Six Questions With Geddy Lee

By Jim Allen, Billboard, December 10, 2011

Canadian power trio Rush is one of the world's biggest-selling bands, with 14 RIAA-certified platinum and 24 gold albums. The only rock groups ever to earn more consecutive gold and platinum platters? The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Rush's mix of progressive rock epics and hard rock riffs influenced everyone from Dream Theater, and classic albums like the 1976 science fiction-flavored "2112" and the 1980 breakthrough "Permanent Waves" helped build a huge fan base that's only kept growing throughout the band's 37-year career.

On Nov. 8, Anthem/Roadrunner released the CD/DVD set "Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland," which captures the group's recent Time Machine tour, on which the group performed its quadruple-platinum 1981 album, "Moving Pictures," in its entirety. Rush also has a new studio album, "Clockwork Angels," in the works for next year. Singer/bassist Geddy Lee, whose stratospheric voice is one of rock's natural wonders, muses on Rush's past, present and future.

The Rush documentary "Beyond the Lighted Stage" came out last year. What was your initial reaction?

It was hard for me to watch in some ways. It was kind of fun to watch the old, old stuff, the bad hair and bad clothes. And seeing the old performances, I enjoyed that. It was kind of an out-of-body experience, because I didn't recognize that as me. But I found it uncomfortable just to see so much of us talking [laughs]. I enjoyed all the parts where other people were talking more than watching us talk incessantly about what we do.

What moved you to perform "Moving Pictures" in its entirety on the Time Machine tour?

We thought that was the perfect time, and the perfect album to do that with. Because I guess it would be considered our quintessential album, and it was the 30th anniversary of that album being released. It also gave us the opportunity to play an 11-minute song on that album called "The Camera Eye," which we had never really embraced as a live song.

Would you consider doing that with any other classic Rush album?

I certainly would. We really enjoyed that whole experience. We played for three hours - you can tuck a 45-minute album in there and still play lots of new things and lots of other things. If we were really out of our minds, we would attempt something like [1978's] "Hemispheres." If Rush has a cult following, within that cult following there's a following for "Hemispheres" [laughs]. I'm not sure we're up for that one, but I could see us doing "2112."

What can we expect from the next album, "Clockwork Angels?"

The first two [single] releases from this album, "Caravan" and "Brought Up to Believe," are a great indication of where this album's going, although there's much more variety than just what those two songs offer. When I look back at [2007 album] "Snakes and Arrows," as happy as we were with that record, in retrospect I feel we kind of overdid it with overdubs. We'd like to simplify that, just in terms of making sure the guitar, bass and drum sounds are big and loud and clear, and any time we are going to add an overdub, to make sure that it definitely is adding and not subtracting.

Your parents were Holocaust survivors. How did that affect your life and music?

Certainly my personality, my sense of humor, my outlook on life was informed by the experiences of my parents, and the stories they shared with me. "Red Sector A" [from the band's 1984 release "Grace Under Pressure"] was informed by one of my mom's stories - when she was liberated in Bergen-Belsen in Germany. When they saw that there were British soldiers coming in to liberate them, they were in such disbelief. They had assumed that they had just been abandoned. Neil [Peart, Rush's drummer/lyricist] and I talked about this, and he'd been putting together some ideas for a futuristic song about a similar kind of prison idea. That story had some impact on him for sure.

You're known as an obsessive baseball memorabilia collector, with a museum-quality collection. How did your baseball passion develop?

In the early '80s we were touring a lot in America. We'd be staying at a Holiday Inn somewhere, and after a 400-mile drive, we'd be waking up around midday. There was nothing to do but turn on the box, and there was almost always a Cubs game on. I started watching the Cubs every day, and before I knew it I was completely obsessed with baseball. It keeps me sane, or it keeps me insane, probably.