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Subject: 04/04/91 - The National Midnight Star #206

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 206

                  Thursday, 4 April 1991
Today's Topics:
            Administrivia (Expletive Deleted)
                1980 Interview with Neil

Subject: Administrivia (Expletive Deleted)
Date: Thu, 04 Apr 91 13:19:30 EST
From: RUSH Fans Digest Manager 

Due to gross stupidity on the part of your list manager, the mail
items for today's NMS were accidentally trashed while compiling the
latest issue.  Mea culpa.  If you sent anything between Wednesday
afternoon and Thursday 13:00 EST, it probably got zapped. Sorry folks,
you'll have to re-send them.

Soooo, instead of the regular issue, I'll mail out a transcription
submitted by one of our readers.  Hope this helps fill the void for
you Rushaholics.  :-)

The National Midnight Star
(RUSH fans mailing list)


Date: Thu, 7 Mar 91 11:00:01 +0100
From: tools! (Frank Lancaster)
Subject: 1980 Interview with Neil

[ Thanks to Frank Lancaster  for submitting this. ]

Article from British magazine SOUNDS, April 5, 1980.  Taken without 

            The Moustache That Conquered The World

                   Rush with a hit single?
                    On Top of The Pops??!
              Guiding genius Neil Peart grapples
                      with the paradox.
                  SYLVIE SIMMONS takes notes

Somewhere in America that black hole known as the Midwest,
little bands are slogging their balls off to become big bands,
and big bands are often cutting theirs off in order to become
even bigger bands.

There may be a recession and Peter Frampton may have had
problems selling out a toilet on his last tour, but megastardom
is here to stay in the States, and quadruple-platinum albums
are considered as much the ultimate goal of any self-respecting
rock and roll band as the bag of coke and thirteen groupies.

Rush have always claimed they don't want to be that successful
--- easy to say when you're as sure as hell not likely to get
out of the middle range. To step across from big to BIG in the
States, you've got to have a hit single for the widespread
coverage for one thing, which means getting your record on the
radio in first place.

Which also means making a single short and catchy enough for
AM radio (three minutes maximum, Donna Summer excepted) and
sweet and syrupy enough for AOR (adult-oriented) FM radio which
favours Fleetwood Mac and Linda Ronstad and other music
downright dangerous to diabetics.

Rush's audience are not generally the type to run out and buy
the lastest 45, and what with Geddy Lee's voice (awarded free
shares in the Panadol company, it doesn't make for background
music) and heavy lyrics (boy-meets-girl changed-for science-
meets-nature) and the usual length of the songs, Rush weren't
that likely to make a hit with one, which would have meant many
more years of poodling along on the smaller arena circuit with
albums gradually building to gold and not stepping a unit

But, for some unknown reason, their latest single 'The Spirit
Of Radio', a (for them) bare-bones arrangement round a
moralistic tale of the freeing power of technology when used
with integrity (like them) has shot into the American top ten,
with the album towed not far behind: 'Permanent Waves', more
songs about human honesty versus science.

They've just sold out the 18,000-seater Forum and have added
another arena date. Lee, Lifeson and Peart have done as much
head-scratching over the non-denim half of the audience ---
who head for popcorn stand during all but the single while
headbanging-as-usual goes on elsewhere --- as their record
company has over the high entry in the charts. Said someone
up at Mercury Records: "We haven't got the time to wonder why.
We're too busy shipping the albums."

Or, to quote 'The Spirit Of Radio' (with a nod and wink to
Simon & Garfunkel): "For the words of the profits are written
on the studio wall... Echo with the sounds of salesmen."

In an interview around the time of 'Hemispheres', Peart had
hinted at slightly more conventional, if not commercial, albums
to come, suggesting less concepts and shorter songs. There are
six tracks on 'Permanent Waves', which doesn't exactly make
them The Dickies, and the human integrity/technology theme
pretty much runs throughout. So what have they done this time
to give them a hit?

Says Peart: "I guess our time has come. It happened with FM
radio where it was pretty much a forced thing. It became that
we were so popular in so many cities with touring all the time
and people calling them up and saying, hey, play Rush, that
radio stations couldn't _avoid_ playing us! They certainly
didn't do it voluntarily. For a lot of people airplay brings
popularity, but for us it was the other way round."

Being quoted as turning away from concept albums and long
involved opuses was a misunderstanding he claims. "It was our
intention at the time, because of 'Hemispheres' taking so much
out of us, to give ourselves a creative rest. We decided that
we owed it to ourselves."

"At the time we'd been out on the road non-stop all year, and
then we went straight into the studio and only had a couple of
weeks to get the material together and ourselves as prepared as
we could be. But we weren't that well prepared, and we had to
squeeze ourselves. I don't think that the result suffered ---
working under pressure can be really productive --- but _we_
did. You pay a high toll for it in how badly you feel
afterwards. It was so draining and difficult."

"When you're working with a 20-minute piece of music, I guess
it must be what making a film or writing a novel is like. With
something of that span you have so many threads that you have
to keep together in your mind all the way through, and as
you're recording one part you're trying to relate it to the
other parts and make sure the continuity is going to be there
as well as the integrity of the original parts. It takes a lot
of concentration to pull something like that off. It was
something we wanted to give a rest for a short while, though
there are two pretty long tracks on this album, and the short
ones are no shorter than five minutes."

And so Rush decided to put their feet up, relatively speaking,
with this album, which often means (as with Aerosmith's 'Draw
The Line', one of their rare albums made without the fast-paced
tour-studio-tour routine, and probably their worst) more time
to get flaccidly self-indulgent. In Rush's case, though,
instead of coming out with a longer, more involved set of songs
than before, it just meant time to work on several ideas
without pressure to finish them off.

Peart, for example, spent a lot of time working on putting the
old medieval opus 'Sir Gawain And The Green Knight' to music.
It didn't make in onto 'Permanent Waves' and may resurface in
the future, "but whether it gets used or not isn't too
important to me anymore, really, having done it. It was really
a challenge to me as a lyricist to take something like an
eighty-page medieval poem and try to encapsulate it in a
reasonably (even for Rush) lengthed song."

"All it meant was going in with clear heads and coming up with
a lot of new ideas on a fresh basis. If you're going to look
for something to base a whole side-long piece on, it's got to be
pretty big idea --- a concept that demands a lot of exposition
and a lot of lyrical and musical fleshing-out. Whereas most of
the ideas we were dealing with this time were on the lesser
side, and in some cases, like in 'Jacobs Ladder', looked at as
a cinematic idea, where we created all the music first to
summon up an image --- the _effect_ of Jacobs Ladder --- and
paint the picture, with the lyrics added, just as a sort of
little detail, later, to make it more descriptive."

Majestic kerranngg with a large dab of finesse.

Preparation for the album took place at Lakewoods Farm set in a
cosy little pastoral scene by a lake. A picture of HM domestic
bliss, Alex Lifeson cooked lasagne while Geddy Lee played with
his gizmos and Neal trudged down to the adjoining cottage to
concentrate on the flow of lyrics. The first night together
they created an instrumental goulash dubbed 'Uncle Tounouse',
which may not have made it onto the album itself but provided
bits and pieces for just about every other song.

'Spirit Of Radio', 'Free Will' and 'Jacobs Ladder' were the
first to be ready, having already been incorporated into and
worked to a fine art in their last shows on the tour. Next they
moved to a studio near Montreal where there were more lakes and
more hills and views but a different cook (Andre the French
chef proved to be not so hot as Alex on guitar) and the big
outdoors provided natural lake-echoes and row-boat noises and
water splashes for the record. The album was finished on a diet
of Chinese food in a Soho studio. The record may not be bloated
but the band most certainly were.

The title --- he reckons it was an original idea when they came
up with it, and it was too late to change the art work when
they found out how many other people had the same original idea
--- is not intended as an up-yours to the new wave which Peart
follows out of interest, signing to the group's own record
label in Canada if they feel like it. He reckons if anything
"it's a tribute to those new bands who stand for the same things
that we and the people we respect do, and who have kept their
integrity all along."

But it is intended as a slap in face --- "a tongue-in-cheek one"
at the English press, "which is so absurd because they're
killing off somebody or bringing up some poor musician as the
unheralded new god. I think it comes from having a press that
come out every week and they get so desperate for things to
write about. I can't understand writing anyone off at the
expense of promoting your new favourite..." As far as Peart is
concerned his band's success --- not exactly a 'rush' job ---
has proved their staying power.

Lee, Lifeson and drummer John Rutsey formed the first Rush in
a North Toronto basement as their reaction to the Hendrix-Cream-
Zeppelin hard-rock tide of that time, taking it one step further
that the teenage boys who stood in audiences and closely watched
the fingers of their left hands go up and down imaginary guitar
necks rather than observing Robert Plant and the like
demonstrate onstage what tight pants are made for. (Having never
been a 15-year-old boy I've been at some disadvantage in
understanding why that should be.)

And taking it yet another step, Rush released an album on their
own label in Canada, Moon Records, in 1974. Neal Peart --- who
always had "a natural proclivity" for rock and roll, notably
drums, having banged his knife and fork on the tabletop since
infancy "as my emotional, rhythmic response towards what little
pop music I was exposed to", got his first drums from his
parents at 13, and joined several unknown bands including some
during his 1 1/2 years in England --- replaced Rutsey for their
tour that year and stuck around.

"When we were starting," Peart reminisces, "no record company in
Canada would touch us, and the only way we could get a record
released was by putting it out ourselves on an independent
label, which is pretty pathetic when you think about us being
the biggest band Canada has produced. It makes you a little bit
cynical about the whole thing.

"Canada is pretty immature as a rock and roll country --- it has
been all along --- but it's gradually waking up. Our independent
label helps when you have a young industry, because we're in the
position where we can and do take risks. We support things we
believe in, whereas the Canadian companies, which in most cases
are very much subsidaries of American companies, won't take any
risks. They're just happy to sell the records that America and
Britain sends them without taking the responsibility of signing
new talent in Canada."

Rush's label has five acts at the moment on its roster, ranging
from jazz to new wave and straight-down-the-line rock and roll.
Rush's support act on this tour, Max Webster, is also on their
Canadian label. All of the above and more are Peart's personal
musical tastes, which he sums up as "wide". He listens to
everything, not to keep up with the competition but "to follow
the standards. When it comes to competitiveness we're only
competing against ourselves as musicians. I like to listen to
people to stay aware, but I don't feel any anguish."

Except about his own playing: "I set up my own standards to high,
definitely. Where the best I could possibly ever play is my
standard, and as that only happens once or twice on the whole
tour, every other night is either a bit or a lot frustrating,
depending on how close to that standard I manage to come. You have
to seek perfection even if it's probably humanly impossible to
find it. Without that goal in mind, you're cheating the audience."

It sounds like a prepared speech, a commercial on behalf of the
good guys, when Peart goes into the respectable life on the road
spiel, but he does take his playing seriously. Their main
audience, he says, is not the "reserved and unaffected" segment of
tonight's show who "showed up on the strength of one hit single.
You could tell which ones they were because they couldn't relate
to the old stuff we were playing for our hard-core fans and for
ourselves," fans who know every note of every song and share
Peart's taste in Rush's music --- 'Hemispheres', '2112', 'Farewell
to Kings', the concept albums.

They are not the trendy set out to see the latest change 
reflecting band of the 80s, but budding musicians. So he feels
it's his duty to do it right. Which means, "pacing it right,
setting it up right --- touring is so gruelling physically that
you have to do it right. Which means there's not all that much
left for the, uh, _extras_."

Playing more than two hours a night takes it out of a man, he
says, "and all that travelling takes it out of you physically as
well. You have to be in first class shape to be able to do it in
the first place, so you can't afford to let your health run down.
So you do start learning after a while to get a good meal and a
good night's sleep, so there isn't plenty of partying."

But it's not all work and no play. Being on the road up to nine
months a year and believing that "flying around and living in
airports is unhealthy" and "you can't live among strangers and
businessmen all of your life and expect to retain your sanity and
objectivity and have any grasp on real life," they go pretty much
everywhere by bus with a crew that's essentially 25 "good friends
so you can imagine what that's like," adding that the three of
them get along perfectly, being different enough not to be boring
but with the same ideals and outlooks, and that there's "chemistry
at work" (and he doesn't mean drugs) that makes for some magical
bond between the power-trio.

"We like to get away from the panoply and glitter that surrounds
this business. When you're driving down the highways of America
every day you can't help but get the pulse of the streets and keep
in touch with reality. We're a pretty low-key bunch."

But will that change with megastardom just around the corner?
"Personally," says Neal, "not only don't I care about superstardom,
I hope it never happens. You can get into a position where all of
a sudden you have no private life. We travel a lot around the
country every year and we've pretty much just been able to do our
jobs without a hundred people hanging on our every movement. I
think that kind of privacy and isolation would be hard to give up."

They are in a comfortable position, he says, where they're doing
well enough not to have to take shit form businessmen who regularly
put pressure of some sort on the band to be more commercial and
hence bigger in America --- "short-thinking people who think only
of what can be earned today rather than the advantages of a long
career, which is what we were after and stuck out for, but we're
immune from the pressure now because we're doing okay which makes
you a lot less vulnerable --- money talks; nothing succeeds like
success, as they say" --- but not so well as to have to sign
autographs in supermarkets.

"We're pretty private people," says Peart. Which means he doesn't
like to discuss his thoughts and the other machinations that go
into the lyric writing, except to say he spends a lot of time
reading, though very little science-fiction which "has become
pretty boring all of a sudden lately," and that he doesn't
necessarily believe all he writes or borrows from (the more
right-wing novels, for example).

But he can certainly understand the science-fantasy subculture
among H.M. fans who embroider "Wizzards of Liverpool" on their
denims "because it comes from the same thing with me. I grew up in
the suburbs and it was all pretty prosaic and dull, so I started
getting interested in all those kinds of things just in the belief
that there must be a more interesting world out there."

"Consequently you just get tied up in all that and whether you
believe it or not doesn't matter. It becomes an escape and as a
writer fantasy is really an excellent vehicle if you want to
express an idea in its purest sense. There's nothing better than
creating a completely made-to-order extra-terrestial world in order
to express that idea so you're not caught up in any preconceptions."

He hopes to write some books of his own in the far future, but
that's a long way down the road, like the film soundtrack the band
have been hoping to work on (not just any old film --- "The Citizen
Kane of the 80s at least").

The more tangible future includes a British tour in May --- five
dates at Hammersmith --- and a live album to be recorded on that

Closing, I asked about the album cover. A Hollywood starlet
emerging from what looks like a catastrophe with a starlet smile
and starlet knickers showing, seemingly to the delight of the man
at the bus stop. Sexist? No says Peart, who reckons they'll be
getting more females in their audiences on this tour, not so much
from the single success as from their policy of playing no more
general admission free-for-all gigs ("I know, I've gone to those
and been crushed because I really want to see the band; but I think
it takes some kind of strange individual to go to a show and
actually want to be crushed") which will do away with that argument.

"The woman on the cover is really a symbol of us. If you think
that's sexist in a negative way --- well, it's really looking at
ourselves so I don't think it can be. The idea is her perfect
imperturbability in the face of all this chaos. In that she
represents us."

"In the basic sense, all that cover picture means is forging on
regardless, being completely uninvolved with all the chaos and
ridiculous nonsense that's going on around us. Plus she represents
the spirit of music and the spirit of radio, a symbol of perfect
integrity and truth and beauty and..."

Okay, point taken. Integrity is what 'Permanent Waves' is about
and you can't argue with Peart that his band got where it was ---
slowly, admittedly, but got there --- because they have it.
As he said, there isn't a lot of it about.


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Copyright The Rush Fans Mailing List, 1991.

Editor, The National Midnight Star
(Rush Fans Mailing List)

End of The National Midnight Star Number 206

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