Announcer: Signals, the new album from Rush. For the next hour, music and conversation with Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart. Here's Geddy Lee:
Lee: We found with "Moving Pictures" everything went great and we were real pleased with the sound of it and we sort of accomplished a real trio sound, a *big* sound. And we were afraid of going in the studio and doing "Moving Pictures Part 2." There was no sense in doing that. We didn't want to approach the recording from the same aspects, so a fundamental desire to want to shift the sound of the band on record led to what "Signals" is, which is in some ways almost a four-piece band rather than a three-piece.
Interviewer: Subdivisions. One of the most lasting and highest and most used things about our culture, and especially North American culture, is the suburbs. We're products of the suburbs.
Peart: Yeah, it's a common background for each of us, and I kind of think it's a background for a lot of our audience, too. For all its blandness, it's so easy to satirize, which is a trap I wanted to avoid. It's always been a constant stock joke or skit or something, to satirize the suburbs and the mentality of it and all. And of course it's just as diverse as people are really, when you come down to it. But it has its own set of values and set of background parameters about it, which as you say are very much unique to this contemporary society.
Lee: Yeah, instead of having your basic heavy metal guitar sound, triple tracked or tracked four times or however many, [we] wanted to have one real present, ambient, nice guitar that just sat in a place, and then get a keyboard sound that sat in a place, and have the drum approach--the whole technique to recording drums is *totally* different this time. We wanted to approach everything from a real fresh, and I guess somewhat experimental point-of-view.
Interviewer: Staying with the guitar playing just a sec, the thing I noticed was, you're talking about how you recorded, but just what you're playing is radically different. The whole band has changed inside out where I think a lot of what you used to carry, Alex, in terms of guitar lines and stuff, you seem to be doing more with bass, keyboards and voice. It's almost like Neil and Alex are swirling around this foundation that you've created. To me, it's real inside out playing for Rush. I mean, Alex is the best example of that.
Peart: Yeah, Alex and I are often the rhythm section on some of these songs, where Alex is actually playing what amounts to a bass part, and he and I are working off each other the way Geddy and I used to. And the keyboards become a dominant instrument, the guitar and I become the rhythm section basically.
Interviewer: Analog Kid. Lyrically this guy seems quite enthralled, almost ready to give himself over to this vision. It's very much of a seduction.
Peart: Yeah, it's kind of that post-adolescent period you go through where everything but where you are seems to be larger-than-life. Whether your in the suburbs or a city or a small town, whatever, it all seems to be so gray, whereas when you talk about far-away places or think about London, England or Los Angles or New York, these places seem to be totally removed from any of your experience, and they seem to be literally larger than life, such romantic things. And it's basically a picture of that vision, you know, of being in what you're used to and dreaming about what you're not used to.
["Analog Kid" plays]
Lee: This is the first album that we'd done after we had a long period of time off, and where we'd all done writing on our own. So a lot of what happened on this album was a coming together of individual ideas that people had in mind for their own purposes. So when we put things together, they were already ideas that we'd lived with for a long time in our own context, and sort of assembled them. So from one aspect you're talking about our own invention where we all sat down and consciously tried to write something on our own, and then the other thing comes in where they accidentally all fall together into a whole different context than we'd ever imagined.
Lifeson: And also a lot of the other material that we used to fill the gaps--and also just for other material--we got from sound checks, from the inspirational angle of it, of just coming in early in the day and playing for the fun of playing.
Interviewer: Chemistry is a good example of that, isn't it?
Lee: Yeah, the whole song was written in a soundcheck, and we had all these soundcheck tapes and Alex and I sat down at home and put the whole song together. So the whole song was done before we even got to play it for Neil!
Lifeson: I think it has a real strong emotional feel to it but it's not a flashy, million-notes-per-hour kind of... which is a direction I've tried to take for a *long* time. I feel a lot more comfortable with a little more melody, a little more feel.
Lee: There's an example of something that you can do in the studio, 'cos it's in the country, that you couldn't do in the city. For his solo, we put all the amps outside, aimed them at the mountains, and he recorded his solo outside, so that echoed off it. That's something we've done before, but never on a raging lead solo. The echo was all natural, and it had a real special sound to it.
Lifeson: It took a couple of days to achieve that, but it was well worth it.
Lee: It was great, 'cos here was this huge Marshall stack outside, aimed at the lake and the hills, and you could be back at the house while he's working on his solo, and you'd hear his solo raging around!
Interviewer: Digital Man. I think perhaps one of the most interesting songs on the album. Certainly again we talk about swirling effects and a lot of different things happening above and below the surface. That sounds like a lot of different things happening at once, or a couple of different ideas colliding together at once.
Lee: "Colliding" is a good word.
Peart: That was the mish-mash approach to trying to take diverse influences and make them work together. It starts out basically as a hard rock trio, then goes into a ska or reggae style of rhythmic approach, then it has sort of a modern European contemporary approach to the sequencer chorus and then goes right back down to a basic trio again for the instrumental section, and then builds up through the changes again. It's all very confused. [laughter]
Lee: It's all very confusing to me, too. We spent *so* much time on that, trying to get it to feel right, and for the longest time we had no faith in the song, and then suddenly it just blossomed. And now for me it's one of my favorite songs on the album. It just works great. It was a battle to get all these influences to feel *natural* somehow, to feel like they worked. It was like fighting the machines around you for days, and then eventually it just came together.
["Digital Man" plays]