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Subject: 10/10/92 - The National Midnight Star #534  ** Special Edition **
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          The National Midnight Star, Number 534

                Saturday, 10 October 1992
Today's Topics:
	    Articles from:
		Guitar for the Practicing Musician, May 1991
		Guitar School, May 1990

Subject: here are some articles I typed in
From: Erik 
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 92 9:39:21 MDT

                   Alex Lifeson:  The Art of Preparation
                              by John Stix
                    Reprinted without permission from:
               Guitar for the Practicing Musician May 1991
   Having put together three live albums over the course of their
23 year career, the members of Rush are as much polished
craftsman of the arena canvas as students of the slash and flash
assault it takes to push it across the footlights.  Intense and
demanding when it comes to their line of work, they always put in
far more than what the form requires.  Alex Lifeson, whom we
welcome into the GFPM Hall of Fame with this interview, took
great pains to illustrate the preparations that go on behind the
scenes at a Rush concert, and in the process, revealed quite a
bit about what goes on behind the scenes in his own vision of
himself as a practicing guitarist.

GFPM:   When you guys get together and rehearse for a tour, do
you end up playing old Rush songs to warm up, or do you get
together and immediately go for new material?

AL:  Rehearsals for us start a few weeks before we actually start
playing.  Everyone would basically take the last set that we
played on the previous tour, and re-learn all the stuff, or
practice on all the old stuff, play all the new stuff, and get
together and make up a set list and start playing there.  So we
do a lot on own before we get together.

GFPM:  What do you do to prepare for a show, and what goes on
inside your head?

AL:  Typically, the soundcheck for us is around 4:30.  During
recording for a live album, we had it down a little bit early
that we would be on-hand.  We would head down about 3:30, 4:00. 
We would take turns.  Neil would spend a fair amount of time
going through each of his drums for his levels.  Then it was
bass, followed by keyboards, and we'd spend a bit on guitars.  On
the _Presto_ tour we did two or three songs once the tour got
going.  We found it was more fun to go in and smash around for
half an hour and do those few songs, like "War Paint", half of
""Manhattan", half of "Subdivisions."  We did three or four extra
songs during soundcheck for the last live album.  We did "Turn
the Page", "Mission", "Subdivisions", "Manhattan Project", "Big

GFPM:   Did these songs represent different sounds that needed to
be checked?

AL:  Yes, especially for Geddy.  He's got three microphones and
he's got to do a song at each, and then a couple of songs for
different keyboard levels.

GFPM:  What do you hope to get out of the soundcheck?

AL:  (laughs)  I was trying to think of a witty answer, and
couldn't come up with one.  My sound is basically unchanged from
night to night.  I don't put anything through the monitors; I
rely on my backline, and I'm quite comfortable with that,so I
don't really need to get anything out of the soundcheck , other
than to loosen up a bit.  That's the most important part.  Those
extra three or four songs that we do, during the recording
soundcheck, always help.  As we go along, we'll break there, go
in, have dinner.  We usually have dinner around 5:30, 6 o' clock. 
I tend to skip the crew meal.  Occasionally I'd have crew meal,
but I tend to skip it and eat more after the show, and from that
period after dinner until showtime, it's usually sitting around
the dressing room reading.  It's mostly novels, but occasionally
magazines and stuff.  It's killing the time.  I hang out quite
often with Guy and we would talk to him about any things  that
he'd noticed in the truck, how the sounds were coming together,
any opinions he had.  And then I practice for an hour before the

GFPM:  Do you practice on the guitar you're going to use onstage?

AL:  No, for the _Show of Hands_ tour I used a black modified
Strat to warm up with, which was quite different from the
Signature guitars I started using on the _Power Windows_ tour. 
They felt quite good, sounded good, quite different from the
modified Strats that I'd had before.  But they stayed onstage,
and I've never felt comfortable taking a guitar offstage, back to
the tuning room, back to the stage.  I prefer to have them tuned
and sitting and waiting there.  Unfortunately, Signature guitars
no longer exist.  So I got a Paul Reed Smith and couldn't believe
what a fantastic guitar it was.  I asked them if they could build
me some guitars based on what I'd been using with the Signatures,
using single coil pickups.  I use the single coil PRS onstage and
a different PRS with two humbuckers on it for rehearsing. 

GFPM:  How many do you have revved up onstage?

AL:   I really cut back.I used to have four Signatures ready to
go.  The last tour I had two electric PRS's and the Ovation.  For
the first month only, we did "Big Money," where I tune up a full
tone (F#), so there was a Signature guitar tuned up to that.

GFPM:  Are the two PRS guitars similar?

AL:   They feel the same.  They are cosmetically a little
different.  My number one is more of a grain finish, tobacco
sunburst style, and the other is a black finish.  They sound
quite similar.  It's the first guitar that felt just fantastic
right out of the case.  They were built very well and they were
vert smart about some of the things they did, like the fact that
they don't use a locking nut.  The strings go straight through
the headstock, so the strings go over the nut and remain
straight.  They are not angled at all, which cuts down the need
for something like a locking nut.  Because there's no fine tuning
on the bridge, it's much more comfortable to me.

GFPM:   What about pickups, tremolo bar, head pegs?

AL:   I wanted single coil active pickups.  They do double coil
pickups with a selector.  It's an interesting sound, but I find
the active pickups have that little bit more clarity.  I use
active pickups by Evans and the PRS vibrato system and tuning
heads.  For strings I still use the Dean Markleys.

GFPM:   You said you use your backline for your sound.  Is that
rare these days, or is that becoming more common?

AL:   I'm really not sure; I haven't seen that many big acts, or
comparable acts, and how they have their setups, but I would have
to guess that it's less common, that people tend to rely more on
monitors.  It's all quite state-of-the-art these days, so you're
probably better off to do that.

GFPM:   So why did you switch?

AL:   I just like the feel of it.  I like to feel the sound
behind me.  I run my gear in stereo, and there's a particular
area of the stage that I like to be in, and a lot of times I'm
stuck by my pedal board, or bass pedal or whatever, and it gives
me a nice point to get the full impact of what my setup is.  I
can hear the stereo clearly, and the sound tends to get a little
bit bright up at that end of the stage.  I'm still using the GK
CPL-2000 preamp, which I love, through a Macro series Crown power
amp.  The power amp goes into two twin 12" Celestion GK cabinets. 
Offstage, we've built dog houses which are completely isolated
boxes with one cabinet in each box.  There's a feed from ny setup
through the CPL-2000 that goes to one speaker in one box and one
speaker in the other box.  Then I use a Roland GP-16 through
another Crown amp that goes to the other speaker in each of the
boxes.  So we had good separation, and there's a baffle built
between the speakers in each box.  Under the lid, it's angled to
cut down any standing waves.  We had much better separation, plus
it was isolated from the drums and ambient noise.  We came up
with a much cleaner and more definitive guitar sound.  I don't
think my outboard gear has changed recently.  I have a Bradshaw
system.  It's very clean, very orderly.  It's rugged; it's
sensible, more than anything.  it makes sense the way they've
done everything.  They've kept noise down to a minimum, and
they've kept everything very efficient.  We got a new sound man
for the last tour, Robert Scoville, who worked with Def Leppard. 
he was brilliant.  he came up through studios and live mixing and
he knew how to achieve certain sounds.  He developed the dog
houses.  That was strictly for my backline, and he gave me a
great combination of sounds by using the Roland GP-16 and my
regular setup.  We had two different guitar sounds that blended
together quite well.  The basic sound stayed the same, but the
GP-16, depending on the song, would be preset to different kinds
of sounds.  He had a little more flexibility for what he could
deal with on the guitar and the presence of the guitar. 
Isolating it from the stage sound added clarity and made such a
big difference in the guitar sound.  On the last tour we dropped
the direct sound after a few weeks.

GFPM:  let's get backstage before the show.  The manager goes,
"It's 20 minutes before the show, everybody out.  Just the band
in here."  What happens then?

AL:  Not a whole lot.  We've never really felt the need to get
psyched-up for a show.  Quite often ten of twenty minutes before
we go on, we'll change, sit around, have a laugh, and then go out
and hit the stage.

GFPM:   Is there a song, somewhere in the first half a dozen
tunes, that tells you if you're gonna click that night?  A
barometer of how the night is gonna go?

AL:   We started the set with "Force Ten" on the last tour.  It's
a very strong song to start with for us.  It got us off to a good
start and we stayed there for the whole set.  For the _Show of
Hands_ tour I can't remember specifically there being a song, but
"Manhattan Project" was about four songs in.  You could sort of
gauge from there what the audience was gonna be like.  It's a 
song that goes over well, and it either goes over well or it goes
over really really well, and from that point on, if it does,
there's a good pace to the set, and it just drives it along, and
the momentum created carries through pretty well for the rest of
the set.

GFPM:   If it doesn't go over well, how do you get yourself
beyond that?

AL:   You do the best you can do.  It's never been a problem for

GFPM:   What have been some of your favorite songs in a set?

AL:   I really like playing "Marathon" and "Limelight."  I like
the solo from "Limelight."  It's always a treat to play that. 
"War Paint was a lot of fun to play.  "Show Don't Tell" was one
of my favorites to play.  It's got a lot of nice dynamics in it. 
I like playing "La Villa," and recently one of my most favorite
established songs to play was "Mission," because I like the
parts, I like the broad chords that are in it, the spaces, and
the mood, and finally, the solo at the end.  It's a really nice
tempo to play over, a sort of laid-back tempo, kind of soaring.

GFPM:   have you ever had a problem onstage, and how did you
solve it?

AL:   I do remember one time it was terrible!  It was in Denver,
when Steve Morse was opening for us.  i have an allergy to
certain foods.  It's not really severe, but it can get kind of
rough at times, and we'd gone out the night before and had
dinner.  We took those guys out to eat at a Moroccan restaurant. 
We're all sitting on the floor, on these rugs, with a towel
draped over our shoulders, eating with our hands, drinking lots
of wine.  We had a great time.  They were a lot of fun to be
with, and it was a perfect way to cap off the tour together.  The
next day I didn't feel too good from the reaction that I have. 
So I'd taken an antihistamine, and I have a problem with them. 
When I take a decongestant, I get really shaky and nervous and
edgy, and it lasts for about 18 hours.  It's a horribly
uncomfortable feeling, and I'd taken it sometime after
soundcheck, because I wasn't feeling that great, and about an
hour later I thought 'I can't go on.  I can't do this.'  So I got
up and I started to walk around.  I went into the tuning room,
picked up my guitar.  I could barely play, I was shaking so
badly, and I just sort of hid in another room, until it was time
to go on.  I felt so awful, I swear the whole set was terrible.

GFPM:   Was there anything you could do to try to make it the
best it could be?

AL:   I tried not to think about it.  I tried to just concentrate
on playing and absorbing the environment around me, so I'd get
out of my body, but it was very, very difficult to do that.  I
remember playing "Closer To The Heart," and I could barely pick
the strings with my right hand.  It was just a terrible feeling. 
It was like torture.  I remember a time, when we were opening for
Sha-Na-Na at a college in the Baltimore area and it was a dress-
up greaseball dance.  All the girls had ponytails, all the guys
had slicked back hair.  We came on and did our opening number,
which I think was "Finding My Way," a song from the first album. 
So it's pretty raw and raging, and it's like 'Da-da, da!' (sings
ending) Silence.  Nothing.  "Okay, good evening ladies and
gentleman."  So we went on to the next song, and then after that
it was like, "rrrrr."  And the third song it was "RRRRRR!" and by
the forth or fifth song it was "BOO!!! BOO!!!" (laughs).  So we
couldn't wait to get offstage for that one.

GFPM:   Is there anything you can do when you have equipment
problems?  Do you grin  and bear it?  Does the audience know the

AL:   When you get to this level, you have so many backups that
it's not a common occurrence for stuff to really go down badly. 
I've had problems, some nights, where I've broken three or four
strings, which can be quite annoying, but you have spares.  We
have a system down where I take off the guitar, I toss it, the
next one's on as I'm tossing the first one, and I'm sort of out
of the picture for three or four seconds.  It happens so quickly. 
It's not too bad.  There was an occasion, again in Denver, a few
tours ago (what is it with Denver?).  There was a storm and a
power surge came down the lines and blew all of Geddy's synths,
except, I think, the mini-Moog.  The guys were running around
trying to get things to work.  The got the spares up, and none of
the spares were working right.  Something had happened to the
whole system.  We were running about an hour late.  The audience
had been great up until this point, but now, of course, they were
getting a little impatient, and we had to make a decision whether
we were either going to cancel the show right there, or just say
'Ah, screw it, let's just go on and we'll just do the best that
we can.'  We didn't rely on the keyboards quite as much then as
we do now, but they played an integral part in the show.  So we
decided we can't stand around anymore.  Let's go for it.  We
played the first song, which I think was "Tom Sawyer." and has
very basic keyboards.  Geddy explained our technical
difficulties, 'The equipment's blown up, so if you hear any weird
sounds, we apologize for it.'  The night ended up being
fantastic!  It didn't sound quite the way it was supposed to
sound, but after a while we got comfortable with it and were able
to forget it, and we played our hearts out!  The audience was
really behind us, and it was a great feeling to be up against a
real serious problem and finish it off, coming together and being
positive.  We did play well that night.

GFPM:   It was a challenge that you don't often get.

AL:   Exactly, and that's when you tend to shine most.

GFPM:   It sounds like something that more bands should have to
face, or you should force yourself to face.  It's sort of the Bob
Dylan thing or rearranging your songs a million different ways.

AL:   Well, it keeps your interest going, in that sense.  It also
keeps you  on your toes, and it reminds you of where you came
from, 'cause way back then you always had problems.  You never
thought about it.  Your equipment was the only stuff you had. 
You couldn't afford to fix it, so it was constantly going down. 
So you just did the best you could.

GFPM:   You now have three live albums out.  I'd like to read you
some things you've said to me in the past regarding live albums. 
:Live albums are a difficult thing.  It's hard to get excited
about them."  "Live albums give us breathing space to cleanse
ourselves and start something fresh."  "We don't go crazy over
live records, and I don't know if you'll ever hear another live
album from Rush.  We enjoy the studio recordings much more than
we do the live ones."

AL:   Yep.  Live albums haven't been as satisfactory.  I guess
_Exit_ was a bit of a weird album.  In retrospect, it's a little
bit too clean.  It's not 'live feeling' enough, and I think it
fails in that way.  It sounds almost like a studio album.  And we
sat down and talked about it for a long time, what sort of mood
we wanted to create with a live album, and how it had to be live. 
If there were rough edges, they were important to be in there. 
Not necessarily rough edges, but a rawness to it, that maybe
_Exit_ was lacking.  And, sitting in a studio listening to the
same stuff over and over again, that you've already heard for the
last eight years, gets to be a bit tough.  When we put up the
multi-tracks from these shows, there was a really nice energy to
all the stuff.  Our playing had improved a lot since _Exit_.  The
way we used the synths, and the new instruments that we've added
in the last couple of albums, came across well live.  There was a
really great energy, and as the mixes started to come together,
it became more and more promising all the time.  It wasn't a
burden, like it can be.  I never really thought we'd do another
live album, to tell you the truth, but a lot of different things
forced us to do it.  We felt like we were coming to the end of a
cycle again.  We wanted to cap it off somehow, and it made sense
to do a live album; that was one thing.  We started recording
dates a couple of tours ago, just for the sake of recording, and
it was a great way to capture something from a particular tour,
or from a particular time in the band's history, and we were also
coming to the end of a record deal.  W were left with a choice
between a live album and a _Best of_, which did also come out,
but I think a live album is a lot more satisfying.

GFPM:   In the past, when we talked about live performances, in
particular _Exit_, you said they were well recorded but not great
performances.  Was _Show of Hands_ your equivalent of the
Allman's _Live at the Fillmore_, or is this a good live Rush

AL:   I think the first live album, _All the World's a Stage_,
really captured that off-the-floor kind of youthfulness.  It has
a lot of flaws, but there's an energy to it, so that it doesn't
really matter.  There's something that's rough, or something
that's untight, or whatever.  It still makes it because there's
all that energy, and everybody's really going for it.  _Show of
Hands_ was a lot more mature in its production and in its
playing, and in that way, I guess it gets right in the middle of
the two other live albums, and achieves the better parts of both
those albums.

GFPM:   Very often, when it comes to a live album, artists say
they go with the performance that's right, 'cause the one that
had the sparks had parts that were out of tune.  When you have a
catharsis, it's not always pretty.  I like a catharsis on a live
album; the other day, I listened to _Johnny Winter and Live_, and
that's sloppy as hell, but it's got the fire that you want out of
a live album.  Most people say to me, 'They were good
performances, but not the great one.'

AL:   No, no, no, no.  The performances always come first, on
that album.  We went through a million takes of everything, from
different tours, from different years, different trucks,
different consoles, everything.  It was a very difficult thing to
go through all of that stuff, and a lot of times decisions were
made based on performance rather that what was technically the
best take.
GFPM:   How's "Distant Early Warning" compared to the other live
rendition you gave to the _Stars_ record?

AL:   I think the one on _Show of Hands- was probably better. 
The sounds would be better, and probably the playing is better. 
I haven't heard that other version in a long time.  I think it
was from the _Grace Under Pressure_ tour, recorded in Toronto for
a video.

GFPM:   On _Show of Hands_ are there any patchwork performances?

AL:   As a matter of fact, no, there aren't.  There were a couple
of bass patches that were required because of a problem with the
console.  There was really bad clipping on the input on some of
the bass tracks, so we repaired them as best we could from
existing bass parts from other takes of the same song that we
could fly in there.  It's amazing, when you consider that most
live albums are almost all, or a major part, overdubbed.

GFPM:   Was that a band decision, or would you have overdubbed if
you needed to?

AL:  We talked about that, and we really didn't want to.  We
wanted to keep it as pure as we could, only because it's more
natural, and I think you can tell.  you can feel it.

GFPM:   Judging from the fact that there are at least three
different places that it came from, is there an ebb-and-flow to
the concert?  If you have a totally high concert in Birmingham,
or at the Nassau Coliseum, I would have assumed that you would
have done the entire concert from one place.  You didn't, which
means that there really is some sort of tidal effect during the

AL:   Yeah.  Sometimes you can have a spectacular night in one
place.  When you get the tapes back, it doesn't translate on tape
the way it did live.  There could be something in the hall, or
there could have been a technical thing.  It's very difficult
when you have to go through so many takes from so many different
nights.  Some stuff, you feel it right away, and other songs, it
takes awhile to get the most out of it.

GFPM:   Is there anything that you recorded that you could point
to on the different places you recorded that was special about
that night?  I mean, what do you remember about San Diego, L.A.,
or the U.K.?

AL:  San Diego: there's an example of a hall that's generally
notorious for bad sound.  It's a very, very boomy, loud, metallic
sounding hall, and it's really tough to get a good sound in. 
After we recorded there we thought we didn't have a particular
good night.  When we got the tapes, we thought it's gonna be a
waste, and we listened to them, and some of the songs, I don't
remember which ones now, sounded really really good, and yet the
hall was horrible, and it was tough to concentrate, and you're
worried about recording and all that stuff.  It was quite a
surprise.  In L.A., the Forum has a good sound.  I like it,
anyway.  Most of the material from those three nights was pretty
good, so it gave us a lot to choose from.  It was good to have
three nights that were quite similar.  SO we could pick from one
of the three nights, juggle it around a bit, and it would still
have the basic continuity of being in one place.  Birmingham was
a bit tough, because we started using a different truck in the
U.K.  There's an example of three nights that were totally
different from each other, yet it was in the same hall.  The
engineer was tweaking stuff and changing things as he went along,
and you can hear it from night to night.  Most of the nights were
really quite good, so it gave us, again, different nights to
choose from in the same place.  But they had a different sound to
them, or a different character, depending on which night it was.

GFPM:   When you know that you're going to record a live album,
does it effect your presence onstage?

AL:   Absolutely!  You're worried about it, you're thinking about
it, and you don't want to make mistakes.  Onstage, sometimes you
feel freer, and if something goes flat that wasn't supposed to
come by, it doesn't matter.  It's all part of the live show.  You
might take a run across the stage.  A little thing like that is
all part of the live show.  But i t all comes down on tape, and
you hear it on tape, so you tend to hold back things like that. 
It's like being in the studio.  I can sit around and play
something fine, or even perfectly, and as soon as the red light
comes on the tape machine, it's like you make the stupidest
errors, or you're concentrating so hard that you fall off your
path of concentration, and it's like that live.

GFPM:   So, during a recording tour, in some ways you _don't_ go
for it, 'cause you know you're doing a live record.

AL:   In some cases you tend to restrain yourself a bit.  At
least during the first few shows that are recorded.   Then you
sort of settle in.  You get used to the truck, you get used to
all the extra mikes.  You don't even think about it after a

GFPM:   Is the restraint you mentioned found on your live albums?

AL:   I think so.  _Show of Hands_ much less so than maybe the
last record, as an example.  I think generally the performances
were pretty natural.

GFPM:   _Show of Hands_ brings us the third rendition of "Close
to the Heart."  Is this the ultimate Rush song?

AL:   There was a feeling that the song had changed a bit.  It
opens up into a bit more of a ham towards the end.  It probably
translates better live, visually, than it does on the record. 
But there is an energy to it, and it's a very positive song. 
It's been connected with the band for over 13 years. 

GFPM:   I'd like to see you go back and do a set that you did 15
years ago.  Or approach the current songs as you would when you
were a wailing guitar player, rather than a textural guitar

AL:   I think it would be a lot of fun, to tell you the truth.  I
have a studio here at home, and starting with the preparation for
_Presto_, I made a rule that I'm not gonna plug into a single
synthesizer or keyboard, though I use a Roland G-10 for drum
patterns.  Any work that I did here is going to be just straight
guitar, and maybe I'll try my hand at some vocals.  The stuff
that I've been doing just on my own has been really raw, no
chorus on guitars, no echoes.  It's been kind of straight in, and
it's refreshing to me, that approach.  For the new record I
wasn't quite as prepared as I was for _Presto_.  We started from
scratch.  We had about four songs lyrically written that we could
pick from as far as direction.  We dove into it.  I think that;s
better for us.  "Show Don't Tell" was quite prepared before we
came into writing.  I had done of work on my own on that song. 
We made some changes in the chorus and that was about it.  It
think our best stuff is when Geddy and I sit down and start
playing.  It's a little more immediate and instinctive.  I think
that's an important key and we're lucky because we have the time
to do it.  We can set aside eight weeks for writing and come into
an environment where we can dive into it and everything is around
us.  We have a Tascam 8-track for SMPTE and we have seven tracks
to fiddle around with.  It's ideal.  We talked about direction
before we did _Presto_ and knew we wanted to get back down to a
bit more of a three-piece core and just kind of thin out some of
the keyboards.  We're about to go in for the next album, and so
far we've downplayed keyboards again at the writing stage.  How
it develops we'll see, but everything is pretty much for the
trio.  We've taken the direction of _Presto_ a step further along
that road.  I think all three of us tend to play and write more
aggressively when it's just that three-piece core.  I think we've
ended the development of keyboards and texture.  It's taken us a
few albums to develop it to the point where _Hold Your Fire_
really captured all that stuff.  It really came together for us
with that album.  There could be some argument whether it's a
little softer, possibly too smooth for the 'old' Rush school. 
But we needed to try it.  we were quite happy with it, but now
it's time to move on to something else, and what we needed to do
was take a step back and re-examine what the core of the band
was, and what's always fired us along. That's been the bass,
drums and guitar.

GFPM:   What kind of live music gets you charged up?

AL:   When I go out to see a band it's usually to a club.  You
get this feeling like you just want to get up onstage and play,
and it doesn't matter if it's in a rock club or if you're in the
Caribbean at some little place where there's an unknown band
playing.  It just gets you fired up.  I've never actually done
it; I always feel a little self-conscious.  I can play stuff by
ear, but I don't really know a lot of obscure little songs.

GFPM:   Could you sit in on "Rock 'n' Roll Hoochie Coo" with Rick

AL:   Oh, something like that, yeah, sure, but if you wanted to
go through a Beatles medley sitting around the campfire, that's
tough, although it would be fun.

GFPM:   Steve Lukather has this little band and they jam every
night just so he doesn't have to be in Toto all the time, or in
the studio.

AL:   That would be great!   I got together with a friend of
mine, who used to be in a cover band here in the Toronto area
called Tres Hombres, that did ZZ Top material.  He came up, and
we sat in the studio, and neither of us had played in a while,
and we thought it would be nice to get together and spend the
whole day jamming like in the old days.  So, after a couple of
hours warming up, we turned the tape machine on, and recorded
about 30 or 40 minutes of our ramblings.  I've got a bunch of
stuff programmed on my Macintosh, and we jammed along with that-
some bluesy things, some ethnic things, some African rhythm
things.  There was one thing that we jammed along with that had a
very Slavic kind of feel to it.  We took a break, had dinner, and
came back downstairs and listened to what we had done, and when
we came to this Slavic thing, we sort of looked at each other and
started laughing,  We thought, wouldn't it be funny if you took
something that had this rhythm, feel and mood, and you added some
really tight, heavy guitars, or you did something to give it a
rock edge, but with that central European character to it.  We
said, 'yeah, let's do it', so we threw something down very
quickly on the 8-track and it sounded great.  It got us thinking
that this would be a great thing to do as an outside project. 
Maybe do four or five songs based on those rhythms and moods, and
just spruce them up.  If you want to put lyrics to them, put
lyrics to them, fine, or just keep them instrumental.  But it
really had an interesting effect.  It was tough and modern
sounding, yet it had those age-old accordion rhythms and bass
rhythms that made it happy, that got your foot tapping almost
   Making a long story longer, then we talked about how great it
would be to go and play for free in a club, with just a small
set-up.  Not a big fancy rock club, but some small bluesy place. 
There are a couple of little clubs here in Toronto that would be
great for that.  I thought, you could do a one man show!  Take
the Mac, program your bass and drum parts on there to do 10 or 15
songs, and then sit in a corner, out of the light, and play for a
whole night.  It would be great!  Id' love to do that.  I think
I'd much prefer to do something like that than to get up on a
stage and jam with a band for one song.  It made me realize how
much I missed just being a guitar player.   Just _a_ guitar
player.  I think that's what it is.   I have no desire to get up
and jam with another band, onstage, for a song or two songs,
because I don't feel comfortable with that.  I'd rather just be
playing in a corner.


Article #2

     Here is the article with Alex from Guitar School May 1990.  Also
include at the end is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Big, where they
talk about touring with Rush.

                            Magic Man
                         By Mark Mitchell

                    Reprinted Without Permission
                    From GUITAR SCHOOL, May 1990

     With his chops a blazin'. Rush's ALEX LIFESON proves once again that
the hand is quicker than the eye on the band's latest effort, _Presto_.

     Upon completing their last record, the live _Show of Hands_, the three-
man dervish known as Rush found themselves in a peculiar position--they had
some leisure time.  Because they were between record companies, Alex Lifeson
Neil Peart and Geddy Lee were free of the superstar machinery for the first 
time in 15 years.  The trio eagerly grabbed this rare break in their
normally hectic schedules to get reacquainted with their families and
reflect on their careers.  But old habits are hard to break and, after a six
month hiatus, Rush got the itch and were back in action.

     Interestingly, the notoriously analytical threesome seems to have
learned something from their extended period of rest 'n' relaxation.  
_Presto_, the band's 17th album and their first for Atlantic Records, is
their most spontaneous and alive-sounding record since 1980's _Permanent
Waves_.  The band seems to gave finally learned how to balance their more 
studied, progressive tendencies with some very fresh-sounding rock 'n' roll.
"Show Don't Tell," the album's first single, contains the moody, atmospheric
elements perfected on later projects, but erupts with a newly rekindled 
energy.  It's the sound of three men at the height of their powers having 
the time of their lives.

     We sat down with Alex Lifeson recently and happily discovered that he
is not everything you would expect.  Sure, he's obsessed with his music and 
feels guilty when he neglects his guitar for extended periods.  But there is
also a very light, funny side to the blond guitar vet.  To get a greater 
sense of how his music has evolved, we decided to go back to the beginning 
and ask him about the early days.

GS:  Can you recall some of the first guitar sounds that hit you, that made
you really want to play?

AL:  Well, I remember hearing the beginning of "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles. 
There's a little bit of feedback that rings out in the beginning, and I 
thought that was the _coolest_ thing I'd ever heard [laughs].  Also the riff
to "Day Tripper", the Beach Boys, the British Invasion stuff, and, of 
course, Hendrix's _Are You Experienced_, which made me want to throw all
those other records in the garbage.  You know Hendrix was right when he 
said, "You'll never hear surf music again." [laughs]

GS:  Has Rush ever played a surf tune?

AL:  No, we haven't.  Maybe at some point we did it as a joke.  But no, I
don't think so.

GS:  Could you talk some about how you got started playing?

AL:  I started playing when I was about 11 years old.  I begged for a guitar
for Christmas, and got an $11 Kent acoustic--it was just _terrible_, but my
parents still have it [laughs].  Then the following Christmas my parents 
bought me a Cenora, which sort of looked like a Gretch Country Gentleman.
Both were inexpensive, poorly Japanese guitars.  I borrowed the guy-next
-door's Paul amp whenever I could, and taped "Vox" in black tape on the 
front of it [laughs].  I played for hours and hours and hours.

GS:  Roughly how old were you when Rush started?

AL:  Actually, I was about 12 or 13 when I started playing with Rush's
original drummer, John Rutsey.  We knew about six or eight songs and we'd
play them over and over at these basement parties in out neighborhood.
Then when Rush got together though I'd played with Geddy for maybe a year
before, we'd just turned 15.

GS:  When you first started, how much time did you spend playing?

AL:  When the band first together, I'd come home from school, play from
about 4 to 6 p.m., have dinner, then continue playing from about 7 'til 
10 p.m.;  then I'd do my homework in that 10:00 to 10:05 period [laughs].
Then resume for maybe another 45 minutes.  I was playing all the time.  
When we played bars, we'd play three or four hours total, and I'd play just
about everyday in the afternoon.  I'd get up, make a cup of tea, and sit 
around and just play my guitar.  It seemed to be the only thing that I was
interested in at the time.  When we started touring, I always played about
an hour in the tuning room before the show and, in those days, I often took 
a guitar back to the hotel room and played.  Even now I still play four or
five hours on tour.  When not on tour I probably average an hour or less a
day, occasionally missing a week or two.  Then I feel guilty and start 
playing a few hours each night for a week.

GS:  So your practice sort of corresponds to its application?

AL:  Yes, exactly.

GS:  You're preparing for a tour now?

AL:  Yes.  I'm trying to play six to eight hours a day now.  I have to.  We
took this long period of time off.  When you're in the studio you play all
day and your playing gets real sharp.  But your priorities shift when you're
home for a long period of time; you become more domesticated and play a lot 
less.  It seems to take a lot more time to get back into shape, but it's 
probably because we take more time off now.

GS:  How does _Presto_ differ from past efforts?

AL:  The approach on the record was to go for a chunkier, more unaffected 
sound--getting away from my terrible 10-year dependency on chorus [laughs].
I really liked having just the straight-forward guitar into the amp sound.
It may be taking a few steps back, yet is still refreshing for me.  My custom
Signature [see Vital Stats] with the split-coil active bridge pickup gives 
me clarity and brightness; at the same time I can get chunky thickness and 
warmth out of the humbucker.

GS:  Your comment on the chorus makes me think of a story about Jaco
Pastorius.  He was playing with Joni Mitchell and she came in with one of 
the first chorus amps, maybe a Roland.  When he heard it, he immediately 
commandeered it and played it through the rest of the night.  It's such a 
great sound.

AL:  I went through exactly the same thing on _Farewell To Kings_, way back
in '77.  I rented a new Roland Jazz Chorus before the session, and I 
couldn't _believe_ how it sounded.  I thought, "Where has this sound been 
all my life?"  Unfortunately, I got very dependent on it.

GS:  What guitars did you use on the opening riff of "Show Don't Tell"?

AL:  I used the Strat and the Hentor [see Vital Stats].

GS:  What about the 16th-note strumming in the verses?

AL:  That was a direct Signature with tons of reverb, and some repeats on 
it, single-tracked.

GS:  You seem to use suspended chords a lot.  Is that how you're hearing it
these days?

AL:  Yeah, I've always played that way.  As a three-piece band it's been
important for the guitar to fill in a wide tonal area.  For the last 10 
years I've concentrated on playing suspended chords just to fill in that

GS:  There are some chords in "Show Don't Tell" that are really striking. 
There's a section where you play a suspended chord while Geddy's keyboard is
adding the minor 3rd and minor seventh which creates a real thick and lush 
minor 11th sound.

AL:  Yeah, exactly.  It really gives a nice, rich sound.

GS:  One last question--have you ever seen a UFO?

AL:  No...not sober.

                         Vital Statistics 

Age:  36, born in Ferny, British Columbia, in Western Canada.  Raised in

Studio Guitars:  Signatures, Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, a 
modified Strat nicknamed the "Hentor" (Strat body with Shark neck, Bill
Lawrence L-500 bridge pickup, standard Strat middle and neck pickups). 
"All have quite a different character that, when combined, create a good 
overall sound."  

Live Guitars:  Signatures.  (Signature is a Canadian company that Alex has 
been involved with since the beginning.)  His favorites are a white Strat 
copy with three single-coil active pickups and a custom version of their 
latest model that features a neck-through contoured top with a rear split-
coil humbucker and two single-coil active pickups.

Acoustic Guitars:  A Washburn, "it's got a full, rich, John Mellencamp sort
of 'wide strumming' sound"; a Gibson Dove, a Gibson J-55 with a Nashville 
tuning for jangly high-end emphasis.

Amps:  Gallien-Krueger CPL 2000 preamp, 400 series Mesa Boogie tube power 
amp, GK 2x12-inch cabinets.  Dependability is crucial to Lifeson in live 
situations:  "People are paying a lot of money to come and see you."

Effects:  Bradshaw switching system.  "His systems are spectacular, clean,
organized and dependable."  TC Electronics 2290-1210 for chorus, DEP-5 for
reverb and other "long" effects and a Roland GP-16 multi-effects unit--DOD 
DSP 128.  Alex is currently awaiting a "hush-hush" new preamp from GK.

Strings:  Dean Markley .009s

Picks:  Markley #1

Early Influences:  Jimi Hendrix, Beatles, Beach Boys, The Who, and Led 

Non-Rock Influences:  Ten months of classical guitar lessons.

Favorite Classical Composers:  Bach, Villa-Lobos, Vivaldi.

Favorite Canadian Whiskey:  Doesn't drink it.

First Guitar:  An $11 Japanese Kent classical with "telephone wire" strings.

First Songs:  "Satisfaction", "Last Time", "For Your Love", "I'm A Man".

Excerpt from Mr. Big Interview from Guitar World may 1991
Reprinted without permission.

Sheehan:  "...Geddy Lee--now talk about frightening.  At the end of the last
couple of shows in the tour, we played bass together on "In The Mood."  He's
an amazing bass player, but he's such a great guy you would never feel
frightened around him.

Gilbert:  That reminds me.  I can't believe I forgot:  Definitely, the most
terrified I've ever been playing with any guitar player was with Alex
Lifeson.  We were about halfway through the Rush tour and Geddy Lee's roadie
sort of pulled me aside and said, "I'll tell you what, I'm going to give you
a tape of last night's show.  Learn the encore."  It was "In The Mood."
Then he said, "Learn a harmony to the solo, and I'll plug you in.  Come on
up and surprise the band."  I was thinking, "Uh oh, I don't know.  What if
they don't like it?"  "I'll take full responsibility," he said, "Just make
sure you got the tune down."
   So about three days later--I'd practiced the tune constantly, I was so
excited--they go into the song and I just start walking up on stage.  The
band looks over, and I saw terror in their eyes.  The first thing they did
was literally run over to my guitar speaker.  They leaned down and listened,
and I could see them lose their fear.  "Okay, he knows the tune.  He's not
reeking."  About halfway through, Alex screams to me over the din of the
monitors:  "Did you learn the solo?"  And I said, "I learned a harmony!"
He said, "Great, let's do it back to back like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page!"
They loved it, so we did it for the rest of the tour.  And after the solo,
the rest of the band would run out and we'd sing with Geddy on the mike.


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