KLBJ Interviews Alex Lifeson

KLBJ FM, Austin Texas, April 10, 2002

DJ Peggy Simmons: Leave it to those Canadians to be so prompt. I love it. 11:45 rolls around and "TA-DA", Alex Lifeson from Rush on the phone. Good morning.

Alex Lifeson: Good morning Peggy, how are ya?

I'm great and so excited to hear that the new release is finally going to be in the stores before we know it.

Thank you. Yeah, a couple more weeks.

Yes, May 14th. Yes, I've already marked my calendar.

That's more than a couple, I guess, but soon.

Uh, yeah, it's something like five

Yeah. Oh!

I'm really counting! So yeah.

I was never very good at math.

Yeah, but you're pretty good at doing what you do on stage. Oh my gosh, I'm just beside myself thinking about this. But let me go ahead and get everything in order.


Okay, Vapor Trails. That's the name of the new release.


What prompted you guys to name the album Vapor Trails?

Um, we liked the visual idea of how fleeting a vapor trail is. It's there one minute. It's gone the next. A lot of what's happened over the last five years has brought us around to that way of thinking, I think. And how important it is to cherish every minute that you have. Neil had gone through quite a tragedy and we all took a very slow recovery from that. I think that when we got down to making this record, it just summed up really our feeling about how fleeting life can be.

Which is true, indeed, and sometimes it takes something like that to make you realize it that much more.

Yes, there's always some terrible thing that reminds you of things like that and you have those moments where you pull it all together and then you kinda take it for granted and then you wait until the next terrible thing that comes along. Well, you know, I think America is in that state right now and has been since September.



Now, I look on the list, I've got a list of song titles here, and there's actually a track called Vapor Trails.


Um, let's see, 13 tracks in all.

Right, 13 tracks, the funny thing is we've never made a record where we had more material than we released. We've always written just the right amount of material for that particular record. With this record we thought,"Let's write 13 and we'll pick the best 10 or 11. 'Cause we felt 13 songs, that's almost 70 minutes of music. That's a lot. That's a big chunk of music. And when we got it all done, we thought "Aw, leaving a couple of songs off this record is like leaving a couple of kids behind". There's no way we could do this so we included the whole thing in. So that's a big mouthful of music, I think. A lot of Rush records, I believe, are the kind of records where you have to sit down and listen to them a few time to get it all in. I think that's kinda missing in music these days. People really desire that, really want it, really miss it. More of a connection, more of a responsible listen.

If you are just tuning in, I'm visiting with Alex Lifeson of Rush. With you guys having been together almost three decades, it's almost like you're brothers.

We're beyond brothers, I think. Our relationship is very difficult to describe but we are very, very, very close.

Very tight knit.


Is there a formula to your writing that you can pinpoint or does it change with every release?

Um, no, there isn't really a formula. In the way we work there may be. We often work from lyrics. With this record we kinda mixed that up a little bit. Geddy and I wrote a lot of music and we fit lyrics to pieces of music that we were working on, which is a bit of a change. I mean, there's no real rule there. One of the big differences this time around is that it's taken 13 months to write and record this record. Typically, it takes us 4 to 6 months to do that. But we didn't want to have any kind of restrictions in time. We wanted to make, absolutely, the record that we wanted to make. Geddy and I decided right from the beginning this was a record that we were going to produce. We had a very unified vision from the beginning as to what we wanted to accomplish with it.

Now, everyone takes a part in the producing of a Rush album, correct?

Yes, but I think this time around, Geddy and I really held down the fort. It was really our thing. Paul Northfield came into the project about six months into it. That was great. You know, Paul is a great engineer. A lot of the record was already recorded. Everything was already written, basically. But he was very helpful with a couple of songs where we were kinda not sure about the arrangement, the most we could get out of it. He was very helpful in that sense. And he worked very closely with Neil on all the drum recording and development of Neil's drum arrangements.

Now, from what I understand, Neil took a bike ride, a motorcycle ride, tour of North America to go and clear his head and start the healing process, if you will. How is he doing right now?

Neil is doing very, very well. He started his life all over again, which is something that he need to do. It took him quite a while to get to that point, but I think that he's on the road to recovery. He's feeling very positive about his life now and working on the healing process. It's a very long process and a very difficult one. It's very dynamic. There are lots of highs and lots of lows, still. But, you know, time is a great healer. I think as he gets more involved in things that are important to him, like making this record for example, and getting back on the road and living his new life, then he'll survive.

Well, speaking on getting back on the road. My attention was called to something that's going on the Internet called RUSHPETITION.com. Have you heard of that?

Yes, I have.

And everybody, we've heard, I mean, those of us that are Rush fans have been keeping up with what's been going on with the Rush family and, of course sending prayers and best thoughts over what's been happening. But. of course, we're looking to the future and what you guys will be doing. Of course, you'll be hitting the road in celebration of Vapor Trails being released.

That's right! Yeah, we've been spending the last couple of weeks, actually, working on the production side of the tour. We really want to have a fresh appearance to the stage show. We're talking about dropping a number of older songs that we've played for a lot of tours and replacing it with material that we've never played before or haven't played in a long time. We're aware of that website and find it very interesting. It's always a little bit of a compromise, you know, between the two, finding material that our fans really want to hear and also playing material that we're gonna want to play over the course of a long tour. We really want to feel satisfied that we're playing the music that we want to play. But we're gonna come closer to that magical point of pleasing everybody, I think, with this one. We start rehearsals later this month, beginning of next month. That will take us right to the middle of June. Then we have a couple of weeks of production rehearsals and then we start the tour on the 28th of June in Hartford, Connecticut.

28th of June. have you seen any Texas dates?

Oh yeah! I think we're in Texas in, I'm not sure but I think, mid-August or maybe early September.

Oh yes!!!!

Somewhere around there. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to great to come back to Austin

Oh and trust me, I will be scanning and waiting and wondering just exactly what those dates are 'cause, hey, my birthday is in August too, so......

Oh? When is it?

August, the 22nd.

Ah! Mine's the 27th.

I know!!

So, you're almost a Virgo.

Almost. I'm kinda like right there in the middle, which is a good place to be. It's okay.

Yeah, that's right.

But yes, you are a Virgo. I was reading up on that to and I went,"If you're in Texas at that point in time, we could go and have some barbecue or something.

There you go!

Now, with regards to the tour itself, are you planning on doing another "Evening with" tour?



Yeah, we talked a lot about that. It's just too much material. We can't not do"An Evening with". We thought it might actually be fun to play with an opening act again, find a band we really like to work with. There was some very, very, very preliminary talk and some very casual talk, really, about, maybe, doing some dates together with Tool, which would have been a lot of fun, I think. But, in the end, we decided that to get as much material played as we can, we need to do "An Evening With". So we're looking at basically the same thing, about a three-hour set.

Aah!! I know that's hard work for you but for us Rush fans, we are just very excited to see you coming back through. It's going to be a good thing. I bet you have this feeling of being reborn after coming off that five year break.

Absolutely! Absolutely! It's a wonderful feeling. We're all feeling really good about it.

And we are too here in the heart of the Lone Star State. Golly, Alex, I know you've got another interview to jump to in just a few minutes. Let me ask you a couple of quick things. Here in Austin, there are so many musicians. Number 1, what do you play as far as brand? What's your favorite type of instrument to play?

Oh, you know, PRS normally, but with this record, I pulled out just about every guitar I have. I wanted to give everybody a chance. They were all calling out to be played. So, I had all my old Gibsons, my 335 and 355, a Gretch, my Tele, which is my main guitar.

How many guitars do you have?

I think I have around 52 or 53 guitars.

Beautiful collection.

Yeah, yeah. They're all...you know... it's a workman's collection. None of them are the kind of guitars where I have them hidden away behind glass or something. I like to use them all. They all have certain characteristics that I am, really, becoming so much more aware of. It's always a great source of inspiration, too, to bring out an instrument you haven't played in a while and try it on a particular song or particular part. It was really a lot of fun to do that.

Maybe you can do a little guitar shopping while you are down here. We've got some really great stores.


And also, what advice would you give to someone who's just getting started in the business here in Austin, Texas?

In the music business?


Well, that's a very difficult one. I think, really, the best advice is to stick to your guns, to do what you believe in and if it works out, great. And if it doesn't work out, then you have no one else to blame. You tried, and you did your best, and that's really what counts. 'Cause it doesn't always work out for everybody. You have to be happy with what you did try and what you did accomplish.

Indeed! Alex, a pleasure talking with you.

The pleasure is mine.

And I look forward to Rush coming through Texas. I'm sure that if you don't have an Austin date, if there's one in San Antonio or Houston or Dallas, we'll hit the road. Trust me.


But, I'll keep hoping and praying for my birthday that there is an Austin date.

I hope so too. Thank you.

Alright, thank you and I do believe that would be our cue to serve up the single which, I gotta tell you. We got that overnighted to us and my boss was out of town. I'm probably going to lose my job for revealing this but it came with a note saying "please do not play until after 5 pm". It came on a Friday. And I went, "well, this came from New York, it's 5 o'clock there so I gave it to our afternoon guy, Johnny Walker, and I said, "serve it up right at 3, we're safe".

Ha ha ha.

And we did and it just sounded awesome man. It would sound pretty doggone awesome right now. If you'll please do the honors of introducing the single, I'll crank it up.

Well, this is Rush and you're listening to One Little Victory.

Alright, Alex. 93.7 KLBJ, Austin's rock.