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Subject: 07/19/91 - The National Midnight Star #294  ** Special Edition **

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 294

                   Friday, 19 July 1991
Today's Topics:
             A Canadian interview with Neil

Date: Wed, 3 Jul 91 11:58:57 EDT
From: (Gregg Jaeger)
Subject: A Canadian interview with Neil

From: The Canadian Composer/ April 1986 (taken w/o permission)

SURVIVING WITH RUSH: Drummer-lyricist Neil Peart looks forward.

The mark of longevity in the music business is originality. Usually,
a band that lasts in this fashionably fickle marketplace does so by
leaving an indelible imprint on audiences.

For the 12 years that drummer Neil Peart has been a part of Rush
with guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, he has
made his mark with lyrics that challenge and probe far deeper than
those attempted by many.

It's no secret that the enduring success of this techno-rock-trio
from Ontario is due in great part to Peart's lyrical refinement.

Nick Krewen caught up with Rush in Tucson Arizona (a stop on their
world tour to support their latest album _Power Windows_), to talk
to Peart about his forceful fusion of words and values.

-- Will Rush return to its primary basic sound of its first few
albums for any upcoming studio projects?

``What for? The last thing I'm interested in is going back. I think
that's a terrible thing. To get nostalgic about other people's 
music, or even about your own, makes a terrible statement about the
condition of your life and your prospects for the future. I have
no patience with that kind of attitude, whether it's on radio or
among friends.

For instance, I think that anyone who thinks that 1970 was the best
year in the world has a problem. For me, the older stuff just doesn't
have that nostalgic appeal at all. I never have that feeling of `gee,
I wish we could recapture those magic moments,' because those magic
moments weren't all that magic, if the truth be known.''

-- Did your recent cycling trip through China inspire you musically?

``It's too early to say. It certainly was one of the major experiences
of my life -- just being thrown into a culture like that, and also
being thrown into it on my own, without the usual insulation of the
group of friends that I usually travel with. I think it certainly
extended my world view, as it were, although I already tended to try
and think of the world as being a much bigger place than the Niagara
Peninsula or Canada, which many people are wont to do.

I think what China had to offer, in terms of its impact on the
world, I had already taken advantage of in a song like _Territories_
for instance. The song was directly influence by the Chinese attitude
toward themselves. 

The title comes from an area around Hong Kong called The New 
Territories. I was struck by the sound of that word, and the
territorial instinct. And what with the Northwest Territories being 
part of Canada, it was just the right sort of word to describe what
I was after. 

Also it had the right poetic sound and visual contact. That's 
important to me in a title. So that was the essence of it. 

As for the opening line about the Middle Kingdom -- that's still
what China calls itself today. The reason for the Middle Kingdom
is because it's a middle between Heaven and Earth. In other words,
it's slightly below Heaven -- but still above everybody on Earth.

That's the way every person in every small town looks at the world,
I think. [They believe] The people they know and the little
neighborhood they live in is just a little bit more sane, a little
bit more normal, and a little bit more special than anywhere else
in the world. That seems, superficially, to be an innocent attitude,
but in fact it's that outlook that leads to racism and natioalism,
xenophobia and wars and persecution. Even as a kid in school, if
you were from one neighborhood as opposed to another, you were
considered an inferior subhuman. It seemed stupid at the time, and
it seems even more stupid now, when you come to see it continue
into adulthood with sports identification. If somebody wins 
something, it's as if everybody in that city personally won the
Stanley Cup or the World Cup. It gets so pathetic.

Look at what happens in England with the football riots; people
murdering because they support their own team. It's the same thing
that happens in Ireland because of religion and in South Africa
because of race. And it happens in North Africa because of politics.
Some people look at patriotism or nationalism as being the next
best thing to loyalty to your family. I don't buy it.''

-- Does the reference to `Middle Kingdom' in _Territories_ have
any bearing in Middletown dreams?

``I used the exact thing which _Territories_ warns against as a
device in _Middletown_. I chose `Middletown' because there is
a Middletown in almost every state in the U.S. It comes from people
identifying with a strong sense of neighborhood. It's a way of
looking at the world with the eyeglass in reverse. 

I spent my days-off cycling around the countryside in the U.S.,
looking at these little towns and getting a new appreciation of
them. When you pass through them at 15 miles per hour, you see
them a little differently. So I was looking at these places and
kind of looking at the people in them -- fantasizing, perhaps
romanticizing, a little about their lives. I guess I was even
getting a little literary in imagining the present, past, and
future of these men, women, and children. There was that romantic
way of looking at each small town.

But also each of the characters in that song is drawn from real
life or specific literary examples. The first character as based
on a writer called Sherwood Anderson. Late in his life, Anderson
literally walked down the railroad tracks out of a small town and
went to Chicago in the early 1900's to become a very important 
writer of his generation. That's an example of a middle-aged man
who may have been perceived by his neighbors, and by an objective
onlooker, to have sort of finished his life and he could have 
stagnated in his little town. But he wasn't finished in his own
mind. He had this big dream, and it was never too late for him,
so he walked off and he did it.

The painter Paul Gauguin is another example of a person who, late
in life, just walked out of his environment and went away. He too
became important and influencial. He is the influence for the
woman character of song.

The second verse about the young boy wanting to run away and become
a musician is a bit autobiographical. But it also reflects the 
backgrounds of most of the successful musicians I know, many of
whom came from very unlikely backgrounds. Most of them had this
dream that other people secretly smiled at, or openly laughed
at, and they just went out and made it happen.''

-- Power Windows seems to be an optimistic album...

``I guess it could be perceived as being uplifting or cynical, as
can _Grace Under Pressure_. A lot of people listen to _Middletown
Dreams_ and in their interpretation of it, all those people fail.
And it has been reviewed as a song of bitter cynicism because I'm
writing about people who are imprisoned in small towns and who
will remain there all their lives. But that's the total opposite
of what my meaning was, of what my research shows and what the
reality of the song reflects.

It was written in the spirit of tremendous compassion and with
of tremendous sadness and futility about human nature, and what
was going on at the time, especially with the people who were
close to me -- watching the number of people who were out of work,
the number of people who had problems with their health and their
personal lives; people whose sensitivity was disciplined by their
environment. A lot of stuff in there were ingredients of life as
seen through the eyes and values of those people.

I have to be realistic and I have to see the world as it is,
and the way people really are. So it's perhaps a cynical view
of people while remaining idealistic about life. That's a hard
line to walk, and it's hard to get those two views to coalesce.
But it's the only way I can keep the values and the goals I want
in life and maintain the way of living that I want, while at the
same time in touch with reality and reconcile with what's going
on in the world.

In _Marathon_ for instance, which is about the triumph of time
and a kind of message to myself (because I think life is too 
short for all the things that I want to do), there's a self-
admonition saying that life is long enough. You can do a lot --
just don't burn yourself out too fast trying to do everything
at once.

_Marathon_ is a song about individual goals and trying to achieve
them. And it's also about the old Chinese proverb: `The journey
of a thousand miles begins with one step.'

I try to keep a linear process of growth in a lot of different
directions in my life. A few years ago, when things were kind
of overwhelming, I had a sense of just treading water -- trying
to keep afloat in all of what people were expecting me to do.
Lately I have taken a lot more control of my life. And I keep
progressing steadily along five different avenues, instead of
trying to go off like a skyrocket in one direction.''

-- What are some of the intangible rewards you've gained from
your involvement within Rush?

``I think, first of all, to have survived is tremendously 
rewarding. I don't often stop and think about it, but when I
do I'm reminded again of the quote from the song _Marathon_:
``First, you've got to last.'' That was the motto of one of
Napoleon's marshalls.

It was later adapted by Ernest Hemingway. As a writer Hemingway
thought that the most important thing was to sustain a reputation
and integrity. Hopefully, all of the other fruits would follow
from that. And for us as a band, myself as a musician, that
was the idealistic goal with which we started out.

I thought that all you had to do was your best and, sooner or
later, all your rewards would come to roost. Again, that isn't
always the case, but for us it was.

We have squeezed through difficult periods. We have squeaked
along without the benefit of radio and without the benefit of
a hit single and without the benefit of media support.

We started out at the beginning working non-stop and we figured
we'll go out and play and we'll be good at that. And that will
be the most important thing. If we get well known as a good live
performing band then hopefully the rest will follow. And for
once in modern life, cause and effect did tie together.

We are now known as a live performing band -- which should be the
root of what a musician is -- to the point where we can have one
record that doesn't sell as well as another one, and still be able
to go out and have a very successful tour. People know they will
be treated to a good performance, to the very highest standard
we can deliver on any given night. So to have done it on our own
terms is tremendously satisfying.

We were also under a tremendous amount of pressure to compromise,
to make our music more commercial; to write nice little short
songs, and to make them as repetitive and as commercial as possible.
Against all that pressure we have prevailed -- adapting [sic] the
influences we wanted to adapt [sic], and taking the course in
songwriting that we wanted to take -- and working with the people
we wanted to work with, on our terms.

``It may sound a little egocentric, but it's not. It's just dedication
to the values that drew us to music when we were teenagers, we 
thought that music was such an honest form of self-expression.
And then we went through the disillusionment of growing up and
finding out that it wasn't that way at all -- but that it was big
business and that these musicians were just playing the music
they thought would make them the most money and they were writing
songs that would appeal to the lowest common denominator. They might
have been sniggering behind their hands about the music they were
writing, and laughing at their audience, of whom they were taking
advantage. It was very painful and very difficult for me to become
disillusioned. I hope I weathered it all right, but at the same
time it's part of what's made me idealistic about life, but cynical
about people.''

-- Does it become more difficult to write each album?

``No. I don't think so. It's something that we learn more about all
the time. I've learned the difference between spontaneity and 
craftsmanship, and there is a big division. I've learned to take
advantage of spontaneity whenever and wherever it happens; even
if I have to punch myself in the face to get out of bed in the
middle of the night to write something down, I know at this
point in life it's worth it.

Anytime I have an idea, I'll make sure that I put it down so
that when we do sit down to write an album, I don't have to
dream it all out of thin air. I don't have to be creative on the
spur of the moment, or spontaneously artistic. I just take
advantage of whenever creativity strikes. And we do record all
of [sic] spontaneity on the road.

For instance, during the afternoon soundchecks we often begin
with a little preamble, where somebody will just start playing
and everybody will join in. Depending on the mood of the day,
and what you happen to be thinking of at the time, a lot of
interesting things transpire.

At the end of the tour we end up with tape after tape of all
these little things. A lot of its just garbage, and some of it
is just meandering. But there are little germs of _possibility_
in there, as well as some moments of real passion -- where you
come in with a bad drum mood and just thrash it out on the
drums, and uot of that comes an interesting rhythm. Then when
it comes time to record, it's just craftsmanship.

In the overall view of things, I enjoy the songwriting the
most. Because it's just us. We just go away together and work
very closely and tightly -- and live and breathe new things,
new songs and new ideas and possible directions. I'll be 
working on some lyrics while the other guys are working on
some music, and after dinner we'll put them together and a
song is written, and we'll record it.

We know that when we go away to write songs we should be alone
for about four weeks, and be uninterupted as much as possible.
But after four weeks, we should kick ourselves into the world.
We should play some concerts and shake ourselves up and change
mentality towards live performance, just to get away from the
cloistered environment.'' 


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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 294

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