Alex Lifeson On Giving The People What They Want

By Matt Blackett, Guitar Player, March 2009, transcribed by Ed Stenger

Rush's Alex Lifeson knows how to keep the customer satisfied. He continues to deliver the music that has thrilled Rush fans for 35 years - onstage, on record, on Rush's new DVD Snakes & Arrows Live, and in a series of lessons on ivideosongs. - Matt Blackett

You mixed this DVD with Rich Chycki. What are the challenges to that?

The challenges are small things, like the perspective of where the guitar sits, because the drums take up a great deal of space. I have to say, the mixes on this DVD were probablay the easiest way to get a great foucus on the instruments. There's a lot of air around all the instruments, but it's still really cohesive. I'm really happy with the tonality of this DVD. To get my guitar tones, we used a combination of Palmer speaker simulators and mics on my Hughes & Kettners. Rich did the majority of the work on it. He has a great understandinng of how we sound in our heads, and he translates that well.

Which guitar of yours gets the biggest reaction?

Most definitely my white Gibson ES-355. I'm playing the Inspired By reissue version for "The Trees", but at the end of the night, for the encore, I'm using my original 355. I do worry about it disappearing or having some horrible thing happen to it. There's so much history in that guitar. But I wanted to bring it because it sounds so good and it's so much fun to play.

How did you get involved with ivideosongs, where you demonstrate "Tom Sawyer" and other tunes?

To be honest, I'm not really comfortable doing those things and I was reluctant. When I saw what they were doing, and a couple of the other artists on their site, I warmed up to the idea. We did it at my studio, so I was comfortable. After we got started, I realized that it wasn't such a difficult thing to do. Be yourself, goof around, talk about which parts are hard to play, and so on. It seemed to flow very naturally and it was a lot of fun.

What would you have thought as a kid if you could have watched Jimmy Page or Pete Townshend demonstrate their songs?

It would have saved me a lot of time [laughs]. It would have been amazing. It would still be amazing.

You guys played some tunes on this DVD, like "Circumstances" and "Entre Nous", that haven't been in the set in a while and really make fans go crazy.

We try to work in older songs like those. We bring in a list and try them out in rehearsal, and if we get fired up, we go with them. One tune we tried was "A Farewell to Kings", and it just didn't get us going. We ran it a couple of times and moved on. "Circumstances" had something we really liked. "Entre Nous" is one we had never played live. Those sonngs really do make people happy, and it's rewarding to look out and see so many smiling faces.