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Subject: 07/24/91 - The National Midnight Star #297  ** Special Edition **

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 297

                 Wednesday, 24 July 1991
Today's Topics:
            Guitar World - March 1990 article

Date:         Tue, 02 Jul 91 21:12:00 CDT
From: Craig Rindy 
Subject:      Guitar World - March 1990 article

I wasn't too sure if this had been submitted already, but it was loads of fun
anyway.  Enjoy..........

      Taken from Guitar World (Harris Publications, Inc.) March 1990.

      Disclaimer:  Permission? What do you mean 'permission'?


                             RUSH IN REVOLUTION!

                              by Bill Milkowski

       Tired of juggling massive amounts of MIDI machinery, GEDDY LEE
       and ALEX LIFESON return to the simple life of guitar gadgetry.

  Alex and I were friends and we jammed once in a while," says Geddy Lee,
recalling the sequence of events that, 20 years ago, led to the formation
of Rush.  "He had this other band going, and he used to call me up all the
time to borrow my amp.  He was a great mooch in those days.  He never owned
anything.  Mooched everything.
  "So this one day he called me up, and I was figuring he wanted to mooch
my amp again.  Turned out the bass player in his band couldn't make the gig
at this coffeehouse they were playing at, so he asked if I wanted to come by
and play.  It was really very loose.  God, I can only imagine what it must've
sounded like.  And that was actually the first time we played together--that
was the beginning.  The original Rush drummer, John Rutsey, was in the band
as well.  We'd play Cream covers and old blues songs, but not as the old
blues players played them.  More the way English guys like Clapton and John
Mayall interpreted blues songs...kind of third generation."
  Geddy worked the Canadian coffeehouse circuit with this jam-oriented,
12-bar-based trio until they added a keyboardist, at which point he split.
"Those guys drifted around, and then I took up with this other band, led by
this guy who was really quite an amazing guitarist.  The tunes were basically
excuses for him to solo all night.  Must've sounded pretty funny--four white
kids from the suburbs of Toronto, playing what they thought was blues.  I'm
sure it really didn't sound too bluesy at all, but it was fun nonetheless."
  When Geddy eventually re-united with Lifeson and Rutsey under the banner
of Rush, they began playing a heavier blend of 12-bar blues, influenced most
significantly by the music of Led Zeppelin.  They became a leading attraction
on the Canadian bar-band circuit, a papularity that led to their eponymously
titled 1973 debut album.
  Fourteen albums later they're still going at it, though things have changed
considerably, musically and personally.  Lee, Lifeson, and Rutsey's replace-
ment, Neil Peart, are fathers now, landed gentry and rock royalty by virtue
of their seven consecutive Top 10 albums in the _Billboard_ standings.  They
have long since progressed beyond stretching a few 12-bar covers into a full-
fledged set.  Indeed, their live shows are among the most technically intricate
and personally challenging in all of rockdom.  To reproduce the sophisticated,
heavily produced sound of their studio albums, Geddy and Alex often find them-
selves forced to cover two and three parts simultaneously, and using every
available appendage to do so.  On the songs "Open Secrets" and "Force Ten,"
from their last studio album, _Hold Your Fire_, for example, Geddy first plays
bass, then switches to keyboards midway through, covering the bass parts with
Moog foot pedals--all while singing!  Similarly, Alex is called upon to cover
bass parts usually played by Geddy during particularly complex passages.  All
of this task-sharing, while impressive, can ultimately create frustration
within the band.
  "In the early years, we always wrote our songs with the idea of playing
live in mind," explains Alex.  "But with the last couple of records, we
decided not to short-change the sound of the records for that reason alone;
we wanted to do whatever we wanted to do on record and worry about the
physical logistics afterwards.  That ultimately required a great deal of
precision and concentration on stage.  And I guess because of that the last
couple of tours have not been as much fun.  We were stuck in one area of the
stage throughout most of the evening, worrying about the cues.  I mean, you
have to be absolutely dead-on for everybody else to be dead-on.  It's a
tremendous amount of hard work.  Still, we did it, and I think we did it
  "Now we're talking about the next tour, and for the first time we're
actually thinking about the possibility of taking aboard somebody else to
play some keyboards and to do some backup vocals as well.  That would free
Geddy and myself a little bit to scoot around the stage and have fun like we
used to.  Still, I think that it was important for us to have gone out and
done it the way we did, just to prove, if for nothing else, that we could.
Accomplishing that challenge is satisfying.  But I think you come to a point
where the balance is tipped a little bit the wrong way and you lose the essence
of what the whole thing was about in the first place, and that was to just get
out there and have fun."
  Utility keyboard artist or not, Geddy and Alex may discover they will have
fewer multi-instrument parts to cover this time out.  In fact, that's exactly
what they had in mind when putting together the pieces for their 15th album,
  "I treated this new album in a very reactionary way," Geddy explains.  "I
really wanted to get away from using so many keyboards and writing on the
computer.  I had immersed myself so totally in the world of MIDI that as a
matter of course I was going to the keyboards to do all of my writing.  And
I found that there was something a little passive about the kinds of songs
that were being written that way.  So this time was more direct, more hard-
hitting--something slightly more visceral."
  They accomplished that by going back to what they knew best: composing mainly
on guitar and bass, a process that pleased Alex to no end.
  "For this record we decided early on that the guitar was going to be more
prominent in the songs.  Both Geddy And I discussed it a lot.  We sat down and
wrote with just bass and guitar, then went to the keyboards for enhancement and
color.  It's definitely a different approach from _Power Windows_.  And I'm
glad we took this approach, because all of the emotional dynamics come from the
guitar.  You can't really do that with keyboards.  You can do some interesting
things with keyboards in terms of effects and textures, but they don't really
hold the energy of the song like a guitar can."
  Consequently, tunes like "Chain Lightning," "War Paint," the revved-up "Su-
perconductor" and the video single, "Show Don't Tell," rock with new found
aggression.  Power chords set the tone, and Alex's solos burst with conviction,
particularly on "Red Tide," a clarion call lamenting the current state of the
  "I wanted to get a lot of tension in that solo because the song is quite
intense," he explains.  "There's a kind of disturbing feeling about that solo,
which I think ties it all together well.  The song is angry.  Neil is basically
a very ecology-minded person, and he wrote this song dealing with the destruc-
tion of our environment.  So I wanted the music, and especially my solo, to
reflect that anger."
  Though Alex does pull off some impressive solos thoughout _Presto_, he
tends to be rather humble concerning his chops, taking greater pride in being
a team player.  "I do consider myself more of a rhythm guitarist than a lead
player," he states.  "The important thing for me has always been what the
guitar does for a song in the context of the whole band.  That's the quality
I've always admired in someone like Steve Hackett, whose work with Genesis
really enhanced the overall sound without any sort of grandstanding.
  "I certainly didn't start out that way.  Like most players, I first concerned
myself with trying to play as fast and as flashy as I could.  I kept that up
for the first five years or so but I don't see the point anymore, and haven't
for a long time.  I'd rather make my playing a little more economical.  I mean,
there are thousands of guitar players who can play a thousand times faster than
me, so what would be the point of competing?"
  There would be no point.  Of course, few speedmongers will ever sell mega-
platters, as Lifeson and the Rush boys have consistently done since 1980's
_Permanent Waves_.  That was the album with which the band abandoned the
sprawling, self-indulgent excess of their earlier efforts, such as the
Seventies metal tomes, _Fly By Night_ and _Caress Of Steel_, and the spacey,
Floydian sci-fi concept albums, _2112_, _A Farewell To Kings_ and _Hemi-
spheres_.  With _Permanent Waves_ Rush adopted a format that called for
shorter, tightly arranged songs.
  One common thread running through the various phases of Rush's work is
Neil Peart's arcane lyrics, which are loaded with rich (sometimes overblown)
imagery that offer plenty of food for thought.  In a genre populated with
countless bands spewing mindless cliches about wanting more, more, more on
the floor, floor, floor, Peart is an utter anomaly.  On _Presto_, he tackles
such serious topics as teen suicide ("The Pass"), the destruction of our
environment ("Red Tide"), adolescent vanity and peer pressure ("War Paint"),
and the importance of expanding one's horizons by soaking up as many life
experiences as possible ("Available Light").  And he handles each with
stunning sensitivity, leaving listeners with more to ponder than the beat
and some blazing solos.
  Geddy is quick to point out that Neil is also writing with greater attention
to melody and phrasing than he did in the past.  "We felt that we never really
gave the vocals a fair shot, because we had been weighing them down with awk-
ward phrases and lengthy lines.  So this time we agreed that we should try to
have everything serve the vocal melody.  Because of that this record is much
more melodic all around, not just vocally.  If we were happy with the direction
of the melody, but there was still some stumbling around over the lyrics, then
we'd change them to whatever sounded best, what rolled most easily off the
  "Still, there are certain songs, like 'The Pass,' where I felt it was more
important to keep the lyrics intact and to build up a musical statement that's
born out of the message of the song.  In a case like that, I have to do a lot
of thinking before a single note is written and I really immerse myself into
the song.  I mean, if I have to sing Neil's lyrics, I have to feel some sort
of relationship with what he's talking about.  I have to feel in concert with
them in order to make it believable, to myself and to the listener.  So there
is a lot of conversation that goes down about each song before I start writing
  He adds, "I think in the early days we all wanted to have a say in what
everybody else's role was.  And consequently we all became more possessive of
what our _own_ role was.  That's only natural.  Now, however, there's a lot
more trust and confidence all around, in each other and in ourselves.  We
feel that everybody has a kind of thing that they do best."
  What Geddy does best is play bass and sing the trademark banshee wail that
has defined Rush's sound for the past 15 years.  Doing both at the same time,
however, doesn't always come naturally.  It's the kind of double play which
Paul McCartney and Sting have gracefully pulled off for years: precision
playing that appears effortless and is anything but.  For Geddy it means an
intensive period of woodshedding prior to each tour in order to get the co-
ordination and feel happening.  "Certain songs are a breeze," he explains.
"They just click.  Though I record the bass and vocal tracks separately, I
can put the two together quite easily.  There are certain songs, though,
like 'The Page' (from _Hold Your Fire_) that are just ridiculous to pull off
live because the two parts have nothing to do with each other.  So I really
have to practice a lot to get something like that down.  There's usually a
way of feeling them together.  It's a process of splitting yourself, really,
I'd love to know how that works, but I just know that it does, eventually, I
guess it's like sports-muscle memory, where the body is moving in all different
directions and yet all the muscles know what they're supposed to be doing...
like a dancer or an athlete."
  On the upcoming _Presto_ tour, Geddy will bring along his usual Moog pedals
and array of MIDI keyboards to help cover parts from the record.  But, he adds,
"Whenever I can, I'm going to try and stay on the bass and let technology pro-
vide the rest.  Rather than going to the keyboards and using bass pedals to
provide the bottom end, I'd prefer to stay on the bass and use MIDI triggers
and MIDI mappers to cut up chord pads and sequenced passages.  On a tune like
'Available Light,' where the bass just provides some simple, low-end support,
I'd rather play the keyboards and sing.  It's just a question of what instru-
ment will be rewarding to play from a player's point of view.  If the keyboard
is simply playing a strict, four-chord repeating pattern, then I'd rather just
program it into some MIDI pedal and have some fun playing bass.
  "I think this album will be a lot easier from a keyboard point of view
because they've taken such a back seat, for the most part.  So I'll program
those simple four-note chords, trigger them with some MIDI pedal and keep the
bass driving.  And if it gets too complex, where there's a tricky vocal line
and a demanding keyboard part, I can also let Alex cover the bass part with
foot pedals.  We won't know exactly how to deal with all of this until we go
into rehearsals."
  On the album, Geddy played his Wal four-string bass (which he first acquired
for the _Hold Your Fire_ sessions) on every track.  "Time and again, it proves
to be the best recording bass I've ever owned."  Ironically, for Rush's video
of "Show Don't Tell," he pulled out his old blonde Fender Jazz bass.  He also
plans to bring the Fender on tour as his backup instrument, instead of his
Steinberger.  He's also thinking of experimenting with his studio amp setup
on tour rather than relying on his usual stage gear.
  "In the studio I split my bass signal and record both direct and through my
little Gallien-Krueger amp, simultaneously.  That combination for recording is
just great, because using an amp keeps the bass from sounding too sterile.  It
gives a bit of space to the track, a bit of air around the notes as opposed to
being right in your face.  It's so tempting to go D.I. with the Wal, because it
sounds so great, but just that little bit of amp in the room makes a lot of
difference in the dimension that the bass takes on in the track.  I'm going to
try and see in rehearsals if I can just use the same setup that I record with
instead of having my usual performing amp setup.  Besides, much of the live
sound is coming out of the PA system anyway, so whatever amp setup I have
really just ends up being a monitor for me."
  Alex intends to stick with his usual combination of Gallien-Krueger and
Mesa/Boogie amps, his trusty bunch of Signature guitars (made by a small com-
pany in Canada), and his '62 Fender Stratocaster.  He may also bring along an
axe that has served him well on record--the infamous Hentor guitar.  "Basically
it's a Strat with humbuckers on it.  It's named after the nickname we had for
Peter Henderson {producer of Grace Under Pressure}.  We called him 'The Mighty
Hentor'!  The neck of his guitar came from a company in Ottawa that has since
gone out of business.  There's no name on it, so during the session I got out
some lettraset and slapped down 'Hentor' on the headstock.  I get mail about
it all the time...'Where can I get a Hentor?'  The answer is you _can't_.
  Alex uses that Hentor hybrid for most of the lead work on _Presto_.  "It has
a nice sustain that I really like, which you can hear on 'Show Don't Tell,'
'Superconductor' and the title cut.  But I mainly use it to reinforce the
toughness in a song.  I like to combine guitars to get a variety of tones on
a cut.  My Signatures, for instance, have a unique character all their own.
They're single-coil, active pickups and have a very wirey sound and great
clarity.  The Hentor has Bill Lawrence pickups, and they have a thickness and
depth you usually get from Gibsons, and that low-end warmth you don't get with
Signatures.  Since I played Gibsons for about 10 years before I ever picked up
a Fender, I'm kind of partial to that sound.  So between the Signature and the
Hentor, I get that depth and top-end clarity.  Then the '62 Strat seems to have
a nice middle ground.  It's not as wirey as the Signature, but it's not as
dirty as the Hentor.  I combined the Signature and the Strat on 'The Pass,' and
they have it a good, all-around tough sound without getting too heavy, thick or
distorted.  I'll often play different inversions on the two different guitars
to give a more interesting harmonic content to the chording.  I think you get
more mileage out of simple chord voicings using that approach."
  Both Alex and Geddy will carry extensive MIDI gear with them on tour {see the
bottom}.  Whether Alex will be able to reproduce the studio-enhanced backwards
guitar parts on "Chain Lightning" remains to be seen.  At press time it had not
been determined whether they would recruit a fourth member for the tour, or if
Geddy would once again spend his evenings tap-dancing on MIDI and Moog pedals
all night long.
  "We're trying to change a lot of things around on this tour," says Alex.
"We've been doing it for so long that a lot of magic has gone out of it, and
we'd like to maybe get some of it back.  Fifteen years is a lot of time to be
away from home so long, and while you're out there you begin to wonder if per-
haps there are other things in your life that you might pursue.  Yet, at the
same time, we really enjoy playing.  If we can make it a happier environment
on stage, then we'll certainly try."
  And what exactly is it that would make this tour a more personally satisfying
situation for Alex?  "If we could do it within 50 miles of my home!" he laughs.
"It's just tough to be away for so long.  That's really the hardest part.  I
mean, the playing and the actual gig itself aren't problems.  It's the sitting
in dressing rooms, sitting in hotel rooms, sittin in the bus, sitting around
on days off.
  "When you're younger and it's your first few tours, it's very exciting
because it's something you always dreamed of doing.  So when you're actually
out there doing it, it's a bit of a surprise and you try to take every moment
for what it's worth.  But after 15 years it's just not that special anymore.
The rigors of touring do take their toll.  So I guess if we can just balance
that out a little more, make it more enjoyable, a little different, so that it
doesn't feel like the same old thing, that would please me."
  Who knows, if things work out to his satisfaction, Alex and Geddy and Neil
may just continue touring until 2112.  And selling mega-platters, no doubt.

*********** end of the initial article -- the follow is an inset ************

                    Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson Axology

                         The Magic Behind PRESTO

  Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson both firmly subscribe to the dictum "If it ain't
broke, don't fix it."  As roadie Jim Johnson puts it, "Geddy hasn't changed his
setup for as long as I can remember, and I've been with the band for six years,
since the _Grace_Under_Pressure_ tour."
  Geddy runs his basses through a Telex wireless unit and into two Furman PQ-3
preamps.  From there the signal is fed to an API 550 equalizer and two BGW 750
amps that power an Ampeg V4B bottom and a Tiel double 15-inch bottom.  A custom
switching system allows Lee to shift between the preamps and the API equalizer
for different tones.
  Alex, says Johnson, is a bit more loaded up.  He runs his Signature and Strat
guitars into a Nady 700 wireless system which feeds into two Gallien-Krueger
preamps.  The signal then goes to two Rane SM-26 splitter mixers and an effects
rack, custom-designed by Chops Joneson, consisting of two T.C. Electronics 2290
digital delays, a T.C. Electronics Spatial Expander for chorusing, Roland DEP-5
and Dimension D, and a Yamaha SPX-90.  All of Alex's effects are also MIDI-ed
via the Yamaha MFC-1 MIDI controller.
  A pair of Mesa/Boogie Strategies (200-watts per side) powers two Gallien-
Krueger twin 12's with Celestion speakers.  Alex's cabinets are miked with
Shure SM-57's.  The sound goes out to the house, along with two direct lines
from out of the back of the preamps and one dry guitar feed from the Rane
mixer.    --B.M.


I certainly hope any non-musicians can find some use or entertainment from the
guitar magazine transcriptions.  Rush on.

Craig Rindy


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(Rush Fans Mailing List)

End of The National Midnight Star Number 297

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