Alex Lifeson Interview At The Artist Of The Decade Awards

Toronto's CILQ, November 20, 1990, transcriber unknown, edited by pwrwindows

Webmaster Note: Rush were named Artist of the Decade by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences on November 13, 1990. This interview aired a week later on Toronto's CILQ radio.

How are things Alex? Good to see you.

Things are great. Good to see you too.

What a long strange decade it's been, I guess the 1980's.

When we first heard about this we wondered which decade, (laughs). It's been a few for us!

That is one of the differences we noticed and mentioned to Bryan Adams. When 1980 came around both K. D. Lang and Bryan Adams were unknown, whereas by 1980 Rush were huge not only here in Canada but in the rest of the world as well. So as opposed to being found in this decade, it must be nice to see that you've been able to carry on for another ten years and get this recognition from the industry.

It certainly seems incredible to us. I don't think we ever expected to be around in 1990, still doing what we're doing. As a matter of fact, we're in the studio now, working on the new record. It just keeps going on and on for us.

It must be even more strange in your situation, with Rush in that when the band started out, the critics slammed you. The industry itself wasn't really behind you. It was your fans that did it for you, and it was your fans that you seemed to have had the allegiance to for all these years. Yet it must be kind of strange to see that now the industry has embraced you the way they have.

Yes, I guess it's nice (laughs) but, you're right. For us Rush were a band that weren't really popular top 40, and we never had hit singles that a lot of bands end up having. We had to work very hard touring and we work very hard on our music and we have a very good relationship with our audiences that has developed over the last fifteen/sixteen years that we've been touring. And that's always been the special thing. It's very nice to have this recognition certainly, but, I think the recognition you get from your fans is a lot more important.

You guys are working I guess, on the pre-production stages of the new record.

No, the very early stages. We've been working for two weeks now, we're working on the new record and we'll be working probably until mid-December. We'll take a break then and get back into it in the new year, start recording at the end of February and hopefully finish by the end of June. Have a few weeks off in the summer and possibly start touring sometime in the fall of 1991.

You have changed quite a bit over the years, 1980 through to 1990.

About 25 pounds! (laughs).

On the plus or minus side? (more laughs).


You still bowl a mean game Alex.

Well, thanks.

But, with 'Moving Pictures' in 1981 now up to what you're doing in the 90's, it's been full of changes in between. A couple of 'live' albums in there as well, and you guys have always used live albums as the end of one stage I guess, and the beginning of another.

Right... It gives us some breathing space, at least you have something that's current and released. You can get away from it, I think that's important for us. Before we recorded 'Presto' we took seven months off, which was unheard of by a factor of three for us. We never took more than a couple of months off between touring and recording before, and we just really had to get away for a good length of time, really divorce ourselves from being in a band, from being musicians, from the whole thing. And, we came back very enthusiastic. When we started working on 'Presto' we were just really excited when we came back to work, it was like a breath of fresh air for us, and it carried over. The tour was really great, we really enjoyed ourselves for the first time since 'Moving Pictures' or the 'Signals' tours. It was a much better paced tour, we had a lot of fun, the shows did really well, it was I think one of the better shows from a staging standpoint. And we had a great time. We suddenly remembered how much we enjoyed touring and we'd sort of lost a bit of that over the years. All of that carried onto this (new) record. We started working, we've got about five songs in decent shape, at an early stage we're looking forward to continuing that and going back out.

How has success affected Rush and your music?

It depends on your definition of success. We've always felt successful in that we've been able to play and write the music that we want to. There was only one brief period during 'Caress Of Steel', when there was any kind of problem with regards to support from the powers that be. Our management and record company were very worried with 'Caress Of Steel', but for us it was a very transitional record. It was a very important record for us, although it certainly wasn't a very commercial record. And then of course we went on and '2112' came out after that and everything went great and everybody was happy. Since then we've been able to do whatever we want, so we've had a measure of success in those terms. If you mean does financial success change your music, then it's always easier when your bills are paid not to have to worry about that aspect of your life.

I was more interested in the creative side, when you have a success behind you, does that influence the way you're going to go from there?

No it does not. No, we go out of our way not to repeat ourselves. We arrive at the studio to begin writing and it goes wherever it goes. It's as simple as that.

Has there ever been a time when you guys considered packing all this in? Touring?

We've grown to deal with that. It's part of the job, so you just learn to except it. In the earlier days of course it was a little easier. It was all very exciting. The band was growing and developing, from the live aspect it was quite exciting. I think we reached a point in the mid 1980's where it was the same old thing almost. The 'Hold Your Fire' tour was the toughest tour. Geddy was ill for a lot of that tour. I remember Neil having the flu for a few weeks. We all had our own little problems. It was very difficult coping on that tour. I think that's why we really needed to have that break that we did. It's probably the closest we've ever come to at least stopping the touring.

Are you surprised by the band's longevity?

Yes, of course. In 1974 we signed our American deal and started touring the States and I thought if we lasted five years and had the chance to record five or six records in that time then we would be really fortunate. But here we are 100 years later!

I mentioned to Bryan Adams a few minutes ago when he was's a fair comparison to draw between the two of you...that instead of deciding to play Canada and play bars, although you certainly did that here in Toronto, when you were first starting out in the early 1970's you decided to really give it the big shot and go to the States and really slog it out and it worked for you. But what would you recommend to a band these days in a situation, although the industry has changed so much, what would you say to a band who you think had it in the 90's. What route would you say they should take?

It's very difficult, it's a whole different scene. When we were coming out it was possible for a band to get on to a two, three or four act show as an opener, play for 20 minutes and do the whole run of dates. Come back a few months later with another band as maybe a special guest, do the whole run, come back and then start headlining small halls and work up to 5,000 seats, 7,000 and do the arena's and touring the same places over and over around and around. That doesn't really exist anymore. It's very tough for young bands to get on those types of tours. I think promoters are much more concerned with selling tickets so that they end up getting two very strong bands, so that area of opening is very tight and difficult for a lot of bands. All you can do is persevere and practice and stick to your guns.

You still practice?

I don't practice as much as I used to. When we're not working I used to play all the time. I practice a lot less before we went in the studio. I started playing on a regular basis a month before we went in, at least two/three hours a day. Before a tour I practice five or six hours a day for about a month before.

I think the question everyone wants an answer to Alex, is will Rush be going back to that mid 1970's image...the jumpsuit and platform boots?

Yes, as a matter of fact we brought our house coats tonight! (laughs)

That was one of the great looks, when you look back on stuff like that and what you've done, the different images stuff like that, do you chuckle?

Oh yeah, and I cry too! (laughs)

Alex, it's been a pleasure, thanks very much, congratulations Alex good luck, Rush are one of the artists of the decade, the group of the decade in Canada...