Neil Peart is back on the road with RUSH! The World Tour is underway and coming to a town near you. The band is supporting a distinguished new album called Snakes & Arrows. The album is receiving critical acclaim and its debut at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 marks a triumphant return after their 30th Anniversary tour in 2004.
Since the R30 tour Neil has been immersed in several different projects including an instructional DVD called Anatomy of a Drum Solo, a DVD from the R30 tour and a new book titled ROADSHOW: Landscape with Drums, A Concert Tour By Motorcycle. The latest issue of Modern Drummer (Aug 2007) on shelves now has an article written by Neil about recording the new album. He has a cameo in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie and recorded tracks at Capitol Studios for an up coming project with Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon. SABIAN's Artist Relations Manager Chris Stankee teched that session with Garrison from DW. He says, "DW built Neil this spectacular new kit with a quilted maple sunburst finish. It reminded me of a vintage Les Paul or a fine violin. His tech Lorne "Gump" Wheaton hadn't laid hands on it and it was a lot of gear to manage as you can imagine. Gump was out on the road with Steely Dan so none of the pipes were marked or memory locked. It gave me a new found respect for what Gump does everyday."
About the same time last year Neil along with Geddy Lee (Bass/Vox) and Alex Lifeson (Guitar) started passing around demos by email to get the ball rolling on a new album. The demos were skeletons of new songs that were to test the waters and see what happens. Well, what happened of course was a new album that took months of preparation and session time continuing with pre-production in Toronto last fall. It was evident early on that there was something special about the new material. The band was excited. Almost giddy.
Stankee says, "It was in Toronto that we began working on a new cymbal sound that Neil was hearing in his head. That sound would become the 20" Paragon Diamondback Chinese. Track 2 on the album is called 'Armor & Sword'. It begins with this big fat groove where Neil is playing the downbeats on his 19" Paragon Chinese and the upbeats with the tip of the stick on the new Diamondback. I've never heard a better sounding Chinese on record than the beginning of that song. The Diamondback has 4 B8 bronze tambourine jingles. Between each jingle is a rivet, which increases the sizzle of the cymbal. Neil plays it so softly with the tip on the upbeats that the attack is hidden by the notes on the 19". All you hear is this fine ripple of jingles underneath that is reminiscent of a concert percussionist's thumb roll on a tambourine. You'll hear this cymbal - which Neil plays upside down so the jingles are facing upward - all over the album. Neil used it as more of a traditional crash/ride than a Chinese. Either way it makes an incredible new effect."
SABIAN master product specialist Mark Love and his team in the Vault worked really hard to get the right pitch (low) Neil was looking for as well as finding the exact spot where the jingles would vibrate most without choking the sustain of the cymbal. Stankee continues, "After they released the album it came time to replicate the Diamondback prototype that Neil used on the album. He didn't want to give it up as it was the only one. (Laughs) You've got to hand it to Mark for being able to take a description of sound over the phone, a couple of grainy photographs and his recollection of the original and turn it into a cymbal. That's patience AND talent!"
You'll be able to find the new Paragon Diamondback Chinese in stores later this summer.
After nearly a year of writing, preproduction, rehearsals, recording sessions, mastering, art direction, business management, press and the release of Snakes & Arrows you'd think it would be time for a vacation. You'd be wrong. Next comes 6 weeks of tour production rehearsals with the crew who work the lights, sound, video and pyro.
Neil says, "I really do love rehearsing - getting in good drumming condition, playing the songs again and again until I'm strong and accurate, working out a new solo, meshing with Alex and Geddy as a band, and playing those songs until we're strong and accurate. All that is challenging and satisfying."
A new tour is always a good excuse for a new drum kit. DW really outdid themselves this time and it's a fine compliment to the Paragons. This one-of-a-kind masterpiece by John Good and the folks at DW has gold leaf inlaid into the shell and a 23" kick drum. Sweet. Completing the toy box for the tour is a new motorcycle that Neil will ride between the shows as he did on the R30 tour.
Complete with new toys & tunes the whole circus packed up in Toronto and moved down to Atlanta, GA for the opening night of the tour. With so much rehearsal under their belts and a seasoned crew, most of whom have been with the band for years, things were relaxed the afternoon before the first show. Gump was making last minute tweaks to the kit, the lighting techs were climbing trusses and the video guys were playing with a last minute gift from the guys with the hit animated comedy South Park. Just arriving that afternoon was a video tailored for the concert from everybody's favorite trash-talking kids from Colorado as Lil' Rush. Hilarious!
Neil's pre-show routine includes a lengthy warm up on a small kit in the dressing room. Calluses the size of marbles on his hands reveal just how much work he does every night. Two full sets of music are rolled over the audience and Neil hits HARD! For drummers, conviction requires volume and volume requires power. We're talking about Neil Peart here so timing and accuracy are a given. What will be most noticeable to drummers at the concert and on the new album is how Neil is stretching time and feel. A true student of the art Neil has applied his accuracies in new ways. Note 4 minutes into the instrumental track The Main Monkey Business there is a break down in 3 measures of 5/8 and one measure of 6/8. Neil is playing 'E' and 'A' of the 16th note count on the snare drum (snares off) and those notes are played so far behind the beat you can physically feel yourself being pulled back. For added effect he left out notes played on the hi hat near the end of the phrase that really gives it a kick when the motif is repeated. It's classic Peart that you've never heard before! Schooled by The Professor again...
Opening day of a RUSH tour attracts people from all over the world like the nice Australian couple who are taking a detour from their Florida vacation before heading home. Shawn Drover of Megadeth couldn't be there for his son's birthday as he's touring Europe. His son was surprised and thrilled with tickets and passes to the meet 'n greet on opening day. Nice job Dad!
The band is ready to hit the stage, the weather is beautiful and the place is packed. The local Guitar Center guys brought down one of the R30 replica kits to display at the concert. As you can see it was quite popular. And if you've got a spare $30,000 its all yours!
The band is welcomed to the stage by a blast of electricity from the audience and RUSH doesn't disappoint. Any fan would be happy to write the set list from their 30 plus years of material, but they'll be satisfied with the balance of material the band picked from throughout their career. Stankee concludes, "What a show! Neil's solo is always a highlight and I'm still looking for my head after this fill he played near the end of Natural Science. This is what it's all about!"
Check out the photos from the show!
Congratulations to RUSH on another fine album. Here's to a successful world tour from your friends at SABIAN. Cheers!