Rush fans scanning the FM dial starting December 4 will experience a sense of deja vu when they hear "Promise" by a new band called Victor.
That's because the song's distinctly Rush-like guitar track is the work of Rush axeman Alex Lifeson, and Victor is his first major project outside the band he co-founded in 1969 with bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee.
Although Victor bears Lifeson's unmistakable sonic imprint, it is more a collaboration than a solo outing. Among the featured musicians on the group's self-titled debut-due out January 9-are bassist Les Claypool from Bay Area alternative rock act Primus and I Mother Earth singer Edwin (both self-professed Rush freaks); acclaimed Canadian vocalist/songwriter Dalbello; local session players Bill Bell (guitar), Peter Cardinali (bass), and Blake Manning (drums); and Lifeson's wife, Charlene, and 18-year old son, Adrian. For the world outside of Canada, the album will be on Atlantic Records. In Canada, it will be released on Anthem/MCA Canada.
"As Victor developed, it became a band project rather than an all-star wank-fest," says the self-effacing Lifeson.
Victor became a vehicle for Lifeson's edgiest, more aggressive side, which does not manifest itself in Rush to the degree that it does in this new band.
"What most people would have expected from me would be a little different," says Lifeson, who is managed by Toronto-based SRO Management. "I wanted to get variety on the record. I wanted to make a record that was a little dark. People probably expected something more instrumental."
Musically, Victor is closer to alternative bands, such as Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, than to Rush's progressive rock sound. Accordingly, Atlantic plans to target the modern rock audience in addition to Rush's core album rock and musician fan base.
"The sound of the record lends itself to [modern rock]," says Atlantic senior VP Vicki Germaise. "Plus, so many alternative bands-major bands-in the last couple of years have cited Rush as a great influence that this might open people's minds," she says, adding that the project might add to the number of future Rush tracks considered for airplay.
"Promise"-one of the Victor cuts most reminiscent of Rush-will also go to album rock radio, according to Germaise. Furthermore, Atlantic will work the hard-hitting track "Don't Care" to heavy metal outlets.
The label plans to take advantage of Rush's considerable fan base in promoting Victor in North America and overseas.
Touring is out of the question for Victor because most of its members have other commitments, not the least of which is Lifeson's responsibility to Rush. Lifeson, Lee, and Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart are currently writing material for their next album, which they plan to record early next year. Germaise says Atlantic will probably release the Rush project in the fourth quarter of 1996.
Nevertheless, Lifeson says he will try to pull together at least some of the members of Victor and perform limited engagements.
To make up for Victor's absence from the touring circuit, Lifeson will undertake a wide-ranging media campaign that will include features in Musician, Guitar Player, Guitar World, and Huh magazines, and a battery of fanzines, according to John Raso, Atlantic's product manager for Victor and Rush.
Germaise says, "Rush has always been rather rigid about who they will and won't talk to, but Alex is so loose and friendly that I think a lot of people are going to get to talk to a member of Rush that they have wanted to talk to for a long time."
She adds that Atlantic will exploit Rush's huge online presence-which she ranks as second only to that of Depeche Mode.
"On the last Rush record, when we were all getting into online services, the first time we pulled up Rush's bulletin board, we found 59 pages of frequently asked questions," says Germaise. "That's more than 2,000 questions!"
Atlantic will post an interview with Lifeson on its Internet World Wide Web site and could possibly create a Victor screen saver based on the album's photo/collage motif cover.
"There's also a bunch of grass-roots stuff that we're going to do, like in-store mailings to instrument stores," says Germaise, noting that Peart's recent Atlantic outing, "Burning For Buddy," a tribute to Buddy Rich, sold remarkably well in music-instrument stores.
"There are probably a lot of Alex fans in those stores," she says. "We already opened up many of these places for the Neil album. We've done a lot of cross-referencing with Rush material, alerting people that if you're a Rush fan, you'll probably like this, too."
While solo projects tend to raise questions about the stability of a band, Germaise says that Victor "is only going to help Rush's profile. It tends to be such a long time between Rush records, it's great to have something out there that tastes of it."
Lifeson says that Victor only endeared his Rush bandmates more to him. "When we got back to work, we got closer than we've been in a long time," he says of Lee and Peart. "We've reached a new level of maturity in the way we work. It's a brotherhood that goes beyond family."
Although Lifeson composed all the music and words for "Victor," he has no ambitions of competing with Peart for the job of Rush lyricist or of altering the group's democratic writing dynamic.
"I don't feel this great desire to be a lyricist," says Lifeson. "I enjoy doing it, and it was a big challenge for me, because I wanted to get these ideas across. But with Rush, it's a different thing. We work from a different area, and Neil's lyrics are integral."
Lifeson's music is published through Lerxst Music, which is administered through Core Music.
One thing the 42-year-old Lifeson *does* plan to change as he embarks on the third decade in the business is the extent of his work outside of Rush.
"I'm sure I'll do more of it," he says. "I really enjoyed it a lot; it did good things for me. I came to realize that I'm a musician, a guitarist, and a songwriter. These are the things I do, and I should do them. I'm a lazy person by nature, but this [project] required me to work very hard."
In addition to making other albums of his own, Lifeson says, he is interested in producing other people's recordings.