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          The National Midnight Star, Number 571

                 Sunday, 29 November 1992
Today's Topics:
            One on One: An interview with Neil

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 92 12:54:50 -0400
From: (Ron Wiseman)
Subject: One on One: An interview with Neil

 - Here's a radio interview I caught the tail end of a while back. 
It was a couple of weeks after Neil's Rockline interview when he
announced that Geddy did the rap section on Roll the Bones.
     Although I only got half of the interview, I thought it was
interesting enough to post here.  Enjoy!


[...Back now to One on One with Neil Peart of RUSH]

     As I mentioned earlier, Neil is one of the most respected
drummers in rock. In fact, years ago the late great Jazz drummer
Buddy Rich cited Neil as his favourite player in rock -n- roll. 
And Rich is not alone in that assessment.
     So back to our conversation with Neil Peart, and the subject
is drumming.

SW:  Well what about the physical side of things?  Playing the
drums for two hours and change every night at this point in your
career, as opposed to 15 years ago.

NP:  Yeah!  Ironically its gotten easier.  I used to suffer a
lot, particularly in the opening act days, because we'd only play
40 minutes a night and I would hardly have time to get warmed up. 
There would be no sound check.  I used to have a lot of trouble
of cramps in my wrists, and things like that.  Now I've gotten
into endurance sports and built up my stamina to the level where
it doesn't kill me any more.  I can go out and play for two hours
and, yes it's - one thing about drumming is that your working at
your absolute physical limit and also at your absolute mental
limit.  There aren't many things that demand so much of you on
both levels at once.  But at the same time i've had a lot of time
to work on it, basically, and at this point - its difficult, I
don't underestimate the difficulty of it at all - but I don't
feel I've passed that turning point yet where I've had to say to
myself that I could have done that 5 years ago, or I'm going to
have to pace myself a little slower this year.
     This particular set of music we're playing is a little over
two hours and it's so jammed packed, I mean, Geddy gets to say a
sentence every four or five songs and the rest of its is just
non-stop music.  And the guys get a break in the middle while I
do my drum solo, but for me, you know, that's just pushing it to
another level for six or seven minutes, and then the show starts
again.  So it is a vigorous onslaught.

SW:  Do you enjoy it though?

NP:  When it goes well I enjoy it.

SW:  Do you come off stage exhilarated?

NP:  If I play well.  That's something you can never count on and
something that inwardly I judge very strictly, so there are
nights when I walk off feeling very proud and other nights when I
would just rather hide under the bus.  Drag me to the next city.
     That is another pitfall of the road, that you judge your
life totally by the last performance.  In some ways that's good
because you get another chance the next show to walk up there and
say tonight I'm going to fix all that.  And they are such small
things - things an audience would never notice, things often
times the other guys in the band would never notice.  They're
purely inward things, and sometimes just how difficult it is to
concentrate or how easily it comes, or just biological or
phycological things that no one can figure out.
     It's an inward thing, and its a danger that if you get
depressed if you've had a bad show its not a realistic take on
judging your whole life, but it is the right way to walk up on
stage is as if your life depended on it and to know that if for
some reason you were killed that night - that if this was your
last show - you would know that you had given it everything you
had.  I feel those are the proper values to take with you, but
there's a price to be paid for those as well.

SW:  You mentioned before extracurricular physical endurance
pursuits that have helped keep you stamina up.  What do you do?

NP:  The funny thing about that is as a kid I was zero athletic
ability at all; a total lack of coordination.  And then through
getting so obsessed by drumming in my teenage years I built up a
level of stamina that I was able to build into other things.  So
I got into things like cross-country skiing and found it came
easily to me because I was used to exerting myself over long
periods, and breath control and all those things came very
easily.  And swimming was the same. I can swim effortlessly for
miles just from the same thing that drumming has - you have that
centering and breathing control, and balancing yourself, and
cycling the same thing.  You have that rhythmic thing that you
set your pace and just go.  So those are the kind of things that
were actually made possible for me by drumming.  But the fact
that I do them on days off or when I'm off the road or whatever,
feeds back into the drumming by keeping my stamina high. And it's
more important for mental health on the road, if I go out on my
bicycle on the afternoon of a show and get in touch with the real
world.  Or on a day off cycle between to cities and see part of
America I haven't seen before. These things keep me much more in
touch with the real world, than the usual bubble of touring which
can so alienate, and mess people up demonstrability.

SW:  Who were you influences as a drummer, when you were

NP:  The list is so long, but my first spark probably came from
the Gene Krupa story - the movie, and seeing that.  From rock -
early rock didn't strike me at all because early rock, especially
for a drummer was pretty simplistic and actually pretty moronic
through the late fifties and early sixties.  An it wasn't tell
the late '60s that rock really grabbed me.
     Well, Keith Moon was certainly a drummer that didn't
influence me, ironically, very much musically, but inspired me. 
I guess that's the right word. I really loved his flamboyant
sense of disorder, although it turned out to be the antithesis of
my approach to drumming.  But it doesn't matter, it did inspire
me.  And then a lot of later drummers in that era:  Mitch
Mitchell with Jimmy Hendrix, and later there was Michael Giles
with the early King Crimson band that was a big influence on me. 
And so on into the '70s.  I'm afraid of questions like that, just
'cause the list is so long.

SW:  What about today?  Are there drummers working today that you

NP: Absolutely.  Any number of the well known ones.  But, among
young ones, the drummer for Soundgarden for instance is an 
example of a good '90s drummer who has a whole, the full body of
drumming knowledge behind him, who is taking it into new areas. 
I hear both new drummers and other working drummers of the time,
and they're playing great.

SW: Is there anybody that you like to go and watch?

NP:  I don't go out for much, there's not much that's worth going
out for, and for me to go out its got to be unrepeatable like a
good piece of theatre.  I'll go to an opera because it won't come
to my house, or to a art museum.
     There's a drummer Omar Hakim who played with David Bowie and
with Sting and Weather Report who's just a beautiful drummer to
watch.  I'm more of a listener than a watcher.

[...Fade to Closer to the Heart]

     One of the most interesting subjects that we covered in our
recent interview had to do with Neil's views on rock stardom. 
Adulation, especially on the often intense level that many
devoted Rush fans express it, is something that makes Neil Peart

NP:  As you put it, very uncomfortable.  I've tried to deal with
it and articulate it, and figure out for myself why it makes me
so uncomfortable.  In songs like limelight I've tried to address
it.  I've lunched a lengthy campaign to try to deglamorize rock -
n- roll and demythologise the world of a musician, and try to
express it as very much a job.  You really work hard at it, and
for us we come in in an afternoon and put in an eight hour day,
and when the work is done we get on the bus and away we go.
     To me is much more prosaic than it's usually portrayed to
be, but the deeper question you're getting at there is the whole
concept of heros.  I don't think its a healthy thing on any level
to have heros.  A better word would be exemplars.  I think people
should exemplify worthy values to pursue, but the idea of a hero
is something super-human, without flaws.  Unattainable is the
destructive part of it, I think, because if someone is trying to
live up to a hero and mythologising them - idealising them that
much - its too far away.  It's too unattainable.  Whereas if you
look at someone as an example of a good musician that you would
wish to live up to as an example then that's a healthy
     Unfortunately Western culture has been devoted, at least in
this century, to the cultivation of heros, super-human, larger
than life, the whole Hollywood marketing of film stars.  It's a
Western thing, through Europe as well.  Sports stars, everybody
like that.  They're supposed to be perfect, they're supposed to
be super-human.
     It's bad for them.  The list of casualties through the whole
world, just looking at pop music alone, and I know that a lot of
those are casualties of the "circus"; the position they're being
put in.  And I see that's what's happening to Guns'n'Roses right
now.  That's the casualty that Jimmy Hendrix was, the casualty
that Keith Moon was, John Bonham was, all those.  Put in an
unattainable human situation, and trying to play to it though. 
That's the one I decided early on - No!  I've seen the casualties
go down to that.  And fortunately for us we came up gradually
enough, we opened for other bands and saw how they dealt with it,
and dealt with in very unhealthy ways for the most part.  They
might try to give people what they wanted, but in the long term
it was self destructive to them.  So the same thing with sports
     People are constantly complaining because their heros are
human, or their exemplars are human.  That's the danger on both
sides.  Its a loss of expectations and a loss of respect on
whoever's doing all the idolizing.  And for the people in the
spotlight, it's just so dangerous if you're not stable.  You
know, I'm stable enough to reject is all, but I've had a lot of
friends who haven't been.
     Phil Lineup (?) from Thin Lizy was one.  He was just
basically a very lovely person, but he was another one put in
that situation who couldn't handle it.  Some people can handle
it, some people can manipulate it even very well, but other
people begin playing the role - It's like the line I used in
Superconductor, 'The role becomes the actor'.  They start playing
this role and they start walking out after their shows saying
'Oh, you love me!  Yes, I love me!'.  And it's so artificial, and
yet - I was mentioning Guns 'n' Roses too, to go from a L.A. bar
band to the biggest band in the world, in like a year, is too
great.  It's too great of a leap.  And it's not like they
changed, everything around them changes.  And we've seen enough
of it in our small scale to guess what it's like for people like
that.  The whole world does change.  Suddenly everybody changes
towards you.
     Slash was being interviewed and he kept prefacing everything
he said with 'I don't want to complain, but...', because they
were asking him how his life had changed.  Basically what he was
saying was 'I have no freedom.  I have no joy.  I have no
privacy', but he had to preface all those objections by saying 'I
don't want to complain' because he's a hero; he's not supposed
to.  That's what he's supposed to want.  He's supposed to want to
be trapped in his hotel room all day because there's a mob of
kids outside.
     I've actually gotten into trouble by trying to demythologise
it, because it does make me uncomfortable.  I love my work. I
chose the work I wanted to do, but it's like Paul Newman said, 'I
chose to be an actor, I didn't choose to be a star'.  I chose to
be a musician, you know.  The distinction is not allowed.  I've
had people write irate letters after I've made statements like
that saying, 'How dare you say that what you do is just a regular
job.  And you just go to work for your eight hours and do the
very best job you can'.  Well I don't know, it seems self evident
to me, but to other people it seems like a betrayal of this great
golden ideal of the larger than life star.  Other people have
tried to fight it.  Paul Newman, who I mentioned, is one example
of one.
     For I while I had to be totally, just, reactionary about it. 
I guess during the turning point for us when we started getting
too popular, and all the artifices foisted upon you.  The line
from Limelight about one must put up barricades, and that was so
true.  The idea for us, through all our early years of touring,
of having a closed dressing room, or security guards, or having
to check into hotels under another name.  That was ridiculous to
us.  I mean, we'd go play a show, our dressing room was wide open
and anyone could walk in.  There was nothing like that.  And so
when we had to make that change, it felt very artificial.  It
felt like, 'well who are we to have security people', 'who are we
to have pseudonyms to check in under'.  You feel artificial doing
that, but it's for self defense.  Suddenly, everyone you
encounter in the course of a day wants something from you.  So
that's how the world around you changes, even if initially - I
don't think anybody changes through becoming popular, initially. 
I don't think anyone does.  They don't instantly get a swelled
head or anything like that - but suddenly everyone around you
that you see in the course of a day looks at you in a different
way.  And nearly everyone will come up to you wanting something. 
If its just a decision, if it's someone working for you, or an
acknowledgement, or a piece of your time, an autograph, or an
interview, or any number of things.  There's never anyone giving,
its just take, take, take.
     For our band, we're on a limited scale, but for any band
thrust into it with full force in such a short time; it's no
wonder they're on the verge of death every two weeks.

     Neil Peart, of course, is not only Rush's drummer, he's also
the band's lyricist, and as such enjoys a reputation as one of
the most literate in rock.

SW:  How do you do come up with lyrics now?  Has it always been
the same since you've started writing for the band way back when,
or is it a different process now?

NP:  I would say my methodology is the same, where in the time
between records, I'm collecting impressions and collecting
phrases I like, and writing down little possible titles, and that
sort of thing.  And then, when we do go in to do the song writing
stage, I have a whole bunch of raw material so I don't have to
sit there with a blank piece of paper and wait for my muses to
strike me divinely.
     I have a lot of raw material there, and then it's simply my
own discipline to sit there for three days and work on a song
that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, but just keep coming back
to it, and work on it, and work on it until it does get
somewhere.  I don't think that part of it has changed, although
the craft - I think I've certainly gotten better at it - but, I
think the actual series of events, and again the element of
emotion that we were talking about before, doesn't change.  And
so often, where anger is the impetus, and even Roll the Bones -
the verses to go with a sense of outrage about, you know, babies
being born with aids, and kids being born into instant starvation
in Ethiopia and many parts of Africa, or in Heresy too, where it 
was just a sense of outrage about four generations of people who
had to live in this horrible environment just because of
somebody's dumb idea just seemed to me like the ultimate heresy
in life.

SW:  The collapse of communism?

NP: Yeah! Yeah! But it was more, ah, thinking back over it, again
those four generations of people, empathising with them and
thinking that if I had been born in Bulgaria in my time, I could
never had - regardless of whatever ambition I had, whatever
strength of will and discipline to practice, and whatever gift or
talent I had, or anything - it would have be worth nothing.  I
would have ended up as, you know, whatever they told me to be,
basically.  So, again, that kind of thing has always made me
angry about that system, but here I saw examples, and during my
travels in Europe last fall I saw kids from Eastern Europe for
the first time free to travel around Western Europe.
     I was travelling over the Alps in Austria, and these four
guys, young guys, in their broken down old Scoda, were trying to
get up the Grustukner(?) Pass in Austria, and they couldn't go
much faster than I could, 'cause their poor car was dying.  So at
every pull off on the road, their car would be steaming and
they'd be waving and cheering, and just so happy to be free!  You
know, that's the underrated part of it all.  There was all the
big euphoria when The Wall came down and all that, but then it
settled into the hard work of restructuring the whole thing.  So,
their moment of glory was a very brief one, as most moments of
glory are, and as the creative one is too.
     I was describing how, when I'm working on lyrics, how on an
average I'll sit there for three days going over it, and going
over it, and there's no moment when I go 'Ah, there it is! It's
beautiful!'.  The moment of glory for me is that moment when I go
'Oh, good! It's going to work', and then there's a whole bunch
more work still to do to make it work.  The same for us when
we're in the demo stage.  We get the most excited about the songs
the first time we can see the elements are working.  You know, we
can go 'Yes! This is what we're trying to do', and we here this
first demo - very rough, and very unrealized - but, at the same
time, we realize at that moment it will work.  All it takes is
another six months of work, you know.

SW:  How are your ideas shaped?  Are the shaped just by -  you
described being in Europe last year and seeing people, and
obviously that stayed with you, and somehow that came through in
some material that you wrote.  Other things:  books, I know
you're a big reader, movies, just the way you live your life I

NP:  Yeah!  Conversations, and I have a whole network of
correspondents spread around the world that - we're too far apart
to see each other regularly, but we write back and forth and
discuss what's on our minds, and people in different disciplines,
some are freelance writers, one of them's a computer scientist,
you know - people working in different jobs.  Some of them are
students - so all coming from different context and with their
own struggles, but still we carry on dialogues about things which
are interesting us.  Through this whole writing on chance, for
instance, with this record, I've had plenty of arguments with
friends about different aspects of it, and how to postulate a
random universe without making it seem futile, like we were just
ants running around.  That wasn't what I was trying to get
across.  Through many, many all night conversations those ideas
were clarified for me.  I would raise the element I was thinking
about, and then argue about it with a friend of mine, and maybe
gain a new point of access, or perhaps a better way to express
it.  Sometimes a conversation goes like that, where we argue for
three hours and then find out we agree, but it's the mode of
expression that needed to be clearer.  So those things are very
important too.
     But books are important, newspapers are important, even
television - conversations that I overhear.  All those things are
valid and important and come into play when I'm trying to capture
the full scope of something.
     Just in the element of randomness - I didn't want to talk
about it my life, particularly, but I wanted to take that
particular example and extrapolate it into all the people I knew,
all the people I didn't know.

SW:  So you decided that before you started writing this album?

NP:  No, the actual - the element emerged initially just by
accident - by chance!  Face Up was one of the first songs that I
started working on lyrically, long before we even got together to
start working.  The image of the wild card came up and I just
started thinking 'Hmmm, a wild card', and some card game where
you're dealt a card and you can either turn it up of turn it
down.  So I had that phrase 'turn it up, turn it down' which I
really liked.
     But the wild card image kept affecting me more and more, and
I started thinking about all the wild cards in my own life, and
all the wild cards that other people are dealt.  So many areas -
like Ghost of a Chance, about the possibility of enduring love,
and how heavily the odds are against it in spite of how many pop
songs have been written with love and forever in the same line. 
To me its not a realistic proposition, except in very rare
occurrences, and also I wanted to make the point in the song that
it's an effort of will.
     To fall in love is an easy thing, and is rightly considered,
I think, a biological thing.  But, beyond that, it takes effort. 
The line that I used is 'You have to make it last'.  Yes, you can
find someone to love, but then the second corollary to that is
for you to make it last.
     The song Roll the Bones is full of any number of little
decisions that I had to make about what I thought, and how best
to express them and how to introduce the idea that yes we do have
free will and yes we do have choices, and yes our choices do
affect the way our fates turn out.  But at the same time, there
are always these wild cards that are going to come along,
sometimes tragically, sometimes triumphantly.  The motto comes
down to 'Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst'.

[...Fade to Roll the Bones]

     I guess the final piece in the Rush musical puzzle is just
how the different elements in this trio fit together.  To
complete our interview session with Neil backstage in Providence,
we got on to how his words are incorporated into the music of
bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson to become Rush Songs.

SW:  Do the lyrics dictate the structure of the song?  The way
that you write the lyrics down, does that to any extent, dictate
how the song is going to sound?

NP:  It does, but it's a complicated relationship.  I will
certainly manipulate the rhythm and the meter within the lyrics
sometimes to suggest a certain context for it - a certain way
that it might be sung.  And sometimes I have to explain to Geddy
what I'm after because on paper it looks so abstract.  And then
I'll say 'Well I had in mind, maybe, to set you up vocally - it
would be nice to have these two lines as a pair, and then this
one will let you phrase out in a freer way', and so on.  So
sometimes I have theoretical things in mind, but we tend often to
work from the lyrics just because it's a built in structure. 
It's easier, you know, there's a piece of paper with different
sections of the lyrics on there, and we say 'You know, I think
this would make a nice chorus and this part would make a nice
bridge' and sometimes they're not what I intended, but that's
great.  When the other guys give input, I tend to get excited
more than insulted , so that's important.  Yeah, there is an
influence, but sometimes we, in a contrary sense, avoid it.  If
there's a piece that sounds like it aught to be very violent in a
musical setting or, conversely, a piece that sounds like it ought
to be very gentle, sometimes just to be contrary we'll set them
up in a totally opposite context just so there isn't a sense of
the expected, or taking the easy way.

SW:  Yes.  I saw a documentary recently about Elton John and
Bernie Toppin (?), 'Two Rooms', and Elton John talked about Tiny
Dancer, I think it was, and he said 'When Bernie gave me the
lyrics, the song just, the music actually, just flowed and made
sense.  It was the only possible music that could go with those
words with the way they were structured'.  In this case, because
you write the lyrics, but you don't necessarily create the music
to go along with them.  They are separate disciplines in this

NP:  And sometimes I'm very surprised, too, when I first hear the
song or the music, or the words set to music.  And usually
pleasantly surprised, because for me the words don't really come
alive until they've been sung.  At the same time, I'm off working
in one room on my word machine, and the other two are working in
another room on the music, so when we get together at the end of
the day if they've put a new set of lyrics to music, sometimes,
it'll be a total revelation to me - the context they've found to
put it in.  So sometimes we don't discuss it too much, just so
those surprises can come up.  They all work.  All the methods

SW:  Do they trust you?  Does Geddy trust you, in terms of what
your're going to write and then what will eventually come out of
his mouth?  Or does that just become a process of...

NP:  There's a lot of collaboration there.  I mean, again, when I
bring something in, as long as they're positive about it
initially, and saying 'O.K., I see what you're trying to get
here, but there are a couple of areas that are unclear to me', or
'perhaps it would be more effective if you were to structure it
thus and so'.  And I'll go back all excited, 'Yes, not only do
they like it, but here's some things that'll make it better'. 
But from a vocalists point of view purely, we work very closely
together, where sometimes I can't tell what structure of
consonant and vowels will be euphonious to come out of your
mouth.  I can hear them sung in my head, but that doesn't mean it
can be physically done that way.  So, we'll work very much on
that now - where if Geddy's having trouble with a line, I'll try
to find another way to rephrase it - a smoother way to deliver
it.  Or, if I hear a certain effect of, again, certain consonants
and vowels coming up that's very good, I might make more of it
and, basically respond to how it's being sung.
     Sometimes he remarks on a line that's giving him trouble,
sometimes I just hear it - I just say 'No. That doesn't work.' 
It's all to the positive, as I'll feel better about the completed
work.  Everything is a degree of improvement, so it's never
anything that causes fights.

SW:  What about ideas?  Has Geddy ever taken a song that you've
given him and said 'Look, I just can't say this!'?

NP:  Ahh, No.  No, because I would never put myself in that
position, I guess.

SW:  You know what he'd be comfortable with?

NP:  Yeah!  After all these years, I've learned enough about the
craft to know that if I'm going to put him in the position of
having to portray a character, it has to be a sympathetic
character.  Or, if he's going to be in a narrative position, I
have to put enough emotion into that narrative to allow him, as a
vocalist, emotive.  So, those are bits of craft that you learn
along the way that you wouldn't think of transgressing.
     I wouldn't imagine coming in with a song that would be just
totally impossible for him to relate to.  Sometimes there are
difficulties in interpretation, that are great to go back and
fix.  And sometimes there are things I do as experiments that
never get set to music.  And that's O.K. too.  I mentioned that
we never write a song for nothing, but we would certainly do a
lot of preliminary experiments for nothing, and throw them away. 
I mean, those guys write plenty of musical snippets that end up
never being used or end up being replaced.  We say this bridge is
simply not good enough, and it goes out.  The same with me
lyrically, they'll say 'O.K. these chorus are really good, but
the verses are going to have to change someway to either allow
Geddy, as a singer, more scope or just musically to suite a
certain framework better.  All those things are refinements along
the way, but for me to come in with a fully realized work and be
rejected out of hand wouldn't happen.  It would just be something
that would be overlooked in favour of something better.

SW:  On Roll the Bones, which song do you think you're most happy
with in terms of lyrics?  Do you think it would be, maybe,
'Where's my thing'?

NP:  (Laughs). Good!  Yeah!  A good one to nail, because it's
impossible for me to answer that question, always.

[...fade to 'Where's my Thing?']

     Song for which Rush has just received a Grammy nomination -
excellent instrumental track called 'Where's my Thing?' found on
the band's latest album Roll the Bones.  And that'll do it for
One on One: A conversation with Neil Peart of Rush.  I'm Steve
Warden, thanks for listening.

[...fade to YYZ]


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For administrative matters (subscription, unsubscription, changes, and 
questions), send mail to:    or

There is now anonymous ftp access available on Syrinx.  The network
address to ftp to is:       or

When you've connected, userid is "anonymous", password is .
Once you've successfully logged on, change directory (cd) to 'rush'.

There is also a mail server available (for those unable or unwilling to
ftp).  For more info, send email with the subject line of HELP to:

These requests are processed nightly.  Use a subject line of MESSAGE to
send a note to the server keeper or to deposit a file into the archive.

The contents of The National Midnight Star are solely the opinions and 
comments of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the 
opinions of the authors' management, or the mailing list management.

Copyright The Rush Fans Mailing List, 1992.

Editor, The National Midnight Star
(Rush Fans Mailing List)
End of The National Midnight Star Number 571

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