Passion For Rush Proves A Slow Burn As New Album Soars

By James McNair, The National, July 15, 2012, transcribed by pwrwindows

The Canadian rock band Rush formed in Toronto in 1968. The singer and bassist Geddy Lee, the guitarist Alex Lifeson and the drummer Neil Peart have since sold more than 40 million albums, morphing from "freak-flag" outsiders to the biggest cult band in the world. The group's 20th studio album Clockwork Angels recently debuted at Number 2 in the US and Number 1 in Canada. Below, Lee explains Rush's enduring appeal.


Neil says the new album is "a story set in an alternate timeline, with alchemy, clockwork and steampunkery". Do you wish he'd bring you more lyrics about cars and girls?

Sometimes (laughs). Red Barchetta [from 1981's Moving Pictures] was about a car, of course, but it's rare for songs about girls to creep in these days. Neil's lyrics always make for very interesting work, though. It's a big moment when Alex and I play him the music we've written. We cross our fingers, but 90 per cent of the time he's pleased.

New song The Garden runs: "The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect." Wise words.

Yes, I guess we now have the confidence to communicate that more relaxed and mature sentiment. It's certainly a bit more Zen than [the 1975 Rush song] By-Tor & The Snow Dog.

The acclaimed 2010 documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage captured the fanaticism that the band inspires. What is it that continues to draw people in?

Sometimes it's a lyric that hits them at a vulnerable moment and makes them feel more hopeful. Sometimes they're musicians themselves and they respect the time and effort that we put into learning our instruments. There's also something about us not getting very successful very quickly. People like to have their own "freak-flag" band that the mainstream isn't hip to.

Your voice is famously high. Did the jokes about it ever hurt?

Sure. I'm a human being. But my voice suits what we do, and I was never going to change. If we need to sound like the damned howling in Hades, I will howl!

Your song Losing It, from 1982's Signals, portrays a dancer and a writer battling with the degenerative effects of ageing. Has it meant more to you recently?

All three of us have our physical problems as we've got older, but Neil in particular is an incredible physical specimen with boundless energy. His three hours of drumming at our concerts comes after he's ridden maybe 250 miles on his motorcycle between shows on short sleep, night after night. I don't know how he does it. But we work pretty hard to stay fit. I've come to this interview straight from the gym.

How will the story of Rush play out - is it "til death do us part"?

I think so. We'd only stop if we felt we weren't playing up to standard or we weren't writing anything interesting anymore. But we've worked a lot in the past five years and I sense a big break coming up. What happens after that I have no idea.