Composers & Musicians

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Driven: Rush in the ’90s and “In the End”


“Neil had to do what he needed to do, just find some sort of peace,” begins Alex, recapping the events of renewal that led to the return of Rush — new record, new tour, new Neil. “He had embarked on a long journey, a long and very painful journey on his motorcycle, basically just going and going and going, and never really knowing where he was going. But it’s what he needed to do. That whole process took a few years.

“And we had a meeting, he came up to Toronto and we talked. We talked about how we would go through this process. He wasn’t sure if he could do it, but he was willing to try. You know, he hadn’t played his drums for almost four years, so it was a very difficult time. He was a little apprehensive, and he was afraid, I think. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it, but it was a new start. He was starting to find a little bit of happiness for the first time in many years. He had to go through that.

“But he was a little nervous. He hadn’t played in a long time and he didn’t know if his heart could go into the music as it once did. Because he just didn’t look at music that way anymore. He had lost too much. It was a very, tentative fragile thing from the very beginning. From that meeting, it was a very fragile, tentative thing.

“We went into the studio with just us in there,” continues Lifeson. “Four block bookings for months and months and months. We were in there from January of 2001 until basically Christmas, and then we went into another studio to mix and spent a few months there. The project took thirteen or fourteen months altogether. It was a delicate time and everything happened slowly. Neil practiced a lot and played a lot while we were writing in another room.

“We would only take four to six months to make a record, six being the outside. To spend fourteen months on a record is a long, long time. But Geddy, after spending a year on his solo record, really believed that we shouldn’t have any deadlines. We’ve always been anal about the way we work; you know, six weeks for writing, one week for drums, five days for bass, two weeks guitar, two weeks vocals, mix. It’s always been like that. We’ve been doing that for decades, and with his solo record, Geddy said, ‘I played so much with my songs, and I could really see how they developed and how important it was to the growth of the material.’ He said with Vapor Trails, we had to not worry about deadlines, take as long as it takes to work that way. I was antsy for the first couple of months; I had that four-month to six-month thing in my head, and it was three months before we even had anything written. By that point I realized that he was right — forget deadlines; this record is going to take as long as it takes.”


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Limelight: Rush in the ’80s


“The right time, the right place, the right song, the right parts”


Pleased with the live/work arrangements for A Farewell to Kings, Rush tried it again for Hemispheres. Pleased with the live/work arrangement for Permanent Waves, Rush tried it again for Moving Pictures. Fortunately, the sequel effort this time didn’t disappoint, and the guys found themselves more Canadian than ever. Living and raising families in Canada, writing on Canadian farms, recording immersed in the Canadian forest, bridging the divide between English Canada and French Canada, winning Junos and paddling canoes . . . Rush were celebrating everything it meant to be Canadian.


“We went out to Ronnie Hawkins’s farm, out in the Stony Lake area,” begins Alex, on preparations for the record that would serve as Rush’s Machine Head and Paranoid, or Fragile and Not Fragile, as it were. “I guess it’s just north of Peterborough. He had a really nice little home up there, nice cottage with a big barn on it. We converted the barn into the studio, and set Neil’s drums up, and had areas for Geddy and myself. And it was a really nice location.


“We were there in the summer and everybody was in good spirits. There was a good energy to the work. We started writing there and basically wrote everything in rehearsal there, and then moved into Le Studio later that fall and started recording. There was a real positive energy, not unlike what we went through with Snakes & Arrows years later. But at that time, there was just something that was very strong and positive about where we were with that record. I don’t want to say it was effortless, but the effort seemed to be very smooth. We had some guests visit and we had a lot of fun across the whole process. It wasn’t just in the studio — it was a really nice place to be at that point in our lives.”


Geddy was enthusiastic about carrying on the concept kicked off with the last album. “Yeah, it was great, really exciting, Alex continues. “Because instead of one story you had five stories in the same time span, but you could link them with a sentiment or with an idea. A little bit less so with Permanent Waves but more so with Moving Pictures — that whole idea of a collection of short stories is what we were after and that’s what Moving Pictures is.”


Consensus is that Moving Pictures is the record where Geddy toned down his patented high shriek. “I bought it at Kresge’s,” laughs Lee on coming up with it in the first place. “I keep it downstairs in my studio for when I need it. Lifetime guarantee.”


“As the music changed, the desire to shriek changed,” explains Geddy. “I think I can still shriek if the music requires it. I have no conceptual adverse feelings about it. As the music changed, it became more interesting for me to write melodies as opposed to shrieking. It was basically used for cutting through the density of the music. And sometimes we would write without any consideration for what key we were in in the early days and I would find myself with twelve tracks recorded in a key that was real tough to sing in, so I didn’t have a choice at that point. Re-record the record in a different key or just go for it.


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