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Subject: 09/18/91 - The National Midnight Star #342  ** Special Edition **

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 342

               Wednesday, 18 September 1991
Today's Topics:
         Music Express Article with Neil and Alex

[ This took forever to get to, but here it is at last.  Thanks to Eric
  for transcribing it!  (Sorry it took so long, Eric.)       :rush-mgr ]

Date: Tue, 6 Aug 91 20:54:44 -0600
From: erik habbinga 
Subject: Music Express Article with Neil and Alex

                      Something Up Their Sleeves
                           by Keith Sharp
                    Copied Without Permission From
              Music Express Vol.14, Issue 144, Feb. 1990

   There's nothing magical or mysterious about the longevity of Rush.  Their
professional creative approach and insistence on a satisfying life outside
the band are paying off as they attack the '90s with a strong album and 
renewed vigor.

   Like the magical implication of its title, Rush's latest release,
_Presto_, has flashed into the U.S. charts with almost stunning swiftness
--16 with a bullet after just three weeks.  Ironically, though, there was a
time when doubts lingered as to whether this, or any future Rush albums for
that matter, would ever be recorded.

   It was a momentary, almost fleeting time of indecision, and both
drummer/lyricist Neil Peart and guitarist Alex Lifeson now downplay the 
severity of the situation.  But in the summer of '88 there was definite 
skepticism about the trio's future plans.

   "I was the most concerned I'd ever been," explains Lifeson as he lounges
comfortably amidst the splendor of his majestic mansion, set on a two-acre
estate in an exclusive north Toronto suburb.

   "We'd just come off tour, we were doing the live album, _A Show Of 
Hands_, and everybody was caught at a down point.  There seemed to be an air
of uncertainty as to whether we were properly motivated to record another 

   From the study of his equally palatial Toronto manor, Peart recalls being
less pessimistic about the group's future.

   "We had left things in limbo for a period of time after the live album. 
We agreed not to make a decision and to leave things up in the air," he 
explains.  "It was an open period of our career, our contract with Phonogram
had ended, we had no more obligations or deadlines to fulfill.  So we 
decided to get together at my house at the end of December and ask each 
other, "What do you want to do?"

   Since its 1970 inception, Rush has never operated like other bands.  From
an early stage, they realized that the only way to achieve longevity was by 
putting their career in a proper perspective.  This meant establishing a 
meaningful and productive social life outside of the band.

   As Lifeson has said previously, "Geddy [Lee], Neil and I get together and
decide if we want to do a record or a tour.  If the answer is yes, then we 
get on with it.  If the answer is no, then we don't.  And if we decide one 
day that there's other things we'd rather do, then no one feels any future 
obligation to each other."

   On a cold, wintry dy in December '88, the trio  had come to terms with 
the band's fate.  As Peart remembers it, all three were in good spirits and
it soon became obvious that there was still life in the Rush machine.

   "We all agreed that we wanted to make another record and from that point
everything just flowed naturally," he says.  "On the day we were supposed to
start writing--we started writing."

   "It was amazing how smoothly things went," agrees the blonde-maned 
guitarist.  "Writing and recording albums is usually a tense, stressful 
period, but this one went amazing well.  We were so well prepared that we 
had the album written, recorded and finished a month ahead of schedule, 
which for us is unbelievable."

   Writing _Presto_ followed the same path as most recent Rush releases.  As
 _A Show Of Hands_ hit the store shelves, the trio ensconced themselves in a
rural farmhouse studio, Peart filing through his ledger for lyrical ideas 
while Lee and Lifeson collaborated on the instrumental arrangements; the 
trio meeting at the end of the day to see how their individual ideas were 
matching up.

   Peart had previously suggested the title _Presto_ for their live album, 
but had lost out by democratic process.  "So I went and wrote a song called 
_Presto_ and knew at that point that we had at least an album title to work 

   Unlike some of the heavy-handed lyrical missives of _Grace Under 
Pressure_, _Power Windows_ and _Hold Your Fire_, _Presto_ seems to be a 
little more diffuse with no overriding theme or message.  If anything, the 
lyrical content is more humanistic and emotional, a return in some ways to 
the spirit of _Permanent Waves_ and _Signals_.  "Yes, I was conscious that 
maybe a couple of the last albums were a  little on the heavy side, 
lyrically speaking," allows Peart.  "With _Presto_ I took a little looser 
approach to things.  These songs have their own stories and messages without
necessarily being linked buy some overall theme."

   There is the token ecological in _Red Tide_ but for the most part, the
subject matter deals with humanistic matters like  cynicism (_Show Don't 
Tell_) and sensory perception (_Available Light_), an ode to Peart's 
travelling adventures.
  "If there is an identifiable lyrical trait here, it's my use of irony, 
which is injected by acting a character out through the lyrics", Peart says.
"For example, in _Hand Over Fist_ there are two people walking down the 
street arguing, and the lead character is saying things which are supposed 
to be ironic."

   The image of Rush clocking in to methodically write new material seems
somewhat calculated and mechanical, yet Peart rails at any question of the
band's artistic integrity.

   "We can't be more creative that locking ourselves away in a farmhouse.  
I know there is such a thing as inspiration, but I know how to take 
advantage of it.  When we're not rehearsing or writing, I collect ideas and
prepare myself for when we do start writing.  By the time we're ready to 
work on a new album, I'm fully prepared.  I've got pages and pages of notes
to work from."

   "Call us efficient, call us mechanical.  The point is, when we have to 
get something done, it's done.  That's the only way we know how to work.
Maybe we're exceptional in that way.  To our mind this is simply being 

   Peter Collins, the producer of the band's last two studio albums, passed 
on this project, leaving them to seek out a new recruit--Rupert Hine.  Hine 
had initially been approached at the time of _Grace Under Pressure_, but 
while he was unavailable for that assignment, he made up for it this time 

   With Rush deciding to record the bed tracks at Quebec's Morin Heights
facility and the overdubs at Toronto's McClear Place, it meant Hine and his
engineer cohort, Stephen Tayler would be working outside of their England
recording base--a rarity for Tayler who's known to be a real family man.

   Recording in Canada instead of England, the site of their last two 
sessions, was a concession the band made to their families.  "We're kind of 
like schoolteachers," declares Peart.  "We like to work in the winter and 
spring and take the summer off with our families.  So when we realized we'd
have to record during the summer, we set up the sessions so we could at 
least spend the weekends at home."

   In Hine and Tayler, Lifeson and Peart both agree the band couldn't have 
made better selections.  Aside from credits with The Fixx, Howard Jones and
Tina Turner, Hine has recorded several of his own albums.  His strengths are
vocal and keyboard arrangements, elements that aren't exactly band 

   "Our usual practice is to allow one day for the pre-production of each 
song," explains Lifeson.  "So we counted on about 11 days going over the 
tracks with Rupert.  So the first day, we start playing the demos, and he's
laughing.  We're going 'What's going on?' Rush songs aren't supposed to be 
humorous!  But he said he was laughing because he thought there was nothing
for him to do.  We went through all 11 songs in one day."

   According to Lifeson, Hine developed some interesting vocal arrangement
concepts for the band and implemented some strong keyboard elements while
actually de-emphasizing their prominence.
   As for Tayler, Lifeson calls him "simply the best engineer in the 
universe.  He was so smooth and so efficient, it was incredible.  I kept 
waiting for something to go wrong, but nothing ever did.  Because of this,
we sailed through the sessions in no time."

   As for the end result, Lifeson feels _Presto_ caps off an expressive 
period that started with _Signals_, and is a more basic rock album that 
other recent efforts.  "We've probably gained a lot of new fans and lost 
some of our old ones with the last couple of releases," he says.  "With 
_Presto_, I think we'll get some of the old ones back."

   On a strictly commercial level, Lifeson's observations seem to be 
correct.  With new U.S. label Atlantic making _Presto_ a high-priority item,
both the single (_Show Don't Tell_) and the album itself are riding high on 
the U.S. charts--a positive prelude to their next North American tour, which
starts this month.

   One strange quirk about the new album is that the first side is much 
longer than the second, forcing Rush to instruct their fans to play the A 
side much louder to compensate for sound loss.

   "You'd think with CD technology that we wouldn't run into these problems,
but we still do," bemoans Peart.  "We had problems with _A Show Of Hands_ 
because we wanted the tracks to fit on one CD.  That meant we had to leave 
some tracks off the release, which upset some of our fans.  Because of CDs 
we can now comfortably write longer compositions without having to worry too
much about time restrictions.  However, a natural running order tends to 
develop with our albums.  This isn't a problem with cassettes, but with 
albums you're restricted to the time on each side and with CDs you've only 
got a certain amount of time to play with.  So with _Presto_, the only way
we could keep the running order the way we wanted was to put more material
on side one than on side two.  This means the sound level on the first side
is lower that on the second." 

   As for _Presto_'s immediate impact in the States, Peart and Lifeson are
naturally enthused but are adapting a cautious, wait-and-see attitude.  They
have seen Rush albums fly out of the starting gate only to fade after a
couple of weeks.

   "That was the main complaint with our previous label," Lifeson notes.
"After the initial euphoria when all the hardcore fans were buying the album,
the label would never take that extra step to push it further.  As a result, 
sales would drop sharply after the first five or six weeks.  This time, 
though, our new label has something to prove, and I genuinely feel _Presto_
deserves this attention.  It's the right album to push Rush into the '90s."

   A new album means the inevitable tour, something Lifeson in particular
endures more than relishes.  It was primarily this factor that put the 
continued existence of the band in doubt.  It's not the actual playing that 
causes the problems.  All three members love the challenge of presenting 
their new work live to their fans.  It's the mind-numbing boredom of the 
time off-stage:  the airport terminals, hotels, concrete arena dressing 
rooms, the monotonous grind of travelling from one gig to the next.

   "We could tolerate it when we were younger and we had to play 300 gigs a 
year to survive," recounts Lifeson.  "But now that we've all got families, 
it becomes so much harder.  It's not so bad for Neil; he's started to work 
on his travelogues and he goes for a 60-mile cycle to relieve the boredom.
For Geddy and I, we try to play tennis or go to a movie or a car show if 
there's one in town.  But it can be really difficult at times.  When you're
stuck in a place like Topeka or Des Moines and there's nowhere to go, you 
get a real feeling of helplessness."

   Peart and Lifeson say they're mentally up for this tour after taking time
off to engage in some exotic exploration.  Peart, a known travelholic, has 
just returned from a cycle tour of West Africa while Lifeson had recently 
been hiking and scuba diving in Paupa New Guinea.

   "They say you go to East Africa for the animals and West Africa for the
people--and the people of Togo, Ghana and The Ivory Coast were incredibly
friendly," Peart enthuses.  "We stayed in the huts with the village chiefs 
and got to know the people in a way you never could if you were just touring 
with a band.  They thought it was quite a novelty to see a white man playing
the drums!"

   Lifeson's exploits took him on hikes with people who 20 years ago would 
have eaten him for breakfast, as well as on reef dives amongst killer 

   "You realize that man totally misunderstands the creatures of the sea; 
I've developed a whole new respect for them," he says.  "Sharks actually 
aren't that dangerous if you respect them.  It got to the point that we were
actually disappointed if we went on a dive and didn't see something six or 
seven feet long."

   Of significance is an announcement that Rush will court a suitable 
corporate sponsor for this tour, providing it fits the band's "image".
"Like Canadian Tire or Home Hardware [Canadian department stores]," laughs
Lifeson.  "Yeah, I could have a lot of fun in those stores.  Or how about 
Fred's Plumbing or Bill's Bowling Alley -- a totally anti-corporate sponsor?
That would be more like us." 

   Peart, however, is much more somber when broached on the subject.  
"Corporate sponsorship is a vulgar, abhorrent concept," he says, "which 
drives up a show's production costs by hundreds of thousands without 
reflecting the band's true demand.
   "There was a time when the onus was on the record companies to provide 
tour support to break entry-level bands.  Now that they have to spend an 
extra $125,000 or so on videos, the labels are trying to pass the 
responsibility of sponsorship on to the corporate entity, and that's 
where things really get dangerous.

   "Suddenly the sponsors only want the top-level acts and the ones that are
prepared to wear their t-shirts and endorse their products.  The entry-level
bands don't stand a chance.  It's a dangerous situation that's getting worse
all the time."

   Peart claims Rush has avoided such pitfalls by recognizing their own
limitations.  They don't play summer football stadium concerts because they
know they're not a big enough headline act to pull 50,000 fans -- and, 
besides, it's not conductive to their music.  They also don't play countries
that don't warrant their interest.

   "For us to play places like Eastern Europe, Japan and Australia would be
totally self-gratifying," notes Peart.  "We know the fans aren't' there, so
why bother?  And besides, I'd rather see those places on my bike.  It's a 
lot more intimate and a lot more fun."

   Both Peart and Lifeson profess dismay at the recent trend towards 
nostalgic super concerts which have seen the likes of Pink Floyd, The Who, 
The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney dominate box office receipts.

   "When The Who did their farewell tour in '83," says Lifeson, "I thought,
wow, that's a classy way to finish.  But five years later it's like, 
'Whoops, lads, we're short of money.  Let's do _another_ farewell tour.'  
Same with the Stones.  They're not out there for the music.  They get their
satisfaction from making $60 million."

   Nostalgia isn't a tag that can easily be pinned on Rush.  Their most 
recent albums have been even more adventurous than ever and, now that 
they've survived a mini internal crisis, they seem even more determined to
push their music well into the '90s.

   "We've been lucky to create a personal chemistry that's lasted so long.
Look at any band that's lasted so long.  Look at any band that's broken up 
and it's usually because of personal problems," analyses Peart.  "As long as
we get that creative gratification from working together, we will continue 
to produce albums.  So long as the band isn't all-encompassing -- none of us 
could ever tolerate that."

Erik Habbinga            "And on bass, The Doc of Shock, The Duke of Spook!"  
U-niversity of
C-olorado between         "Time to make the doughnuts, you bastards!"
L-ongmont and
A-rvada                        "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball"


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End of The National Midnight Star Number 342

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