Rush hopes its spring North American tour will be "a treat, not a treatment."
Rush hasn't been in a hurry to get back on the road. However, the fact that "Presto," its first album on Atlantic Records, was in the top 20 best selling charts in December and January, makes the Canadian trio more eager. Vocalist-bassist Geddy Lee says, "We're so happy with the way this album turned out, we're happy to go out there and tour it."
"We've been doing this with this band for over 15 years now. I feel more and more need to have more and more time to myself, for my family, for my life outside this band. The whole prospect of long tours doesn't make me extremely happy any more. I like to play, but I need more of a balance in my life."
Their previous album, "A Show of Hands," in 1989, was live, recorded during the tour after "Hold Your Fire," the last studio album, released by Polygram in 1987.
Rush has found it difficult making live albums that don't sound like tape recorders are running, Lee says. "We figure the way around it is, every tour you're going to record a number of shows. You hope you'll get lucky and forget the machine is running and give a performance that is as natural as if it weren't. You're trying to trick yourself in to forgetting you're recording an album.
"A lot of tracks on "A Show of Hands" were recorded from the last show we recorded, in Birmingham, U.K. The second-to-last night we also did a video shoot and there were a large number of cameras on stage. What I think happened was the next night the cameras were all gone so it almost felt like nothing was happening. Everybody relaxed. Everybody gave a very loose performance in relief that there was no camera pointed at us."
When Rush began, Lee says, "We played more aggressive music. I think it was a function of our youth and the style of music we liked and what was cool. We still like aggressive rock. I think we still play it. It is just a bit tempered now by other influences. We grew up listening to power bands. I think power would be a little narrow in its description of Rush now. But I feel this album is a powerful album."
Probably Rush's most decided change, Lee says, was from "Moving Pictures" in 1981 to "Signals" in 1982. "We changed the focus from guitar-dominant to adding more synthesizers. We went from a three-piece to a four-piece, though we are only three people. We experimented with that for quite a few albums, up to this album where we made a decided shift back.
"It felt really good to go back to writing as a three-piece and using technology just to enhance moments as backdrop to a fundamental three-piece sound. There were a few moments we couldn't resist sneaking back into it. By and large it's written as a three-piece record."
As for his singing, Lee says he went through a period of screechy singing and another where he tried to lower his range and screech less.
"To me, singing well is a lot more of a priority than it used to be. I used to be another instrument in the sound. A lot of material in this album was written around vocal melodies.
"We wanted the emphasis on this new album to be strong vocally, melodically and emotionally."
Rupert Hine produced "Presto" with Rush. "The point of using a new producer every once in a while is you learn some new tricks," Lee says.
He quit smoking in 1983. Even so, he says, he had trouble keeping his voice healthy on the last tour, in 1987 and '88. "I don't know if it was winter or getting older. I find I have to baby my voice more than I did when I was younger."
If there's any wisdom to pass on, Lee says, it is, "The more time you take for writing, the better. That's your script." Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson write music, and drummer Neil Peart writes lyrics.
"Presto" was completed ahead of schedule. "I think it was because of the amount of preparatory work we did. You have to make sure your songs are really sounding good even at the rough demo stage. And you've got to be careful you don't overdo to the point you don't have a feel left for your songs. Then you're in good shape, I think."
Lee says Rush enjoyed working with Hine and engineer Stephen Tayler. "The longer you're in the business the more you realize that the time you spend working is not apart from your life. It's part of your life. You want to make sure you're using your time well."
"It's a lot more rewarding when it's pleasurable."