Earlier this year singer-bassist Geddy Lee, drummer Neil Peart and guitarist Alex Lifeson released Vapor Trails, the first studio album from Rush since 1996, accompanied by their first tour in five years. So a look back is in order for the most unusually successful band in rock history--all 20 of its previous original studio and live albums is either gold or platinum despite having only one U.S. pop Top 40 single. The Spirit Of Radio: Greatest Hits (1974-1987) (Mercury/UME) brings together 16 unedited Rush classics spanning the band's career on Mercury; tracks from 11 of its 12 studio albums on the label, each digitally remastered. The package also includes a 16-page booklet. Chat with Geddy about Rush's music.
Portsmouth, Va.: I understand the song "Countdown" was inspired by your viewing the Space Shuttle Columbia during liftoff a while back. How has the recent Columbia tragedy affected your thoughts on technology?
Geddy Lee: I'm a huge supporter of the space program. We've been fortunate enough to meet many people from NASA and be privy to some pretty sensational tours. When something like this happens, you really feel for the people involved, because they're so dedicated and bright. It's a tragedy, but sadly there are no lack of tragedies in the world, so we have to put it in persepective. These people volunteered for the job and knew the risks.
Fairfax, Va.: The show at Nissan Pavilion this summer was amazing. How long did it take the three of you to get back into touring shape after the time off?
Geddy Lee: We rehearsed for about six to seven weeks before the tour started. About five weeks were strictly musical rehearsal, with another two weeks of full dress rehearsal.
San Ramon, California: As musically and technically talented as you and the band are, have any of you ever been asked to collaborate or add your unique stylings to another artist's album? Alternatively, are there other musicians, past or present, you would like to work with on one of your own or Rush's albums? Thanks
Geddy Lee: From time to time we get contacted to do something. We've done some guest appearances, mostly for friends in Canada and occasionally on the outside. We don't do a lot of it. There are lots of talented people out there who would be fun to work with.
Buena Park, California: Geddy, Rush fans all over the internet are in great anticipation of any news about your upcoming DVD Release. Can you shed some light on the content of the disc and a release date? Thanks...Steve
Geddy Lee: We're in the process of editing it now. It will feature the full show we presented in Rio this past November. It'll be about 2 hours and 50 minutes' worth of music. I can't tell you when it'll come out - when it's done I guess!
Manchester, NH: Do you see another album and tour in the band's future? If so, is there going to be another 6 year wait?
Geddy Lee: I would hope not 6 years! We're feeling really good about what's happened in terms of the record we made and the tour we just finished, so sometime over the next 3 years we'll make another record and go out and tour it.
Tel Aviv, Israel: Shalom Geddy :-) I was wondering if you recall who came up with the chord progression for the chorus of Freewill? and also, was the Live intro music to Distant Early Warning composed by you? or with Alex together?
Geddy Lee: I can't remember who wrote what in Freewill! Alex and I work really closely together, and it's hard to go back that far in time.
San Antonio, Texas: The DVD on the new release is a nifty "carrot" that will motivate even those of us who've already bought every release (twice). I'm curious, though, is this Rush's way to combat the sad but steady trend to download music? Also, will the new CD stimulate radio airplay of your songs (which would be great!)?
Geddy Lee: That was a record company decision, and I'm sure that was their thinking. I'm sure they feel the necessity to give bonuses to stem the flow of illegal downloading.
Fairfax, Va: Was Neil upset when "South Park" trashed Ayn Rand, the author who inspired some of his early lyrics? Or was he amused? (Or were you all more irritated by "Blame Canada"?)
Geddy Lee: I have no idea how Neil feels about any particular South Park episode. Blame Canada was very funny and I fully support it.
Comment from Geddy Lee: Besides, Matt is a big Rush fan
Latrobe, Pa: Geddy, Rush music to me, at 45, sounds still very fresh with a great combo of metal and memorable melody. Is this difficult to continue in a 3-man format, or maybe easier?
Geddy Lee: I think the three man format means it's easier to get along and communicate with each other. From that point of view, it's more conducive to longevity. There are times, of course, when you feel less inspired than at other times, and that's difficult to work through.
Ontario, California: Considering that the United States is such a big market for your music, how do you feel about the current state of radio here re: consolidation, narrowing playlists, and stations seemingly ignoring your newer releases?
Geddy Lee: I don't like it and don't think it's good. It's not good for music. What's happened is there's been too much monopolozing and too many consultants consulted. It's bad for exposing music.
Nashville, TN: Will Rush ever go back and do another concept album? i.e. 2112
Geddy Lee: I have no idea. No crystal ball.
Albany, New York: Are there any plans for a "greatest hits" compilation from Rush's Atlantic catalog?
Geddy Lee: There's nothing planned at the moment, although I'm sure it's an inevitability.
ypsilanti, michigan: My Favorite Headache featured excellent songs and players (Ben Mink, Matt Cameron...). Any chance for another solo album soon?
Geddy Lee: I'd like to think so. I don't know about soon, but I hope to get some writing time on my own and play with those people again.
Colfax, California: Geddy: Just a technical question for you...I've been playing Bass for over thirty years and would like to know whay you switched from the Rickenbacher bass back to the Fender Jazz Bass you are currently using?
Geddy Lee: I switched because I wanted a sound that had a richer and more powerful bottom end. The Fender delivers that.
Fairfax VA: Rush has strongly influenced many bands and musicians on both a broad and instrumental level. Are there any bands that you find influencing Rush?
Geddy Lee: There have been hundreds of bands and writers and artistic influences. That continues to happen. I think that anyone you really admire in terms of songwriting or musicianship or sound production or any of those areas who impresses you enough to do something becomes an influence.
Albuquerque, New Mexico: How much input did the band have on the song selection on this album? Since this is a compilation from 1974 through 1987, are there plans for a second compilation covering the period from 1987 through the present? Rumor has it there is a limited first edition of this album that has special DVD features. Is this true and did the band have any input as to the content included?
Geddy Lee: We did not have a lot of input in this. This was mostly a record company project. Our opinions were made known and they were very cooperative about doing good packaging for us. At the moment there are no immediate plans for further compilations, although it's always a possibility.
Rochester, NY: What did you do with the infamous Dryers from your tour? Mine is "on the fritz"!
Geddy Lee: The infamous dryers are in an infamous warehouse waiting for further instructions.
Westampton, NJ: Good evening, Geddy! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. My question for you is that with each Rush album over the years, the musical direction and sound are different than anything you have done before. For instance, Vapor Trails has a harder, edgier sound than say, Hold Your Fire. How do you keep that fresh? Also, what direction, or sound, would you like to see Rush take on the next album? Of course, we are all hoping there will be one!
Geddy Lee: We just don't preplan what we do. Our records are very much a result of what we happen to be going through as musicians at that time. Because of that I can't really say what the next Rush album will sound like, and I think that explains why they're all so different. As we change, so does our music and the context of how we put our music together. Our records end up being time capsules. They capture that period and we move on. It's hard to repeat yourself.
Sydney Australia: Hi Geddy, One of my great teenage memories was seeing you guys at Madison Square Garden on your Signals tour many moons ago. Any plans to tour Australia?
Geddy Lee: Not at the moment, no.
New City, NY: Now that the tour is over, how often do you pick up the bass? How long do you practice?
Geddy Lee: I haven't picked up my bass since the tour ended. Towards the end of the tour I developed a problem with my right hand involving stretched ligaments, so I'm letting it rest.
Boston, MA: Hi Geddy: I'm a big fan and was fortunate enough to attend 3 shows during the VT tour (Mansfield MA, Boston, and Manchester, NH). My question is whose idea was it and how did you decide on the "acoustic" version of resist? I thought it was a great idea and something different. And do you think Rush will tour again? In my opinion you put on the best show in the business, by far. Thanks for all the great music. John - Boston, MA
Geddy Lee: Every tour for the last 2 or 3 tours we've threatened to do an acoustic song, and have never done it. This time when Alex and I were listening to all our old material, when we heard Resist we thought it would sound interesting in a simple format. We said let's try it in rehearsal, and weeks went by without an attempt. We tried it and weren't 100% with it, but kept at it. We just love that part of the show. I love doing that song that way.