Interview With Alex Lifeson

Glasgow Scotland's Radio Clyde, October 1987, transcriber unknown, edited by pwrwindows

The LP Alex is out in the States, came out in the states first week in September. We're now approaching the end of October, still no official release date for the U.K. The question has to be why?

It's something that I can't really answer, haha. You'll have to ask the record company that one. I think they decided to hold off the release for a number of reasons, and I suppose it; they know better than I, the market, so, I guess we leave it up to them. But it has been's been out since the beginning of September in the rest of the world. So, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little bit longer.

Do they actually have a release date for it in the U.K. now?

I think it's somewhere between the 12th and the 18th.

Of October?

Right, yeah.

And we have a title?

Yes, the album's called Hold Your Fire. It was recorded in five different studios; again we went on a little romp through the world recording. Lately we found that to be lot of fun and stimulating, so we've carried it on and added a couple more studios. We did some work in England, then we did some work in Montserrat, Toronto and finished up in Paris. So, we had quite a bit of fun doing it.

Do you find working that way, moving around the world, does it stimulate your performance or your writing or what?

It just keeps you happy more than anything, in that you have a different environment, you have different stimulae, and when you're working it's important to have that. So those brief moments you're not working, it just keeps you more interested in everything around you, and you're in a better frame of mind to continue working. One of the problems with doing a record is that it's concentrated work, very concentrated work for a long period of time, in our case about six months, so after, after 6 months, especially if you're stuck in one studio, as we used to be in the past, I really go crazy. Like this, we're in one place for a few weeks, you get to absorb your surroundings a bit. You go somewhere else for a few weeks, and after that for a few weeks, so you're constantly changing, and that's really, really important I think, to keep your head clear and keep yourself happy.

When you talk about recording in the U.K., you actually recorded in the U.K., quite a number of LP' s over the years?


I mean compared to your home country or even the states, probably the U.K. has received the majority of your work? Certainly in recent years.

Certainly a fair bit yeah. There was a period where we did two or three records in a row here. Then of course we recorded a live record here, primarily here, a lot of it was done in Scotland as a matter of fact in Glasgow. America's not really a viable place for us to record. There are tax situations being a Canadian group recording in America for us. And we never really thought it a very attractive place to record. We thought there was always better places at home or abroad to work. So, we like to mix it up a bit.

Who did you get to produce it this time Alex?

We worked with Peter Collins once again on this record and Jimbo Barton engineering.

Peter was involved with the Power Windows LP?

That's correct, yeah. And with this one we were just very happy with that combination of Peter and Jimbo. So we even talked about it after recording Power Windows, that perhaps we'd work again on the next record, and sure enough we did, and we really had a great time. We knew each other's styles a little more, we knew how we'd work, we knew what to expect from each other. When we wrote the album we had that in mind, so consequently when Peter came over and started working with us on some arrangements, there was very little really for him to comment on. He was quite happy with everything we'd put together, and you know we worked on quite a few details and one or two bigger things. But in general things were pretty well completed before we went into the studio.

Now you've preceded the LP Alex with a single, which comes out next week, and it's an interesting song and includes a duet?

Right, that's "Time Stand Still". We thought it would be really great to have a woman's voice on that song, and as we got closer to getting the song into shape, we really were quite definitely decided on having a girl sing. So we contacted a few people. We were thinking about using Cyndi Lauper, but then decided that perhaps her voice and maybe her personality was not really right for the song. We got in touch with Chrissie Hynde's people, but for one reason or another she wasn't available. And finally we got in touch with Aimee Mann, who is in a band called 'til Tuesday, and her voice was really quite perfect. In a lot of ways it's similar to Chrissie Hynde's voice, but, perhaps it's a, just a little bit more sensitive, and that was really what we were looking for in the song. So she came up, sang on it, were very good friends now. And as I speak the result has been really good.

There's a sort of haunting quality about her voice isn't there?

Yeah, there sure is.

October 1985 saw the release of Power Windows, now it's, certainly for the U.K., it's going to be October '87 for Hold Your Fire. Two years, that's a fairly long time between Rush albums?

Yeah I guess it is. And in that time we just spent six months recording, two months writing and eight months of touring. So it's, after 13 years of touring I think we'd like to slow down a bit. We prefer to do a lesser number of dates, maybe space them a little bit more so we can spend a little more time at home with family. And also a little bit more free time to pursue other things. So, unfortunately we haven't been able to go to all the places we wanted to, and we haven't been back to a lot of places as quick as we wanted to. We haven't toured here in, well, in about four years now.

That's right.

Which is a bit of a drag, we really enjoy playing for the audience here. But it's been a bit tough finding time to do all the things that we wanted to do. But we're gonna go out in October, starting in Canada, carry on through the States, take a break at Christmas, go back out 'til March. At which time we're gonna mix a live record we've been working on for some time now. And then come over here in April, and I think we'll do a fairly extensive tour here and consequently Europe as well.

That'll make up for the dissappointed fans who missed out on the last tour.

Yeah I guess we haven't been here for two tours now: the Power Windows tour and the Grace tour. But we're doing material from all those records, and I'm pretty confident that the show's gonna be a pretty good show.

So it's not actually a case of that you don't like playing the U.K., or you don't like the U.K. audiences. Is it just a case of logistics?

Yeah, it has nothing to do with the audiences, as a matter of fact I think we feel a little bit guilty that we haven't been here in a while. We started playing the U.K. in 1977, and with each albun we did a tour here. But I must admit the first few tours, although they were great fun, we lost a great deal of money. But it really didn't matter to us because we had a very large audience that we felt a responsibility to play for, and we really wanted to play for them. We really loved those first few tours here but over the years it just become increasingly difficult to spread yourself out, and it's really for that reason. Also when you come here, you have to allow yourself a couple of weeks to get the equipment over. It sits in customs, because usually there's a strike at customs.

In Canada or in the U.K.?

At both ends, believe me. And you know all these things take a bit of time, so you have to really plan well in advance. And to take out, say three weeks of what you would call dead time, in travelling, in clearing customs and all that, that's a lot of work time. So we thought that we'd planned mixing the live album in March, which will take about three weeks. It's the perfect time to send everything over and prepare all the staging etc. to do a tour here. And then it's a matter of us just hopping on a plane and coming over and getting right into it.

I've been lucky enough to hear a copy the new LP. I think it's probably your best work for a long time.

Oh thanks.

And one thing that strikes me is, there seems to be more guitar work, especially on tracks like "Turn The Page" and "Open Secrets". Was that a deliberate policy, or did you just decide well, that's have a bit more guitar?

Um, I'm not really sure. I think that the last couple of records since Grace Under Pressure the guitar has really come back up quite strongly. With this one, from the way it was originally recorded to the way it was finally mixed, the balance had the keyboards up a little bit more. But as we got close to the end of mixing, we thought that the guitar should really become a core of the band. And that sounds a bit silly because it's only a three piece band, but what I find is that the three piece core of the band being the drums, bass and guitar, are very tight and very tightly knit. And the keyboards play in the background and around that core, and it just seemed to carry much more energy and intensity like that. So we managed to get what is probably the best guitar sounds that we've ever gotten on record; it seemed right that the guitar really play an important role in that forcefulness.

Rush could be accused of various things, but they could never be accused of not giving value for money when it comes to sleeve design. Can you tell us about the sleeve of Hold Your Fire?

Um, on the outer sleeve, we wanted to go for something quite graphic and contemporary...clean. So we went with that cover, and that cover of course is a red cover with the three suspended spheres on it. The inner cover though, the inner sleeve, is a little more elaborate. It's a night scene in a city, with a juggler juggling three balls of fire. But there's more to look at there, there are more things to hunt around for. Of course there are a list of credits, always takes a few days to read. It's nice to have the lyrics there right before you. I think these days with the movement towards CD's and away from albums, you have really nothing to look at while you're listening. So we ended up spending three or four times what we're told a jacket should cost, but it does give you much better value I think.

The fire hydrant's there as well.

Right, but we stripped out a lot of other things that were in there. We had all sorts of things in there. But it's still fun to hunt around for things.

And there's no picture of the band this time?

Um, no, I don't think there is on that. I think that on the CD and the cassette there is.

Going back ealier this year, there was taik in the press...perhaps it was simply the fact that Rush hadn't been over in the U.K. for a couple of years, but there was a lot of taik that Rush were going to be playing at the Castle Donington Festival for 1987. Was there any truth in that, or was it simply newspaper talk?

Not as far as we were concerned. I think we've been asked to play Donington for the last four or five years. But summer has usually been the time that's sacred to us, and we like to be home with our families at that time. And although they certainly make a tempting offer, we'd rather spend that time at home. Also another thing is, I don't think that we're really the right band to play out in the open in the rain for as many people as Donington attracts. I mean it's an event and it's a whole different way of going to a concert, but I don't think were that kind of a band. I think our show is a little more intimate and needs to stay indoors.

The 12" version of the new single includes some previously unreleased live material I believe Alex?

Oh, that could well be, I'm not sure it may be different here than it is in North America. I would assume that, do you know which two tracks they are?

"Witch Hunt" and "Enemy Within".

Oh, great yeah. Well we did a video for that, from that tour. But there was a lot of material, I mean we recorded quite a bit of material from that tour. And of course we mixed that with Terry Brown, who we always worked with on our albums at that point. And I guess we've been pulling stuff out of there for a bit now. And of course on the next live album we'll have material from that tour, also from the last tour and this upcoming tour.

Well Alex it's been great talking to ya, thanks a lot for phoning us up. All the best with the single and of course the LP. Alex Llfeson of Rush, cheers.