Interview With Geddy Lee

Telephone Interview With Bob Richards, WPHD Buffalo, November 14, 1987, transcriber unknown, edited by pwrwindows

Bob Richards: The 'Hold Your Fire' album is doing really well for the band. It seems you guys put a lot of thought into this album before you put it out. Maybe you can enlighten us. How much time did it take from start to finish, before you got it into the record stores?

Geddy Lee: Well, we spent six months making it from conception to finale. I think when you're spending that amount of time on a project, and when you're as industrious as we are, you end up spending a lot of time thinking about a lot of different aspects. When you're writing a song, you sort of see it in a very basic way at first: you write in a very skeletal way, but when you spend as much time as we do through every stage of the recording, you end up thinking about every stage very carefully until the final thing, which is very well thought out! So if it happens to be something that's good, you're happy you spent so much time thinking about it. If it turns out not so good, then maybe you over-thought about it. There's always the danger of taking the spontaneity out of the record by spending too much time on it to, but you've got to be able to perceive that while you're making it.

Bob: One of the stand out songs on the record is 'Time Stand Still', which features Aimee Mann. How was she chosen to work with you guys on this particular project?

Geddy: We were looking for a female singer for that track 'Time Stand Still'. We listened to a lot of different singers, and talked about a lot of different kinds of voices. We heard her last record and in particular a song called 'What About Love', and we thought her voice was just fantastic. So we just phoned her up and asked if she wanted to do it, and she did.

Bob: Well I think it was an excellent choice on the track 'Time Stand Still' and I was wondering if you might be working with her some more in the future?

Geddy: I don't know; it's always a possibility. We really enjoyed working together and it was a great addition to the song, and personality-wise I think we got along well too. So you never know; it could happen again.

1st Caller: Does the picture on the inner sleeve of 'Hold Your Fire' represent all 12 of your studio albums?

Geddy: Right, well the picture is a street scene at night after rain, and the central figure is a gentleman juggling three balls of fire that are in the same geometric position that the three red balls on the front cover are. It doesn't really represent our albums past, our twelve albums. Eek! No, it doesn't really do that. Anything you're getting out of it in that way is a little coincidental.

Bob: There's a building on the sleeve here off to the right, and the reflection in the window seems to be that of the statue of liberty.

Geddy: Yes, it's true.

Bob: What's the significance there?

Geddy: Comic! It's not so much of a reflection, it looks comically like the statue of liberty is in the building.

Bob: Yeah, I think I see that now!

2nd Caller: What do you think of the style of Rock Music today and the current Heavy Metal trend, and how do you think it has affected the progression of your music?

Geddy: Well I think there's an extreme lack of style in Rock Music today, or maybe the fact is more that there's too much style and not enough substance in Rock Music today. I don't know. I think the trend towards Heavy Metal is fine because a lot of young players, with the kind of Pop Music that's out there, there's not really a clear cut other area for young musicians to go into that's still exciting to play. And I think Heavy Metal answers that need, at least if you're a young musician that likes to play fast and do things that are semi-technical, you can do that within a Heavy Metal context a lot easier than in some of these other contexts. So I don't think it's a bad thing.

Bob: Do you think that it has affected the progression of your music in the band?

Geddy: No, it hasn't affected us because we've lived I think through three or four Heavy Metal trends by now. So I think it's still a strong outlet for young players, and r think it's important for that reason.

3rd Caller: I'm a well-over-40 fan of Rush's, but in the last two albums I've detected a move more towards commercialism. Rush was always known for its uniqueness and its bonding of the instruments, and particularly the percussion in the music. In the last two albums, beginning with 'Power Windows' and 'Hold Your Fire', there seems to be a move towards commercialism where every song almost sounds the same and I'm wondering whether you consider this an evolving of the band or whether it's a cop out to commercialism?

Geddy: Well, I don't really know what you mean by commercialism, coping out to commercialism. We're doing what we've always done: the band goes through phases of being more technical, and other phases, and I think right now we're in a fairly melodic phase. But I think when you're doing, consistently doing songs that are five minutes or longer, it's hard to term yourself as being a commercial band.

Bob: Geddy, just about everyone that comes through Buffalo has a Buffalo story they like to tell, usually dealing with snow. How about yourself?

Geddy: I remember playing there one year through probably one of the worst snow storms ever, and I think we were playing with Golden Earring, or Golden Earring were just leaving town as we were getting in. I remember driving in from some other town and it was doubtful whether we were going to do the show, I think it eventually came off. But that's the most outstanding memory I have of doing shows there. But also there is the added bonus for us being so close to Toronto that a lot of our friends and family can easily come down to the shows, which often happens in Buffalo. So it almost becomes like a home town gig in a way.

4th Caller: I was wondering, do you and Alex write the music to Neil's lyrics or do Neil's lyrics just kinda go along with the music?

Geddy: Well, I'd say a little bit of both goes on with that. Sometimes lyrics come first and Alex and I will sit down with the lyrics and write something that we feel best emotes the mood of the lyrics, and sometimes we just get together and write some music, put it on tape and give it to Neil and he'll do the same; write something that fits the music.

5th Caller: I'd like to know what type of stage set you're going to be using this time in concert?

Geddy: It's a little bit different from the last tour. We still have the same kind of ramps that we did on the last tour, but the lighting and the use of different kind of light stands on stage are going to be dramatically different and give it a different look.

6th Caller: What is the significance of the name Rush?

Geddy: Well, this is a difficult question for me to answer, because the name came along before I came along. But basically the guys thought of that name and it was meant to represent a 'Rush', as a good feeling, a sort of overwhelming feeling of a good vibe that comes over you, and I guess that's all that went into the thinking of the name.

7th Caller: In light of the completion of what some might consider the most recent Rush trilogy, 'Hold Your Fire', 'Power Windows' and 'Grace Under Pressure', I'd like to know your opinion, or the bands opinions that you know of, of a future direction for the next trilogy? And I'd also like to to know do you think referring to your albums as trilogies is an accurate appraisal of what you're trying to accomplish with them?

Geddy: I think it's sort of a coincidental pattern that is sprung at us, I guess more of the kind of way we're organised than the way our music is creatively. I think it's possible to tie it to a concerted effort to do our music in sets of threes, it seems to work out that way, it usually seems to be three [sic, try four] records then a live record, but it's certainly nothing we've ever talked about or ever conceived doing. It's not anything we planned to do.

Bob: Well, being that this pattern has sprung up, would you consider taking a different direction now that you've completed your third trilogy?

Geddy: Well, funnily enough we've been talking about doing a live album. We did record about ten shows on this tour; and the chances are very good that the album will be a live one.

Bob: Any idea if you will be recording here in Buffalo?

Geddy: At this stage I don't know. I don't think we are but at this stage I'm not sure.

8th Caller: What was your first guitar, and how did you learn to play it?

Geddy: My first guitar was a an acoustic guitar, I don't even know what brand name it was, but it had two lovely palm trees painted on it! I think a friend of mine, I guess at the time I was about 11, showed me a couple of guitar chords and from that I figured out the chords to a song called 'For Your Love' by the Yardbirds. That was the first song I figured out on a guitar. That was the beginning of all my problems.

9th Caller: If you had to atribute one thing in Rush's sound to your continued success, what would it be? And, could you give me bass lessons sometime?

Geddy: I think you should go to a teacher for that one! Boy, that's a difficult question to answer. I don't know if there is one most important aspect of our sound. It's really hard to tell for me because I see the three of us individually as having a very identifiable sound within our band. I guess the overall sound of the kind of Hard Rock we're playing is probably our most identifiable aspect, it's the mixed up way we go about putting a Hard Rock song together.

Bob: So might you say that the most important aspect then is the combination of the three sounds?

Geddy: I guess it would be the way the guitar, bass and drums mould, the way we are able to blend them.

Bob: Every time I say that name, Geddy Lee, it makes me think a little bit. I know there's a story behind that! Your mother gave you the name but not in the way we might all think. Can you enlighten us on that a little bit?

Geddy: Well, when I was really young my mother had a very thick Polish accent. When I was born I was called Gary, but everyone would think she called me Geddy, the way she would say my name. And it stuck. The best comparison I can make is like Beaver Cleaver! Everyone calls him 'The Beav' at home, and it's stuck. Nobody remembers The Beav as Theodore, just The Beav, and the same thing is similar with me.

Bob: Any special things we can look forward to tonight?

Geddy: Well, you know, the show has just been expanding and expanding. We've done quite a lot of work on the visual aspect of the show this year, so I'm really excited about the prospect of what we're bringing around to people this time.

Bob: With all the albums and songs that Rush have done, a tremendous amount of work through the years, is there one song which sticks out in your mind as being your favorite?

Geddy: Oh! gee. It's really hard for me you know. Like, we've got 12 or 13 records out, so many songs, and my favorites are always the ones we wrote most recently. It's hard for me to look back, some of the songs I like are songs that get overlooked. There's usually one on a record that I'm really fond of that you usually find gets ignored, so those have a tendency to be my favorite ones.

Bob: You mention you've put out 12 albums now in all. A lot of years there Geddy, a lot of bands don't make it as far as you guys have. Are you, Alex and Neil starting to feel a little monotony or are you trying each others patience? How's the band getting along?

Geddy: Well we haven't spoken to each other in about eight years; we speak through solicitors. Just kidding folks. We get along fine, touch wood we have a very good relationship. We still spend most of our time between songs laughing, and I still think we find each other good company when we're on the road. So I would say we have a very healthy creative environment to work in.

10th Caller: Where did the concept for 'Cygnus X-l' come from on 'A Farewell To Kings'?

Geddy: The story came from Neil's head, the name came I believe from a magazine article he was reading about the star Cygnus. I believe it was an article involving something to do with an X-ray they were using to judge distances of planets or something like that. I also think it had something to do with an unidentified black hole that they were thinking of naming Cygnus X-l. That's where the names came from that inspired Neil to be thinking about the kind of story that ended up to be 'Cygnus'.

11th Caller: From your point of view on stage, what would inspire you guys from the audience? What would get you going and make the show better?

Geddy: I'm inspired by a crowd that seems really involved in the show. I don't like a crowd that's too quiet, but I don't like a crowd that's screaming through the whole set either. It's sort of nice when the crowd is energetic, but involved in what we're playing and attentive and cheering their favorite parts. I like a crowd like that. I think a boisterous crowd is good as long as it's in the right spots.

Bob: Do you find that certain parts of the country, whether it be Canada or the United States, tend to be better crowds than others?

Geddy: I think the world over respond to the same kind of things, surprisingly enough. But some do it in louder ways than others. Different parts of the country do have a tendency to be more vocal about the way they respond, but I don't know what that's attributed to. It's just the part of the country they're from, somehow, the way they have been brought up in a concert environment.

12th Caller: I'd like to know, with all the changes Rush has been through, as far as music style is concerned, would there be any problems with a future break up at all?

Geddy: Well I think there's been a change in style in our band ever since the first album we made. And I think if you look at our 12 albums you probably would see 12 slightly different styles of making music, and that is definitely intentional. As far as breaking up is concerned, there's nothing in the foreseeable future that would indicate that.

13th Caller: I have two questions. My first one is, is 'Red Barchetta' an actual car?

Geddy: Yes, there is a Barchetta. I don't know if that's the proper pronunciation of it. I've heard some say it's a "Barketta", but it's a type of Ferrari that was in production quite a long time ago.

13th Caller: Secondly, what was the inspiration for the song?

Geddy: Well Neil wrote the song, and at the time I think he had a Ferrari. He's a major car lover! So I think he was looking through one of these old Ferrari books, and I think he was thinking a lot about Ferrari's at the time.

Bob: And of course 'Red Barchetta' is a song off the 'Moving Pictures' album...

Geddy: No. I'm sorry. I just remembered something. I'll hit you with it! That was inspired by a short story Neil read in 'Road and Track' magazine. I don't remember the name of it. Actually, I think he credited it on the album, but it was a story by this guy that was very similar to the storyline of the song 'Red Barchetta'.

Bob: I'm just looking at the notes here, and you're right Geddy, there is a credit here: it was a story by Richard S. Foster called 'A Nice Morning Drive'. Thanks for spending the time you did with us, and answering the many questions of the Buffalo listeners Geddy.

Geddy: No problem.

Bob: Good luck with the show tonight, I'm looking forward to seeing that.

Geddy: My pleasure. It's nice to be here and I'm looking forward to playing.