no big tours for Rush in the future. Could you envisage making an album but not touring with it?
Geddy: I can see us making a record and playing live but not playing a lot of shows. I can see us doing a record but not doing a tour.
Alex: I could see us doing two or three weeks of dates. A few years back I saw David Gilmour, the On An Island tour. I think he did eighteen dates on that tour. He was out for a few weeks, and that was it. When I saw that show, oh my God, it was so amazing. He was playing so well. And what a fantastic presentation! And he probably put the same amount of work into doing those three weeks that we would put into doing ten months. And that’s kind of cool, that you would commit that amount of energy and work to do just a few dates and that’s it. I can see us doing something like that.
Tickets for your current US tour have sold very fast.
Alex: They have. I think maybe a lot of Rush fans are anticipating that this may be the last major tour that we do, and they want to get their last dose in [laughs].
Led Zeppelin were such a huge influence on Rush in your early days. Can you understand why Robert Plant refuses to do a Zeppelin reunion tour? It’s a frustrating situation for Jimmy Page.
Geddy: I can see that. I understand how Jimmy Page feels. He still wants to do it, and Robert has moved on. But Robert is no less busy, he’s just busy with fresh things, he needs new stimulus. And I have total respect for that.
Do you also feel, as a singer of a certain age, that Plant has the most to lose if Zeppelin re-formed?
Geddy: Yes. It’s harder for the singer, in many ways. When the singer ages in front of the public, they can hear it. To be the singer in Led Zeppelin, it’s a f***ing tough job. It takes a lot of discipline and a lot of work. So I understand his reluctance to want to do that again, whereas he is very creatively fulfilled with all these various projects that he does. Good on him. I’m happy for him.
You’ve done a lot of rehearsals for this US tour. Do you really need to?
Alex: Oh yeah. I started in January, playing more regularly. Through March I was at my studio four or five days a week for three or four hours of solid playing. Neil and Ged did the same thing a month before rehearsals. We rehearse for the rehearsals!
Alex: We like to be so prepared for that first show that we feel like it’s our twentieth show. It pays off. That first night, you feel confident. That’s the way we’ve always done it.
So what is in the set-list for this tour?
Alex: We’ve dug deep. We’ve pulled out some songs that we haven’t played in a very long time. We’ve pulled out some real fan favourites. And we’re enjoying playing them. We’ve revisited every era except maybe the mid-eighties era, which we covered in a good portion of the set on the last tour. We’ve not included anything from Power Windows or Hold Your Fire, but there’s something from just about every other record.
Can you be more specific?
Alex: We’re bringing the Hemispheres Prelude and Jacob’s Ladder and Cygnus X-1. It’s fun and exciting to play these old songs. Jacob’s Ladder sounds amazing! For years we’ve discounted it, although it was always a fans’ favourite. We’ve got three sets – A, B, C – which we’ll be rotating throughout the tour.
Geddy: It’s funny, some of those old songs sound so strange to me now, but when you start playing them you get back into that head-space you were in when they were written and recorded.
You fall in love with those songs again?
Geddy: It’s really all about your sense of perspective. A few years ago we brought back The Camera Eye [from Moving Pictures]. I never wanted to play that song. I never thought it was particularly worthy. And yet it was one the most requested Rush songs. I couldn’t understand it. How could people be so wrong?
So what changed?
Geddy: I realised I underestimate the moment in time – the context of that moment. When we started playing The Camera Eye, I thought, okay, there are a lot of pretentious moments in this song. It hasn’t aged well. But then I started re-learning the keyboard parts and putting together a slightly different version – instead of eleven minutes it clocks in at nine-and-a-half. And in the playing of it, yes, I fell in love with it again. And that’s where it becomes very subjective, and not objective. I stopped being able to tell if it was a pretentious song, and I just enjoyed playing those chords and I remembered why the song got recorded in the first place – I liked the chord progression and the vocal melodies. You can go back to that time and appreciate what you were trying to do. This song – it was a point in your life, and fans want to relive that point in your life and you can have fun playing it. I dig the hell out of that song now.
What else is planned for the tour?
Alex: Ged and I have gone crazy on bringing out all of our old instruments and buying up vintage gear all over the place. His goal is to play a different bass for every song in the show.
And for Rush fans in the UK, the big question is very simple: will you coming back?
Geddy: I’m always coming back. I spend a lot of time in London. I have a place there. It’s one of my favourite towns on earth.
You know what I mean – your fans in the UK want to see the band play live again.
Geddy: There’s nothing on the cards right now. I would say that there are those of us that would prefer to do some dates in the UK and even some European dates, and there’s an opportunity, once we get rolling, to see what we might want to add. But let’s just say that at this point that Neil’s made it clear that he’s good with this US tour being the last group of dates.
Alex: You never know. These past couple of months have been pivotal. It’s shown us, after a year and a half off, how much we really love doing what we’re doing. I think that’s really important in Neil’s case. But when you’ve only got so much time to play with it’s tough.
So you’re letting us down gently?
Alex: Well, like I said, you never know what will happen. But I’ll say one thing: Geddy feels it’s important that we go back at this time to the UK, to acknowledge the support you’ve given us for all these years. And I agree with him.
Posted Tombstone Mountain on 07 July 2015 - 07:11 PM
Olé, Olé, Olé
Yukon Blade Grinders!
By Puss in Boots
"We knew we had a chance to take a break together...so why not Spain?
We just had to do this. It was in the cards and it was epic!"
How it came to be
The Running of the Bulls, held in the small basque city of Pamplona, Spain, is one of the world's longest standing traditions. The festival, which may date back to the Middle Ages, has been celebrated annually since 1592. A litterbox of humanity I call it. Today, visitors from around the corner and around the world gather in Spain to witness the event and take part in the week-long fiesta. This year, new visitors from Canada are in attendance, and rocking the Spanish world with their presence. With a surprise concert opening the festival, all Pamplona is buzzing. Currently enjoying critical acclaim and packed houses across the US, they are masters of their domain, playing where and when they want. This moment in time takes them across the ocean. So nice for them to visit us on a short break during a tour, yes? I think yes. Don't agree? Come tempt my blade.
The week-long Pamplona festival was originally held in October to honor the Patron Saint, San Fermín. A good tomcat. The origin of the religious celebration may date as far back as to the Middle Ages. Over time, the sanfermines began to add elements to the religious ceremonies such as "trade fairs, music, dance, giants, tournaments, acrobats, puppet shows, bull runs and bullfights." Despite evidence that the basis of the San Fermín celebrations began in the 13th century, old city documents report the Running of the Bulls has been celebrated annually since 1592 — a century after the Spanish reconquest and Columbus discovered America. In 1592, the festival was moved from October 10 to July to avoid the shaky October weather and coincide with the annual fair already held in July. It has has since remained a hallmark of the Spanish Summer. However this year a surprise concert in de Plaza de Toros de Pamplona to open the festival featuring the golden boys of Canada. Read on Blade Grinders...this story is loco!
Pamplona 2015--No Bull
The Running of the Bulls is a huge tourist attraction and a celebratory week-long occasion for both Spaniards and international travelers. We make major dinero. Nonetheless, the festival emerged for its practical purpose. According to an ancient tablet found while spelunking here in the hills in 2001 by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson, the bull run started because it served as a way to transport the bulls from Pamplona's corral, to its bullfighting ring, where public spectacles were to be held throughout the fighting season. Says Alex in his recent book, Taking Spain by the Balls: "Fascinating how the people actually want to agitate the bulls to tork them off...kinda nuts. People getting gored, maimed, rammed. As a band we decided to try it, a bucket list kinda thing. We've already been to Bangkok, Nepal, and Florida. So we had to do this just once. It's all good fun right?". Truer words have never been spoken Lerxt.
Until someone gets hurt, that is.
The Running of the Bulls has a well earned reputation as a dangerous and violent festival-- and this popular conception is not unfounded. It's cold reality. The prospect of danger lurks in many festivals and sporting events: the inner-city olympics of Detroit. Bat day at Yankee Stadium, and the Annual Numismatic Coin Flipping Carnival of Leipzig. The latter, notable for the tragic "eye poking incident" of 1935, where 22 contestants engaged in conduct detrimental to the carnival, forcing police to control crowds using harsh language and threats of violence. Well, they shrivel in the shadow of this giant. At least 13 spectators and participants have died from injuries related to the bull run in the last century alone. The last death was that of a 22-year-old American tourist in 1995. It may come as a surprise, however, that the most dangerous aspect of the festival is not the bull run itself, but the week-long party flowing with traditional sangria that takes place around the feature event. According to the locals, "far more festival-goers have been impaired from over consumption of alcohol" than from bull-related injuries. A likely story. This year, a prime festival sponsor is the band's wine label Bacchus Chateau, with it's wildy popular jailhouse fare, La Villa SanGriato. However, on the label of the new phenomenon is the warning "one cup and you're effed up!" Test for echo--pace yourselves amigos--it's a long week!
His cats are now out of the bag
Ernest Hemingway popularized Pamploma's Running of the Bulls festival when he published his famous novel The Sun Also Rises in 1926. Hemingway's novel takes place against the backdrop of the wild Spanish fiesta and bull run, and the author relies on the ceremony to symbolize larger themes in his work such as the lost generation and the quest to reclaim masculinity in the post-war world. Masculinity? Bah says this Yukon Blade Grinder reporter. This event used to be akin to attending a Rush concert in terms of gender participation, but no more. As evidenced by more and more concerts crawling with chicks, women love this kind of entertainment as well!
This classic American novel helped transform the Running of the Bulls into an international spectacle. Band frontman Geddy Lee speaks about the band's experience with the novel, "When we first started touring Neil would bring all these books on the RV. I'm OK You're OK. The Stand. The Joy of Cooking. The Sun Also Rises was one of them. Neil would sometimes read it outloud to help us stay awake as we drove. It actually put us to sleep, but don't mention that to him--Canadians don't complain--we pout!" No worries Geddy--your secret is safe with the Yukon Blade Grinder. As Hemingway's protagonist, Jake, declares in The Sun Also Rises, “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.” Geddy admits the band wants to experience that adrenaline high as well. Ok Amigos. Arriba, Arriba! Andale, Andale!
You must be swift...like a gazelle--Nacho LibreThe bull runners, known as mozos, wear traditional white uniforms with red trimming. According to the ancient tablet, there are two contested origins of the uniform: on the one hand, the red and white colors might honor the martyred Saint Fermín while others claim the uniforms represent the butchers who began the running of the bulls tradition.
It is a common mistake to believe that Spanish matadors and mozos dawn the color red in order to anger the bulls. In fact, according to band drummer Neil Peart, the color is not what drives bulls to attack because "bulls don't seem to have any color preference at all. Bulls instinctively follow movement, so they will charge whichever object is moving quickest. Therefore, the bulls chase the runners because of their speed, not the color of their uniforms. At least, that's the way it was on the farm at St. Catherines. Spanish bulls may be different though." As usual, Pratt has all the answers. Sharp is the word and quick is the action.
Each individual race takes just three minutes on average and terminates just minutes after it begins at 8 a.m., according to the locals. After the race comes the food, and we know this band can eat. Their new nutritionist, Ken Jeong, is owner and operator of the Rocky Mountain Oyster Palace located in the war torn Jane and Finch district of Toronto. He's along for the ride this year to sample the local fare and run his ass off. As always, Jeong is looking to improve his product, and sometimes traveling the globe is a must to find that special recipe to elevate your product. When asked about the quality of spanish calf fries, he wasn't leaving anything on the table. "Ahhh the smell of calf fries in the morning. Smells like victory! I got secret sauce, and you don't bitches! You gotta taste my nuts". Thank you gilipollas--thank you.
For the rest of the day, attendees visit the traditional livestock fair (rumored to smell like bullshit) and take part in the crazy celebrations, which last all through the night. Plenty of boobs. Plenty of calf fries. My kinda party. The festival ends at midnight on July 14 when all who remain in Pamplona gather before the City Hall and sing the song "Pobre de Mi" (Poor me, the Fiesta de San Fermin has ended). However this year, the festival will end with the Canadian band's magnum opus Anagram played over the loudspeakers in the city square...because there is no safe seat at this feast. So with that I bid you farewell, in the finest of Spanish traditions:
Ole Blade Grinders
Arriba, Arriba! Andale, Andale!
Posted Tombstone Mountain on 24 May 2015 - 09:52 AM
By David Fricke,
Yukon Blade Grinder, Sr Editor
On a rather warm May evening, and after a really cool press release for the new album Moist, Rush convene for one last crucial task before hitting the tour grind: a pre-tour dinner. The site is Ken Jeong's Rocky Mountain Oyster Palace, a Toronto dive located in the famous Jane and Finch district. When I say famous, I mean dangerously famous. Driving through this, ummm, interesting part of Toronto, I instinctively lock my car door as we pull up to a red light. "Don't worry" says Geddy, "We're ok. All Canadians love us!" Praying that to be the case, I still double check my door making sure it's locked. Finally pulling into the parking lot, and through an iron gate, I see the huge sign that radiates ego, and calf fries. This place is wack. As we enter the restaurant, trumpets blare.
Complete with neon lighting, fake wood, decadent framed food-porn of fleshy mountain oysters and an aquarium which surrounds the dining hall. It's the hangout of Canadian stars.
I sit at the table with Kings of Canada. Our sprightly waiter, the owner, jumps from the kitchen and greets us with, "What's up bitches...and distinguished guest? Oh, you from RollingStone? You Subdivision boy right? Ha ha...I know that's you. Can I have your autograph, left out muthafukka?"
My gosh. He knows that I was the loner in the Subdivisions video. That's never happened. Taken aback, I don't know what to do other than sign his order pad, and try to shake his hand. "No, no, no, no. You get no play with the ladies. Which hand you use? Bet you can't show your ass on the UVA campus. Just kidding bitches. I guess you back for more of my nuts?"
"Oh yeah. Wenner Rounds. Been craving them all day" says Neil, who kindly wipes the table off as we sit. "Whatever you have of the Alberta Moose, whatever you have of the Saskatchewan Elk. What else sits great?"
Ken would have none of that, he has a requirement. "Oh no...before I do anything you have to answer this one question: How my nuts taste?"
Without hesitation, the Kings of Canada sing aloud in barbershop harmony:
You're so nutty, this we know
How the squirrels love you so
You've descended from the oak
The nuts on you, they're no joke!
An asian manical laugh fills the air, "You got it bad bitches! Boy the Rockys are really nice today--fresh!"
"Oh okay, we can order now right?" Alex asks with a gracious glow. Apparently this is the routine everytime they visit. One of the perks afforded to the entrepenuer who has monopolized their market.
"So let's get five dozen of those Rockys...what about the Yukon Goatnuts?"
Sheepishly Ken admits, "What you talkin' 'bout Willis? We sold out just before you arrived."
"We'll be here a while. Can you get some flown in tonight?" Alex asks with deadpan sincerity, "We're not joking!"
"I'll see what I can do...as always, quid pro qou bitches", Ken says while rubbing his chin and clicking his heels. As he heads for the kitchen he asks Geddy if he wants the secret sauce. Without a word, Geddy and Neil nod their heads with enthusiastic approval.
When I turn my attention back to the table, I notice that a wineglass has mysteriously appeared before me, filled an oenophilic quarter full. "It's a Jailhouse bordeaux, Alex's secret recipe" says Lee, sailing over my palate with a single phrase. "It's our 2014 Bacchus Plateau. The 2010's are doing quite well. This one is not oaked--it's actually aged in a plastic bag." Gonna be a great night for me. Geddy has pulled out the band's own wine label. I'd heard about this before, when Rush Limbaugh hosted the unveiling of Clockwork Angels on his radio show. Neil was a riot of course. The band's trying their hand at marketing products aimed specifically at their fan base. Nothing wrong with that. Gotta make a buck.
Now it's time to get to brass tacks and get the show rolling. Hoping to leave no stone unturned, the recorder is on, and I start asking questions about the recording of the new epic album Moist, at newly refurbished Le Studio.
When you all went back to Le Studio for the retrospective documentary, what was it that so moved you to buy the property, and record Moist there?
Alex: Well it came down to several factors really. One, we have so much cash we thought "what the hell"? Two, it was hard to see, a crime really, for a treasured time capsule vacant of equipment, yet full of golden memories to just lie in ruins. Third, it's a great place to just get away and be guys. Really, those are the reasons. Everything else is secondary. Plus the volleyball court is awesome.
What record does Moist resemble most in terms of recording? You've recorded many at Le Studio
Neil: Drummistically it actually reminded me of recording Hemispheres in Wales, in that beautiful stone room. We got a great sound at Le Studio. Kevin "Caveman" Shirley worked his mojo. We set up the Stonehenge baffling and got the sound we wanted rather quickly. Alex called it...what did you call it?
Alex: The "brown" sound of drums, a reference to Eddie Van Halen's tone.
Neil: Right. I think we had something like 50 mics on the set, and then we used a new type of microphone Caveman invented called Banana Mike. You actually wear it around your waist. Really gets a great bead on all those sounds around waist level in the room. There's all kinds of rich sounds bouncing at that level. The Banana Mike was able to capture them really well, though it was a bit awkward to wear while performing my drum parts.
Geddy: For me it was unlike any recording experience at Le Studio because the enviroment is so different now. This is 2015. We're talking the 70's, 80's, and 90's in terms of comparisons. Now, between the studio and control room, is the aquarium wall from floor to ceiling, with lots tropical fish in it. This is the second wall to be installed. Alex and his quirks you know. He HAD to have it. It just makes this constant noise that drives me crazy. Anytime Nick or Terry had a comment for me, I'd have to manuever my head because a fish would always be in my direct line of sight, kinda staring at me. But, that wasn't the biggest issue. We had two producers who helped make our best works in the same room. So you had that dynamic at all times. Our engineer Caveman (Kevin Shirley) was a strong personal force as well. It was like being one cat, in a bag full of cats. Got stuffy pretty quick. To answer your question it doesn't remind me of any record. This was a new experience for us.
Tell our readers about the "brawl". Broon and Booujzhe had many disagreements. Which ones stick out?
Geddy: Ha. To call them mere disagreements is like calling the great Saskatchewan Beaver Pelt Rebellion of 1877 a "peaceful" demonstration. In hindsight it was really beneficial to us. Cleared the air, which is necessary in any relationship from time to time. Moist was not an easy album to make. Lots of directions to go, and lots of ways to arrive at the end goal. Incredible amounts of experience and creative energy to draw from. For the four of us (Nick included), we wanted to keep the snowball rolling from the inertia of Clockwork Angels, but Broon hadn't worked with us in ages. Caveman, I think it was Counterparts, so it was a long time. Nick had been on board since Snakes and Arrows, so he had his system in place. Bringing Terry and Caveman into that was going to be an adjustment regardless. This isn't 1982 anymore. We've evolved a bit. Terry needed to figure that out. Caveman, well--we call him Caveman for a reason.
Alex: The big one started in the control booth. Back in the day, Broon always kept a candy dish full of Jolly Ranchers there for anyone to enjoy. It was a refreshing break to come out of the sound room and just pop one in...really broke the monotony, made you feel good. Nick wanted to carry on that tradition, so he put out a candy dish, except it had Starburst instead of the old Jolly Ranchers. When Terry saw that something went off in his brain. It was like watching a Jedi MMA match. Broon just went nuts. We're talking mind powers out the ying yang. What was really interesting were the things they would say to each other. Have you ever watched the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers? Crazy what producers can think up on the spot. Caveman got between them and got nailed with the dish that was thrown at Nick. He got knocked out cold. It bounced off the floor and cracked the aquarium wall. Water and fish everywhere. It was a real mess (laughs). We weren't even worried about Caveman, we're scooping up fish so they didn't die.
What did you do with the fish? That's a huge tank. It's a wall of fish, water, and more water.
Geddy: We just threw 'em in the lake. They're probably happier there.
Alex: If they just didn't die. I mean, they were tropical fish.
Neil: Revisiting that moment in time, there we were just looking at this water catastrophe with Caveman's limp body on the floor, fish flopping around him. Good thing we know people who could clean it up relatively quick. Otherwise the record would've taken much longer to make. For a second we just looked at each other and Alex said, "this is what it must've been like to be a member of The Police." Then there was LBP.
Geddy: When we started work on the instrumental, Little Blue Pills, there were song structure issues, but also minor technical ones. We wanted have the sound of pills rattling in a bottle during the middle eight, with our wives actually rapping a chorus of sorts, a la Roll the Bones. Terry thought it was a bit of reach.
Your wive's singing is not on the album, and ended up on the cutting room floor. Why? What were the lyrics?
Neil: I wasn't allowed to write them--they did. I'm embarrassed but this is what they were:
We may be older,
but that doesn't matter.
Let's get worked up
in that old folk lather.
It doesn't matter
what you say,
we're gonna act out
50 Shades of Grey.
You have the look of fear.
So sexy for men your age.
Thanks for giving us that thrill,
Now take your little blue pills.
Geddy: My God that blew our minds. But, the detail Broon wanted was unusual. He wanted Viagra that was made in the US, not the Canadian off-brand. The density is a bit different. He said (laughs) they created a thicker, more robust sound as they rattle. Talk about anal. Nick, Caveman, and Terry, all put their foot down and told us to grow a pair, so we dropped the singing bit.
Neil (quickly changing the subject): Yeah but that was really minor in scope because "Once a man twice a Boy" was so problematic because of our guest performers.
Which leads to the Blind Boys of Alabama. An odd choice for proper Rush, at least upon first glance. How did you get connected with them?
Neil: My drum teacher knows them. Recorded with them in the 60's and 70's.
Leophus Hambone Jones, 1970
Oh yes, the great Hambone Jones--originator of the famed "Circular Motion" technique--tell us about him.
Neil: He's more than a drum instructor. He's a life coach for the band really. When Freddy died he left me instructions on how to get to the "next" level. Hambone was the person he chose to take me there.
Really? What was that like to get such a gift in his will?
Neil: An honor, but also a huge responsibility. I feel responsible for Hambone. He now lives in LA and Toronto, and travels with me. In terms of connecting with him, Freddy didn't make it easy (laughs). Freddy left me a map of the United States, with arrows indicating places I might find Hambone, since he has no phone.
Geddy: Hell we couldn't even find him on Google Neil. He's 97 years old, living under a bridge and street performing in Minot, North Dakota. Freddy left that part out--drummers!
Neil: Right. So it was strange from the get go, but we found him. I gave Freddy's letter to him he knew what to do.
Alex: It's funny. He didn't even open the letter. He put it to his forehead for a couple seconds and said "Right on man. I'm supposed to hang with the drummer with no rhythm." Then came the process of getting to know Hambone. Which was interesting to say the least. He's a man of the street, but his kit is awesome. Next to Pratt's, the coolest I've seen. We tried to acclimate him to "normal" living. Bought him a house. Got him a car. Hired a maid service. Got him a membership at the YMCA. He would have none of that--he prefers to live under bridges. The sound of the cars gives him "peace that soothes the soul". So, we send out Meals on Wheels three times a day, they feed him and his friends. Whatever makes him happy.
Interesting. What about the connection to the gospel group? They are a gospel group.
Neil: Hambone played with them in the 60's and 70's. Made a ton of records. One night in LA, I got an invite from Hambone to go see this group. Never heard of them before--The Blind Boys of Alabama. He hopped in the sidecar of my BMW motorcyle and we made a day of it. He actually tours with me that way. Kinda pisses off Mosbach (His personal security) but that's another story. Anyway, they were fantastic. Funny. Touching. Great harmonies.
Alex: I actually saw them in Quebec at a summer festival back in 2007. They blew me away. So I actually knew about them before the Neil and Ged.
Geddy: Meeting them was the best. So humble. So friendly. They stayed in Morin Heights for a week. Even challenged us to a volleyball match after they regained their sight.
Regained their sight? What do you mean?
Geddy: One of the great things about Le Studio is the residential component. You live here when you record. We all stayed in the same chalet. Nice accomodations. Well, we were sitting around one night singing "Once a man twice a Boy". Alex lights up a huge joint and they smoke it with him. Three hours later they could see again. We did a test and their vision was 20/15, which is better than perfect. Which made me wanna hit it too, but I didn't.
Alex: My medical card really comes in handy. That month, ironically, I had the "Ecuadorian Electric Eye" strain. It restores sight to the blind apparently.
Alex Cavemen gave you a reverb pedal as a sign of trust, or was he just sick of you bitching...which was it?
Alex: Oh yeah that was a moment. I think it's on youtube. He said I earned it. Whatever that means.
Geddy: I almost cried. Really touching moment.
As Ken comes to the table with salad and drinks, we're get ready for the main course...which will take place next issue. So for those who are dying to know where this is all going I suggest you pull up to the table, and get ready to dine on the finest calf fries in Toronto!
The Yukon Blade Grinder, per usual, will be bringing the main course
Posted vital signz on 14 May 2015 - 07:00 AM
However, the writing is on the wall, already eluded to by the band and Ray Danniels, that "getting three 65 year olds on the road ever again seems unlikely.
I don't know about you guys, but I feel very sad inside. This tour is certain to make us all feel better for a while. The deep cuts and the effort by this band to give us the best of what they have to give is an incredible gesture.
These guys sure do care about us all to do such amazing things year after year, and that is why we all love them like like we do. I have never felt anything like I feel for Rush for any other band. An kind of weird analogy is it is beginning to feel like a dear friend is now expected to be dying......and the hollowness you know that will be coming in the not too distant future is beginning to settle in. I am beginning to feel sick about it.
We love you Geddy, Alex, and Neil. You guys are the best of the best. Thanks for the big effort this tour. We all appreciate it and all of the work that you and all of your tour team has put forth every time in the past, but especially this time. It is easy to see how much thought you all put into making this "last hurrah" so unbelievably special. Can't wait to catch you all in Columbus.
I will love coming here to visit with all of you after the tour, but I suspect we all might feel a bit differently afterwards....maybe like discovering that Santa isn't real after all, and the magic may be gone from the holiday forever. Our love we have for this band in our hearts I am sure will continue to stoke the fire that keeps this place alive with happiness and great posts...for a while. But we will, I believe, just feel somehow emptier, more hollow, sad not knowing what is to come; after all a 40 year relationship suddenly changing, will have to impact us all in some way. The ever changing soundtrack to my life, and many of all all here, is perhaps about to lose its primary writers---I don't think any other authors will ever be able to take their places.
Posted Tombstone Mountain on 25 April 2015 - 11:24 AM
By David Fricke,
Yukon Blade Grinder, Sr. Editor
Few pleasures I've experienced in my work compare with this evening. Naturally, when the Yukon Blade Grinder dialed my number, I hopped on that puppy. Been on Willie Nelson's tour bus and hit fat j's that would make Bob Marley envious. I've sung with Springsteen during his now famous rendition of "Fire" at the White House, and been to Maggie's Farm with Bob Dylan. However, this was different. As stars go, these guys are famous for being normal. As in boring. On the way to Anthem Entertainment Internation HQ's from the airport, all four of us hopped in Peart's standard family minivan. So freaking cool that they picked me up from the airport on the way to the presser. As I sat in the passenger seat and got comfortable for the ride, Neil popped in a disc inscribed Moist. He said, "Welcome to the new era of Rush--Geddy and Alex can now count to four! Sesame Street is really helping them along".
As we drove out of the airport headed for downtown Toronto, I felt like, to qoute the famous Lou Gehrig speech: "the luckiest man on the face of the earth".
Neil points out the first track is the prequel to the immortal Jacob's Ladder, called Adam's Rib. When I reviewed Permanent Waves in 1980, I had to call out the music jack-holes of the day. With that album, Rush accomplished something I never suspected they could--mainstream accessibility while maintaining the uniqueness of their sound. It happened, and they did it well.
In his words, "Adam's Rib" is about being alive, knowing that you're heading for the scythe of death, only to come into the presence of the next reality--the mystery of life answered. Of course, Alex has to throw in his two cents worth "I thought it was about sex, drugs, & rock n roll when Geddy and I were pumping it at first...Neil always takes the fun out of the jam!" Hmmm I sense a bit o' tension there.
The album starts with a wind blowing gently. You can hear rustling leaves along the ground. A dog's bark is a distant early warning for an encroaching bliss of metal, as a floating voice recites what sounds like a Psalm, only to resolve in a human tornado of drums, bass, and guitar. As always, Neil provides the listener with plenty of food for thought:
For years along the Darwinian path
ambition lifted man to the skies.
Searching beyond the veil for the echo of our past
Only to discover wisps of terrestrial lies.
Not alone, yet we can't see our guests
Walking beside us, step by step.
We've never seen the coming hordes
As we stare into empty nests.
Arriving at the points between enchantment and disillusion
Our lives are revealed for what they are.
Life is nature's tedious ad-lib,
We come from Adam's Rib.
Well, whatever the hell that means, it sounds awesome, and I want more!
For 10 minutes I'm in total bliss. If anything, the music of Rush has been idiosyncratic to the hilt. They play what they like, and what they're doing now is indicative of musicians in total control of their craft. Steering a ship into waters that demand focus by playing in time signatures sure to make you puke in your hat, if your eyes aren't on the horizon. Gnarly!
The epics were thought to be long gone in the lexicon of the band's music, so this was a surprise. Moist contains two. Unlike the band's last effort, the highly ambitious Clockwork Angels, this album is clear and totally balls to the wall. The second track "Twice a boy, once a man" creates something new for Lee--the use of voice modulation. Relentless in melancholy, I'm reminded of "Madrigal" from A Farewell to Kings. I was mesmorized when Lee shouts the chorus, complete with backing vocals supplied by none other than the Blind Boys of Alabama, sounding like an Irish wake, only hipper:
When you climb the hill to arrive on top,
You forget the journey never stops.
Spindled by the weavers hands,
I was twice a boy and once a man.
Play in dirt
make castles of sand.
Build a fortress of stone
with cold chapped hands.
Time has now
worked it's plan
I was twice a boy,
and once a man.
Instrumentals have been something the band has always enjoyed making. Moist has one--"Little Blue Pills". Think YYZ meets Jerry was a Racecar Driver. Craziness knows no bounds.
Man, it's really getting warm in this car as the music keeps pumping.
Suddenly the conversation turns to marketing. Eager to please, the band's been breaking out new products left and right. Wines. Cheeses. Plus, the purchase of legendary Le Studio in Morin Heights. But now they're tapping into the adult market with products that'll help their fan base. PMS medication--outside of the box thinking. Neil says it was all Geddy's idea.
"Hey when those difficult times hit the family--we wanna help" quipped Alex, pulling a flask from his jacket. Now that is some Canadian hospitality. The goodies don't stop there. Here's one for the aging Rush male fan:
Wow indeed! But we moved on to other topics. The album cover. Geddy has moved into aquatic art and felt the theme of water needed to be brought in, since it has three forms. "Album covers are important. Hugh's out of pocket, so we comissioned some chick from Frisco to hook us up. Hugh may be out of a job soon!"
"Yeah, we're going back to the epics in every sense. 10 minute space jams. No more pansy stuff. This is what we do! I can't wait to play these songs on tour", says Geddy as we head into Anthem Entertainment International HQ's. The world is awaiting to be told of the grand reunion of Terry Brown and the golden boys of Canada.
Part II in the next epic issue of The Yukon Blade Grinder
Posted len(songs) on 09 August 2014 - 11:53 PM
Posted andreww on 25 July 2013 - 08:55 AM
Posted Narps on 03 March 2014 - 10:04 AM
<----------------------------------------------- special to the lovely Rush ladies