Geddy Lee on Rockline for Hold Your Fire

Rockline with Bob Coburn, October 5, 1987, transcriber unknown, edited by pwrwindows

Many things impress me about Rush; the brilliant lyrics, the unity they exhibit as musicians and the meticulous concert performances to name a few. But what really astounds me is the growth they display from one album to the next. Each successive release is deeper and different, and Rockline welcomes Geddy Lee from Rush back to the program.

How was the recording process this time? Was it a more difficult process or a more enjoyable one this time?

Well it was difficult, but actually a lot more fun, a lot more pleasurable than in the past. There was a different "method to our madness" this time. We did it over a four to six month period and every three weeks take a week off to go home and recharge our batteries. Whenever we got back together for the next three week leg it would be in a different country and different environment (sometimes exotic), so we spoiled ourselves a little and really enjoyed making the record.

And that keeps the creative juices flowing too. Somebody told me that "Force Ten", the lead off track on the album, was recorded as an afterthought.

Well, it was more or less an afterthought in the writing stage. We took two months to do all our writing and pre-production, and we had nine songs and a day and a half of time booked before leaving. We (including the producer) were all pushing for ten tracks on the album, and Pye Dubois had submitted some lyrics (he co-wrote "Tom Sawyer" with us) which Neil added some of his thoughts to and presented to us in the morning. And we loved the results, so we got together, brainstormed for two or three hours and got "Force Ten".

CALLER 1: Listening to your last album, I've noticed that there's been a change in musical attitude from Grace Under Pressure to Hold Your Fire. It seems to be a more positive and mature sound, and I wanted to know what has occurred within the band to bring about that change?

Good question. And a very difficult one to answer because you're talking about three people and a three year span of their lives. And you're talking about a lot of different things that we each go through as a band, but also as people. Personal growth, different life experiences... We have been taking more and more time off from touring and recording and spending time with personal interests, especially personal travelling. All these things help put your work more into a life - perspective. We're trying to integrate our work with home life as opposed to the two being separate. Therefore experiences in one reach the other more easily. Maybe that's why!

CALLER 2: How about those Blue Jays then?

Well, what can I say?

CALLER 2: I'm curious as to what musicians and groups influenced this album, and has Alex taken a back seat like on Signals?

At this stage it's very difficult to be directly influenced - everybody's musical taste is quite diverse. In some ways it's more esoteric: one minute I'll listen to a classical piano record or Metallica the next minute or Patsy Cline and so on, and we all have that wide range of musical tastes. It's hard to say if any (if possible) of those things can influence what we do, or if they all do in some subconscious way.
I don't agree with your second point. We spent five weeks on guitar parts for this record! Alex probably has a more melodic role on this record and a more balanced one: the guitar doesn't dominate, but doesn't take a backseat either. It's very integral to the sound of Hold Your Fire.

CALLER 3: Since you and Alex write the music and Neil writes the lyrics, how do you relate melodically to the complex lyrics that Neil Peart writes?

Sometimes we just have to keep re-reading the lyrics. We write in a lot of different ways. Sometimes music first and fit lyrics to it, or we get a finished lyric, keep reading it and try to get a feeling from it that we can express musically. There isn't really a way of describing that process. We are also trying to combine it all with the things musically that we want to accomplish on that particular record, so that's on our minds too. It's really an indescribable process and we try to get it right, most of the time.

CALLER 4: What kind of musical training or experience did you have before joining Rush?

Not very much. I took piano lessons when I was very young but I quit those. In school I sang in the choir but outgrew that, and I also took various instruments in school (drums for about a month, clarinet for a week). Nothing very intensely until I got a guitar when I was 12 or 13. No formal training really. Now I'm having formal training!

CALLER 5: Geddy is an unusual name. Can you explain that? And I also want to know what the "Omega Concern" is (from the credits on the last two albums)

Ah...the Omega Concern. Many people wonder about the Omega Concern. That's a company run by this "musical scientist", for lack of a better term, who is Alex. He invents all kinds of things which never get to the market place because they're basically for his friends (us). He invented a fantastic lyric stand for me that lights from the back (very complex), a book stand for Neil so he could eat his breakfast while reading without having to hold it at the proper angle. Very useful things like this, sort of a Ronco kind of situation! He also manufactures a guitar stand like the one he uses on stage to hold his acoustic guitars, and the company that distributes it is the Omega Concern.
As for my name, it's a confusion of another name. My mother is from Poland and has a very thick accent. And when I was young, I was born Gary, she pronounced my name Geddy, and it lasted for a very long time. Now it is legally Geddy.

CALLER 6: How did your involvement with Aimee Mann come about and what is the significance of the three spheres on the cover of the LP?

When we first wrote "Time Stand Still", we knew that there was this part that wouldn't be satisfying for myself to sing, just because we wanted a different texture there. We didn't want to take my voice and put echo on it or gimmick it up, or make some unusual sound. So we thought how much we'd enjoyed working with other people over the last couple of albums, and it'd be nice to get in a singer. We thought it was a soft part, texturally, so we thought of a female voice, listened to some records, including Aimee's What About Love and loved her voice. It was basically a matter of calling up her management, phoning her up, sending her a copy of the song and asking if she wanted to do it? Which she did, thankfully. We had never actually met her before.
The three spheres...well, it's difficult describing album covers. You want to leave a little bit of mystery and want it to be interpreted by the person looking at it. I'm not gonna say too much about what the cover says to me, but it's nothing extremely mystical or anything, and it has nothing to do with brown rice!

CALLER 7: Are we going to hear some vintage Rush in the new live set? What have you picked to play? A lot of fans are thirsting for the older stuff!

Well it's so difficult when someone say "older stuff". What vintage? Old stuff as in our first album, which is really old, 73/74? Or Moving Pictures or 2112? We try to put something in from most of our records but we've got 12 or 13 records out now, I can't even remember how many, and it's really hard to get a big chunk of these records into the show, because we try to keep it around two hours. There'll probably be six or seven tunes from Hold Your Fire and the rest will be songs from various stages of the past. Some go back to the very first album and others, but I can't promise which songs and which albums. But there'll be a lot of older stuff there.

CALLER 8: How have you managed to stay together for so long, and do you have another album planed for the future?

Well you'll definitely see another album from us. I don't know when, but you will. As for how we've managed to stay together for so long...nobody knows. We certainly don't know. There's a certain combination of friendship and goals, sanity and ability to stand unbelievable amounts or boring moments...I don't know. There are all sorts of things that make up a relationship and I guess we are a group but also have a relationship as three people, musicians, friends as well, so things go hand in hand. I don't know how we've been able to survive in what is usually considered a short-lived business. There aren't many bands who have been around as long as we have. I don't know what kind of chemistry it takes to make it a long lasting thing. It's a hard thing from the inside to know. I hope that answers the question!

CALLER 9: What's different touring now, from when you first started?

There's quite a lot for me really. There's fourteen years in between, for one. When we first started we were an opening act, and usually had no more than half an hour to play. And we were very excited to be even touring in what we considered to be the "major leagues" at that time. We were travelling around in a car, driving 400 miles a night and sleeping in the car. We'd play everywhere we could, every night if we could. We'd stay out there for six or seven months straight, without any kind of a real break. And it wouldn't bother us or take much of a toll on us, physically or mentally, because we were so excited to be doing that kind of thing: living what we considered to be what we'd been striving for for all those years as a bar band.
Now it's a whole different thing: we have responsibilities, our families, other interests that we want to spend time doing. You don't want to absorb yourself totally in one kind of life, so we tour much slower, go home every three weeks for ten days, don't do any more than two shows in a row without taking a day off. All these things keep it from being boring or mundane. It keeps us from playing badly or robotic on stage. Keeps some sort of freshness to the performances we're giving. The shows are now two hours long. We've been doing it a very long time. So you have to find new ways to keep yourself fresh and excited about what you're doing. It also gives us the opportunity to enjoy the towns that we're visiting more. When we first got to these towns fourteen years ago we never thought we'd be there again. We would be in the concert atmosphere all the time, in the car, just thrilled to death. Now we want to see those places that we breezed through on the way to other towns. A lot of things change about it, and you get a lot more out of it if you balance your schedule.

CALLER 10: How are King Lerxst and Neil doing, and are you guys going to do another live album after the tour?

King Lerxst is pretty good! And Neil's doing just fine. It's funny you should mention a live album because we've recorded a number of dates on our last tour and planning to record some dates on this upcoming tour. So, it's not 100%, but it's a very good chance that we'll be giving some time to mixing live tracks and hopefully they'll come out as some sort of live album.

BOB COBURN: Might there be a video to accompany that?

We don't know at this stage, we're living in the age of video, so it's sort of inevitable isn't it? I don't really know.

CALLER 11: How do you feel about your band being so ahead of its time? The radio station I'm listening to has just added "Digital Man" to their regular playlist, which is a five year old song.

As far as being ahead of our time, it's hard to look at ourselves like that. You always tend to think you're falling behind the times and desperately trying to catch up and stay in tune with the times! It's weird to think of ourselves being ahead of anything. We do what we do.

CALLER 12: This new album seems more reproducible on stage. Is that because of any problems you encountered with Power Windows songs due to the strings and choir you had on it?

Actually this album is more difficult to reproduce than Power Windows as I can attest to having just come out of rehearsals today, struggling with these tunes! It's not easy at all. I don't know why it sounds easier than Power Windows. It's far more difficult primarily because of Peter Collins: the move on this record was for me to play the bass right from beginning to end, through most of the tunes. In the past whenever I went to a heavy keyboard section I would usually play bass pedals instead of bass, so it made it much more difficult for me to reproduce, to keep my bass parts and keyboard parts happening. I'm having to use a lot of electronic gear to do that: sequencers, sampling devices, foot switches, you name it! It's gonna be difficult to reproduce, but we'll do it.

CALLER 13: Listening to your last couple of albums, songs like "Tai Shan" and "Mystic Rhythms" seem to have a Far Eastern influence. I was wondering how you go about writing these songs? Do you go as far a George Harrison carried out his music or do you just enjoy doing the style?

It's just enjoyment of injecting a new flavor and variety into the album. "Tai Shan" is a personal song that Neil wrote about his experience climbing a mountain in China that was called Tai Shan, and the feelings and thoughts that he had as he got to the top of this mountain. That infers an oriental flavor, without wanting to go too overboard and make the thing dripping with oriental flavor, you just want to have that kind of mood there. With "Mystic Rhythms", it just seemed appropriate for what the song was talking about, and I think it's nice to balance off your record with different styles and textures. That's really the motives behind those kind of sounds.

CALLER 14: I know you produced the Boys Brigade album and I was wondering if you'd done anything like that since then, or plan to do anything like it in the future?

I haven't done any producing in the recent past; I helped some friends of mine with a couple of things. Basically I am interested in doing more producing, and would have done some this summer with some other musicians but our schedules didn't work out. In the future I plan on taking and making more time for outside productions, because I am still very interested in doing that.

CALLER 15: I read recently where you said if you had a nickel for every time someone insulted your voice you'd be a millionaire. I was wondering how you felt about that?

Well let's face it, the first eight or nine years of my public exposure as a vocalist, my voice was different and had a different texture and I polarized a lot of people. Probably as many people came up to me and said they loved my voice as told me they hated it. To see it insulted in print hurts a bit, but you get used to it. And I don't think it ever hurt my confidence 'cause I just kept doing it anyway. You always try and improve yourself as a vocalist, and over the last few years I think I've considered myself more of a singer than in the past, and vocalizing is very important to me. Getting good melodies and writing good melodies for my songs are really important for me to sing. Being in the right key and all those things are considerations now, when they never were in the past. It doesn't bother me anymore.

CALLER 16: Why does Neil Peart write all the lyrics? Is there any reason for it?

There are many reasons for it. Number one he's like a human walking dictionary! He's the most literate person I've ever met in my life, and the lyrics were always difficult for myself to write. It was a lot easier for me to express myself musically, and the same with Alex. When Neil first joined the band he replaced our old drummer, who originally wrote the lyrics too. We discussed it all, that I wasn't comfortable writing the lyrics and maybe he'd like to have a whack at it. It wasn't his idea, but was a job he took to very well and I think he's better suited for the job right now. I think there's probably a time...we all keep little ideas, lyrical ideas...we all have input into the different songs lyrically that we do on our records right now, we all discuss them...when they'll be lyrics from other people popping up. I think Neil's very good as a lyricist and getting better, and I think it's important to let him do that.

CALLER 17: Have you guys ever done the soundtrack to a movie, and are you going to do "Second Nature" on tour?

No we have never done a soundtrack, but we have been offered some, and I think we'd probably like to do one if the right one came along.
As for "Second Nature", it's a possibility but we're not really sure at this stage. It depends on how long the set is getting and what kind of dramatics we'll have in the show.

CALLER 18: Somebody mentioned earlier about the insults to your voice. Did you guys ever consider adding a lead singer earlier in your careers?

No, 'cause I was the lead vocalist!

CALLER 19: Ever since the formation of Rush you've been constantly experimenting with new ideas, even though it sometimes means abandoning successful old formulas. Where is this going to lead Rush in the future?

We've no idea. From record to record we really don't know what we're going to be doing next. It's not really 'til we're part way through writing the record where we actually see a style and direction that the album is taking. It sort of has a life of its own in a way. The most control we ever get is when we've written five or six songs and see that the record is going one way or the other. At that point you say to yourself "well I think to have a more balanced record we need to have more of these type of songs or that type of song..." Really that's about as contrived as we ever get because we like to get together from time to time when we have to write and don't do much writing between those times, with the exception of spontaneous jams or improvisations on the road, which we do tape. It's a very spontaneous and natural expression when we get together to write.

CALLER 20: Do you have any plans for soloing? Have you guys had any offers like that?

Well, each of us on our own have done cameos or guest shots on different records in the past. Alex played last year with a Canadian group called Platinum Blonde and Neil's played on records by Jeff Berlin, an excellent bassist in Los Angeles. And I've done work with friends and and produced a number of things. And I think there will be things like that pop up from time to time, but no one has the burning desire to make the individual Neil Peart or Geddy Lee or Alex Lifeson solo album. One might come along, but it's not a burning need, no one's frustrated enough to need to break out on their own.