15 Minutes With Geddy Lee Of Rush

By Mike Mettler, Sound&Vision, February/March 2001, transcribed by Will Holt

"I've had a real awakening as a writer." Geddy Lee, best known as the bassist/vocalist for the Canadian power trio Rush is assessing what he got out of making his first-ever solo album, My Favorite Headache (Anthem/Atlantic; see review in the January issue). The pulsating Headache is nothing short of a breakthrough for Lee, since in Rush, drummer Neil Peart pens practically all of the lyrics while Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson collaborate on the bulk of the music. But for Headache, Lee wrote both the words and music for all 11 tracks. "Some of the songs are short movies," he says. "Others relay my perspective on certain issues in the world." Rush fans need not storm the Temples of Syrinx just yet. Lee confirmed that he, Lifeson, and Peart will convene early in 2001 to determine Rush's future. -Mike Mettler


Since My Favorite Headache is the first album where you've written all the lyrics, did you find the songwriting to be your biggest challenge?

Yes, by far. Writing lyrics is a wonderful form of expression, a great exercise in playing with your thoughts. Now that I've done an entire album, I feel that I've become more complete as a writer. I plan on writing many more lyrics in the future, whether it be in the context of Rush, on my own, or for somebody else.

You're not a big fan of downloading music, are you?

I'm very much against it. People seem to have a sense of entitlement toward music these days that I think is unethical and illegal. If you want to download my music, you need to ask my permission first. Unfortunately, people are getting used to taking things for free. What you do when nobody is looking is a matter of conscience. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it's right to do it. Besides, there's also a sound-quality issue. I've heard downloaded music that's as dull as dishwater, with practically no low end at all. MP3 is getting better, but there's still a long way to go.

What do you think about recording music in surround sound?

I guess I'm still on the fence about it when it comes to studio recording, but it can be very effective in a live situation. I suppose it works really well with textural music like Pink Floyd's. [Rush] has experimented with some special-effects moments where we've panned around the room, but they're mostly sensational, like the heavy drum cracks at the beginning and the end of "Force Ten." The problem is, there's no way to make a subtle shift to the back of your head. It's rhythmically jarring. But I can see the future of live albums as 5.1-channel DVDs.

Do you have a home theater?

Yes, but I don't have a room that's solely dedicated to it. I've gone the projection-screen route; it comes down of out of the ceiling. I'm a film buff, but the main reason I got my home theater was to watch baseball on a big screen. [laughs]