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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 09 August 2015 - 01:26 PM
My first concert was '87. Hold Your Fire tour at the Spectrum in Philadephia. At the time I was living in Ocean Township, New Jersey. A blip on Route 9 between Forked River and Barnegat. It was a big deal my parents let me drive there and back at the age of 17.
In my Dad's house (yes, he reminded me that it was his house), I had two parents who taught me the value of hard work, and my life centered around family. A family with a military background. I was disciplined to be aware of my surroundings. They knew where I was at all times, and paid close attention to me when I came home at night. Meaning, they would sniff me out if I were doing anything "wrong". Oh yeah, there was ZERO angst tolerated by Mutti (stepmom from Germany) and Dad. However, they nurtured my curiosity for music, encouraging me to learn how to play an instrument (the Bass Viol), and bought my first electric bass. Like so many other individuals who've built their own shrines during the teenage years, my bedroom had it's own little corner dedicated to favorite bands. Posters aplenty: Van Halen. Duran Duran. Men at Work. Mozart. Rush was ONE of the them. Synth era Rush to be precise.
I remember sharing what it would mean to me if I could go see Rush. Didn't have to beg. I just got my license, drove an almost pristine Datsun 260 z (black, with those dark headlight covers), and was growing in different directions at all times. What a feeling to have earned their trust to let me go on that long drive to the City of Brotherly Love. Tommy Shaw opened, my girlfriend fell asleep by The Mission. I didn't care. It was really all about me seeing the band I loved, and it was my first rock concert. There was no connection to the halcyon days of the 70's, so this era was formative in my Rush experience.
It was o-dark thirty.
When I departed Goatnut International Airport all I had was a suitcase full of clothes, a laptop, and a match, in case I gassed out the lavatory.
My plane lifted off and soared above the clouds for a spectacular view. A full moon over an ocean of white and blue. For a moment, I felt awe and wonder. Nothing but that bright orb filling up the sky, casting its reflected light over the billows of moist air. It wasn't the best thing I experienced that weekend though. I was going to see Rush, the finale of the R40 tour, and possibly for their career. After seeing them twice already, in Greenesboro and Seattle, I already knew the vibe surrounding these events. The Forum in Los Angeles would be different because of the perceived finality of it all.
As the sun rose higher and higher, and my flight was making it's way over LA, my head was full of conflicting emotions. I pulled out the laptop and started typing. Here are the exact words I entered: Departure. Arrival. Anticipation. Adrenaline. Traffic. Smog. Smaug? Smuag? Touch. Hugs. Plastic surgery. Implants. Falling Down. Howie Long. Egg white omelette. Old friends. New friends. The great Charles Barkley, known for ferocious elbows during his time in the NBA, and for conjuring Satchel Paige-like wisdom, aptly described what it means to get old and retire: "Father time is undefeated".
I stopped right there. Now my thoughts turned to hitting LA, and meeting friends.
You join The Rush Forum for the band,
you stay for the people.
Two friends from TRF, Gina (x1yyz) Michael (Greyfriar) were coming to LA. Michael hails from a small village in Germany. When I joined the Forum, he was gracious to extend conversation my way. We share a connection. My stepmom is from Koln, and I spent my teen years eating really great German food. Mutti (stepmom) taught me valuable life lessons about so many things. Keeping in touch with friends was one. Michael and I have corresponded via PM for years, speaking with great honesty about so many topics. Our private conversations mean a lot to me. On this trip I got to be with him, look into his eyes and know him. He got to meet Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys...here's his picture. Now he's famous. Can't put a price on that.
Gina has meant so much in my quest to make the little rag of a parody more enjoyable to read. I told her upon completion of the first cover she "elevated" the form, beyond the past editions. Per usual, she was humble and low key about her contribution, but for me it means the world. Someone "gets" it, and wants to contribute. She understands where I'm coming from on a creative level and can almost see where it's going. I so appreciate her efforts to help someone she doesn't know, who lives far away in the hills of Tennessee. Indeed, we are connected by such slender (and weak YBG) threads.
Concert Day 4:45 pm. From the Sheraton, Michael, Gina, and myself, departed for the Forum stopping by the Renaissance Hotel to pick up Tom Healey (periscope ace). The four of us crammed in the cab. Not a long drive to the arena. Let the whirlwind begin. We got out and made it to the "Will Call" concierge to watch the freak parade, mingling with people from all over the world. Lot's of folks to mention, but my personal favorite was a charming couple (George and Pamela) from Aberdeen, Scotland. Kilts do something for me, as well as the charm of those wonderful accents. Celebrities began emerging, so did my inner (and outer) Yukon Blade Grinder. Showtime was arriving quickly as we made our way to the libation stations and meet up with TRF members. Michael and I walked as brothers in arms to reassure ourselves the moment was actually happening. It was beautiful.
We met up with Robert (robertrobyn), Rick (rushman14), Phil (Empty Mindless Spectre) and friends. It seemed we've known each other for years...YEARS!!! A bond already existed there that was, dare I say, like a family. We eased into conversations with that excellent social lubricant known as beer. Selfies out the ying-yang. Laughter. It was all good. That was outside. Inside I met with the Animate (Liz), who was surprised I didn't look like Yosemite Sam (exact words). Oooooookay. Then, Stevie. I first met her in Greenesboro, NC. Not an active poster on TRF, but claims to have made it to all 30 shows. Wow, that is some dedication. Probably the only chick on the planet to own a 2112 shirt with a naked woman instead of a man, standing against the oppressive red star. She gave me a crystal that has "powers", which supposedly helps me radiate "positive" energy. Far out Stevie! Thanks.
A memory that shines from these encounters was meeting Rick's childhood friend who got him into Rush when he was 14 years old. They shared recollections of the first concert they attended together, and other humorous stories. As I listened to them and watched the regard they held for each other, I admired the connection. Such obvious affection and respect represented a bromance on epic levels. Cool people are people I wanna know, and you can never have too much of that in your life. It's a common theme at a Rush concert, because we get that from the band.
They're no "stars" in this building other than Rush.
When I see Rush I'm on another planet and living in the moment: Air bass--check. Air drums--check. Air guitar--check. Singing--Badly, but check. I'm reliving those teenage years jamming in my bedroom, door closed. It all comes back to me. Getting lost in the music is the reason I've showed up all these years.
First off, The Forum is THE velvet box of memories on the west coast. Whether from the concerts--or from sporting events--a ton of history has gone down in that building. A bit of Yukon Blade Grinder history went down as well. All the way from his trailer park, Bubbles was in town. I spotted the man and got a few minutes with him. We sang a bit of "Closer to the Heart" (he said I was in f***ed up key), and I exposed him to a bit of Goatnut whimsy. More on that later. It was nice to be on the inside of such a historic place. Vibe was warm. Looking around I saw thousands of people just like me. Excited to be there, pensive that it may be the end. Good cheer was the dominant feeling. It was still a packed Rush concert, and we knew an evening of incredible music was coming down the pike.
Of course when the band took the stage the energy went up ten fold, and there was no letting up. When the crowd responds in such a way it elevates the entire event into something special. Both band and crowd made it magic. It stayed that way through the entire 1st set. On The Rush Forum, the predominant era of choice is basically the Terry Brown catalog. No doubt. I enjoy it like everyone else, but it was before my time. I had to go back in time to appreciate it after I cut my teeth on the synth era. 1st set was my personal moment of zen. One would think the last set would have more energy than the 1st, for some reason that was not the case though. Weird.
The 2nd set, which takes us to Moving Picture and earlier, I'm focusing on the playing ability of these guys. Rush aims for perfection at all times when delivering the goods. However, live I don't expect it. I want the little bumps to see how they deal with them, being a player myself. I'm funny that way. When I attended the May 28th North Carolina gig, Alex got lost during The Camera Eye. I was fascinating how he held his place and picked up when he became re-orientated. To me, that's the best part. The professionalism is astounding. Complex music with lots of buttons to push, and pedals to stomp while playing...and in Geddy's case, singing added for good measure. Lot's of shit can go wrong. Yet, it seems they all carry the same load to hold it together. It's another facet of what makes this band special.
Alex was in front of me all night. Now, in my time I've seen some amazing players. Played along side some. Alex is a composer on the guitar. He does what's best for the song, creating almost any texture or mood to fit the piece. Never overplaying. Some say his ability has diminished dramatically. I disagree. His fingers may be more sausage-like than ever, but dude was on it ALL night in LA. To see him performing the volume swells of Xanadu, the harmonic opening of Red Barchetta, and the unique vibe of Animate, just floored me as I watched him close his eyes and sail away to Lerxt World.
It's my belief the main reason they stopped performing Jacob's Ladder is because it can be a slog of a song to play. Meaning it can get boring. If you're not a musician I'm afraid you wouldn't understand but let me explain. The vibe created by playing simple textures can drone on...and on. It can lull the performers to sleep almost. Good for audience in terms of song choice, hard for the folks keeping it together. By pulling the masterpiece out of the mothballs they committed to giving us a part of the Holy Grail this tour. As Alex built momentum from the staccato pulse of the opening, it was hard not to scream as he nailed the solo. Not his most challenging, but certainly one of the most cinematic of his career. Then, turning your attention to Neil, and watching him go through his arrangement, I wondered what it was like for these guys to write this stuff. Man to be a fly on the wall watching that go down.
Losing It, also a piece of the Holy Grail. Not performed live until this tour. People get old, and abilities deterioate--our common fate. I can see why they waited for the perfect moment to do it. It's too much of a bummer otherwise to be reminded of it. Why would Geddy want to sing that every night? Jonathan Dinklage provided the violin work. Different than Mink's original only in that he adds some different colors to the textures he plays. Translation: he made that song his bitch. My God, he took what Mink did, and amplified it by a factor of 3. Of note, the lighting during this song was really impressive. Liquid-y would be an apt description. The light was liquid-y. Yeah, that's it.
Cygnus was brought to life in an unexpected way this tour. For veteran's of the Halcyon days, this probably made 'em pass out. It was remarkable how the tour paid homage to A Farewell to Kings. You get Xanadu, Closer to the Heart and Cygnus x1. Had to step over the bodies after these songs to get to the bathroom. I actually prefer this song performed sans vocals. So many twists and turns to watch. Geddy was allowed to noodle away without worrying how close he was to his microphone. After the song was over, Neil was giving the crowd the towel wave. He's getting demonstrative these days.
Let me point some notable moments:
Alex watching Neil solo during Cygnus--He sat on the edge of the stage and just watched Neil, all smiles. The double bass onslaught at the end was probably as good as he's ever performed that part of the solo--thunderous. Alex usually doesn't hang out that long, but from the look on his face he was drinking up what may be the last time NEP plays that solo.
Geddy hauling the mail--Those who criticize the man's voice based on last tour have to give him his due. It's only polite. He showed up big time. I think someone he trusts and respects must've sat him down and said "look at this" and handed him the Clockwork Angels Live DVD. Geddy made it a priority to pay attention to detail in this department. All three shows I saw live, and the periscope feeds, indicate that he made a strong effort on his vocal role. Huge improvement.
Losing It--I got to see that song live. Describing it...well they played it to perfection. After the song Neil did his little fiddle imitation for Jonathan, and that was it. I'm one of the few who got to witness that song.
Geddy sitting on Neil's lap--A complete surprise during Animate. We never saw that one coming.
Is this the end?
Seeing Neil do anything other than the usual is a big deal. He actually came to the front of the stage, put his arms around Alex and Geddy, and waved. He's never done that as far as I know. If this was it, I can say I was there to watch it end. Am I sad? Yes. Yes, because I want these guys to drain that tank until the rocket sauce is just fumes. I'm sad because they can still play at a high level, and I wanna see what's possible. What if they make another record and it blows Clockwork Angels out of the water? It's possible. In this life, I wanna see what's possible...
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 Tombstone Mountain on 30 July 2015 - 03:33 PM
An open letter to Neil
my drinking partner
and drum guru:
So here it is. The end. Time for one door to close, and another to open. The Yukon Blade Grinder dialed me up, and told me about the scenario. I just couldn't leave them hanging, so here goes.
Saturday you will play the Forum in that dangerous shithole known as LA. The last Rush concert will bring many to tears...out of love...and from a love lost. It seems in music, as in life, when the last note is played or the final breath is drawn, we sit in shock over the finality of it all. No doubt to be the case here. Forty years of sweat. Forty years of joy. Forty years of tendinitis development. It all hurts. So soak it in.
I remember laying my sticks down on the floor tom after my final concert with Genesis. Elation wouldn't be a good word to describe my feelings. Relief was more like it. I did my bit for the band, and was ready to move on to other pastures to see what lay beyond my purview. Something else was out there and I needed to find out for myself what exists "beyond the cymbals".
Boy was I an idiot. I missed my friends.
Your gig is a gravy train on biscuit wheels old chap. Don't let it go. Persevere until you drop. You've got a full tank, as witnessed from this tour. The tabloids raved about the band. Not one ill review to be found, except one on some website called "The Rush Forum"...written by a complete tosser.
Don't quit and let your belly hang over your belt. I know the story of "being" there for your family. I respect that so much Neil. I respect it so much that I think you should put their asses on a tricked out bus, and take them with you to see America again and again. But that's just me, your friend Phil.
Do us a favor. Stay in the game.
Play when you want to play.
Record when you want to record.
Never give up performing with Alex and Geddy. What you have is too special. Your little one will certainly miss her Uncle Dirk and Uncle Lerxt. Wouldn't want to deprive her of that now would you?
Take it from me, a man who left his mates to put on his Mr. Jangles dancing shoes. Sure I made millions. I sold more records than when I was with Genesis. Made the papers and everything.
To this day I still ask myself "What if"?
Don't be that guy.
Your friend and fellow drummer,
P.S.--Where's that double bass pedal I loaned you back in 2005? I need it.
P.S.S.--You must visit Goatnut,TN...there's this really cool cave.
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 Tombstone Mountain on 24 December 2015 - 03:04 PM
--From the Senior Editor
Even Indiana Jones was afraid of something (snakes). For Bear Grylls, his big fear is skydiving, having nearly died in a parachute accident in Zambia in 1996. Famous for surviving extreme wilderness environments, even if it means drinking ‘water’ from elephant dung or his own urine from a snake’s skin, the British adventurer and TV presenter (Born Survivor, Running Wild, The Island…) has drawn on his experience of tackling his fear for his new TV series Breaking Point, in which he takes people with extreme phobias (heights, rats, water…) into the wild to confront their demons. His newest adventure mates confronted some of their own demons in his latest adventure in wilds of the Yukon Territory. Rush, with all three members in tow: one retired, one that probably needs to retire, and a bass player with a huge need to write new music.
Having attended the "last" live gig in Los Angeles, Bear couldn't stand the idea of such a group of vital sexagenarians giving up a bit too soon with so much left in the tank. Geddy and Alex, along with a reluctant Neil, went along and joined Bear for memorable trip to sort out life. Grylls is all too familiar with the rancor surrounding what's left of the band and decided to do the world a favor by getting them together in one place to hash out differences. He may have just saved the day...read on fellow Grinders, in this exclusive two part story adventure awaits you, the rabid fan.
By Bear Grylls,
On assignment in the Yukon to save our band
I thought it so important to get the band together in a non-music setting get them to rely on each other for even the most basic of needs. We all know there's an underlying tension in the band, mostly emanating from Geddy and Neil. They don't even look at each other during a concert. "What's the deal?" I thought. A bassist and drummer should be best friends. They lay down the foundation for rock music, they hold it all together no? Recently I've been reading and listening to various interviews in the tabloids with said bassist, and I've came to the conclusion something is terribly wrong with Ray Danniel's golden boys.
The band is separated by thousands of miles, yet they still think they can operate as a unit via text and email. That's a load of cod's wallop. After taking President Obama out into the wilds of Alaska, I phoned my agent and told him to get Rush up to the Yukon double quick so I can do my part to keep them together, and continue making the music we love. Nature will take care of this mess.
I'm not a trained psychologist, but I do understand the need for communication in any successful relationship. Take me and Les Stroud. We communicate, but it's mostly with our middle digits. No matter if we hate each otherr (which we do), a middle finger is better than a moonshot when you're just trying to talk. I sensed that Geddy, Alex, and Neil needed to go into the tundra and make an adventure, eating off the froze tundra, and rekindle the bond which made them so special in the first place.
The nature of the band is one of generosity. When someone farts, everyone says thank you--and they mean it! Their crew will tell you so. No one in this band is afraid to pony up at the bar and take care of their friends either. Legend has it, and this has been confirmed to be true, they conduct free prostate exams for crew members during each tour. So on top of enjoying a drink and friend, they're concerned about the crew's health as well.
However, such an invasive procedure has its critics among the employees of the R40 crew. For example, Neil always handles the exams for Geddy's techs, who have summarily complained about the size of his hands. Keyboard tech Jack Secret said that Neil put a mirror in front of his face so that he can "see" the hurt. Neil told to Tony this was so the he could be ever mindful about his patients discomfort, Jack thinks otherwise. "I know it sounds crazy, but when Neil tells me he's going to use his shoehorn, I get nervous."
Understood my man. Neil does have rather large hands. However, you'll never hear Gump complain.
Getting the guys to the Yukon was a bit of a struggle but we got them safe and sound to checkpoint By-Tor, right outside of Tombstone located in the middle of the territory. Dropped off via dog sleds, they arrived slightly chilled and ready for a hot beverage. No problem. I had just the solution for starting the trip off right. Trust is key in any relationship. A drummer needs to know his bassist is in the pocket, and a bassist needs a drummer that is sober in order to stay in time.
Speaking of which. During this trip the use a marijuana was not tolerated. Right from dismounting of the sleds I made it clear to Alex and Neil that no drug use would be accepted, and use of such product would incur a harsh penalty. Such warning proved fruitless, as Neil and Alex sparked up right after eating caribou on our first night. So, naturally accepting the consequences of rule breaking occurred the first night. Geddy wasn't excluded. He was just as guilty as they were for letting his friends operate outside the boundaries of this expedition.
Tea is often a comfort. We Brits celebrate teatime religiously and so I thought of easing the pain of their first infraction with a bit of urine tea, complete with pine needles to add a bit of flavor. The catch with this little penalty was that no one in the band could drink their own pee...had to be the Endocrinol fluid of a band member.
I took sips of all three. Of course it was met with incredulous snark, but they soon realized I hold the keys to the kingdom as I reminded them we had no radio, and only I knew the located of the GPS rescue unit. Bottoms up! Alex was a real sport. Geddy not so much.
In order to get to the bottom of this mess I had to go all out. We all know from watching Beyond the Lighted Stage Neil is no ace at skating. But, with a little training prior to his arrival he appeared to arrive in top form. The Iron Lotus, considered the holy grail for same sex figure skaters, would be what Neil and Geddy would perfect in the wild as a team. Trust, absolute trust, would be needed in order to perform this move. Alex and I would simply watch and encourage, with Alex primed for taking photographs for the band's next album cover.
To Be Continued--BG
We all know the holidays are something special, and this one is exceptionally important as we grow closer to the end of our band's career. When Neil ran off the stage in Los Angeles I believe we all felt a bit of sadness acknowledging the impending finality of it all. Not so fast. When the conclusion of this story hits the newsstands I believe you'll be happy to know change is in the air, and everyone will say thank you before it's over.
So, as a way of leaving you with something very special until that next issue, here's a little documentary filmed by the office staff of the Yukon Blade Grinder to show you just how special it was OUTSIDE the Forum in LA before the show...Enjoy!
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 JARG on 09 December 2015 - 10:42 AM
And drink a box of wine
Then it's on to The Macallan yeah
I'm drinkin' all the time
Well it seems to me I told my wife
Not to bother me when I'm on the can
I guess that's why she calls me
Calls me the retirement man
The kid is home by five o'clock
Says, "Daddy do you want another beer?"
Always seems to be wondering
Why I can't get my ass in gear
Well it seems to me I made a mistake
Thinking I could write like Rand
I guess that's why they call me
Call me the retirement man
Posted LeaveMyThingAlone on 03 August 2015 - 05:03 PM
This has always been one of my favorite places to see a show. I've never seen one here where the sound was not crisp, and this show was no exception. I was front row Alex's side. I wanted a chance to watch the true unsung hero of Rush work his magic up close. Having watched some of the Youtube videos of the earlier shows, I expected a couple small mistakes, but Alex was absolutely brilliant that night. In fact, all 3 were on their "A" game in Irvine. They were incredibly tight and I did not hear any flubs. Sadly, it was evident to me that Alex was playing in pain, at least for most of the first set. He looked uncomfortable and like he was really straining to stay on top of it. I felt for him, but like the warrior and professional he is, he fought through it. I am not sure if he took a few bong hits during intermission, but he seemed like a totally different guy the second half. He was more like the goofy Alex we all know, He was having more fun and seemed to be playing with much more ease. Jacob's Ladder is perhaps my favorite performance from Alex, and I just watched in awe. He plays it with so much feel and so much soul. This setlist was epic with Natural Science in there. It's always such a crowd favorite that they seem to love playing.
Geddy's vocals were amazing. He was on it. Of course, it wasn't perfection, but it was as close to it as you can get at this stage of his career and after a zillion shows singing the way he has...
Neil played perfectly all night. However, he did drop his drumstick twice on his throw in the airs.....very disappointing He started showing his goofy side by kind of playfully running behind his drum set and hiding between Working Man and Garden Road.
There was a full moon that night. From where we were sitting, there was an incredible view of that full moon as Rush was coming on stage with a very crisp clear full moon right behind Neil's kit. Based on some of the other shows I've seen online, I'd say this may have been Rush's best show of the tour.
Los Angeles, CA
So much already said on this one. I will say that the boys did not sound nearly as good as they did in Irvine, but no one cared. We all knew the magnitude of the night. There was a different feel to this show that any I've ever been to. I have never ever been part of a concert experience like this, It was just an epic night. It almost had a red carpet feel to it. There was a buzz in the air and it was a coming together of the Rush geeks in a way like I've never seen. For one, I have never seen so many girls that knew every word to every song. And I have never been with a crowd as intense as this was. The emotion and passion was everywhere. As the show was about to start, we saw the 3 guys wearing kimonos dressed as the boys circa 2112 sit in the row next to us. On the other side, was a young lady wearing her kimono. A couple rows behind us were Taylor Hawkins and Chad Smith. Jack Black was roaming around the floor by himself just rocking out (odd but cool), I also heard sightings of Michael Moore, Jason Siegel, and passed Bubbles on my way back to my seat for the 2nd half.
Going into this show, I felt pretty sure it would be their last. Sadly, I'm more sure of that than ever after watching the end. Neil was really getting out of his box by the end of the night. He was posing for some shots for some people in the front row by making some really goofy faces--- as early as 2112. I don't know if he knew them or not, but, regardless, it was very out of character. Then we all know about the camera, pictures, and spontaneous bow with the boys. Without a doubt, this was his way of saying goodbye to the fans and his way of telling Alex and Geddy that this is it. It was a very strange and awkward final bow, just because no one knew what was happening. Neil's look on his face was just priceless. I would bet that this was one of the most difficult things Neil has ever done. Harder than playing those drums like a monster every show. This was completely out of his comfort zone and the social anxiety kind of showed just by the way he was grinning.The way he snuck up behind them like a little kid was a memory I'll always have. He mouthed goodbye and that was it. Geddy gave us the usual "maybe someday down the road perhaps our paths will cross again possibly you never know", but he and Alex know Neil better than anyone, and they had to know there was a purpose to what Neil did.
As we walked out, we passed so many fans crying. We passed many many fans still sitting in their chars not wanting it to be over. People were screaming for a 2nd encore. (I was sure there would be one) But nothing ceremoniously. No tributes. No official goodbyes. No acknowledgment that this was the end, other than the subtleties already mentioned. It's just not in Rush's nature.
I discovered this band in 1987. I can't believe how lucky I got to have them another 28 years. What we have witnessed with this band is incredible and will never ever come close to being duplicated again. Those 3 guys gave us 40 years of music that is untouchable. At 60+, to play shows like that is just ridiculous. I think as time goes on, their legacy will only grow stronger. The "mainstream" finally started getting how amazing these guys are 10 years ago, and I am so happy that they got such deserved recognition outside of the cult band stuff, because they need to be recognized as truly iconic. Unparalleled. The best rock musicians to ever come together as band. Selfishly, I feel very sad that I won't see them do this again, even though retiring is the right thing for them to do now. They are still on top and still brilliant performers, and that's the way to go out.
Thank you Alex, Geddy, and Neil for putting your heart and soul into every show and every song on record and never settling for less than the best you can give us!
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 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 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 hcm on 11 June 2015 - 09:26 AM
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 workingcinderellaman on 11 August 2015 - 03:17 PM
It was so wonderful, but I feel like I'm getting old.
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 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.