Interview With Geddy Lee

With Pierre Robert, WMMR Philadelphia, December 18, 2000, transcribed by Laurie Wolensky

Transcribers Note: There are about 70 fans who were invited by the radio station for an hour and a half afternoon interview with Geddy Lee during his My Favorite Headache promo tour. Fly By Night is played as a warm-up as Geddy walks into the large under-construction interview room to a standing ovation. The air is charged, and it begins to feel like a mini-concert atmosphere. Geddy and the DJ take their captain's chair seats in the front of the room and the interview begins...

PR: 93.3 WMMR. We rock with Rush and Fly By Night. Our guest this afternoon was turned on to music and playing it early in his life. In fact at the ripe old age of 13 he was already jamming with his pal Alex Lifeson who he first met in history class at Fisher Villa Junior High in the Toronto suburb of Willowdale. By the age of 14, Alex and Geddy, along with John Rutsey on the drums were playing under the name of Rush. Their first gig was at the Coffin which was a drop-in youth center coffee house in a church basement, admission was 25 cents, and I believe for the evening's work they made $25.

By 1974 their self-titled debut record was released and starting to be played on MMR's sister station in Cleveland, WMMS. They were then signed to Mercury records, but 2 weeks before they were to open a national tour for popular artists of the day, like Uriah Heap and Manfred Mann, John Rutsey quit. Auditions were quickly held and Neil Peart joined the band. They opened on schedule on that August 14th evening in 1974 in Pittsburgh in front of 11,000 people. By 1975, their second album, but first with Neil, had been released, Fly By Night, which we just played. It also marked Neil's debut as the band's lyricist with Alex and Geddy composing the music on most of the tunes. This unique partnership has continued on for the next 20 albums which have gone on, get this, to sell over 35 million records worldwide. (rousing applause from audience).

In November, their singer, bass player, keyboard player and the gentleman seated next to me, released his very first ever solo album on Atlantic Records. It's called My Favorite Headache and what a great pleasure it is to welcome to WMMR Mr. Geddy Lee. (rousing applause)

GL: Thank you, thank you. Thank you so much.

PR: So nice to have you here. We're thinking this is the very first time you've come to this station and we've been around for 32 years.

GL: I think so, yeah.

PR: You know when I think of music, I think of it as this wonderful, powerful force that grabs you in the heart, and carries you somewhere, takes you on this magical journey, it moves you in the process, transforms you as it does it, and then delivers you safely back home. And it can be in the scope of a 3 minute song. I'm wondering, uh, it just takes you out of yourself, you know, and I'm wondering if you have a memory of the earliest time when music did that for you. When you knew of music as a force that was bigger than yourself.

GL: Oh completely, my entire pre-adolescence and adolescence was spent you know with head phones on, listening to the artists of the day that moved me, and you know, it was exactly as you described it. It was a trip into their music and it inspired me and it made me wanna do what I do today.

PR: hm. You said that 'you didn't choose music, it chose you.'

GL: Pretty much. You know as a young teenager or preteen, whatever you want to call it, you know everybody struggles to look for something that they can do pretty well, and music was the thing that I always came back to as something that I felt I could do. And for some reason it seemed natural for me to want to spend my life doing it.

PR: There was some talk that your mom wanted you to be a scientist, is there any truth to that rumor?

GL: (laughs) I think when I was 3 or 4 we 'discussed' being an atomic scientist. (all laugh) Of course I had no conception of what that meant other than some association with rockets. But uh...

PR: Is it fair to say Geddy to say that Philly was one of the first, we mentioned Cleveland of course, but Philly was one of the first in the north-east corridor to embrace your music?

GL: Well I remember certainly a time when we were playing in this part of the country and we had missed Philly and then there was a tremendous petition and a whole thing to get us to come to Philly and we were amazed at how many names were on this list. And we did come here eventually and were shocked by the great support the city has given us.

PR: Yeah, the first gig was actually Nov. 20, 1976. You guys were the opening act for Robin Trower and Montrose interestingly enough at the Spectrum. (laughter) I don't know if you have any memories of that gig.

GL: I do remember that gig. It was the first time we played the Spectrum, and the first time we experienced the Philly crowd which was pretty intense. It was all true... (loud laughter by Pierre)

PR: By the second Philly gig which was March 11 of 1977, you guys had gone on to be headliners and interestingly enough that was at the Tower Theater. Ticket prices $4.50, $6.50, $7.50 interestingly enough.

GL: A good buy...

PR: Yeah, and the opening band was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opening for Rush.

GL: Oh yeah, I do remember that show. I think it was the only time we ever played with Tom Petty, I think that or one other show. They were good guys.

PR: Well let's talk about the new record on Atlantic Records, we mentioned it, My Favorite Headache. Uh, you're quoted as saying 'In reality, a solo record is something I never intended to do.' Is that true?

GL: That's, that's totally true. I've always enjoyed working with Alex and Neil. We've had a great professional relationship all these years, and I've never felt frustrated or lacking in any way in terms of expressing myself creatively. It's a great relationship and the amount of time, when Rush is going full-bore, the amount of time that Rush takes out of my life is a lot. And so for me to do something outside of that would only mean that my family life and my personal life would suffer. So I made a conscious decision not to go down that road until there was some other time that maybe it seemed natural to do it. With Rush being on an extended hiatus the way it has been the last 4 or 5 years, particularly the last few years, um, there was a big amount of time available to me, and I can't go that long without feeling (doing?) productive or writing music of some sort. So for me it was an opportunity to express myself during a time when Rush was inactive.

PR: Now so many of these songs were written from such a personal level. Was that difficult for you to express on record? There are 11 songs on this record.

GL: Well, you know, at first it all seems like some sort of exposition of your soul. You know, at some level when you first start doing it you feel very exposed, but I think the benefit of taking a few years to gather material very slowly was that you'd have time to live with the idea. You have time to live with the songs. And uh, so 3, 4, 5 months later you can go back and look at that material and see if you still feel that way. And, that time was very beneficial for me, and I got very comfortable with the idea after awhile. And it became much more valid and much less embarrassing to go out and bare my soul so to speak. And it actually became quite challenging intellectually to have to go through the process of examining my thoughts and I found it to be a kind of a clarifying experience.

PR: And also penning all 11 songs yourself although you co wrote it with your friend Ben Mink, ahh, co wrote the music. This is you know, you've written songs off and on for Rush over the years lyrically, but this is the first time you've done an entire album I believe.

GL: Yeah, and that was really the job, you know, that was the tough part. (said with an English accent) Because I work with such a prolific, and uh, you know, great lyric writer, Neil, that when you step out on your own you always have a bit of that hesitation. But I found, like I said, after a time, I just started enjoying the experience of it. And I found it very helpful for me to write my thoughts down, and examine how I felt about certain topics, and uh, it became a lot of fun actually.

PR: Wow, did you ever submit any of the ideas to Neil and see what he thought of them?

GL: No, I did this solely on my own, and uh, of course I had Ben to write with and he was a great sounding board. And uh, of course he comes from a slightly different background musically so you know, having worked in country music, I had my doubts whether he was capable of knowing what a good lyric was but... (laughter from all)

PR: Oh, there's trains and truck and prison and drinking.

GL: No offense to you country fans, but it wasn't exactly the egg-sucking dog I was writin about. (country drawl there)

PR: Uh, we're talking about a gentleman you speak as your cowriter on the album, Ben Mink, who you've known, been a friend for along time, and I believe also was best man at your wedding. Is that correct?

GL: I didn't know him actually when I got married, but he woulda been.

PR: I'm wondering how that collaboration worked cause as you mention he's worked with the likes of k. d. lang, and Barenaked Ladies and people like that, and how you came to jam with him. Cause you hadn't even played with him. You knew him for along time, but you hadn't even played with him.

GL: Well, he played in a band years ago called FM, and they were from Toronto, they were synthy rock, prog rock band as we were, ahh, they were not as heavy as we were, or as rockin, but they were still a rock band. And he was a pretty talented guy, he played violin, electric mandolin, all kind of eccentric instruments. And we became friends on that tour, and have remained really, really close friends ever since, but in the last number of years that he's been working with k. d. lang he's moved out to Vancouver, so we don't see each other very often, and we talk on the phone usually late at night, and uh, you know, make as many bad jokes as we can to each other to get us laughing, and he played on one track of a Rush album, on the Signals album, there's a track called Losing It that he does a marvelous electric violin solo and that was the only professional correspondence that we had ever had in the past and we kept saying to each other over the years, 'Well maybe we should try writing together. and we said Nah, it would just wreck our friendship.' (PR laughs) When I was in Vancouver on the last Rush tour, I guess it was early 97 something like that, I went down into his studio with him, he had to pick something up, and we picked up a couple of instruments and started playing together, and we just looked at each other and said you know this is really silly that we have never tried to write together because our feels are so similar on our instrument. So we said ok, let's just make an agreement that before the end of the year we'll try to write at least one tune together and see what happens. So he came to Toronto late in 97 and we spent 7 crazy days in my house doing some writing and we decided to keep it up and that's what led to this album.

PR: I'd like to play My Favorite Headache. I heard that you had considered David Gilmore to do some solos on this record, but eventually passed. Did you ever contact him with this idea, or did you just let it go?

GL: No, we just let it go, because at one point we realized there was no soloing. (laughs) The record took much more of an ensemble kind of environment where soloing wasn't really what the album was about, so I thought that was something I'll save for another time.

PR: Cool. Also, I read that as you're speaking about sorta a character in this song of My Favorite Headache, you speak of a character for whom life simply won't go away. He insists on viewing it through 'artificial means'. Viewing life through artificial means. What did you mean by that statement?

GL: Well I think when something traumatic happens to people ah, they have a tendency, or can have a tendency to give up and rationalize their giving up, and this character in this song is all in about that kind of person who lives a very small life and experiences the big things of life through television, through you know artificial stimulation, rather than go out there, turn the tube off, and get out there and live life. And so his favorite headache is the recurrance of intelligence that says Look, I'm not going away , life won't go away and you can hide on it, you can rationalize it anyway you want, but it's still out here for you. That's kinda the black comedy we created in that song.

PR: Let's play it. (My Favorite Headache begins...)

PR: '93.3 WMMR', that is wonderful new music from Geddy Lee and his first solo album on the Atlantic Record Label. It is called 'My Favorite Headache', and Geddy Lee joins us now in this extra space, here, this unfinished business space that we have in our studios that we thought would be perfect to ask a bunch of friends by who love the music of Rush. Before we go to the audience, in terms of the album as a whole, I read a quote that you had written and you say 'On a personal note regarding this album, it relates to my relationship with music which is what I love to do, but it makes me crazy and wreaks havoc on my life to do it the way I like to do it but on a bigger level, this album is what life is to me. It's not easy, but it's what we have to deal with.' Kinda like what you said about the song.

GL: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, life is messy. And uh when you're younger you think you got it all sussed out and can organize it, and that's the last laugh cause you can't organize it, it organizes you. So, a lot of the songs on this album deal with fallibility, inability to cope, and trying to cope, and trying to sort out the yin and yang of life.

PR: It gets complicated doesn't it?

GL: Yes (laughing)

PR: Do you have any secrets to success in that area?

GL: No (laughing) Just don't give up on it.

PR: That's it, don't give up. Ahh, we have a studio audience of about 60 or 70 people here who are pure Rush fans and Geddy Lee fans. Would anyone like to ask a question to Geddy. Let's go to the back first. You in the far corner, sir...

'My name is Bill, I'm from the Marion Cricket Club (?). I'd like to ask are you going, or planning, to do a VH-1 Behind the Music special?'

GL: Uh, I can't say at this point. There has been some interest in us doing something, but uh, Neil has been unavailable over the last number of years, so possibly at some point in the future. I don't know.

PR: Another question? You sir, right there...

'I'm George from Drexel Hill. Are you gonna tour to support this album, and if you do, can you gonna play the Tower?' (much hope and laughter in the audience. :) ) (a local theater setting for 6000'ish)

GL: I would certainly love to take those players, Ben and Matt Cameron, and a few other people out and do some dates. At this point, uh, my day job is calling me back. (obnoxious sound laughing from DJ). Alex and Neil wanta get writing a new Rush album soon, so I'm gonna have to go start that, but I'm hoping that in maybe late spring, I'll be able to earn some brownie points or get a few weeks off for good behavior kinda thing, and maybe go out and do some dates.

PR: I heard you wanna do some clubs. That would be kinda cool.

GL: Yea, I would like to do small places. If I was gonna tour with this group, I'd want to do it in a way that Rush maybe couldn't do it and that's on a small 500 to 1000 seat environment and just have some fun.

PR: We have a question from this gentleman right here. What is your name?

'Ken Gear, from Langhorne. Over your entire career, is there anything that you look back and stand in awe of that you have done' That you just go 'I can't believe it's been that big or I've accomplished it?' '

GL: Well, gees, just about every day of my life. I can't believe all of the good things that have happened to me. I think that you can't think about it too much, otherwise it paralyzes you, you know.. I'm very appreciative of the good fortune I've had. I've been able to work in music which I love to do, and just to be able to do what you wanna do and still make a living at it, regardless of how great that living is a big bonus. So I'm very thankful about that. I have 2 excellent kids, and my marriage is still intact and that overawes me more than anything I have to tell you. (laughs)

PR: How long have you been married?

GL: Next year will be 25 years.

PR: Wow, that's wonderful. (audience applauds)

GL: So, uh.. Thank you! (laughs) So I've got a lot to be thankful for, and it can overawe me certainly, but life is like that and I just try to not take it for granted and just carry on.

PR: We're speaking with Geddy Lee and we will continue our conversation. I want to ask you about your use of Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam on this album when we come back. Geddy Lee is our guest here at WMMR.

On air: Alex Lifeson's 'Little Drummer Boy', from Merry Axemas plays.

PR: 93.3 WMMR, we are back with Geddy Lee here in the studios of WMMR, and what you are listening to underneath, from the soundtrack of Merry Axemas, A Guitar Christmas, is your friend Alex Lifeson doing Little Drummer Boy.

GL: That's my buddy.

PR: (laughs) Did Rush ever do any holiday tunes? I don't think so.

GL: No, the Rush Christmas album is yet to happen.

(this becomes back and forth bantering with lots of laughter by all).... GL: songs for Chanukah and Christmas... PR: yeah, that's right. GL: Watch for it. PR: We have a menorah there for you. GL: Thank you very much. My mother would be kvelling. (applause)

PR: Being raised in the Jewish faith were you and your wife Nancy desirous of bringing your kids up in a certain religion?

GL: Well, I'm a big believer in the traditions of all religions. My wife and I believe in gleaning the most positive energy we can from any cultural tradition, so we celebrate Chanakah, we celebrate Christmas, we don't celebrate religion in a traditional manner because we don't believe in organized religion but we do feel our own interpretation of spiritualism and we believe in positive energy and we try to just make sure that's the overriding message we give our kids, and so what they want to believe, it's completely up to them and we just try to provide an environment that's happy and positive and full of ah, good old Jewish angst.

PR: Is it difficult for your children to be grounded coming from your background?

GL: Is it difficult? I think it can be. My son who's about 20 is remarkably grounded and uh, I can't explain it. He's a great kid and we have a great relationship and a lot of good communication. And my daughter's 6 and she's a whole different thing. She's much more 'in your face' kinda gal, so we'll see how life ends up treating her. (chuckles) I think it is difficult, but for some reason so far so good in my family.

PR: Cool, cool. We're speaking with Geddy Lee and the new album is My Favorite Headache on the Atlantic record label, Geddy's first solo album. Now your use of Matt Cameron on 10 of the 11 songs from Pearl Jam, how did you come to know him, how did you come to use him?

GL: Well, um, I didn't know him before this project, and I was in conversation with Adam Casper who produces Foo Fighters, and has worked with Sound Garden, he's a Seattle based producer/engineer. And I liked his work and I wanted him to work on this project with me in some way, and so I sent him some of the songs and he said 'well, obviously you're going to use a drummer, who is going to be the drummer?' I said 'well you know, we haven't even begun to think about it yet.' Because Ben and I had worked out the drum arrangements on computerized drums beforehand but we always knew that a real drummer would take it to another level. There's no replacement for the human being there. So, he said 'well, when you're putting your list together, I think you should put Matt Cameron high on the list' and I said 'well yeah, I mean he's a great drummer, of course he would be there.' So Ben and I spent some time talking about it and we pulled out our Sound Garden records and man, he is just such a great drummer. And stylistically a little different from Neil, so I liked that idea that we would be going to a different place in terms of the rhythmic attitude so I called him up and you know he was very enthusiastic and he was great and he said ok, let's go. We had about 3 weeks before he was leaving for Europe with Pearl Jam though so I said Ben if we're going to use Matt we have to act right away, so we said fine. And that's really what started the record off just like that. We stopped our waffling and we said ok, we're going to Seattle, you stay there we'll be right there.

PR: So you went to him.

GL: yeah

PR: That's cool. He does great work on this record. Also Jeremy Taggart is on the other song.

GL: Yeah, Jeremy is actually a friend of Matt's coincidentally, but he was somebody else who's ability I was very aware of. I like his drumming a lot and he plays in Our Lady of Peace, which is a Canadian/Toronto band essentially, so he was somebody who I always had in mind as well, and uh, when we worked with Matt, he was working so fast and playing so well that we kept pulling more songs out of the bag. You know it was like, originally we thought maybe he'd play on 4 or 5 songs but he nailed those songs so quickly we were like 'ok, you want to play on another song?' and he'd go 'yeah sure' so ok, we'll pull another one out, and before we knew it we had 11 tracks with him. And one of those songs didn't make it on the album, but when we went back to Toronto late in the project we decided that we needed something more spontaneous. We'd been working on these songs so long that we were feeling a bit stale so over one weekend, I think it was actually my birthday weekend late in July, where we gave everybody the weekend off, and we just came in the studio Ben and I, we wrote this song over the weekend and we got off on it and we called Jeremy up on the Sunday I think and we said 'can you come in tomorrow and play drums?' and he said 'Yeah, sure I'm leaving Tuesday, no problem.' So that song came together very quickly and I was happy to do something with him.

PR: Now speaking of Pearl Jam, I understand on their recent tour they were up in Toronto and you were on the side of the stage, and if I understand it correctly, during the song Wishlist, Eddie Vedder changed the lyrics to the song ever so slightly saying 'I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as Geddy Lee'.

GL: (laughs) You got your homework down man! (all laugh) How do you know that? Were you there or what?

PR: (laughs) I was not there, no, I did my homework.

GL: Yeah, that was funny. I went to that show cause I hadn't seen Matt since we finished the album and I met some of those guys when we were in Seattle doing the record, so it was nice, I'd never seen PJ live, they're a terrific band live, (PR: aren't they amazing?) yeah, so they wanted to embarrass me anyway they could, so they did that.

PR: Did the crowd roar?

GL: I don't know how many people picked up on it, certainly there was a cross-section of people that definitly picked up on it, and uh, so there was a definite buzz in the room at the time, but.

PR: Huh, now I read that on this record for some songs you did 2 or 3 different versions of them, which is certainly not the Rush style. You guys pick an arrangement and stick with it. (GL: um hm) But is there any chance that some of those other versions would show up in some other form?

GL: I don't know, I doubt it. I think those other versions were really searching for the right version, and really that we only did that with one tune, the song Window to the World that we had recorded at 3 different tempos. So it was I think just me being neurotic.

PR: Are you neurotic in the studio?

GL: I can be extremely neurotic. I get very into what I'm doing. I get very passionate about it and I want it to be as good as I can, as I can make it. And it's kind of a curse really because I drive myself crazy trying to make it as good as I can.

PR: In that process though, do you ever find that you try to perfect it so much so that the raw, original version was almost better and that you've refined it so much or added so many.., you've fiddled with it so much that you've lost a passion that was there in the pure version?

GL: Well, yeah, that's a danger. There's an expression called 'Perfect is the enemy of good.' And you have to be careful that you know what you're risking when you go after that perfect thing. First of all, it's impossible to make it perfect anyway. It's, it's it's a nice concept, perfection, (chuckles) but, I haven't figured out how to accomplish it yet. So, you just have to be careful that you don't lose the magic of the song, and that you're not so involved in the details that you forget and overlook the fact that the song is a living thing with a heart and it has to be adhered to.

PR: Mmm. Now you guys have all done solo projects. Alex had worked with the Victor project, he's also been working with his son Adrian. Neil's done 2 tribute albums to one of his heroes, the great drummer Buddy Rich. Burning for Buddy I and Burning for Buddy II. I don't know how many Rush fans know this, but we have a little cd that I got a hold of. A five song mini-disc of your nephew's band. Their called Rocket Science, (GL: Oh yeah) and you produced them and sing on one of the tunes called Spacesuit.

GL: That's right, yeah.

PR: I have a little bit of it cued up in the studio and I thought we'd play a little bit of it, do you mind?

GL: No, that's great. I, I don't mind at all!

PR: Alright, well, in that case, we'd like to play a song. (audience laughs) Uh, what's your nephew's name by the way?

GL: His name is Robbie Higgins, and he's an awesome bass player, and maybe you'll get to see him play one day.

PR: And he got lessons from Uncle Geddy.

GL: (laughs) I guess.

PR: Does he ever call you Uncle Geddy?

GL: No, he doesn't.

PR: (all laughing) I guess not, alright let's play a little of Spacesuit. 93.3 WMMR, the band is Rocket Science.

(Space Suit plays. Fresh sounding prog-song, check it out.)

PR: 93.3 WMMR. The band is Rocket Science. That song is called Spacesuit. Geddy sings on the chorus there and also produced it, and it's your nephew's band.

GL: It is. Thanks for playing it.

PR: Yeah, that's cool.

GL: He'll be thrilled.

PR: I don't think that it's available in the US.

GL: It's not available yet, it's actually just a demo that he's been sending around to record companies and right now he's in the studio as we speak in Toronto finishing up some more tunes we've been working on, so I've been bopping in and out of the studio with him while we've been doing these kind of promotional activities.

PR: Yeah, speaking of the promotional activities, they've been many. We've talked about it while the songs were playing at various times this morning or this afternoon, but you've been to things that one might not expect Geddy Lee to appear at, record signings and record stores, you've been all around the country, you've done a lot of interviews (GL: Kissing babies... laughs) PR: running for office. Is that a new experience, cause it's been awhile since you went back to it on that level.

GL: Yeah, I think we got very, you know, 'insular' for awhile, and I think it's a dangerous thing to happen to a band, but it's inevitable. And I think that comes about from too much touring. You know when you're touring, there's security imposed on you for obvious reasons and that security creates a wall between you and your fans that is hard to live without for practical reasons, but it's an unfortunate separation that occurs, so I thought well, for this album well I may not have any touring plans, so it would be nice to actually get some feedback from fans and to do things that we could never do in the context of Rush cause Rush has got such an intense schedule when we're doing it. So I agreed to do some of these signing sessions, and they've been incredibly pleasant experiences, and I've gotten to meet a lot of fans, and look them eye to eye and talk to them for a split second anyway, and uh, I've been amazed at the impact that Rush's music has had on them over the years.

PR: You really are amazed at it?

GL: Yeah I am, because it's one thing to hear that somebody has been your fan for 20 years, and it's another thing for someone to tell you and look you in the eye and say, you know, you're music has changed my life. That is a very powerful moment. So for me, it's made it very gratifying, and it's made me appreciate our supporters all the more.

PR: Cool. Well, speaking of that, we have a room full of them here. Would anyone else like to ask a question? This lady back here...tell us what your name is and where your from.

(me) Hi, I'm Laurie, from New Jersey. Hi Geddy. (GL: Hi) Just wondering if you were interested in doing any soundtracks, or possibly for the Lord of the Rings movies coming out, secondary to your Rivendell song (GL: chuckling, 'right'), and interests if you have any?

GL: Right, I think it's interesting, the concept of working on sound tracks, although you're always at the mercy of the director, so. I have a problem with authority, (laughter from all) so I don't know how well that would go down. But I certainly should try it at some point, I would like to try it to see if it's something that's amenable to me because in some ways Rush's music is very soundtrack-like, I mean, we've always taken a very, you know, cinematic approach to putting songs together from way back to when we did By-Tor and the Snowdog, you know, that was a little mini drama (GL and PR laughing), and we just provided the orchestration behind it, so I think it's something that would lend itself to my writing style, so possibly.

PR: Another question from the audience? You sir, right in front of the lady who just asked it. What is your name, where are you from?

Yes, hi, my name's Tim from Glenside, Pennsylvania. (PR: Hi Tim. Tim: Hi GL: Hi) I'm wondering if you have a favorite song off the new album?

GL: Well, there are 2 songs that keep vying for favorite with me. One of them is a song called Slipping, which is a bit of a different track but is kinda a personal song for me and it's the one song that was written fairly early on in the sessions and when we wrote that song, Ben and I looked at each other and said 'Ok, we have to make a record together because there's something about it that felt too good to ignore. And the other song is Working at Perfekt, which is kinda the story of my life. Ah, you know, the story of (PR: What we were just talking about) failed perfectionists (laughing). Yeah, those are 2 of my favorites.

PR: Ah, another question? B-Man. We have with us the author of the Rush biography 'Visions'. Perhaps, well everyone in this room is the biggest Rush fan of all time (audience laughs), but perhaps B-Man is. What is your question, Bill?

B-Man: I'm just one of them, Pierre. (PR: ok) Um, Ged, on the song Grace to Grace, the music of the verses kinda sounds like a train going down a track to me. (GL: um hm) And there's a lyric in there , a hundred thousand miles of track. I was wondering did the music come first? Or I know with the song writing context of Rush you do it both ways, (GL: right) the music or the lyrics. How did it go about on this album?

GL: The lyric came. That line 'a hundred thousand miles of track', I had had and part of that song I had written quite awhile ago. I have this little notebook that I've been carrying around for years. I've been too lazy to actually use it most of the time. But I write certain things down, and that was one of the things that I had written down and when Ben and I wrote the music for that verse, they just seemed completely synchronous so even though they were written separately, in a way, the idea was already there from the lyric.

PR: With that in mind, why don't we play Grace to Grace. Anything else you'd like to say about the song?

GL: Um, yeah, this is a song that was inspired by my mother's life. My mother is a Holocaust survivor. And she, her and my father were both Holocaust survivors, and they came over to Canada after the war, and their lives were interrupted in the most dramatic and terrible way as many war veterans have been. And it got me thinking about people who go through terrible trama due to war or circumstances of life that are unavoidable and how it's their innate elegance and survival spirit that makes them carry on and live a good life, an uncomplaining life, and are still able to laugh and raise kids, and carry on despite what seems like it should be a devastating and irreparable event, so that song inspired me, those events and her life inspired me to write that song.

PR: wow, this is Grace to Grace from the new Geddy Lee album, My Favorite Headache on 93.3 WMMR.

(song plays)

PR: Geddy, I wanted to ask you about politics. We briefly touched on it, but as a Canadian citizen I'm curious what you think of (loud audience laughter) the mess that's just transpired in the American political system. I heard, I don't know if this is true...

GL: You realize I'm a guest here now, in your country.

PR: And you're free to say anything you like sir. (GL: laughs) But I mean, I heard in your Canada, I don't know if this is correct or not, that the whole election process for the Prime Minister is one month, campaign and everything.

GL: Yeah, it's about six weeks really because before they actually announce it, the Prime Minister is teasing you for about 2 weeks beforehand, so...

PR: But that's beautiful. Six weeks and it's over, I mean for us it's 2 years, the primary, and the soft money and this hideous..

GL: Think about what you could do with that money. (PR: ah, over a billion dollars spent) that you spend on selling your leaders to the country. I mean really it's just promotional money. If you want to boil it down to the barest bones truth your taking billions of money to promote 2 people to your country and pit one against the other. Now if you came up with a system that eliminated that, now admittedly it's a big country, America, there are a lot more people in America than there are in Canada so it takes more time to get the message across, so you know, so you extrapolate it by 10% or whatever you want to but. The fact is that money could be going to do good things in the infrastructure and to the people of the country, so is it really necessary to have that long a process? In Canada, in Britain it's the same, we have a British system basically. But America's quite a different place than Canada, so I don't want to be so naïve as to compare the 2 systems and say one will work for the other, but uh, that struck me as the most profound thing while watching the Gore/Bush thing. Two things struck me, one that nobody wants either of these guys really (loud laughter and applause from audience), and that's why you're in this situation, you've got 2 guys voting that nobody wants to vote for. (continued laughter). And the second thing struck me that while they were counting ballots we had a whole election come and go. (laughs) (PR: In Canada?) Yeah, in Canada, while they were counting. So, uh, something could be, I think, sped up in the process.

PR: Have you ever considered running for office?

GL: (laughs) I don't know. They don't vote for rock and rollers in the political world I don't think.

PR: We've had actors in America, why couldn't we have a rock star?

GL: You got a wrestler, that's true.

PR: That's true, we have actors and a wrestler, so who knows.

GL: Yeah.

PR: Alright, we're going to pause for these messages. We'll continue our conversation with Geddy Lee, and play something else from the new album and play one of my favorite Rush songs as well when we come right back.

(commercial break)

PR: I'm with Geddy Lee and a studio audience of MMR and Rush and Geddy Lee fans (hooting and hollering, much applause for Geddy. :) ) We're going to go back into the audience in just a second and you can ask some more questions of Geddy. I was curious about the early days in Rush and road stories. One book I was glancing through told a story, uh, of you guys cause in the early days you would hop in like a station wagon or a van from Toronto and go literally hundreds of miles to do a gig and then come back home. I don't know if this was in high school or right after high school, and I read one story, I don't know if it's true or not, but we have the authority here so I'd figure that you could straighten it out, that you guys hopped in a van and drove 10 hours to get to a gig to get there only to find out only to find out that, in fact it was 10 hours in the completely opposite direction.

GL: Well, it's close. It was a station wagon number 1. (PR: ah, ok), and uh, we were leaving, I believe we were leaving Chicago? Maybe? I can't remember the 2 cities. (chuckles) Anyway we were supposed to be going to Cleveland and you know we're havin a good time in the vehicle, and it was a little 'smoky' in the vehicle, (audience laughter) (PR: Cleveland's got a lot of that going on) GL: I don't know what it was, just fumes of some sort, (PR: it was air pollution in those days, but it's better now) and Alex and I were actually in the back seat writing a song called Making Memories, which ended up being on our Fly By Night album at the time. So we were just having a good old time and we start seeing signs for Memphis and stuff and we were like (GL squints, audience laughing harder at this point) GL: (in a stoned voice) 'Is that right man' Like, are we going the right way or what?' (PR: 'I'm hungry') GL: So, (laughing) we realize that we were not going the right way and we had to panic because in those days it was our first tour and you know, to not show up for a gig was about as big a faux pas as you could make, so we quickly turned around and we were driving like maniacs and we finally made it to Cleveland.

PR: Who was driving by the way?

GL: Uh it was various drivers, I believe, we were shifting. But I think it was Howard Ungerleider, who was our tour manager at the time. He was driving, because we were kind of 'writing'. (chuckles)

PR: Heh, yeah, writing in the back seat. (laughter) Ah, does anyone have any questions? Maybe somebody in the back. We haven't gone to anybody in the back of the room. Let's see, uh, you sir, with the black hair, in the sweater. Well, sure, you're standing up and then we'll go to the other gentleman that just started to stand up. What's your name sir and where you from?

Hi Geddy, (GL: Hi), my name is Al, I'm from Marlton, New Jersey. (GL: Hi Al) I just wanted to ask you, I read an interview in (Chorion??) magazine during the Counterparts time that Alex Lifeson gave. And he mentioned that for your Chronicles album, Polygram tried to release unreleased solo material from you from the early 80's. Does that exist or is that just a rumor?

GL: I wouldn't believe anything Alex ever says. (all laugh) I don't know where that came from but that's absolutely not true.

PR: What's your name sir?

Joe, from Philadelphia. How you doing Geddy? (GL: Hi) I was wondering, driving to work everyday, I listen to Rush, or on the way home. What do you listen to driving to work or around your house?

GL: Um, well lately I've been listening to Bjork an awful lot and I just love her music. She's a very compelling artist. I listen to Radiohead, I listen to Billy Holiday a lot, if that's not a terrible thing to confess to. (PR: that's wonderful) I think she's an awesome blues singer, jazz singer and her music sends me. I find that when I really want to relax I can't listen to a lot of rock because my mind starts 'working, and I start analyzing the production and this that and the other, but if I go out of context completely and listen to some smoky jazz, or some even trip hop bass and drums records or something like that then it takes me really back to a completely more uh, you know simple involvement with the music.

PR: When some of the bands that are um, some of the younger bands that I love like the Offspring and Green Day, that are really very fresh and hard rocking bands and keeping I think the spirit of rock alive. But one of the things I've noticed when I go to their shows, that they only play, give or take, about an hour. (GL: mmm) PR: When you see some of these veteran bands, be it Rush, or be it the Rolling Stones, or the reunion of CSNY last year, or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or the Allman Brothers, it's a two and a half to three hour show. And it's kind of an interesting statement of our times, that the veterans are putting on the longer shows, the young punks are, you know, kind of doing an hour and off the stage, and out of the building.

GL: Well, you know the veterans have more material, number one; number two, they like the sound of their own voice more probably. (laughter) So, it's like 'enough already'. But, ah, I think there is a particular work ethic too where because of the outrageous sums of money that it costs for a ticket, I think some artists feel you have to give people their money's worth. And I know it's supposed to be quality, not quantity, but I think you can have both, so I think that's part of it.

PR: The stage show for Rush has always been wonderful although I don't think music is the basic thing, but when you add the icing of the cake of, and you guys have had such wonderful things, the NASA footage of the space shuttle, the movies on Hemispheres, the psychedelic car on Red Barchetta, the various things that you've added, and more recently which I loved, was the inflatable bunnies that would come out in tophat.

GL: Right. 'Those poor bunnies. Where are they now?'

PR: Yeah, where are those bunnies now?

GL: Where do the bunnies go in the off season?

PR: And I think they made a return visit cause they were on Presto and then on the Roll the Bones tour, one of them came out, if I remember this correctly, and shot one of the other ones, and the bullet went across the video screen behind and then hit the other one on the other side of the stage, and then the other one then deflated.

GL: I know. People were really upset with us. (audience laughs) I mean, we had the bunnies for 2 tours and it was such a fun thing to add to the show that we didn't want to get rid of them, but you can't keep running the same old gags out there, you know it gets tired.

PR: 'Oh, it's the bunnies again.'

GL: 'Oh, here they come with the bunnies'. (exasperated tone) 'oh yes, the bunnies, hahaha.'

PR: Is that a challenge though to come up with new tricks?

GL: Yeah it is, totally. But it's also a lot of fun, to try to design new pieces. So we decided that we would take this dark approach to the bunnies and see if we could actually stage an assassination.

PR: (laughing) A bunny death.

PR: Uh, also, for Rush fans, they know this, but for folks who are listening to us and joining us in the conversation, they may not know for 3 people, Rush makes just the largest sound when you go to see you in concert. And each of you have devices near your station on the stage that you can trigger which provide sounds that augment the song that you're playing. Correct?

GL: Yeah, there's a whole series of sequencers and samplers and all these devices that have chord progressions and different noises and sounds so that we can still keep playing our instruments, and not have another player on there, so we're doing all this fancy footwork so, it's a little bit like choreography. I have some, Alex has some, and even Neil has some things that are triggered by different drums that he hits. As soon as he hits a drum, it sends a sequence into 'on-off mode' so, ah, it's technically kind of a nightmare, but it enables us to still go out there as a quote '3-piece', and at one point we were arguing whether we should bring another guy in the band just for touring to play all these things, but we thought our fans would rather see us struggle through with all these devices (audience applause) and they would forgive us the use of some extemporaneous electronics just for the sake of keeping the trio intact. (hoots from the audience!)

PR: Do they ever go wrong? Do they ever misfire?

GL: Yes, yes they go wrong, yes... 'It's not pretty.'

PR: (English accent) 'It's not a pretty thing'.

GL: 'It's not a pretty thing'.

PR: We're speaking with Geddy Lee here. Is there another question, towards the back, or you sir, right over there. What is your name and where are you from?

Hi Geddy. I'm Jim from Burlington Township. (GL: Hi) When I first started listening to Rush, I really got into 2112 and Hemispheres, and I was kind of hoping and wondering if you were going to come out with another epic album like that. Something with a whole album-side.

GL: Well, it's a good question. I don't really know what we're going to do until we sit down and do it, you know. At the time that we stopped doing those whole sided pieces, we felt very much like we were just repeating ourselves, and we thought it was time to start experimenting at different kinds of ways of writing songs. So, but, now that's been a long time since then, and who knows, maybe that kind of thing can pop up again. I don't discount it certainly. We don't sit down and say, 'ok, first thing we're going to do is NOT write a 20 minute epic'. We just see how we feel at the time and I think that's why Rush albums are very much time capsules. They really do reflect who we are as players, and as writers, and people for that really given point of time.

PR: What we're going to do now is actually pause for a couple of messages, cause we only have another few minutes with you, so we're gonna do some commercials Mike, back in the studio. There are none left? We're all done for the 2:00 hour? Oh, well in that case we'll continue on! (loud audience applause) Cause there's 3 more songs I'm dying to get in and we have a limited amount of time but it looks like we'll now have time to do that. Um, first thing I want to ask you about, from the Counterparts album, one of my favorite songs is Nobody's Hero. And to the best of my knowledge, it's one of the few times a major rock band has, although it's about other things besides AIDS, but it seems to be one of the first times a major rock band just put it all out on the table about this horrible disease that was at the time and still is devastating portions of the world. How did that song come to life?

GL: Well, that song is very personal to Neil for a number of reasons, because the people that he's writing about were people that he knew. One of whom passed away from AIDS, and another who was involved in a terrible crime in Canada. And that got him thinking about the loss of the anonymous, you know, the 'is someone a hero?' and 'do we miss somebody more because he was famous?', who's out there speaking for those numbers of people that pass away in silence and anonymity? So, that was what inspired him to write this song about how many people we lose without any heralding, you know, and so Alex and I both felt very strongly for what he was talking about so we put the music together in the most heart-felt way that we could.

PR: Let's play Nobody's Hero from the Counterparts album from Rush on 93.3 WMMR.

(Nobody's Hero plays)

PR: 93.3 WMMR, wonderful song from the Rush Counterparts album called Nobody's Hero. We're here with Geddy Lee and a room full of Rush and Geddy fans. I suspect it's actually proper to announce you as 'Sir Geddy Lee' (Geddy laughs) because you and Alex and Neil received the Canadian Medal of Honor, the highest award a Canadian citizen can receive from your government.

GL: Thank you, uh (audience applause) They call it 'The Order of Canada'. And we were very honored to receive it, and it was quite a scene when we went to Ottowa, we had to wear tuxedos and everything. And go up and you know it's very you know, British influenced and has all the accoutrements, you know, like the pomp and circumstance and it's very formal, and you're greeted by the Governor General and he puts this big medal around your neck. It was pretty cool.

PR: Yeah?!

GL: I have to say.

PR: Well you've received a lot of awards before, but that had to take the cake.

GL: That was real nice. You know, the fact that we've remained living as Canadian citizens all these years when it's been very tempting to move down here. So, it was nice to be recognized for that.

PR: Speaking of awards, a lot of Rush fans, and I would bet that most of these folks would agree with me, are a little miffed that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has not yet nominated Rush. Is that something that even concerns you, are you bothered by it, or do you even care?

GL: Um, well of course it would be a tremendous honor to be included but it's not something that I have any control over so I choose not to think about it very often. Besides, we're still youngsters. We've got time. (loud applause from audience). Give it to the ooold bands.

PR: (laughs) We're going to pause for these messages. We're a little bit over into Raz's time, sorry about that Raz, but we're going to come back and play one more song from the new cd which is Geddy's favorite when we return right after this.

(Ged's recording of the South Park 'O Canada' is playing)

(opens back up with a standing ovation from the audience)

PR: You may sit down now! The national anthem has been played.

GL: That's right.

PR: And sung by Geddy Lee and Alex is on that record as well as the South Park characters.

GL: Yes they are, they're making jokes. While the 'National Anthem' is playing.

PR: How disrespectful.

GL: Oh yes.

PR: Well, that brings us to your love of baseball which I must ask you about because you got to sing that song during the all-star game at Camden Yards, and I read that you were more nervous before that than before any Rush show.

GL: Yeah, it was so weird, it was so nerve wracking. I don't know whether the lady who told me that 80 million people were watching was the reason I was nervous, but yeah, you know, going out there with accapella just to sing to this echoey environment was definetly not easy. But it was thrilling to turn around and see all these great ball players, having to wait for you to finish.

PR: Well, you know Rush music is now played on a lot of public address systems in between periods of major league games. Are you ever at one where you hear Tom Sawyer come on?

GL: Yeah, once in awhile it happens.

PR: Is that kinda like 'wow?'

GL: Yeah, I think it's great. I like that, it's cool.

PR: A little double take. I don't know much about sports, but there's a guy named Randy Johnson who's obviously a famous pitcher and he was asked what he listens to in the dugout and he said 'oh, Tom Sawyer, all the time'.

GL: Yeah, he's a good rock guy. He's a drummer and big fan. Good guy.

PR: Baseball was an early love?

GL: Uh, not so early. I came to baseball really out of boredom. I was touring a lot and during the afternoons, you know, by the time you wake up after a 400 mile drive it's about 2 in the afternoon, so it was just in time to have breakfast and watch the Cubbies, you know. Cause that was about the only thing you could get anywhere in America was the Cubbies on TV in the middle of the afternoon, so I got into the game that way.

PR: Before we let you go, I would be neglect if I didn't ask you how your friend and partner Neil Peart is doing. As most folks know, he had an awful year after the Test for Echo shows were over in August of '97 his life was changed forever when his daughter Selena was killed in a car crash and then almost a year to the day exactly, he lost his wife Jackie to cancer. And, without invading his privacy, is there a way you can share with the fans who were also saddened and tried to express to him in emails and cards. Is there a way you can share how he dealt with that, what he went through?

GL: Well, it's almost impossible to do justice to try to describe the devastation that a human being goes through when that happens. I mean, it's about the worst thing that can happen to a person. He's been, of course, hoping to rebuild his life and you know, it was a few extremely dark tormented years for him and we all tried to be there for him and be supportive and certainly allow him our good wishes and to try to feel some sort of positive energy for carrying forward in the future as a person. And that's why we never brought up any issues to do with working or the band or anything like that. It was all just very quietly 'put away'. And now he is happy, he's met someone over the time, and he's gotten remarried recently, and he's trying to start a new life. So, we have good feelings for his future right now.

PR: Her name is Carrie Nuttall I believe, right?

GL: mmm

PR: And you were at the ceremony in southern California, you described it as a beautiful event. Do you think it was the final chapter of the healing, in terms of meeting her, and marrying her and being happy again?

GL: I think it's the first chapter of the healing really.

PR: A friend of mine described death as like this earthquake with all these aftershocks and you get the first one, but you never totally get it until all of those aftershocks have faded and you never really know when they're coming.

GL: Well, I don't think you ever recover from it, something like that, ever. I mean, I think you learn how to get on with your life, but that's not the same as recovering. So he's learning how to get on with his life, and he's looking in great shape and he's got a very positive outlook, so we cross our fingers for him and we welcome him back with open arms, of course.

PR: And Rush will go back in the studio sometime in this new year, correct?

GL: Yep. Within the month we'll be back together writing.

PR: Really? In Canada or in California?

GL: In Canada.

PR: Cause he lives in California. Do you guys find it odd now that you're Canadian brother is living in southern California?

GL: He's still has a place in Quebec, so we still have him part of the year anyway.


GL: So, he's going to come up to Toronto, we're going to do some writing sessions over the winter.

PR: Alex described a situation when the 3 of you gather for the very first time as 'charged' in the studio. I can imagine.

GL: Well, he's charged.

PR: He's always charged.

GL: Well he's Serbian, you know, he's like, insanely charged. It'll be fun, it's usually fairly outrageous when we first get back together, everybody's kind of sniffing each other out, everybody's been through a lot in the last 5 years, so I would expect the writing sessions to be unlike any we've ever done.

PR: This is the longest hiatus ever for the band really, right?

GL: Yeah.

PR: Before we let you go, and we must now do so, we'd like to play one more song from your solo record My Favorite Headache, I understand it's your favorite song, and we talked about textures earlier, and it's got some beautiful textures and melodies, and is called Slipping. Tell us about this song.

GL: Well, this song is kind of a confession, it's kind of an apology and it's kind of an admission of fallibility for me. It's very musical in the sense of layers of melody and throwing everything but the kitchen sink in there. It's an exercise in 'maximalism' in a way, you know, uh, just kind of a different song for me, a song I don't know that would ever have existed like this if I had done it in the context of Rush so it's kind of a sweeping tune.

PR: And before we play it, I also wanted to read that in the liner notes of Different Stages, which you wrote, excuse me I have to put my glasses on to read this, 'Hello you', you say to the listeners of this record and you thank a variety of people which I think is cool, but 'Most significantly we would like to thank our many fans around the world for their long-standing support, which to our continuing amazement has enabled us to hang around for so damned long, despite the inherent weirdness of our music.' (rousing applause from audience)

PR: I thought that was a nice tribute to the fans who love the music that you've gotten to meet even closer on this solo album tour.

GL: Well, I think an artist can say how much his music is for himself, and I think when you're in the control room and when you're writing it, you have to keep the fans, you know, outside the room because you really have to be honest about it and do the best you can, but without the support and the curiosity of our fans, there wouldn't be the welcoming which all our albums receives when it comes out, and I think it's naïve for an artist to expect that that's not an important factor in longevity. And people always ask me why we were around for so long, and sure it has to do with the fact that the 3 of us are great pals and we love writing music still together, but it's also because there's an audience waiting. And I think it's important to recognize that.

PR: Well, there'll also be an audience waiting tonight because at 8:20, our 20 song Music Marathon with Christian will be all Rush tonight. (audience applause) Listen for that. It will also contain a lot of the new solo material from My Favorite Headache. It is out, and has been since November, on the Atlantic Record label. And we're about to play Slipping but before we do, I thank you so much Geddy Lee for coming to visit us today.

GL: Thank you. Thanks for having me!

(audience standing ovation)

PR: As this audience stands to salute Geddy Lee, we play his favorite song from the album, which is Slipping on 93.3 WMMR.

(Slipping plays, followed by The Trees).