In the head-banging world of rock music, Toronto's Geddy Lee, 47, longtime lead singer and bassist for the group Rush, is an icon. But despite the group's hard-driving sound and Lee's trademark banshee wail, he is known among friends as a soft-spoken, devout family man with highly sophisticated tastes in wine, music and art. Last month, Lee released his first solo album, My Favourite Headache, produced with old friend and noted k. d. lang collaborator Ben Mink. Lee talked to Maclean's about how his tastes have evolved:
"When I was young, I defined myself within the confines of the band. Over the years, my interests have expanded by opportunity. In a rock band, you travel a lot: that can be a problem or you can make that work for you. When I got keyed up before concerts, a good place to find quiet was in art museums. Every big city has one. I would look at paintings, note the artists I like, and go read up on them. I like the work of Milton Avery; there's a lot of Canadian art I enjoy, and I'm now very into the German expressionists. My other tastes grew in the same way. My wife [Nancy] and I spent some time in Provence [France] last year, exploring and trying the wine. It was nice and low-key, and I was only recognized about once the whole time. In terms of what I listen to, my tastes are everywhere: in contemporary stuff, I'm into Radiohead, Soundgarden and Bjork, but I have a real fondness for old, smoky jazz --stuff by Hoagy Carmichael and Ella [Fitzgerald]. As for my own music, some artists don't like their old stuff, but I'm comfortable with pretty much everything I've done with Rush. I never felt constrained by the band, so this album was a change, but not a breaking away. It's less angular, more funky, with more layers, and broader harmonization. If I go solo again, I wouldn't mind an acoustic album. But we [Rush] plan to get together again to record, and I very much look forward to that."