"This one was particularly painless to make," mentions Neil Peart of Rush's most recent release, Roll The Bones (on Atlantic). "A lot of effort went into it, but at the same time, it was a pleasurable effort. The basic song ideas flowed very freely, and the musical interchange the three of us had was immediate. We finished the writing stage ahead of schedule, which gave me the opportunity to rehearse like a maniac right up to the time I had to record my parts. I felt very prepared, and because of the extra practice, I had an added feeling of freedom to stretch a bit drumming-wise. I felt on top of my game."
Neil must have been up for recording, because he was able to record all of his tracks for the album in only a day and a half. According to Neil, "I was amazed. We spent an hour or so setting up drums and getting sounds, and then I just banged out the tunes, one after another. It's the quickest I've been." After listening to the disc, one finds that hard to believe. "That just shows the importance of proper preparation," comments Neil. "This was the first time we spent more time preparing for the album than we did making it, and the results, we think, speak for themselves."
As usual on a Rush record, on Bones you can find some fun drumming patterns, which are uniquely Peart creations. "As I've said before, when I hear the early demos by Geddy and Alex, they use a lunk-headed drum machine part and build from that. My parts try to expand the whole picture of the music, and that's the goal I'm reaching for."
On earlier Rush records, you occasionally come across long instrumental sections, or even completely instrumental songs. After ten years, the band has come up with another, "Where's My Thing?" "It was good to get back to that. In recent years, whenever we would come up with an instrumental part we liked, we used it as a section of a song with vocals. I finally told them that I wasn't going to give them any more words until they wrote an instrumental," jokes Neil. You'll hear a few classic Peart moments on the track, along with some nice extras.
For the new album Neil made a change in his drumkit. "I removed the second bass drum — I'm using a double pedal — and I altered my tom setup. I went to smaller drums, and I added a floor tom over by my hi-hat. I found that before I made the switch I was tuning the drums so tight that the lugs were pulling away from the shells. To get the pitches I wanted to hear I decided just to go to smaller drums. As for the added floor tom, it's been a joy. I've been coming up with all sorts of patterns, like the one I used on 'Bravado.' My left hand alternates between the hi-hat and the floor tom, while my right hand is moving from the snare drum to the ride cymbal bell on the upbeats, to another tom-tom on my right side. It's fun to get a bit daring.
"Another song on the album, 'Heresy,' had an interesting genesis to the drumbeat. I was on a bike tour of western Africa, and on one hot night I was laying on a rooftop in Togo. Off in the distance I heard two native drummers playing; the pattern they played just stuck in my mind. I was inspired by that groove for part of the song. And on another section, the beat I played was inspired by a rhythm I heard when I was in Ghana. As I rode past a church one Sunday morning, I heard the congregation singing, and accompanying them was just a stick sound tapping a basic rhythm. That influenced the hi-hat pattern I play in the beginning of the song."
Neil mentions that he feels it's imperative to try new things, such as different setups, and to investigate different sounds and rhythms. "I do need to keep changing things from time to time, because I can't stand still musically, repeating what I've done before. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said, 'Self-plagiarism is style.' But it was Picasso who said, 'Repetition is death.' I lean more towards the latter."