GEDDY LEE is located at his temporary home, the prestigious Montcalm Hotel, near Marble Arch. With just two minutes to spare before our appointment, l stumble, exhausted and in urgent need of a drink, into the foyer and am immediately injected with a generous dose of static from the deep-pile carpet.
At 6pm a phone call is made to Geddy's apartment. The man is ready, having just consumed a Big Mac, French fries and strawberry 'shake, and is relatively keen to talk (apparently a rare occurrence).
Rush are in London to shoot videos for a selection of cuts from their new album, Grace Under Pressure. Geddy later informs me that the high quality of videos shown on North American TV make this trip essential as the UK is now recognized as the leader in video technology.
I'd never met Geddy off stage, and his appearance is a little surprising, even disappointing. He's of medium build, looks a little frail and sports shoulder-length dark hair tucked neatly behind his large ears.
Looking at his blue jeans and dark cotton shirt, l wonder if this is really the man that once penned such pomposity as "By Tor And The Snow Dog" and who leapt about the stage draped in white satin and silk loon pants.
Grace Under Pressure is an album seen by many as Rush's most adventurous work to date. It rejects tradition and, more importantly, invites newcomers to sample and reflect on its accessibility. Simple Minds meets Led Zeppelin merging into a techno-rock U2 is the most accurate description.
In a bid to remove barriers, I forget the questions and converse about the modern influences apparent on Grace Under Pressure. Geddy enjoys these comparisons and begins to open up.
"That's very interesting to hear," he says. "It's an area we wanted to move into. We've been absorbing all influences."
Like what? - "Oh, all kinds of stuff. Lately, I've been listening to things like Howard Jones and Ultravox. Stuff like that."
How do you feel about rock music these days? "It's been a shallow time recently, we might be coming out of it. I'm not sure. Right now, there are so many very sentimental pop songs around. It's even gone beyond the romantic trend.
"I think a while back, Spandau Ballet and Ultravox were bringing back a romantic image, but it's gone beyond that to pure sentimentality. It won't be lasting, though."
It's always amazed me that your fans have stuck by you, I tell him. I mean, heavy rock has well-defined borders and the fans seem actively to reject change.
"It's a kind of trade-off," opines Geddy. "We lose some as we move on, yet we gain new ones with each development. But there has always been a solid core of fans who remain through the changes.
"I think they appreciate that we don't pander to their tastes, yet at the same time we haven't lost our concern for quality. We still believe in the same things now as we did back at the beginning, except our abilities as musicians and our influences have moved on. If you keep shoving all these things in, something different is gonna come out.
"Over here in England, someone who likes heavy metal wouldn't be caught dead listening to Ultravox and vice versa. It's a real shame in a way, but you can sorta understand why that comes about."
Signals, the previous LP. hinted at an updating of the Rush sound but came off as a rather patchy affair. The band were searching blindly for a new lead, but most of the avenues they explored led only to dead ends.
Grace Under Pressure, with its overall sense of cohesion, must have been a difficult album to assemble. Just what circumstances surrounded its construction?
"We went through a whole heap of changes," continues Geddy." Signals we thought was a confusing album. It seemed schizophrenic...we had made 10 albums and it was like, where are we now?
"We were confused and I think in some ways had lost our perspective and our objectivity. Terry (Brown, producer) had been with us so long that things were beginning to get clouded, so we felt it was time to strike out on our own."
Is this the end of another musical circle then, or the beginning of a new one?
"I don't know," he ponders. "Signals was a very transitional record. We wanted to have a newer and fresher sound and we weren't sure how to go about it. It was so disconnected that in a way it was almost like the Rush sampler LP.
"On this album, we wanted to have a new influx of ideas. It think it was us trying to go to great lengths to avoid becoming boring and stale. I have a feeling that's the way it's going to continue in the future. There's a lot of emotion on this record and it reflects what we were going through."
RUSH are now one of the world's most popular rock bands and that in itself implies isolation in more ways than one. The bigger a band gets, the more paranoid it tends to become in a desire to protect the goods.
Rush, like Genesis or the Stones, are now so big that media exposure can effectively be entertained solely on their terms (this interview is a prime, example). Yet with everyone so keen to grab a slice of the action, this process can in a way be justified. Geddy treats this observation guardedly.
"We've dealt with it slowly over the years," he says, removing his glasses and placing them on the table next to my tape recorder. "The first couple of tours saw everyone so excited. We were travelling all over the United States and Canada and, of course, we were naturally happy to do any interview. We were young, hungry and ambitious.
"As the tours continued, it didn't feel so comfortable. There were decisions to be made on how we were going to deal with it. We felt that we were losing ourselves in this crowd of people. So we set our first priority as giving a good show, and interviews are second to that." Rush haven't changed their attitude since then.
"The whole situation is kinda difficult," Geddy goes on. "You have to be strict with yourself if you want to survive but then, of course, there's always the danger of becoming too guarded."
Like Led Zeppelin were, perhaps?
"Well, you start getting burned. We've gone through periods where we won't talk to anyone. Sometimes you don't like the idea that you might be selling yourself to the public when you would rather keep your attention on the music, where the heart is.
"It's funny, the norm is to sell and promote, yet as soon as you say 'well I'm not really into that', people assume that you're a temperamental artist. The more successful you get, in a way you have to work harder to see what's happening because you can get very comfortable and kinda isolated.
"Right now, I'm happy to talk but I'd rather it be a conversation than stock questions with me giving the stock answers and nobody giving a damn. This interview is part of what I do, so I deal with it accordingly, pure and simple."
Even after that last statement, I'm beginning to find Geddy Lee an immensely likeable character. The fidgeting has ceased, his honesty is genuine, and he's offering me some chocolate that he picked up on the way to McDonalds earlier on.
We laugh at the cover shot of the band taken by famed photographer Yorsuf Karsh which adorns the back of the new LP. Karsh has Photographed dignitaries like Bogart and Winston Churchill, and is alleged the highest paid lensman in the business. "I love it because it's so un-rock 'n' roll," chortles Geddy. "I mean, you just don't have pictures like that on rock 'n' roll album covers. It looks more like a bar-mitzvah picture!
With Rush on their twelfth album and arguably still to peak, just what does the future hold? Will they cease to be a full blooded rock 'n' roll band and become semi-inert, like many artists of similar stature?
"We are a band and always will be," asserts Geddy as the phone rings to remind him that we've run out of interview time. "We are still going to tour, maybe less than before but certainly playing live is paramount to our existence.
"Our most natural element is being on stage, and like all our other releases Grace Under Pressure will be promoted on the road."
As I pack my tape recorder away, Geddy puts his glasses back on and paces nervously around the room. The next journalist is on his way up and the strain is already beginning to show.
As I'm about to walk out the door, Geddy apologises for the lack of time, offering to meet up on his next visit under more relaxed conditions. Beneath a warm smile he mutters "Grace Under Pressure".
We both laugh. I think this man really cares.