LiveDaily Interview: Geddy Lee of Rush

By Don Zulaica, LiveDaily, November 7, 2000

After almost thirty years, 22 gold-or-better albums and worldwide sales of more than 35 million units, Rush bassist Geddy Lee is due to release his first solo album, "My Favorite Headache" (Atlantic), on Nov. 14.

The album features multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink (kd lang, FM), drummers Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) and Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady Peace), and was co-produced by Lee, Mink and David Leonard (Santana, Prince, Barenaked Ladies).

At press time, plans for Lee to tour in support of "Headache" without his familiar Rush bandmates--guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart--remained in the air, but label reps have announced that the legendary trio will reconvene in early 2001 to write and record its next album.

Prior to "Headache," Lifeson had released one solo album ("Victor" in 1996) and Peart had organized the "Burning For Buddy" tribute albums in 1994 and 1997, as well as guested on albums by Jeff Berlin and the Rheostatics. As a band, Rush put their recording career on indefinite hold after 1997's "Test For Echo," following the deaths of Peart's daughter in a car accident, and his wife to cancer a year later in 1998.

SoundSpike correspondent Don Zulaica got the opportunity to talk to Lee about headaches, lyric-writing and the return of Rush in 2001.

SoundSpike: Where did you do most of the recording for "Headache"?

Geddy Lee: The demo sessions were recorded at my home and Ben Mink's house-studio. We recorded it at five different locations. Some of the demo work made it on to the record. Some was recorded at Studio X in Seattle--that's where we recorded Matt's drums. Some was recorded at a studio called Factory Studios in Vancouver, and some was at Reaction Studios here in Toronto. Jeremy Taggart was recorded at Reaction.

How did you come to know Ben Mink?

I've known Ben since about '81. Ben is essentially a violinist and guitarist, and extremely adept at both instruments. He's also somewhat of a programmer. As for myself, I play bass, a little bit of guitar, some piano and again, some programming.

What does Matt Cameron give you as a drummer that's different from Neil?

He's got a different feel. A "rounder" feel, for lack of a better description. He's less angular, less acutely angular, and I think it coincided with the direction that my bass was trying to push the material. "He slotted in basically to the thing that we were looking for. Stylistically, I think he's light years away from where Neil plays, but he's definitely got his own vibe about him."

Was the material tucked away for a while, or...

Not really. The music was all written between Ben Mink and myself over the last two or three years. Lyrically, I wrote really what I was required to write for these songs.

And what was that like, writing your own lyrics?

It was very interesting for me. I approached it very gingerly, not having done it in quite some time. But I found the more I did, the more comfortable I felt, the more fun I started to have with it, and the more beneficial it started to be for me--just in terms of being able to express myself more completely. I found it to be a very rewarding challenge.

The vocals are very striking, and I'm wondering if during your career with Rush there was a specific time when you decided to do more overdubbing and several-part harmonies.

I started doing that slowly over the years with [producer] Peter Collins. The first time I ever tried adding some harmony was on "Power Windows," the first album he did. And over the years I started increasing that, and with this project I didn't see any reason not to go full bore with it.

What are you most proud of on this album?

There are a lot of moments that I'm proud of. "Working at Perfekt," to me, is a great combination of rock and orchestral music combined.

Are you giving a nod to King Crimson with the "k"? [King Crimson's latest release is called "Heavy ConstruKction."]

[laughs] Not really. It's just kind of a joke on the fact that the word "perfect" is hard to achieve. I'm just kind of messing around with the word.

Anything else?

"Slipping" is a real important song for me, lyrically and musically. I think it's a very unusual combination of vocal and chord progression, especially in the bridges of that song. There's something very satisfying about that one for me. The title track has a got a kind of abandon that I think is hard for me to achieve all the time. I loved the dark, out-of-control-ness of it. I could go on and find things I like about a lot of these...

Are you going on the road, and if so, with whom?

I don't know yet.

You would definitely want Ben and Matt with you?

Oh sure. I wouldn't do it, otherwise. I wouldn't see the point. I would love to have Matt and Jeremy along. Both Matt and Jeremy have expressed a desire to go do it live, it's just a matter of logistics. If I can work it out, I'll try.

How do Alex and Neil like it?

Actually I haven't even sent a copy to Neil yet. I've been waiting--today I get my first copies with covers. Alex, I gave him a copy last week. He lives right around the corner from me, so he was just bugging me. He came over and finally I gave him my only copy! He said, "Enough already! I want to hear this record!" So I said, "Okay, take mine." He was very happy.

And early next year you, Alex and Neil...

...we'll sit down and see if there's something to say.