After 26 years (and 22 albums) providing the, uh, unique vocals and bass lines behind art-rock wunderkinds Rush, prolific bassist and one-of-a-kind vocalist Geddy Lee has recorded his first-ever solo album.
My Favorite Headache, out Tuesday on Atlantic Records, marks the first time Lee has penned the words he'll sing since writing most of the lyrics for Rush's 1974 debut, Rush. But not only is Lee playing lyricist on his first-ever solo record, he's also playing bass, piano, guitar, percussion, electro-noodling, and of course, who could ever forget those vocals.
For the new record, Geddy teamed up with guitarist/instrumentalist/friend Ben Mink for co-writing credits on the album's 11 tracks, and ex-Soundgarden/sometimes Pearl Jam percussionist Matt Cameron takes on drums. But unlike most that decide to fly solo, Geddy says he never really wanted to. In fact, this record came about pretty much by chance during Rush's recent years-long hiatus from the studio.
"I've never been dissatisfied working with [Rush's] Alex Lifeson and Neil [Pert]," Geddy says. "That's been very fulfilling for me, and it takes up a lot of my life. I just learned to use the time away from it to be part of my family and explore myself outside my music. Then I found myself in communication with Ben Mink, and I decided see if our friendship could transform itself from one of absurdity to one of professional collaboration. That happened to be synchronous with the fact that Rush was not going to be productive for a number of years."
So Mink and Lee began noddling around together at Mink's Vancouver abode, and their musical kinship flourished, culminating in a series of recording sessions throughout 1998.
"Playing with Ben was really great," explains Lee. "We have a very interesting commonality and we respond to the same kind of melodies, even though we have very different musical backgrounds."
But surely after spending nearly three decades under the Rush moniker, it must be a bit odd to hold an album bearing your name, and your name only.
"It weirds me out a bit, seeing my press photos with no band name under the bottom," Lee says. "It's one thing to go out and promote your band, and feel like your fighting for the team. To be out there promoting myself is strange. But I look at it like it's every person's desire to become comfortable in any circumstance. And you learn to deal with the weirdness."
Favorite Headache also sees Lee acting a both musical and lyrical songwriter since he wrote the words for Rush's 1974 self-titled debut album.
"The whole excursion into the land of the verbal was pretty interesting," recalls Lee. "At first I was pretty shy about it, because I didn't have much confidence. But I also had the luxury of time, and that started to build confidence in me. It was probably the most interesting aspect of this project for me."
As for the record's sound, Lee knows there will be the inevitable Rush comparisons, but he's fine with that.
"There are some moments that are very reminiscent of Rush, and other moments that are quite apart from that," he said. "It's hard to shake off that Rush vibe. Rhythmically the attitude is very different-there are far more melodic layers than are usually found."
Lee said he would love to do a few club dates here and there to support the record, but nothing is planned at present. And as for Rush, well, Geddy says the band is slated to get back into the studio in mid-to-late January to begin work on what will be the band's 23rd album, the follow-up to 1996's Test for Echo.