Anthem/Atlantic Records has announced the upcoming release of the debut solo album from Geddy Lee, the voice and bassist of the legendary power trio, Rush. The highly-anticipated collection--dubbed "MY FAVORITE HEADACHE"--is due in stores on November 14th.
Following more than a quarter-century of success with Rush--including 22 albums, all certified RIAA gold-or-better, with cumulative worldwide sales of over 35 million--"MY FAVORITE HEADACHE" finds Lee joined in the studio by guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink and drummer Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden). The album's 11 diverse new Lee compositions were co-written with Mink (best known for his collaborations with k.d. lang). This landmark recording sees Lee taking on a number of instruments--along with his bass and vocal duties--including piano, guitar, percussion, and various programming elements. Recorded in Seattle, Vancouver, and Toronto, the album was produced by Lee, Mink, and renowned studio whiz David Leonard (Santana, Barenaked Ladies, Prince), and also features drummer Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady Peace) on one track.
After nearly three decades of success with Rush--including 22 albums, all certified RIAA gold-or-better, with worldwide sales of over 35 million--MY FAVORITE HEADACHE marks the solo debut from Geddy Lee, bassist extraordinaire and the voice of the legendary power trio. Joined on his solo stage by guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink, and drummers Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) and Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady Peace), Lee unleashes eleven strikingly diverse new songs, ranging from propulsive and elastic rockers like 'Grace To Grace' and the title track, to the shimmering Cinemascope pop of 'Slipping' and 'The Angels' Share.'
'It was an opportunity to do things in a way that I couldn't do things in the context of the band,' says Lee. 'I didn't have to be democratic and I didn't have the pressure of having to live up to some preconceived notion of what the music is supposed to sound like.'
MY FAVORITE HEADACHE was born as Rush entered into an extended hiatus following the end of 1997's successful TEST FOR ECHO World Tour. Lee found himself with quite a bit of free time on his hands, and soon grew hungry for creative pursuits. He began 'plunking around' in his home studio, though he had no clearcut goal of making a record in mind.
'I'd never really been interested in doing a solo record for two reasons,' Lee explains. 'One, creatively I've always felt very satisfied in the context of Rush. It's a good creative combination, and a good creative outlet for me, so I wasn't like some artists that have a whole stockpile of material that they're just dying to get out there and make the real statement that they want to make. Secondly, I really had no need to draw any more attention to myself.'
Nevertheless, as Lee began experimenting at making music without Rush, he reconnected with longtime pal Ben Mink, with whom he had often discussed a possible collaboration. Mink has earned great renown for his work with kd lang on such albums as the Grammy Award-winning ABSOLUTE TORCH AND TWANG, INGENUE with its Grammy winning single, "Constant Craving'--and MISS CHATELAINE.
Somewhat lesser known is his role as a member of famed Canadian prog-rockers, FM, where he played among other instruments electric mandolin, which, Geddy says, 'he made sound like he was Jeff Beck.'
'When I was a teenager, living in Willowdale--a suburb of Toronto and playing in a local band,' he says, recalling his earliest memories of Mink, 'there was this hot guitar player I kept hearing about who also played in a local band, and it was Ben. He's definitely gone through the rock n' roll thing, its just that his interest in violin and his interest in indigenous Canadian folk music, and folk music from around the world that involves violin, took him down a different road.'
These two very singular musicians got together at the guitarist's Vancouver home and as their writing and recording sessions progressed, Lee and Mink realized that they had far more in common than just their friendship. 'We were plunking around and we kind of looked at each other and were like, 'Wow, you play like me!' 'No, you play like me!' We decided at that point that we would write something together, with the hopes that it would be really terrible and we'd never have to discuss it again. Well, of course the worst of all things happened: we liked what we wrote, and we couldn't just let it go.'
Lee and Mink hooked up a number of times throughout 1998, laying down material that got more interesting with each session. It was clear that the fruit of their labor was simply too good to just keep to themselves.
I had started liking the songs so much that I didn't feel it did them any justice to spend the rest of their existence on a tape sitting in my cupboard,' Geddy says. 'It was the belief in the songs that we were creating that led me down this road. But I was still feeling rather unambitious in terms of doing my own record. Eventually I sent some songs to (Co-Chairman/Co-CEO of The Atlantic Group) Val Azzoli who I've known for a long time and whose opinion I trust and I asked him, 'What do you think I should do with these songs?' And he was very positive and encouraged me to think about making a record.'
With that in mind, Lee and Mink with the collaboration of renowned studio whiz David Leonard (Prince, Santana, John Mellencamp, Barenaked Ladies) proceeded full on into the production of MY FAVORITE HEADACHE. In addition to his awe-inspiring bass playing and one-of-a-kind vocalizing, Lee shows his proficiency at a wide range of instruments, including piano, guitar, programming, and percussion. Mink--who contributed violin on Rush's 1982 album, SIGNALS -performs on both electric and acoustic guitars, as well as violins, violas, and assorted programming. Drumming was provided primarily by Pearl Jam/Soundgarden pounder Matt Cameron, who serves as an ideal rhythmic foil for Lee.
'Being able to work with Matt was a real treat,' the bassist enthuses. 'He's a wonderful drummer and a wonderful guy. We originally went in just to record a couple of songs and they went down so well that we just kept pulling more songs out of the bag and said, 'Matt, do you feel like playing on this one?' Before we knew it, we had a whole album!'
Imaginative musical interplay has long been one of Rush's trademarks, and indeed there are sonic similarities to Geddy's regular gig throughout MY FAVORITE HEADACHE. Of course, as he notes on the Eastern-tinged 'The Present Tense,' 'When you lose the past/The future makes no sense.
'I cannot deny my roots,' Lee says, 'so there are obviously going to be moments that sound like Rush. If I write in the context of Rush, or if I write outside the context of Rush, there's a particular style, the way I put chords together, that is going to have some similarity.
'But at the same time, I'm blending my style with Ben's influence,' he continues, 'and I found that the more I wrote with him, the two of us kind of saw things remarkably similarly. We pooled our writing talents in a way that was incredibly synchronous, and I think that combination has put it outside of Rush.'
As a songwriter, Lee reveled in the autonomy to experiment with melody and production. In addition, putting pen to paper and writing lyrics ended up having a significant result on the album's overall sound.
Having the opportunity to write my own lyrics gave me more control than ever in being able to shape my melodies,' he says. 'That also had a huge effect on the way my vocals sound, in terms of the phrasing and the rhythmic context. I think that's an important piece of this record.'
Set atop the staccato riff rock of songs such as 'Home On The Strange'(featuring Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart) and 'Moving To Bohemia,' Lee's lyrics showcase their author's dry wit and keen observational eye. While he first was daunted at the prospect of putting words to his music, Lee soon began to find the process enjoyable as well as illuminating. 'At first, some of the things I wrote I was not too pleased with,' he says. 'They were a little half-baked, but once I got into the spirit of it, I really loved it. I started realizing so much about myself: That I think about a lot of things and I'm a pretty opinionated guy, that I can find my way around the dictionary pretty well and know how to express myself. So I said, 'Why not?' If I can talk to somebody and have a cogent, cohesive conversation, why can't I write that down and put it into verse? After a certain point, it didn't seem like that big a stretch to me anymore, and then it became a lot of fun.'
'It's one thing to have a deadline,' he continues, 'and say, 'Okay, you have two weeks to write ten songs,' that I don't know if I could do. But over the course of a couple of years, jotting down my thoughts and keeping a notebook and being able to ruminate and go back and forth on these things that I think about, that's a very pleasant way of working, a natural way of working. So when it finally came down to putting a song together, if a piece of music came out, I'd think, 'I have some lyrics that are really simpatico with this music.' It was like a jigsaw puzzle, putting them together. I found that to be a real challenge and probably the single most important breakthrough for me in making this record.'
A breakthrough of another variety may well be on the horizon, when Lee assembles the album's cast of characters to perform the songs of MY FAVORITE HEADACHE. As for the coming-together of Lee with his revered bandmates, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, current plans call for Rush to reconvene in early 2001 to begin writing their long-awaited 23rd album.
Hopefully, at some point early in the new year, I'll be starting to sit down at my day job,' he explains smiling. "It's going to be interesting; everybody's grown and changed in many different ways since the last record. It should be a real interesting time...'
Presently, the interesting times continue within the musical moments of MY FAVORITE HEADACHE. Although it began life as Geddy's way of simply filling in the day with music, the album now stands among the most substantial and satisfying moments of his artistic life. Like the man himself sings on the driving, multi-layered 'Working At Perfekt'--'When it's right/It's right as rain.'
'When it was all said and done,' Geddy Lee says, 'and I was sitting there neurotically listening to the thing through, after mastering it and assembling it, I thought, 'I like these songs.' It was a strange feeling, because after working very hard to get it done, I kind of lost sight of it. That's natural, you're so busy working on it, you don't see what it is. But when I sat back, on my own, and just listened to it, I thought, 'We're okay. We did a good job.''