Compuserve Conference With Neil Peart

Compuserve, October 5, 1994, transcribed by John Santore

[Webmaster's note: This transcript is an edit of the full text of the Compuserve "conference" from 1994. The original transcript was complete with assorted transient pre-interview comments from the users, as well as introductory prompts between questions from the Moderator. Those extraneous comments and prompts have been removed to keep the interview aspect moving along. Besides this, most of the typos and glitches remain...]

(Moderator) Thanks to our partners at Atlantic Records, tonight's the night we meet Neil Peart. The occasion is the launch of Neil's latest album, "Burning for Buddy: A Tribute to the Music of Buddy Rich." Let's begin the conference. We'll begin with a brief presentation by Neil followed by a question and answer session...Neil requests that we focus the questions on his excitining new project at least until the end of the conference. So let's honor his wishes and make this a fun evening! Okay, Neil the spotlight has just turned to you!

(NEIL PEART) Right, okay, thank you, and welcome to the information backroad. This is my first time live on the wire like this, so naturally my fingers will be a little nervous - kind of a "digital dyslexia." In any case, as mentioned, I'm most excited about this current project, the Buddy Rich project, but I don't want to be too, um, rigid about it I just don't want to get caught up in a game of Rush "Trivial Pursuit." I'm sure you understand, no?

(Sri K. Iya) Hi Neil, this is Vik from Seattle here. Are there any drummers not on the album whom you wanted on the album?

(NEIL PEART) Good question, and thanks for the interest. Inevitably, there were a few drummers whom we invited who were just unavailable during our short two-week "window of opportunity." An example would be Louie Bellson, who is one of the veteran players, and a friend and contemporary of Buddy's. Another example would be Phil Collins, who I wanted to have based upon his excellent drumming on the Genesis records. After great effort, I got hold of Phil himself, and received a nice personal response, but he felt he just couldn't do it. Otherwise, most of the people we invited took part.

(John Santore) Neil, thanks for coming on here I was wondering how working with so many different drummers (guys like weckl and bruford who I believe were on this project) have influenced you own personal approach to drumming?

(NEIL PEART) Well, that's a bit of a tough one because you don't really know how an experience has affected you until after the event, and it's really too soon to tell as yet. However, I would imagine that after having played drums for nearly thirty years, and having played a style which is so much myself, I really wouldn't anticipate that great of an effect. For myself, I see it much more as a side project, rather than the main thrust of my musical endeavors or anything like that.

(Lutz Jaschinski) Hi,how long has the project been running? had there been any plans to include Jeff Porcaro then?

(NEIL PEART) In fact, this project was only conceived last January. When I found out that Geddy and his wife were expecting a "blessed event," I started thinking about what I might do with this sudden block of free time-because the tour had been scheduled to go until the end of June, and suddenly we were finishing at the beginning of May instead. Ever since I performed live with the Buddy Rich band back in '91, I had been wanting another chance to play some big-band music, and this seemed the perfect time. So I contacted Cathy Rich, Buddy's daughter, and together we started putting together the ideas, and the suggestions for guest drummers.

(Joseph M. King) Greetings, did the drummers who play on the album bring with them a certain style or did they catch a certain "Buddy" vibe? Also, as producer, what decisions did you make in the studio?

(NEIL PEART) For the most part, the drummers were chosen with that "certain style" in mind. We were looking for a certain "excellence," as well as a certain "appropriateness" for the project - i.e., the drummers had to be able to play this kind of music, in all its complexity and technical demands. At the same time, nearly all of the music on this tribute was drawn from Buddy's repertoire, but since that spans 40 years, from the late '40s right up to the late '80s, there was plenty of stylistic range from which to choose. Thus, you're correct on both counts!

(William E. Frank) Have you been involved in jazz/big band music as long as rock and do you miss it playing in the context of Rush?

(NEIL PEART) One of the ironies of this project, is that I've really never (need italics there again) been involved with jazz drumming, and yet it predates my involvement in drums. This is because it was my Dad's favorite music, and consequently I grew up with it playing all the time. And thus, I don't really miss it in playing with Rush - in fact, one of the great things for each of us in Rush is that whatever our musical influences have been over the years, whether collective or personal, Rush's music has plenty of room for it. Thus this was never a frustration for me, or some kind of unrealized ambition, but was rather a whim - truly, I just wanted the opportunity to play big-band music in a controlled environment: the studio. In a general sense, I have always been totally satisfied by playing in Rush, because it is a band which was designed for that - to make us all happy.

In some cases, the drummers were familiar with some of Buddy's repertoire, and asked to do particular songs. In others, they could just suggest what style they would like to do, and Cathy would send them a few suggestions -a tape with a few different tunes from which they could choose. One of them, Bill Cobham, just showed up on the day, and asked me to pick what I wanted, and he would play it. That was great! - he taked requests! So in a case like that, I was able to get him to do "Milestones," which was one of Buddy's arrangements that I really liked, and also one, as producer, that I really wanted included on the record.

(Brian Veit) Hi Neil. Is Buddy Rich more of an influence on your playing to day than, say . . . thirty years ago? If "yes" who were your earliest influences? ga

(NEIL PEART) This is another one of... I was never a great hero-worshipper, and my only exposure to Buddy Rich or his music was on the "Tonight" show. My first inspiration was a movie called the "Gene Krupa Story," which made drumming look like a fun and exciting thing to me. But once I started taking lessons and playing myself, I was only interested in rock music. Through the mid- and late-sixties, that was the only thing I listened to or wanted to play, and coincidentally it was also a great time for rock drummers. People like Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, and Michael Giles (King Crimson) were doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things on the drums - things the earlier rock drummers hadn't even dreamed of - or at least, hadn't dared to try. . .

(Men of Willowdale) Neil, do your future plans include the release of any collections of your written work??? ...and are you considering any other musical side projects?

(NEIL PEART) Firstly, no, I do not plan to publish any of my written work for general consumption. At present, it too is just a "side project," and I'm perfectly happy just to do it for myself, and learn as I go. Otherwise, on the musical side, as I mentioned, I have been totally satisfied as a drummer with my work in Rush, and really have no need to do any side projects. Again, this one was more of a "whim" than an ambition, or some long-frustrated dream. First a whim, then a labor of love, and then. . . "Love For Sale."

(Jeffrey Fanelli) Evening' Neil, so.. what's a tribute effort to YOU going to sound like in 20 years?? :-) [btw, I'd also like to see your written stuff published, your writing is a joy to read, hope you have another 'whim' soon..]

(NEIL PEART) Truly, I don't anticipate a tribute to myself... With all humility, I mean really... It's important to remember too that this is a tribute to the Music (pretend that's italicized) of Buddy Rich. The thing that made a tribute like this possible is that there was so much great material (more italics there) in his history, so that when we brought these musicians together, we had so much choice, and so much great stuff to celebrate. There are no other drummers that I know of who would merit such a tribute, whether as musicians or bandleaders, so for me at least, this trend ends here...

(Curt K.) Do you think this experience will effect the sound of future Rush tunes?

(NEIL PEART) No. As mentioned, I have been doing what I do for almost thirty years, and I've certainly been doing it my way, so I doubt very much if one side project is going to have that much effect. Certainly I learned a lot about another style of music,

(Curt K.) (Great!)

(NEIL PEART) and I enjoyed the experience very much, but I've been playing my way for a long time, and I expect I'll continue to. I'm a stubborn old bugger...

(Kelly O'Keefe/SL3) Good evening, Neil. I ask this as proxie for my husband Danny, a drummer, whose brother Brendan's band "Nite Sprite" featured Dave Weckl in the early '80s. How did Dave become involved in the project? And did Rick or Jerry Marotta participate?

(NEIL PEART) Specifically, Dave Weckl was asked for the earlier-stated criteria - his excellence and his prominence in the drumming community. Also, he performed at a Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship concert a few years back, and when I saw the video of that show, I really liked the way he played "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," which happens to be one of my favorites as well, so I put in a special request for him to do that one.

(David Rossing) Hello Neil, I noticed your jazz preferences seem to lean toward the big band era, so what are your thoughts on the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman?

(NEIL PEART) As I think I intimated earlier, I am not really a big jazz fan. Big band music in particular appeals to me as a drummer, because it shares many of the same conceptual underpinnings as does Rush music - by this mean its architecture, the tight arrangements and so on, which in turn allow a lot of freedom within those arrangements for the individual musicians to express themselves. Thus, although I enjoy a lot of other styles of music as a listener, there are really no other ones that I would enjoy playing (italics). For example, I like listening to reggae music, but I would never (italics) want to be a reggae drummer - the boredom would kill me. So very often, what one likes as a listener doesn't reflect what one likes as a player. In any case, to answer your question, I really don't know a lot about those guys, so wouldn't presume to pass an uneducated opinion about them.

(Carl R. Bach) Hello Neil! It's an honor!! Congrat's on your project. Someone asked my question ... doooooohl <----Homer). But I have another... If I'm not mistaken, you enjoy visiting Africa.....What are some of your favorite memories of your last trip?

(NEIL PEART) Way to go Bart! Ha. Its hard to be specific about something as deep and variegated as a journey through the remoter parts of Africa, but I can say that I was particularly enthralled by the Dogon people of Mali, who like in villages much like the Anasazi pueblos of the American Southwest - the difference being that these people are still living there, and still living much as they have for centuries. Very remote, and very exotic to the outsider. Another great one was an experience playing with the local master drummer in a village in Gambia, a story which I recounted in a story in "Modern Drummer" last year.

(Marion & Roger) Hi Neil. First I want to thank you for all the drumming and music you have put out over my lifetime.Secondly I was wondering if you and and the other drummers limited yourselves to the same type (size ,number of pices in the set etc..) of drums that Buddy Rich had traditionally or commercially known to jam on? For example did all of you play on one type drum set or did each drummer bring in their own?

(NEIL PEART) Good question. No, everyone made that choice for themselves, and some the drummers brought in quite elaborate kits. For myself, I made a conscious choice to limit myself to the classic four-piece drumset, just as a special challenge. Now that I've had a little experience playing this style of music, I would probably use a more elaborate drumkit in future.

(Lutz Jaschinski) A personal question. how do you feel about this kind of digital communication? does it rather encourage or in a way scare you? at least I am 4.000 miles away (with an ocean inbetween).

(NEIL PEART) I wouldn't say that it either scares or encourages me - it just is (more imaginary italics, please.) I'm one of those old-fashioned guys who still likes to communicate with his friend through long, rambling letters, so this kind of "sound bite" communication is not my... um... glass of Scotch!

(NEIL PEART) By the way, that should be a plural on "friends" up there - I'v e got more than one, honest!

(John Santore) Neil, I was wondering what sort of ultimate goals/expectations you've had for this project as it certainly has a different focus than your work with Rush would you say you successfully accomplished those goals?

(NEIL PEART) Good one John. Ideally, I would just like a lot of people to hear this record - I truly believe that anyone who does will just have (italics) to like it. Otherwise, the major goal has been achieved -the thing has been (here come those italics again) made.

(Carl R. Bach) Sorry for the non-new project content But I've heard many rumours about how your name is pronounced.... does it rhyme with 'fear' or 'hurt'?

(NEIL PEART) fear.

(Joseph M. King) I am always looking for good music to listen to and would really like to know what albulms' (besides Buddy Rich Project, I'm already going to get that!) Neil (italics) listens to? (sorry, it's not a "Buddy" questions, but it's not "Rush Trivial Pursuit" either)

(NEIL PEART) As I mentioned earlier, I have pretty broad ranging tastes in listening. Also, I tend to get tired of a lot of rock and pop music easily -that is, as soon as I know it off by heart, I don't really need to hear it anymore.

(Joseph M. King) I was hoping you could be a little more specific. (I AM OFFBEAT)

(NEIL PEART) It doesn't "nourish" me anymore. So I'm always kind of reluctant to be recommending things to other people that I'll probably be sick of myself in a few weeks or a month. In any case, I can't think of anything offhand that I would strongly recommend for people to buy. There's so much that's good, and - if I've got this quote right from my old Latin classes - "De gustibus non est disputatum." (There ain't no accounting for taste.)

(cathy bauer) I came in late & noticed most of my questions have already been answered. I'm asking this question for a local dj, forgetting music for a minute... did you play hockey as a kid & what's your favorite club? (bet you guessed he's Canadian) Also, do you have any plans for a tour, perhaps small clubs in our area? I heard the cd last week, it was cool! I really like the Steve Gadd & Steve Smith tracks. You just mentioned big band music, just curious, have you heard Port of Harlem Jazzmen by any chance? You've already made a comment about being online, how do you feel about e-mail?

(NEIL PEART) No, I haven't heard them. I don't really have any feelings about e-mail - but as I mentioned, I much prefer to communicate with my friends through the greater depth and privacy of letters.

(Moderator) Willowdale, yours.

(Men of Willowdale) Aside from Ayn Rand and Carl Jung, who have been your biggest political & philosophical influences?

(NEIL PEART) Too big a question for this puny medium!

(Chip Miller) Hello Neil, Any plans for some live dates with the Buddy Rich Orchestra, or is it back to business as usual with Rush? Either would be acceptable!

(NEIL PEART) Chip, either would be acceptable with me as well. Seriously, business is seldom "as usual" with Rush, but I'm sure we'll be putting our heads together pretty soon and deciding what we want to do next. As far as the Buddy Rich thing is concerned, it could happen some time in the future, but I don't have any specific plans at the moment.

(Dan Gibson) Hi, Neil! I'm in a progressive rock band based in New York City, ... and we're about to finish mixing our album. Can you offer any advice to us... on getting a manufacturing/distribution deal? Thanks!

(NEIL PEART) As if! I really don't know anything about that sort of thing, so I'm hardly the person to ask. One of my many mottoes is "get a professional," and in this is case, I don't mean me. I mean that you mean a business (italics) professional, someone whose job it is to know things like this, and try to get them done. Me, I just hit things with sticks.

(Moderator) **** Before we take our last question I have a surprise announcement...Atlantic Records will be giving copies of Neil's Tribute to Buddy Rich album to three conference particpants (that means you!) drawn at random. We'll have a message announcing the winners in two days posted here. (If you can figure out that tangled syntax.)

(Scott Epstein) How did writing "Drumbeats" differ from writing lyrics? And if you still read Horror, which writers? Thanks.

(NEIL PEART) Working on "Drumbeats" with my friend Kevin Anderson was a pretty painless experience - as any reader will probably gather, he provided the story, and I provided the background. Lyrics, by their very nature and by my approach to them, are an altoget her deeper, and more difficult undertaking. The collaboration on "Drumbeats" was really another "for fun" undertaking, much like this Buddy Rich tribute, while my work with Rush always seems much more integral to me, much more a part (italics please) of me. One of the ways in which this has been a nice part of this B.R. project, is that I enjoy listening to it a lot more, because, essentially, it is not my (it.) work - it's a lot of other people's - so I tend to be less critical of it, and simply enjoy listening to it more. Finally, I would just like to say that this has been a very interesting experience for me, although I find it a little frustrating - as I'm sure some of you do too - that is such a slow, and necessarily shallow, way to communicate. Even though I'm a reasonably rapid typist, when I think of how much I could have said (it.) in this amount of time, it doesn't seem like a good deal. On the other hand, when I realize that I'm communicating in "real time" with so many people who are equally "wired in" to this ether, it is kind of amazing. In any case, thank you all for being part of this - I hope I've managed to shed a little light on what's going on here - and I would like everybody to stand up and give our esteemed Moderator a huge round of applause. Then, we should all get up, turn off our computers, and go for a long walk... Bye.