Rush's Geddy Lee Talks About 'I Love You, Man,' 'Colbert,' And Their New Compilation

By Rob Brunner,, March 17, 2009

Rush may be on a "deep holiday" these days, but the legendary rock trio sure seems busy. Their third Retrospective set - a CD and DVD covering the last 19 years - recently hit stores, and they show up to perform "Limelight" in the highly anticipated upcoming Paul Rudd/Jason Segel comedy I Love You, Man. Frontman Geddy Lee fills us in on what the band has been up to. (Click through the jump for the full Q&A.)

EW: Let's talk about your new greatest hits collection, Retrospective 3. What did you argue about when putting together the track list?
Geddy Lee: We don't really have a lot of disagreements. We're ridiculously sensible, the three of us. We like to joke that we're one of the few working democracies in the world today. We all sent our opinions around. It was only two or three emails and everyone said, "Sure, that's good, no problem, thumbs up." And that was that. It was very painless. Unlike when we have to choose the songs for our tour. That's a long and very difficult process. We play for about three hours, and we have to balance what our fans want to hear and what we want to play, the new songs. We have, like, a hundred million albums. Trying to draw three hours out of all those records...

EW: So how did you settle on the 14 songs on the new collection?
GL: We usually send each other a bunch of emails. Management will make suggestions, and we'll try to ignore as many of their suggestions as possible. [Laughs] For me it's all about trying to do something interesting for our fans. Our fans probably have all those songs in one form or another, so if we're going to put something out there we'd like to try to make it a little different. We tried to include some unusual versions of some of those songs. If I had my druthers it would be a boxed set of three discs. But that's not very practical. I would like to spend some time at some point doing some creative boxed sets. I think that would be fun.

EW: So there's a lot of unreleased Rush material sitting in the vaults, then?
GL: There isn't. None. There's lots of unreleased live material. Hours. Months. But there's no [studio] material that we've recorded and not released. It's like this: if we're working on a song where we don't love it enough to put it on the record, we throw it away. If we're disappointed in them, we trash them.

EW: You do a live cover of the Who's "The Seeker" on the DVD that's included with the new collection. Why is that song important toyou?
GL: Pete Townshend is probably my biggest hero in termsof songwriting. Anything we could do that's related to the Who makes me happy. They were so important to being where I am. John Entwistle's bass sound was really influential on the way my bass sounds. They were really influential on our band in a big way. They were powerful and heavy without it being so over the top that it was like bludgeoning you. That's something we've strived for.

EW: Also included on that DVD is your now-legendary appearance last year on the Colbert Report. How did that come about?
GL: We're big fans for the Colbert Report in my household. I was watching one night and I saw this joke they were doing with Rush Limbaugh. Every time Stephen mentioned Rush Limbaugh they would show a Rush picture, and it was very funny. We got contacted by their people, who said they wanted to keep the gag going for awhile, confusing Rush Limbaugh with our band. And they asked if I would do a walk-on on the show. I said, "Absolutely, I love the show. But it would be funnier if you got the whole band to walk on." And they came back and said, "If you're going to bring the whole band you gotta play on the show." You know, this is a band that does not like to do TV. But when I mentioned that show they all went, "You got it, absolutely. We're in." We thought it was totally funny: of all shows to do for the first time on American television in ages, to do that one.

EW: Yeah, it was more than 30 years since your last American TV appearance. What took so long?
GL:We're so ass-backwards sometimes. We don't do the things we should do, from a practical point of view. As we've gotten older we've lightened up about a lot of things. What used to be such a big deal is maybe not such a big deal to us anymore. I think when we went through that terribly dark period [drummer Neil Peart's wife and daughter died inthe late '90s] and a lot of soul searching went on, it was aparticularly sad time in our lives, and obviously a heartbreaking time for us and for Neil particularly. I think we really did believe that everything was over. It was kind of a rebirth when we did actually getback together and started touring again. And I think since that time wehave had a lighter attitude - we appreciate what we have more because of that period where things were so bleak. Sometimes the shitty things in life do point you in a more positive direction. Anyway, cheers. Enough of that.

EW: What kind of response did you get after Colbert?
GL:Surprisingly, many of our fans were upset about [a gag where the showcut to commercial in the middle of the "Tom Sawyer" performance]. They didn't take it in the spirit with which it was meant. I think they've got to lighten up a little. It's a comedy show. They just thought it was rude, even though it was all kind of staged to be that way. He wasn't trying to be disrespectful. He was trying to make people laugh. We were laughing. But there were also a lot of fans who came to gigs afterwards holding up Colbert signs.

EW: What about I Love You, Man? How did that happen?
GL: They just called us up. The director is a big Rush fan. It's not one of those things that we normally do, but there was something about the way he presented it that seemed like the right thing to do. And we liked the actors that were involved. We're all comedy freaks. When Jason Segel was in Freaks and Geeks he played the drummer who was a big Neil Peart fan. It just seemed right.

EW: What was shooting it like?
GL: It was a blast. For us it was easy. We just played the same song over and over again 150 times. So we're playing and we got the pleasure of watching these comicactors do take after take. We were being entertained the whole time. I loved it. They're so nice, those guys: Paul Rudd and Jason Segel and Rashida Jones. And it came at a tough time, because we were on tour. It was right between a couple of gigs. That was our day off. So it was nice that it was such a fun experience, because we were pretty beat. I was very happy we did it. I hope people like it.

EW: Any interest in doing another movie? What would you want to be in?
GL:Any movie. We're all available. We're putting ourselves out there. We all want to be character actors now. We're ready to be in any movie anybody wants to put us into. I'd love to be in a Coen brothers film. I would love to have a bit part in The Yiddish Policeman's Union. I love the book, and I am perfect for that movie. I think they should put me in one of the scenes somewhere. I look the part, trust me.