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NEW YORK - The new Rush Mercury/PolyGram album, "Hold Your Fire," represents the Canadian trio's 12th studio release in 13 years. And no one is more surprised that the band has enjoyed such a long and prolific career than vocalist-bassist-keyboardist Geddy Lee.
"In some respects, I am actually surprised we're still going," says Lee. "I'm also surprised that we've been able to maintain the strong audience that we have for this long."
Lee jovially suggests that the band's vast legion of fans has remained loyal because of "blind ignorance." On a more serious note, he says, "I guess regardless of what changes we go through, it's our conviction or level of quality that keeps satisfying or interesting them."
A key factor behind the band members' ability to work together for so long is the comfortable balance that has been created between their professional and personal lives. "When we're not touring or recording, we go our separate ways and are very private," says Lee. "That way, everybody always comes back to it feeling fresh and not sick of each other."
Rush started the new "Hold Your Fire" album in September 1986, working with Peter Collins, who had produced the band's last album, "Power Windows." Says Lee, "We liked what went down on that album, and, to us, Peter represented the classic type of producer - one that keeps the focus on the band and its sound. While he was helping us make our arrangements more interesting, he didn't do stuff to play down our musicality. He always encouraged us to stretch out and had respect for what we did well and exploited it."
Rush worked on "Hold Your Fire" at studios in Canada, France, Britain, and the Caribbean, with sessions spread out over a relatively long period of time. "At this stage of the game, to keep ourselves interested and in touch with our families and home life it's important to break the recording sessions up into three week periods, taking a week off in between," says Lee. "And we can afford the luxury of every three weeks moving to a different studio, a different environment, and even to get a little exotic in our choices. It makes the whole recording experience a lot more entertaining and interesting."
Though Rush has a platinum-plus sales base and is able to draw strong box-office trade on arena tours, the band's progressive rock style has never garnered widespread, top 40 acceptance.
"I don't think we're capable of it," says Lee. "Nor have we ever learned how. So at this stage of the game, it would be really funny if I turned to Neil [Peart, the band's drummer-lyricist] and said, 'How about writing a hit?' We wouldn't know what to do.
"What I do think is underestimated is the fact that we are an accessible band to begin with. It's not like we're playing jazz or we're abstract. We're more abstract than the average hard rock band, yes, but it's still hard rock, and there's almost always an audience for that."
Rush will begin an extensive tour Oct. 26 in Canada, with U.S. dates to follow.