Online chat with Geddy Lee, November 13, 2000, transcript by Dominic H. Kallas

Meg from Barnes & Hello, Geddy Lee, and welcome! How are you tonight, and from where are you chatting?

GL: I'm good, I'm exhausted. I've been talking all day. Interviews all day. It's been a fun day, but it's starting to wear me down now. So I've got an hour left and I'm ready to talk with all of you out there!

Moderator: An interactive editor is typing for Geddy Lee this evening. Geddy is joining us via telephone.

Eric from New York: Where did the title, "My Favorite Headache" come from? What does it mean?

GL: Title was originally born out of a conversation Ben Mink was having with his father. His father made the comment about his mother that was having trouble dealing with something and said, "By the way, she gets the favorite headache." Ben told me that story and after I stopped laughing, I realized that what an irony that was--the contradiction built into that phrase--having something that you love to do but it makes you crazy to do it! This for me describes the creative process to a T and my relationship with music which is why I thought it an appropriate title for the album.

Jeremy D. Brown from West Lafayette, Indiana: Geddy, I've been a big fan of Rush since I was eleven. How did Matt Cameron get involved with the making of your solo album. Likewise is this a big departure from the Rush sound?

GL: Matt was suggested to me by engineer/producer Adam Casper who worked with him on Soundgarden before and he was absolutely the best choice I could have found. After he was suggested, I went back to pull out my Soundgarden records & listen to his playing. Myself and Ben Mink were both very impressed of course. We called him up & he was very enthusiastic and that's how the whole thing began. I think it's definitely a departure, but there's a lot of commonality, certainly moments that are undeniably reflective of where I've spent the last 25 years practicing my art.

Brian from Wichita, KS: Geddy, I love your work. How was the writing and evolution of this album different from when you write with Neil and Alex?

GL: Hey you're asking long questions! Well, on a Rush project, the albums are done in a way that are very concentrated so when we go to write, put time aside, leave our homes and families and go up to an isolated location and we write an album over a kind of 2 month period, then we record it and so on. On this project, the mat'l came together very slowly, working sporadically over a 2 yr period, never working for more than 10 days at a time, so there was a lot of time to live with the mat'l, make changes along the way. So it was a very interesting difference.

Enzo from Bari, Italy: Geddy, I am a big big fan of Rush. You guys are great. I have heard your new solo album. Please tell me how the writing of the beautiful song, "The Angel's Share" came about?

GL: Ok Enzo...that song was written in my home studio with Ben Mink and really with the concept, the title "share." I think we basically wrote melodies around Ben & I playing acoustic guitars together.

Moderator: We're currently chatting with Geddy Lee. Send in your questions now!

Glenn from Los Angeles: Geddy, how has your relationship with Ben Mink evolved over the years? I know he used to be in the excellent Canadian band FM, which opened for you, but then he produced, played with and co-wrote with k.d. lang? What did he bring to MY FAVORITE HEADACHE that Neil and Alex didn't?

GL: last question: Lyrically, the song was born out of me imagining what if the heavens were full of characters designed to interfere with our lives as opposed to help them? And I mean this in a playful way of course. And the chorus speaks to the frustration of that mischief.

this question: My friendship with Ben began absurdly and remains absurd, with many many fine moments of absurdity thrown in between. Every song on this album is co-written with Ben so his influence and support and enthusiasm, more importantly his synchronous sense of melody, by that I mean he's very similar what he responds to melodically as myself and I've found that to an interesting way to work. As opposed to writing with Alex, he has a very different sensibility and alot of the great Rush music is born out of the differences and the tension caused by those differences when we put them together.

Pat Stammer from Western 'Burbs of Chicago: Hi, Geddy! Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us; trust me, it's an honor! Anyway, my question for you is this: Are you at all surprised at the attention that MFH has garnered thus far? Did you expect to have the typical "new-Rush-CD" kind of atmosphere that has been evident among the legions of fans, including myself? Thank you for your time.

GL: First of all, I'm very pleasantly surprised for the enthusiasm that has been shown for this work so far and I can't really explain how this has come about except partly it's due to the fact that it's been so long between Rush activity and just MAYBE it's a good record!

Nancy Blake from Knik, Alaska: Did you find that there was more of a "blank canvas" feeling prior to writing for a solo project as compared with writing for a new Rush project, with respect to audience expectations? ...Actually, at this point in your career, are audience expectations even a consideration?

GL: I would say yeah, I felt like this was a fresh start in some ways, even though I expected there to be some natural similarity in what I do in Rush and what I would naturally do outside of Rush. I still felt that I had very free--and a clean page to start with, without the same reference points I've had over the years. No one likes to think their work will only be appreciated by only themselves and their mother! [laughs] But I would say that you have to leave audience expectations outside the studio door to create an honest expression.

Laura Sypien from Far unlit unknown, PA: This is not a something that Rush would do. Geddy, How are you handling all the publicity, promotions, interviews etc? I am giving everyone a "Headache" for the Holidays!!!!

GL: I think some of it has been a bit unusual for me but I'm having fun with it.

Bill Gregory from High Point,NC: What did Alex & Neil think of your album?

GL: Well Alex has heard it, Neil has not heard it yet. Alex is very very supportive. In fact he told me he was proud of me. I punched him.

Rick N. from Minneapolis: Geddy, In five years, will the Leafs be the only Canadian team left in the NHL? You're the best. Thanks for all the great music. Can't wait to hear the solo disc. Cheers

GL: Thank you for your optimism. I'll report it the Canadian Hockey Assoc. You're probably right...but I don't think Canada would ever let that happen. I'm sure they would pass legislation to prevent that. [laughs]

Baron Tucker from Houston: Do you usually write songs on the bass or do you write on a piano or guitar etc.

GL: These days I like to write on bass. but I always have my other instruments available to me in case I need them. I always have a microphone on in case I get a vocal melody I can put it down immediately.

Brian from Florida: Geddy, any plans for a mini tour to support the album? Or any signings in other areas of the country?

GL: I'm looking into the logistics of doing some shows but I have nothing definite to report at this time. Yes I will be doing signings in other cities on the west coast and midwest, Canada.

Bwana Bob from Coram, NY: Hi Geddy. Rush has had some amazing support acts over the years. I imagine that some nights you'd sit offstage and watch them. Did any particular act make you say to yourself "These guys are hot tonight, we'd better take it up a notch" ?

GL: Sure, most of them! [laughs] Whenever we played with Max Webster in the 70s and 80s they always pushed us. We played with the Tragically Hip in Toronto one year and they were incredible. I could really go on and mention most of the bands... from Janesville Wisconsin: During the World Premiere of MFH, we heard you say that the song "Home on the Strange" was about a guy you've worked with. You quickly slipped in the phrase, "I've worked with him in the past year". Were you trying to throw us off? Fess up Ged, that song is about Neil isn't it? :)

GL: Oh it's not about Neil. It says that 2nd phrase because I *didn't* want people to think it was about Neil.

Eric @ Barnes & from NY, NY: Geddy, we are hearing Tom Sawyer on movie soundtracks and car commercials. This is something new for Rush's music. Was it a decision of the band to let your music be used in this way, or is it that Madison Ave and Hollywood have discovered the power of Rush's music?

GL: We've never had a policy that's precluded that possibility and we've been offered situations in the past that we didn't feel were interesting or monetarily viable so we never had a hard rule about it and it seems it's such a common thing right now and over the last few years we've been offered so many things! So we just try to pick the best situations for ourselves.

Rob from Detroit: A lot of songs you have written over the last decade, including the few song clips I have heard for MFH, seem to jar a listener from a hard, up-tempo verse section into a slow, soft melodic chorus section. Is this intended to keep the listener off-balance or try to increase the amount of dynamics of a song.

GL: Very much a desire to increase the dynamics and to provide some beautiful contrasting melodies to the powerful and sometimes atonal structures.

William G. Forrester from Trinity,N.C.U.S.A.: When will Anthem release a live DVD retrospective, or DVD`s of previously released video`s in a box set? They would sell a buttload! You the man Geddy!

GL: How much *is* a buttload? [laughs] That's the first question. Secondly, I have a lot of unreleased video mat'l that I would love to package together at some point. The best thing you can do is write Atlantic records requesting a DVD from our previously unreleased mat'l. That will speed things up.

Devin Zimmerman from Austin, TX: I can't wait to hear the album. Any influences on the songs you could tell us about?

GL: It's hard to be specific about your influences, since when you hear music and see a film or experience something that influences you it's not a direct influence but it's added to your subconscious collection of things that move you. When you start writing, naturally there's a response, but it's hard to name that response directly.

Nick Hoagland from Rockaway , NJ: Hi Geddy - What artists are you listening to these days ?

GL: I'm listening to Bjork, Radiohead, also I like The Tragically Hip. I've been listening to Jeff Buckley's first record a lot. I like the last Chemical Brothers' Record "Surrender." And I've been occasionally listening to Talvin Singh. And of course the Magnolia soundtrack, Aimee Mann was just brilliant on that.

Martin Watson from St. Louis: Geddy, I have had the privilege of discovering some great music thanks to Rush, and your stated musical influences. Listening to your discography over the years, I see many parallels (i.e., Caress of Steel and Yes' Relayer album). Looking back, could you comment on some of the music that affected you as a developing musician?

GL: Have some time? Here we go! I was very influenced as a very young musician by the music of Cream, Jeff Beck, these are bands that made me want to make music. As I became a more experienced musician, the progressive rock of Yes, Genesis, etc. These are bands that made me want to be a great musician. As I get older, these great vocalists and songwriters that make me want to go down in my studio and make music. So always inspiring sounds and their impact on me changes its angle.

Shannon Carey from Valley Stream, NY: Geddy, I am a HUGE fan! (I heard you on 102.7 this afternoon and am looking forward to Rockline on Wednesday and your phone call on Saturday Night Rocks on Saturday) I was wondering what the first recording sessions were like without the other members of Rush, and what it was like working with other musicians after spending most of your time with Neil and Alex. Were there changes that you had to go through to adapt to the change in personnel?

GL: I found it very stimulating, Ben Mink, my relationship with him. He was hilarious, not only was it rewarding musically but in a sense spiritually as well. And playing with Matt Cameron and Jeremy Taggart in many ways made me feel like I was new to the business again and I've found that to be invigorating.

Moderator: We're chatting with Geddy Lee, and offering his new solo album, MY FAVORITE HEADACHE at $13.99. This album will not be released until tomorrow, but you can order it at Barnes & now!

Trish and Darrin from Humble, Texas: Hello Geddy!! Often times we wonder what our favorite musicians do in their off time, you know, for fun. What are your favorite things to do when not working on music? (Though I know music is a part of your fun as well!) THANK YOU!!

GL: Have some time? (laughs) Ready? I have a very rich life. I spend as much time as I can with my children and wife of course, reconnecting with my friends. I am very physically active - love to hike and bike, play tennis and my wife and I love exotic travel. I collect wine, I love baseball. I love to read, go to films. Art. I have a lot of hobbies, I tell you! (laughs)

Dave from Michigan: hello geddy! my question is were there other artists you wanted to have play on your album?

GL: Well you know it's a good question. Many names came and went. But at the end of the day, it all seemed a bit gratuitous because the atmosphere was casual and between Ben & myself, we play enough instruments so that it wasn't really necessary.

Eric @ Barnes & from NYC: Geddy, another Rush question, one that I have wondered about for quite a while: It seems that every time Rush releases a live album, it seems to end a stylistic era in the band. Was this always planned, or did it just happen that way?

GL: last: Maybe the next project will involve other musicians.

this: Well I'm very terrible at planning things, but I definitely believe in change, that after 4 albums it's time to record the band's live state of being. So we can't help ourselves after a live album to experiment a little.

Huff from B'ham, AL: Rumor has it that RUSH is heading into the studio next month. Any truth to this rumor and if so when will some new RUSH be out?

GL: Rush is not heading into the studio just yet. we have plans to regroup for writing purposes in January. Hopefully, those sessions will lead to an album being finished sometime late next year or early 2002.

Mike from Shelton, CT: Hi Geddy, How do you think this solo experience will affect your workings with Alex and Neil when you get together on a new album?

GL: Very hard to say. I would think there will be some getting reacquainted period but I suspect that whatever experience I take from this will not have an overt impact, but will put me in a good frame of mind to begin work.

Moderator: The chat with Geddy Lee is nearing an end. If you have any questions, please send them in now.

Jerry Alexander from Bloomington, Illinois: Geddy....I've been a fan of your work for almost 20 years and I'm looking forward to the release of My Favourite Headache. Can you share some secrets of your incredible bass tone...especially anything that did during the recording of your solo record? What type of bass strings and or effects do you use to complement your playing styles on your Fender Jazz basses?

GL: Well on this album and on the last couple of Rush albums, primarily my 1972 Fender Jazz bass and I no longer use speaker cabinets in the studio but I use a series of speaker simulators, direct boxes, 3 to be precise. And I record those 3 tracks simultaneously. one of those tracks is a very clean conventional bass sound, the other has a particular type of extra low end that I like, and the third is a distortion track that I vary depending on the type of the distortion the song requires. This gives me flexibility to change my sound as a song develops around it.

yyzblues from Columbus, Ohio: What are your thoughts on the Presidential "election"?

GL: Um... now that we're in week three of election day it's a pretty fascinating example of democracy at work... or not at work. I'm afraid Mr Gore will still come out with the short end of the stick!

Todd from New Joisey: Geddy, I LOVE Rush. Been a fan since 1983. DREAMLINE is my favorite song. Do you have a favorite Rush song? If so, what is it and why?

GL: last question: Then again I'm from Canada...what do I know? (laughs)

this: If I were to pick a couple of favorite Rush songs, Dreamline would be one, Bravado would be another, my mind has gone blank! So many songs, hard to pick!

Erica from Ottawa: Did you notice any change and/or improvement in your playing while making this album?

GL: Yeah, every record I make pushes me in one direction or another as a musician and working in a different context gave me new goals so rhythmically I think my bass playing took a big leap forward and I developed some techniques of chordal bass playing further than I had with Rush albums.

Monte McIntosh from Lansing, Michigan: Geddy, What has been a consistently great place to tour through (besides Toronto), and what place seems to leave a little to be desired?

GL: last: I also experimented a lot with multi-track bass parts, some very subtle melody parts that one would not necessarily recognize as being the bass. But it greatly enhanced the melodic content in certain songs.

this: That's a tough one. There are many great cities and countries in the world to play. I'd be hard-pressed to pick out one more than others. Usually a favorite has more to do with whether you got a good night sleep the night before or you had a good meal on your day off. So it's not really fair to judge an audience based on your digestive system! [laughs]

Moderator from Thanks Geddy & best of luck with the new album! Any parting thoughts for all your fans out there?

GL: I'd just like to thank you all for taking the time to send in your questions. It was very interesting for me to hear directly about how people feel about what I do and I appreciate your efforts!

Moderator: This concludes our chat with Geddy Lee. Thanks for your participation and great questions!!! Don't forget to join us on Wednesday, November 15, for our chat with Eric Bogosian at 7 PM ET. Thanks and good night!