Nardwuar The Human Serviette: Who are you?
Geddy Lee: (pause) I beg your pardon?
Who are you?
Who are you?
I am Nardwuar the Human Serviette, and you are?
You are the Human Serviette?
Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
Well, that's rather gross. What does that mean?
Just like, you know, napkin - you know, wiping things up with it. But you are...most importantly, you are....
I am a guy.
You are Geddy Lee!
Yes. "Well, I can see this interview is going into a very boring direction for me."
Geddy, you are God! I must say that! You are God! You are Geddy Lee! You are God!
Well, that's an unusual way to describe me.
So Geddy, at one time, did Rush open for the New York Dolls at the old New Yorker Theatre in Toronto?
Uh, we opened for the New York Dolls at the Victory Burlesque Theatre in Toronto.
How "glam" were you back then?
Yeah, how "glam" were you back...
I think we were going through a transition of being slightly "glam" in a bar band sense - because at that stage we were pretty much a bar band - and, uh, the transition from that to kind of a more rock band.
Because you were very effeminate at that time. I had this wall towel of you guys, you were all wearing silk kimonos!
Yeah, we used to. We used to wear silks and satins and ridiculous platform shoes and sequined tops and things like that.
Was there any particular shampoo that you used at all, Geddy?
Well, that's a rather dumb question.
Well, I was just curious - to bring out that special Rush look in the early days.
Yeah. Well, I can see this interview is going into a very boring direction for me.
Well, Geddy, first off, you started your own label, Anthem, because no one else would get behind Rush. You guys were the prototype for the original Canadian DIY punk band!
We were - I beg your pardon?
Like, you guys started Anthem, your label, because no one else would get behind you guys. You are like the original Canadian DIY band! Do-It-Yourself band!
Yes, well, I guess so.
Now I also heard, Geddy, that you like baseball.
Mike Piazza of the Mets likes Slayer. Do you hang around any baseball players?
Well, I have some friends who are baseball players.
Did you hang around Dave Winfield at all?
Uh, no, I met him one time.
What did you think when he killed that pigeon a few years ago, you being a Blue Jays fan, I'd imagine?
(laughs) Well, I think it was kind of an unusual circumstance, to say the least. (laughs)
So, Geddy, did you hang around Vitas Gerulitis a little while back?
Yeah, he was a friend of mine for a while.
And Vitas Gerulitis hung around John McEnroe, who hung around the Dead Boys! Did you ever see the Dead Boys in the early days of Rush?
Didn't the Ramones open for Rush at one time?
"Rush, little known pretenders to punk rock's raunchy throne, stormed on stage at the Summit Arena in Houston, and received the earsplitting roar usually reserved for such legendary hard rock bands as Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad." This was from Maclean?s Magazine, 1977. "Rush, little known pretenders to punk rock's raunchy throne!"
That's pretty odd.
That was Maclean?s Maga-
Yeah, I know. Well, I guess to Maclean's Magazine we must have seemed like punk, which doesn't say much for what Maclean?s Magazine knows about music.
Geddy, how come you guys never did do a full-on punk album? A lot of my friends were wondering that, because that would have been wicked! A Rush punk album!
It's because we weren't a punk band.
But you had some punk-associated type things with you. For example, didn't Gerald Casale from Devo do some of your videos?
Yeah, but he wasn't punk.
And you wore a Devo pin as well!
Yeah, but they weren't punk.
But you had that kind of feel though. Like, you wore skinny ties. And you seemed to be kind of inspired by new wave. Like, were you into Gary Numan?
What about "Digital Man" and "Spirit of the Radio" having reggae parts? Would you say there was any punk feel there at all? Why didn't you-
I don't know why you associate reggae style with punk.
It was the whole new wave -
It's a completely different genre of music.
Well, a lot of the punk bands used that. Like, the Clash did reggae. Even D.O.A. from Vancouver broke into some reggae as well. I just kind of saw some of that Police influence in those songs. "Is there any truth to the rumor of Rush roadies accepting Ayn Rand books as bribes to get backstage to meet you guys?"
Yeah, well, the Police were a pop band, not a punk band.
So do you take offense to the word "punk" then, Geddy?
No, I don't take offense to the word at all. There were some punk bands that I liked, but I don't see how you can associate them with our music.
Well, I just see that you guys had that punk feel, because you had the Melvins open for you guys. Do you think the Melvins were the best band ever to open for Rush, Geddy?
Uh, no. I think - Melvins were a pretty interesting band. Unfortunately, they really didn't fare very well in front of our audience.
Well, they weren't very well thought of. (laughs)
How about the other bands you've had? Like, you had that band Wrabbit. Do you remember them? W-R-A-B-B-I-T?
I can barely remember them.
Or Chalk Circle? Didn't the Melvins do as well as Chalk Circle?
No, actually Chalk Circle did better.
Now, Geddy, what are you guys listening to right now, besides your live album, Different Stages? What are you listening to right now?
Um, I'm listening to Bjork. I'm listening to some bass and drum collections from Ninja Tune.
Are you a big Sloan fan? Because didn't you have like, Twice Removed from the Canadian band Sloan, in your car stereo a little while back?
Did I have what?
Sloan. The band Sloan. Are you a big Sloan fan at all, Geddy Lee?
Uh, not particularly. I've heard a few of their pieces . Some of the stuff is interesting to me, some of it is not.
They have that song called, "She Says what She Means," that has a very, very familiar bass line to "Spirit of the Radio." It's their new song: "She Says what She Means." I was just curious if you had heard it at all?
No, I haven't.
Have you heard that Mixmaster Mike from the Beastie Boys used "Tom Sawyer" as their show opener to the Beastie Boys' Canadian dates!
Yeah, I heard that.
And what did you feel about that?
I thought that was kind of cool.
Geddy, do you feel guilty at all about the thousands of teenage boys who ended up with blisters on their thumbs trying to be a cool rock bassist like yourself?
(laughs) No. Yeah. I feel real guilty about it.
Have you ever talked to Lemmy from Motörhead about basses? He has like a customized Rickenbacker bass and yours is stock.
Well, it's been many years since I've talked to Lemmy, and I remember at the time we didn't talk much about basses.
What did you talk about, Geddy Lee?
Oh, other stuff.
Geddy, speaking of talking, Ben Mink has said that you speak fluent Yiddish?
How many other rock stars can do that? How many other rock stars can speak fluent Yiddish like Geddy Lee of Rush?
(laughs) Well, aside from Ben Mink, I don't know too many.
Your voice really is truly amazing. However, Geddy, Rolling Stone Record Guide seems to think that you have "a voice like Donald Duck on helium." What the hell is their problem?
I don?t know. You will have to ask them.
And speaking of your voice, have you heard the Pavement song, "Stereo," off the Brighten the Corners album that has the lyrics, "What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy. I know him, and he does!"
Right. I've heard about it. I haven't heard it myself.
What do you do when you hear a song like that? Do you feel proud that you've instilled these young punkers - again, going back to the punk allusion, Geddy - with this feel of Rush? What do you feel when you hear a song like that?
I think it's amusing. I think in a weird way it is complimentary.
And, Geddy Lee of Rush, have you seen the book, Mondo Canuck ,by Geoff Pevere and Greig Dymond?
Uh, no, I haven't.
Because in it they quote from a 1976 Creem Magazine article, by Rick Johnson, who writes, "The first thing you notice about Rush is that they're not as gross looking as Bachman-Turner Overdrive and that they have a somewhat lower thud weight than most other Canadian bands. True enough, Canuck rockers do seem to have some sort of uglier-than-thou competition among themselves, along with a tendency to pounce on unsuspecting ears like a carnivorous dumptruck." What is the deal on Creem Magazine? Why do Americans think Canuck rockers are so ugly?
Uh, I have no idea. I guess when you're, uh, you have to take that time period into consideration and when you think of the bands that were successful from Canada around that period, you're talking about the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive and that's pretty much it. So it doesn't paint a very pretty picture, does it?
No, but I was curious.? How about female fans? Did you have many female fans, Geddy Lee?
Back then, very few.
Yeah, because they were saying that you were ugly and maybe that's what they were equating it with, but that's not true, because what's wild about you guys is, I would say your brand of rock, Rush's rock, is kind of like, "geek rock " in a way and it is also "thug rock." Because you have the "geek rock" - a lot of the kids who were into Dungeons & Dragons were into you guys, but also the thugs in the school - the big tough guys - were also into it. Would you agree with that, Geddy Lee?
Well, I think our audience was mostly musicians, and if you want to call them geeks or not is up to you, but there were a lot of musicians in the crowd and, uh, we also seemed to appeal to people who were a little over-inebriated.
Geddy, the Canadian content on the Rush resume is amazing! You are the man! Like I said, you are God! You are Geddy Lee! You sang "Take Off Eh (to) the Great White North!" That?s great to have on your resume!
Well, it's amusing.
It's excellent! And?you also had Count Floyd - Count Floyd from SCTV! - introduce the tune "Red Barchetta" at one of your concerts! Like, didn't that happen? You had, like, Count Floyd introducing one of your songs?
Yeah, the song was "The Weapon" I believe.
On a big video screen!
Yeah. He did a couple of intros for us.
Geddy Lee of Rush, what was it like being present for the recordings of the greatest Canadian record of all time?
What was that?
"Tears are not Enough"!
(laughs) Well! It was interesting. It was fairly comical to watch all these people being one by one brought to the mic and ordered around by David Foster. Uh, at the same time, it was a lot of fun to meet people like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell who are artists that I have had a lot of respect for, for many years, but I would say it was a very odd pairing of human beings.
Well, just how annoying was David "Blow-dry" Foster in the studio on that fateful day in March 1985, Geddy Lee?
Well, I remember him asking Joni Mitchell to sing her line over and over again, and, to everyone standing around, every performance was wonderful, and yet he insisted on making her sing it over and over again - to most people's amazement. And then when Neil Young came in, he sang it once, and David Foster asked him to sing it again because it was a little out of tune, and Neil Young replied to him that that's his style and he's not going to do it again, to which a great swelling of pride welled up in all the onlookers!
Your line - "And you know that we'll be there" - that's awesome! Did you have any trouble getting that off?
No. It was one take.
Did you get to talk to "Canada's Country Gentleman" Tommy Hunter at that
No, no, I didn't.
And, Geddy Lee of Rush, Terry Brown has produced, like, all your albums except the first one, and he worked on, like, "Wild Thing" by the Troggs and "Substitute" by the Who -
No, wait. He hasn't produced all our albums.
He hasn't worked with us since 1981.
Oh, geez. Well, your brand new album - who produced that?
But I was shattered to learn though, from Terry Brown - shattered to learn - when he revealed that "Tom Sawyer" is comprised of three drum takes!? Three different drum takes for "Tom Sawyer"! Say it isn't so, Geddy!
Uh, I don't remember that, to be honest.
But in those days, you were recording everything analog and you are also playing as a band, so when you record it, it wasn't just drums playing by themselves. It was bass, drums, guitar playing the bed tracks together. So the only technology available was to cut between different takes, which was quite normal in those days.
So does that mean there's edits in "Tom Sawyer," Geddy Lee?
There very well could be. "Believe me, when a shoe hits you in the head it feels pretty darn big."
Oh no! Well, Terry Brown produced you guys, Geddy Lee. Who have been some of the other behind-the-scene characters in the Rush empire? Like, who have been your roadies? Have there been any good Rush roadie stories?
Well, you know, it's 25 years of stories. It's hard to pull one up on demand.
Is there any truth to the rumor of Rush roadies accepting Ayn Rand books as bribes to get backstage to meet you guys?
(laughs) I don't think so!
And Geddy, do you really believe all that Ayn Rand shit? I mean, come on, do you believe all that, or is it Neil Peart's thing?
Um, Ayn Rand was someone who was very influential on Neil and myself, uh, I would say almost 20 years ago, and, yes, I think she had a lot to offer in terms of her theories on her artistic manifesto and her beliefs in individualism. At some point in my life, she was a formative influence, but one of many, I would say.
Who is your favorite character in The Fountainhead, Geddy Lee?
My favorite character in The Fountainhead?
Which one do you think -
Which character do you think parallels your life the best in The Fountainhead?
None of them.
And, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart wrote all those Ayn Rand-y lyrics. He's pretty smart. Like, I saw him interviewing Prime Minister Jean Chretien on MuchMusic a while back. Neil Peart versus Jean Chretien! Did you see that?
Yeah, I did.
That's amazing! Neil Peart versus Jean Chretien. He had Chretien totally on the hot seat!
Well, he's a smart guy. What can I tell you?
Did Maggie Trudeau come to any Rush gigs, Geddy Lee?
Have you ever approached Keith Richards when he was wasted?
Did you get to meet Keith Richards or the Beatles?
Uh, I met Ron Wood and Keith Richards once briefly at a video shoot.
And, Geddy Lee, are you guys still into the drugs? Like, in high school, Rush were the band to smoke dope to! And songs like "Passage to Bangkok" only made us want to get higher and higher!
Yeah, well, I don't smoke dope.
Geddy, what to you is real prog rock? You know, ELP, Yes, Amon Duul, Can, Gentle Giant? What to you is real prog rock?
Well, prog rock, I'm afraid, is a dying or an outdated form of music. Nobody's really carrying the tradition on, but in its day, Van der Graaf Generator and, at times, Genesis and, you know, Yes - those bands were interesting to me.
What got you into prog rock? Were you into the Toronto '60s scene at all? Did you ever see the Ugly Ducklings or the Paupers or the Mandala?
I saw all those bands. Yeah.
So how did you
Were you in any early bands? Did you share any bills with those bands in the early days?
No, I was too young. "How many other rock stars can do that? How many other rock stars can speak fluent Yiddish like Geddy Lee of Rush?"
So how exactly, Geddy, does one get into prog rock? You know, to go from the Ugly Ducklings to prog rock. What made you go prog? What made you interested in that type of music?
I think it?s musicians' music. I think as you form - my tastes were formed out of bands like Cream and the Who and those kinds of rock bands, and as you get better as a player, those bands came along at that time, and that appeals to people that like to play, so, you know, it is the only rock alternative that is viable that is not jazz, if you want to play something more complex.
Was there ever a Triumph-versus-Rush rivalry at all? Because Triumph were kind of like a bad Rush. Was there ever a Triumph-versus-Rush rivalry?
(laughs) Not in my mind.
Because they put on a good light show, but they weren't Max Webster, were they? I mean, Max Webster! That was the shit! They were it!
That was a great band.
Were Max Webster kind of like a baby Rush?
No, they were completely their own personality , very different from us.
Geddy Lee of Rush, what was the biggest thing you ever had chucked at you on stage in Rush?
That was the biggest thing?
Like, nobody's ever grabbed like a microwave or anything else bizarre and suddenly ended up at your feet
No, no, no. No fridges. No missiles. Just a shoe. And, believe me, when a shoe hits you in the head it feels pretty darn big.
And, Geddy Lee, if you were a dog, what breed would you be?
Anything else you would like to add at all to the people out there, Geddy Lee?
Mmm. No, thank you.
Why should people care about Rush?
I haven't got the foggiest idea.
Well, thanks for your time, Geddy. Keep on rockin' in the free world. And, doot doola doot doo...
Geddy Lee, doot doola doot doo...
No, Geddy Lee, doot doola doot doo...
No, Geddy Lee. Please? Doot doola doot doo...
Please, Geddy.? Doot doola doot doo.
(Geddy hangs up- dialtone)
Geddy Lee of Rush? Geddy Lee of Rush?
Rush's latest release, the three-cd Different Stages Live, is available on Atlantic/Anthem Records. The official Rush website - and we sure like being official - is located at www.atlantic-records.com/rush.
Vancouver-type Canadian Nardwuar the Human Serviette fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams by interviewing fellow Canuck Geddy Lee of Rush. Rather than being redundant, check out his plug at the end of "Nardwuar vs. Nikki Sixx". For more Nardwuar, stay tuned to POPsmear and check out his website, www.nardwuar.com.