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Subject: 12/19/93 - The National Midnight Star #840  *** Special Edition ***

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 840

                 Sunday, 19 December 1993
Today's Topics:
             Guitar Player article - Dec 1993
               Rock World article, Nov 1993
             Modern Drummer Interview Feb 1994

Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 11:54:48 +0100 (MET)
Subject: Guitar Player article - Dec 1993

 -taken from Guitar Player, December 1993, pages 21 and 22


Alex Lifeson

Rush strips down

by Andy Widders-Ellis

  "We wanted to be that energetic three-piece band we were in
the past," says Alex Lifeson, explaining the harder, leaner
sound of Rush's _Counterparts_. "We decide to strip down our
approach and bring up my guitar."
  Lifeson plays a dominant role throughout, cutting loose with
charging riffs and tough tones that harken back to the band's
influential _Moving Pictures_. "For the first time in 12
years," he divulges, "I recorded the guitars in the studio
instead of the control room. I had two amps blaring at me. It
took a couple f days to get used to it, but after that, man, I
*loved* it. I could feel the wood vibrating against my body
and hear the amps coming through the pickups. I got caught up
in the whole energy of the sound and the room. I thought,
"Where have I been, missing all this?"."
  Such a white-knuckle approach, Alex acknowledges, requires
sacrifice: "Your headphones are thumping away -you know it's
killing your ears- and communicating with the engineer is
slower. But you feel so connected to the music. I wouldn't
trade it for anything; I'm surprised I didn't clue in on this
  While Rush revived classic studio techniques for _Counter
parts_, they felt no need to alter their pre-production scheme.
As they have for years, the band developed sophisticated
song demos before setting foot in the land of 2" tape. Alex
and bassist Geddy Lee used Alesis ADAT 8-track digital recorders
to audition ideas and refine parts. Later they transfer
red those tapes to the studio's multitrack, and the home
recordings became guide tracks. One by one, the trio overdub
bed their respective parts, replacing the originals. Lifeson
printed his guitars to analog tape; everything else was captured
  On several songs, including the punchy "Cut To The Chase",
Lifeson's bandmates encouraged him to keep the original guide
solos. "Solos are a funny thing," Alex observes, "Many solos I
record at the demo stage make it to the final mix. I tend to
be a perfectionist, but I've come to realize my best work is
spontaneous. An unrehearsed solo may not be particularly in
time or in tune, but it can possess an emotional quality
that's very difficult to recapture. At this point, I'd rather
live with some technical imperfections."
  Lifeson cut his ADAT parts by sending a direct line from his
Gallien-Krueger amp to a Palmer speaker simulator and then to
the mixer. He added effects while tracking. In the studio,
however, Alex pounded his riffs through two heads -a Peavey
5150 and a 100-watt Marshall- with 4*12 cabinets. "For all the
bed tracks, I plugged straight into the amps, with no effects,
and cranked it up."
  Unlike players who hire a cartage service to haul dozens of
guitars to a session, Alex says he relied on a few familiar
friends for _Counterparts_. "I mostly played my Paul Reed
Smith, Les Paul, and Tele. I played the Paul a lot - it's
prominent on "Stick It Out", for example. Quite often I combined
the Tele with the Paul to create a single sound. Lifeson
also likes to layer acoustic guitars: "I have a big, sort of
metallic sounding Washburn and a Gibson Dove that's soft and
delicate. The two together made a very complete sound. I also
used a Nashville-tuned Gibson J-55, which we mixed in and
out." (For this "high-strung" Nashville tuning, Alex replaced
the lowest four strings with lighter gauges and tuned them up
an octave.)
  It's no surprise that _Counterparts_ acoustic guitars recall
_Tommy_-era Who tracks. "Pete Townshend can make an acoustic
sound so heavy and powerful," affirms Alex. "I've always
admired that. On "Between Sun And Moon" there's a musical
bridge  before the solo that's very Who-ish. I even throw
Keith Richards in there." Lyrically and musically, Lifeson
notes, the song is "really a tribute to the '60s." Yet these
days, he find himself listening to contemporary players.
"Particularly Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains -I've been really
getting off on _Dirt_. And I love Eric Johnson's playing."
  Soon, Lifeson plans to return to basics with his stage
setup. "For the next tour, I want te revamp my whole line. I'm
planning on using Marshalls again, after a 15 years hiatus.
I'll be playing my PRS guitars; I might even break out the Les
Paul for one or two songs." In the '80s, the Canadian favored
single-coils. "To be quite honest," he reveals, "I've moved
away from that sound; I much prefer the warmth of humbuckers."
  Creativity, concedes Alex, runs in cycles. "After we finish
a record, I put my guitar down and don't play for months. When
I pick it up again, I really stink. It takes me a while to get
back into shape, but in the process, I start playing things I
never would have thought of before. I discover different
styles." Exploring the fretboard in solitude is rejuvenating,
says Lifeson: "My greatest enjoyment is sitting alone in my
home studio, playing through my amp with a really great sound.
Not working on a song, just playing. I get completely lost and
the hours fly by. I still do it, after all these years."


Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 11:54:48 +0100 (MET)
Subject: Rock World article, Nov 1993

taken from - Rock World issue 11 vol 2, nov. 1993

Feeling groovy - by Chris Welch

  "Rush - are they still going?" said the cynic. Yes, they
bloody well are, and after 20 years they deserve some respect!
The unique Canadian trio rock like fiends on their attacking
new album, as singer GEDDY LEE tells CHRIS WELCH.

  It's a constant source of amazement that a band can sell out
huge venues like Wembley Arena, release platinum albums, boast
a worldwide army of fans, and yet still fail to register with
sections of the public at large. I was speaking to a top music
biz executive only recently, who had absolutely no idea Rush
were major players in the rock league. "But they're huge!" I
assured the man with virgin ears. "I don't believe you!" was
the vigorous response.
  But as Rush reach their 20th anniversary next year, the band
that features Alex Lifeson (guitars), Neil Peart (drums) and
Geddy Lee (vocals and bass), celebrate by releasing a strong
new album 'Counterparts' (Atlantic). It's their 19th and third
for Atlantic, and is notable for its heavier, straight ahead
rocking style. Geddy Lee was in London recently and despite a
touch of jet lag, was delighted to explain the evolution of
  "One of our main goals of this record was to have a drier,
bigger sound, especially the rhythmic side of the record. We
have been learning in the past few years, how to become more
groove oriented, which is tough for white Canadian musicians! 
Neil and I have been trying to perfect a lot of new
rhythmic things. There seem to be more bands blending rhythmic
stuff with hard rock, and I think it's a great marriage. It's
one of those bandwagons we are quite happy to jump onto. We
like Fishbone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers who have such
eclectic influences, and their rhythm sections have that
American groove thing going which is very appealing to us."
  The new album seems to be getting away from the old Rush
intensity, but Geddy says: "It's a different kind of intensity,
more gutteral and less cerebral, which will be a great
relief to many people when they hear the record!"
  But there has always been an element of fun and good humor
in Rush, surely, despite their heavy, rather serious image?
  "Oh yes, there always has," smiles Geddy. "You're right.
It's there when we are making the records. I am surprised it
doesn't show more. Maybe the musical colors we use are quite
dark, and gets interpreted as being deadly serious, even when
that's not the intention. But we are not trying to prove to
the world, like U2 that we are not taking ourselves seriously.
We are just more comfortable and more confident, and people
recognize we are not one dimensional."
  An integral member of the band is drummer Neil Peart, who
also writes all their lyrics. It's 20 years since he joined
the band in 1974 but Alex and Geddy still like to call him
their newest member. "I guess we have to regard any time before
that as pre-history," says Geddy. "It's kind of a happy time
for us, knowing we have survived 20 years, with no other
changes. We have talked about expanding the band in the past,
and adding another member to free up my hands and feet. But
Rush is like a young boys club. We don't want any other members
to join! We make it work with the three of us and we don't
have another opinion to deal with, and another personality to
wrestle with on the road. We are afraid of tampering with the
  Rush tend to embark on massive world tours with elaborate
stage shows like their 'Roll The Bones' epic in 1991. Combined
with the complex music they have to remember and deliver each
night, it can be a draining experience.
  "The last one was a long tour, but it was fun until the last
three weeks when it got a bit deadly. We are always nervous
about coming to Europe, but our tours in Britain have always
been fabulous, and it was a joy to play in Eastern Europe."
  Rush took six months off after their 1991 tour and began
writing their latest album. One of their most intriguing new
track is 'Wilderness of Mirrors' (???), a phrase which came
from a T.S.Elliot poem and was also used by James Angleton
describing the CIA. "It's an odd song, part heaven and hell,
nightmare and dream song. 'Nobody's Hero' is quite different,
and goes out on a limb. It is very strong lyrically, about the
death of two people, and our perception of heroic ideals. We
seem to care for these people who appear to us on screen and
in books, and yet we don't know much about them apart from
this fake image we idolize."
  "Yet we live amongst people who live heroic but quieter
lives, and we don't pay much mind to them, until they are
gone. It is a tragic song but we try to leave it with an
uplifting feeling of hope."
  "Musically I think we are living in a very healthy time.
There was a real hole in the music scene five years ago, but
now a lot of new bands have come from the Western States.
Soundgarden, Fishbone and Primus are really great, interesting
bands. What happens is that because most people in the music
business don't know anything about music, they accidentally
sign some bands that are pretty good. In the wake of Nirvana's
success, a lot a bands who are better musically, have come to
light. A lot of A&R people don't want to take any chances
because their jobs depend on it. I supposes it's understand
able, but unfortunate."
  Rush have never had a standard rock image -no scandals, no
outrages, just straight ahead music for them. Geddy: "We
switched labels a couple of years ago because we didn't have
any feel for who was at our old company anymore and I kind of
objected to being inherited and transferred from one president
to another. We are NOT a typical band. We're regarded as
difficult because we have low key life styles. We went to
Atlantic because they are more music orientated. We just
needed a fresh start!"
  Rush are obviously determined to play for their fans well
into the 21st century - and perhaps then the rest of the world
will discover what they're missing!

Rush 'Counterparts' (Atlantic)
tracks: Animate, Stick it Out, Cut To The Chase, Nobody's
        Hero, Between Sun and Moon, Alien Shore, Double
        Agent, Leave That Thing Alone, Cold Fire, Everyday

Rush have moved into a tougher, harder rocking groove on this,
their 19th album. The songs are tightly conceived and delivered
with all their usual panache and renewed vigor. As their
brilliant drummer-cum-composer, Neil Peart kicks off such
tracks as 'Alien Shore' and 'Speed Of Love' with a crisp
flourish of battering snare and bass drums, the strong pulse
is maintained, evens as the guitars of Alex Lifeson leave
those mystical spaces between chiming chords that are at the
heart of the Rush sound. Space, serenity, contemplation, some
anguish, some humor, and a lot of artistic fulfillment
remain the band's forte. The subjects retain the imaginative
perspectives one has come to expect from the Canadian trio.
'Double Agent' proves contradictions and confusions, while
'Nobody's Hero' looks at the contrast between perceived screen
heroics and  the real life bravery of everyday people. The
lyrics unfold like essays, while the bands's music flows like
a ceaseless turbulent tide.

Chris Welch. **** out of *****


From: (Donald Ryan)
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 93 16:23:57 CST
Subject: Modern Drummer Interview Feb 1994

Reprinted without permission from Modern Drummer magazine, Feb. '94

                               Neil Peart
                      In Search Of The Right Feel

                          By William F. Miller
                      Photos By Andrew MacNaughton

                            The Drum Master

    Drumming has the power to unite people, no matter how varied their
language or cultural background might be.  On a recent trek through
Africa, Neil Peart had a singular experience that proved just that.  "I
was in Gambia, walking through a small village, and I heard the sound of
a drum.  So of course I was curious!  I looked into a compound and I
could hear the drumming coming from a curtained room.  I walked up to a
woman doing laundry in front of the room.  She could see my interest in
the sound, so she waved me to go in.  Inside I found a young, white
missionary from a nearby Catholic school.  Sitting across from him was
the commanding presence of the local drum master.  He was attempting to
show the missionary how to play _any_ kind of beat.  The missionary was
trying as hard as he could, but he wasn't having a lot of success."
    After a time the drum master, frustrated by the missionary's lack of
ability, noticed the other man who had come into the room.  The master
had no idea who this person was, but he thought to himself, "Why not see
if _he_ can play?"  According to Peart, what happened next was
fascinating.  "The drum master gestured to me to try and play a rhythm.
So we began playing together, and he started smiling because he could
tell I had a rhythm--maybe not _his_ rhythm, but a rhythm of some kind.
We were playing and playing, building the intensity, and little kids
started coming in, laughing at the white man playing drums.  Then a few
women came into the room, and everybody began dancing to our beat!  The
master and I even started trading fours.  It wasn't a spoken thing, but
he could tell that I would lay out and listen to what he was doing for a
certain amount of time, and then he would do the same.  It was just a
magical moment."  When they finished, a confused and startled missionary
ran up to Peart and asked, "How can you do that?"  Chuckling to himself,
Neil politely responded, "I'm in the business."

                           World Inspiration

    Neil's love of bicycling and travel is well known--it's almost the
stuff of legend.  While on tour with Rush he's been known to avoid the
tour bus and bike to the next town and venue.  When not on the road with
Rush, he has taken his bike to the four corners of the globe, including
Europe, mainland China, and Africa.
    Upon entering Peart's Toronto home, one is immediately struck by the
fact that this man has seen and experienced locales most people can't
imagine.  "Here's a prized possession of mine," he says proudly, showing
a raw-metal sculpture standing about ten inches high and resembling a
tribal version of Rodin's "The Thinker."  "It's from Africa.  It weighs
about twenty pounds, and I had to carry it a hundred miles on my bike.
but it was worth it."  Neil's passion for authentic African art is
obvious.  Unique drums, with their rich, hand-carved elegance, are
displayed in his home with reverence.  Original Chinese gongs decorate a
few of the walls.  The decor hints at the fact that a drummer lives in
the house, shouts at the fact that a word traveler resides there.
Peart's love of travel is obvious, but does actually going to other
parts of the world inspire him musically?  "First of all, I think travel
is very important for any person," he insists.  "It's affected me
enormously, and I'm sure it filters down to my work.  Africa is not an
abstraction to me anymore--neither is China.  They're places I've
experienced, places where I've met people, made friends--and just
broadened my thinking.
    "I've written lyrics that were directly influenced by my travels
abroad.  In a drumming sense, I've had some interesting experiences in
different countries, experiences that may not _directly_ affect the way
I play drums, but that certainly inspire my feelings about drumming.
And I've gotten very interested in hand drumming.  Lately I've been
working on playing the djembe."
    One way Peart's wanderlust has directly affected the sound of his
drums is through sampling.  "One of the small drums I brought from China
is an antique that's too fragile to play.  So I took it and a few of the
other delicate instruments that I own and sampled them--along with many
of my other instruments like my temple blocks and glockenspiel.  I've
built up a huge library of sounds, and they've made their way onto our
albums in many of the different patterns I play."
    A particular pattern Neil has recorded that demonstrates the value
of "world inspiration" comes from Rush's last album, _Roll The Bones_.
"On that record we had a song called 'Heresy' that had a drum pattern I
heard when I was in Togo.  I was laying on a rooftop one night and heard
two drummers playing in the next valley, and the rhythm stuck in my
head.  When we started working on the song I realized that beat would
complement it well."

                           Premature Obituary

    August 24, 1993, a day that will live in infamy--well, at least at
the offices of _Modern Drummer_.  It seems a radio station in Cleveland,
Ohio made the announcement that Neil Peart was dying of colon cancer.
For the rest of the day the telephones at _MD_ rang off the hook from
distressed Rush fans.  How is Neil's health?
    "You don't know how many times I've heard that rumor," Peart says,
angrily.  "Strangers have come up to me and asked, 'Is it true?  Are you
dying of cancer?'  If it were true, imagine the insensitivity of someone 
asking you point blank if you're dying.  Be that as it may, let
me put an end to all of these rumors.  I'm absolutely fine, and as far
as I know I plan on living a long and happy life."
    But why the rumors?  It seems that, when Neil prepares for his trips
abroad, he practically shaves his head for ease of maintenance.  This
presumably leads people to think he's having chemotherapy.  "I think
what also convinced people was that on our last tour I was wearing
bandannas on my head," he says.  "Even my daughter said I looked like a
chemotherapy patient!  But those bandannas did an excellent job keeping
the sweat out of my eyes.
    "It doesn't even take that, though," Neil continues.  "I've been
hearing these rumors for at least eight years.  I came back from a bike
tour of Europe, and my manager called me up and said, 'I just heard you
were killed in an accident in Switzerland.  I guess that isn't
accurate.'  There's no basis for any of this--it's absurd."

                              A Little Raw

    For anyone who has heard the new Rush release, _Counterparts_, it's
obvious that Neil, along with the rest of the band, is feeling very
healthy.  _Counterparts_ is the heaviest Rush album in years.  While
there are moments of vintage Rush on the record, there's also a sense of
further development by a band that prides itself on improving.
According to Neil, "We try to stretch in several directions at once now.
On our earlier records our learning curve was much steeper--we were
changing and growing a lot.  We seemed to concentrate on one thing at a
time.  We started with musicianship, then concentrated on songwriting,
then on arranging, all as almost separate courses of a more organic, raw
sound, and yet still have it be something that we would want to listen
to," Neil explains.  "It had to have a certain amount of refinement.  By
organic, we wanted to stress the nucleus of the band--guitar, bass,
drums--and downplay the digital stuff, the sound processing and that
sort of thing.  As long-time listeners of music, I think we have pretty
sophisticated tastes, so we weren't about to go in and make a thrash
record.  But we did want elements of that in our music."
    According to Neil, the band had a carefully formulated plan.  "We
decided to use two different engineers, something we'd never done
before.  Normally we'd use an engineer for the entire process, right
down to the final mixing.  I always wondered why certain artists would
bring in someone new, but we found that changing engineers really helped
us get what we were after.
    "We listened to literally dozens of engineers, knowing that we had to
find the right guys if this plan of ours was going to work.  To record
the tracks, we chose Kevin 'Caveman' Shirley, whose work we enjoyed.
He's known for raw guitar sounds as well as getting some very good drum
sounds.  When we interviewed him he had some very intriguing concepts,
like putting bottom-end on the cymbals.  And he was very concerned with
mic' placement, as far as how it affects the drum sound, rather than
just changing EQs or other board effects.  He was determined to capture
the natural sound of my drumset as accurately as possible.  He didn't
use any reverb.  He wanted a purity of real sound, which was a unique
way of working for us.
    "The other engineer we used, Michael Letho, was brought in to mix
the tracks," Neil continues.  "His forte is mixing, and he constructed
some beautiful mixes with instruments coming in and out, perfectly
complementing each other.  He brought a certain amount of refinement to
the proceedings.  If we had just used Michael, the record might have
been too refined.  Had we just used the Caveman, it would have been too
raw.  So we had the best combination of influences."
    As well as their plan worked, there were some difficulties for the
band with this new approach.  "Using a minimal amount of reverb was hard
for us," Neil says.  "If the drums sounded a bit raw, we'd always just
lay on that reverb and smooth everything out.  Holding back on the
reverb made this record a bit more difficult because the flaws were so
apparent.  If there was a 'bark' on the snare drum or a 'grunch' in a
guitar note, it was obvious.  But we kept them in right up to the final
mixing stages.
    "I also tended to listen to this record throughout the making of it
much less than I normally would.  With previous record we refined them
as we went along.  We would use one engineer and he would do rough mixes
as the recording went along.  When we'd hear those rough mixes along the
way, they'd sound really good--almost like a record.  Well, this time
it _didn't_."

                             The Prize Drum

    As for the drum sound on _Counterparts_, Neil made the decision not
to vary it as radically as on prior albums.  On 1989's _Presto_, for
instance, Neil used a wide array of snare drums.  "I didn't alter things
as much for this record.  I was quite satisfied with the up-front sound
we were getting."  Upon listening to the record one will immediately
notice that Neil's snare sound is a bit lower-pitched than on the last
several Rush releases.  "I used some different snare drums, but for the
majority of the record I used my Solid Percussion deep-shelled drum.  In
the past I used their piccolo drum, and of course my old standard
    "I still have my arsenal of snare drums, but I didn't feel the need
to use them all,"  Neil continues.  "My prize drum is an old Rogers
_Dyna-sonic_.  It was my dream drum when I was a kid, so I _had_ to have
one!  When I was fourteen or fifteen years old, a drummer using a Rogers
_Dyna-sonic_ snare had more impact on me than if he had two
Rolls-Royces!  Every time I look at that drum it gives me a spark of
joy--but I just never use it.  My favorite 'working' drum is still my
old Slingerland.  I've had it for years and it's never let me down.  I
thought when I got the Solid drum it would replace the Slingerland, but
the Slingerland drum is just so versatile.  That drum is a wonder--it's
sensitive _and_ aggressive."
    "My main attitude for this record was, I want the drums to sound
like _my_ drums," Neil says.  "I didn't want the engineer to process
them into something else.  What I like them to do is take my sound and
change the atmosphere _around_ my drums to better help the sound work
within a given composition.  On a less aggressive song the engineer may
smooth out the edges of my sound, adding a bit of 'air' to the track.
On an aggressive number, the engineer will leave it raw.  It's still my
sound--my signature--yet it works within the given song more
effectively.  I like that approach because the differences are subtle."

                            Dangerous Waters

    If you've ever attended a Rush concert you've undoubtedly seen many
audience members "air-drumming" along with Neil.  It can be an odd
sight, especially when it's apparent that these fans know his playing
note-for-note, right down to the fills.  Neil's thoughts on his highly
scripted drum parts may be changing.  "I'm always listening to tapes of
shows on the road so I know what's working and what sections need
attention.  I noticed on the last tour that, for the first time, the
tapes were really a pleasure to listen to.  I don't want you to think
the tapes were flawless, but the quality of the performance seemed to be
on a very listenable level.  Our goal has always been to be able to
accurately reproduce our studio work live.  After so many years we
finally started to realize that we _can_ do it.  It sounds small, but
for us it was a big achievement.
    "That realization gave us a lot of confidence to change arrangements
live--stretching out songs and being more spontaneous in our
performances.  We were excited to be at a point where we felt we could
have the best of both worlds:  to be able to control our organized
sections as well as have the confidence to stretch.  There's no sense
saying that music should be only orchestrated or only spontaneous.  The
only thing with spontaneity is that it tends to be less reliable!
    "I remember talking to Mickey Hart during our last tour," Neil
continues.  "I had written to him after having read his excellent book,
_Drumming On The Edge Of Magic_.  So he gave me a call and that's how
we hooked up.  Seeing the Grateful Dead was impressive, realizing just
how much improvisation goes on at their shows.  Mickey told me that some
nights a Dead show is dull;  the improvisational thing just won't get
going.  Yet on other nights it's just magical.  It's a risk that the
band takes every night, and their audience takes that chance too.  I
respect the band for having the courage to do that.
    "I've been pushing myself into those more dangerous, improvisational
waters," says Neil.  "It's both a quality and a flaw in my character
that I prepare to death!  I love rehearsing and getting better and
better.  I enjoy the process.  Before we record an album I learn the new
songs inside out, refining every little detail.  And that's why I
continued to play the exact same parts live as I recorded, because I
spent so much time getting every element right.  In Tim Alexander's
_Modern Drummer_ cover story [September '93 issue] he mentioned that he
had never noticed that about me until Primus went on the road with us
and he could see me perform every night.  I'm _glad_ to be able to play
a song like 'Tom Sawyer' the same night after night, because it's so
damn hard to play!
    "With out newer material, though, I recognize that I don't like it
sounding over-rehearsed.  So in preparing to record the songs, I started
leaving gaps in certain transitions or sections.  I wouldn't let myself
finalize a part, even up to the point when I would be recording the
song.  And that certainly added to the pressure for me.  Then when I
actually recorded a part and played what may have even been a mistake,
with closer examination that mistake may have ended up bringing
something magical to the track.  Then I have to learn the mistake so
I'll be able to play it live!  But little by little that attitude of
opening things up is coming into our music."

                         Finding The Right Feel

    _Counterparts_ is another solid showing for Neil's drumming.  His
drum parts consistently balance more standard beats with totally
original patterns.  Neil has a general approach:  "When constructing
drum parts I have to be sensitive to the songs, of course.  I don't just
play what satisfies me.  You'll never hear me making noise under a vocal
part.  There's a certain level of respect you have to have.  But on the
other hand, when it comes to a guitar solo section, for example, to us
that section isn't a guitar solo, it's a _band_ solo.  So all of us
construct it as our own part.  From an arrangement perspective those
sections are free game.  As long as what we're doing works and helps the
track more exciting, it's acceptable.
    "Finding the right feel for different parts of a song is always a
challenge for me, because I hate to repeat things," Neil explains.
"There are certain fundamental rock rhythms that at times work and need
to be played and repeated, and I don't mind playing them.  The same is
true for a standard approach to playing a fill--going from snare to tom,
for instance.  To me they're like using the words 'so' and 'and':
They're the articles of the language and to me there's no shame in using
them.  On the other hand I do want to explore fresh areas.  I like to
weld influences together to come up with something new.  I don't pretend
to think I'm inventing originality, but I'm hoping to create something
original by combining previously disparate influences.
    "For the opening track, 'Animate,' for instance, I used a basic R&B
rhythm that I played back in my early days, coupled with that hypnotic
effect that a lot of the British bands of the turn of the 90's
had--bands like Curve and Lush.  The middle section of the tune is the
result of the impact African music has had on me, although it wasn't a
specific African rhythm.  I hear a section of a tune, and immediately I
have to make choices, and many times those world influences I talked
about earlier will come into play and contribute to my parts.
    "Other songs on the record required me to find fresh ways to
approach familiar, time-honored drum parts," Neil continues.  "I think
the nature of the songs on this album brought out a lot of my R&B
background, and I don't think that's an area I'm known for.  But all the
first bands I played in were blue-eyed soul bands.  I played a lot of
James Brown and Wilson Pickett tunes, because in the Toronto area that's
what was popular at the time.  All of us grew up playing 'In The
Midnight Hour.'
    "R&B is a part of my roots, and as a band I think we all played it
and enjoyed it.  But as we developed we drifted off into the other
styles of the 60's, and when the British progressive bands came along we
went in that direction.
    "The instrumental track on this record, 'Leave That Thing Alone,' is
built around R&B bass/drum interplay.  But to make it original I had to
change up parts.  In the second verse I go into a Nigerian beat, like
something you'd hear on a King Sunny Ade record.  Later in the song I go
into a quasi-jazz pattern, and all these things are introduced for our
own entertainment as well as to make the piece more interesting.
    "When I hear Geddy and Alex's demos the influences are sometimes
very clear to me," Neil says.  "And I think we're secure enough to
directly use those influences.  If Geddy and Alex bring in a tune that
has a section that sounds like the Who's _Live At Leeds_, I'm definitely
going to put on my Keith Moon hat and go with it."  (Check out the
extended fills before the guitar solo on "Between Sun And Moon," from
_Counterparts_.)  "If there's a song with a '90s grunge-rock section,"
Neil continues, "we're secure enough to go in that direction.  All of
these things are amusing to us, but they're also available to us to try
and create something fresh from their inspiration."
    A song like "Stick It Out" proved difficult for Neil because of its
fairly simplistic riff.  "How could I approach that song properly and
yet give it a touch of elegance that I would want a riff-rock song to
have?  I don't want it to be the same type of thing you'd hear on rock
radio.  So I started bringing in Latin and fusion influences.  There's a
verse where I went for a Weather Report-type effect.  I used some tricky
turn-arounds in the ride cymbal pattern, where it goes from downbeat to
upbeat accents--anything I could think of to make it my own.  That song
verges on parody for us, so we had to walk a careful line.  We responded
to the power of the riff, yet still found some ways to twist it to make
it something more.
    "'The Speed Of Love' is kind of mid-tempo, more sensitive rock
song," Neil says.  "That song probably took me the longest to find just
the right elements I wanted to have in a drum part.  What made it a
challenge is that I wanted the feel and the transitions between sections
to be just right.  I played that song over and over, refining it until I
was satisfied.  I don't think a listener will hear all the work that
went into that track."

                           Accident By Design

    While Neil may turn to many outside influences to help him create
within Rush, there are some elements in his playing that are definitely
his own.  Peart concurs:  "I think I do have certain signature licks
that I play.  And I don't mind a certain amount of repetition if it is
indeed something that is my own.  I suppose it takes a bit of repetition
to _make_ it my own!  It does become hard to pick these things up,
though, because they tend to be subtle, at least to me.
    "I think what happens is, you'll hear a certain drummer play a great
beat or fill, and then you'll practice what you _think_ you're hearing.
Many times the result of that effort ends up being something that is
completely your own.  Even if you can duplicate the exact notes, in a
different drummer's hands it just won't sound the same."
    Neil feels that a lot of what he plays is a reflection of his
personality.  "I do like things to be organized," he admits.  "If
something is well-organized, it has the potential to be something
special.  I tend to approach life the same way.  If I'm going on a trip
somewhere, like the bush in Africa, you'd better believe I've spent a
lot of time figuring out what to take so I'll be prepared.  I might be
organized, but at the same time that's hardly a safe circumstance.
Organization is not necessarily a conservative thing."
    Neil's approach to music is certainly similar.  "When we go in to
record, I spare no self-flagellation of playing the songs over and over
again until I've got them.  And it's the same thing before a tour:  I
spend weeks just rehearsing on my own before we start as a band.  But I
know it's time well spent because that work gives me the confidence to
step of into the unknown with some foundation.
    "When I went into the studio to record my parts for _Counterparts_,
I was prepared," Neil insists.  "That's why I could record all of my
track in first and second takes.  We put together and learned the
material, we worked with [co-producer] Peter Collins refining the
material, and then I practiced for another week to get totally
comfortable with the songs and the changes to those songs.  I recorded
all of the drum tracks on this record in one day and two
afternoons--that's all it took because I was prepared.
    "My whole approach to life is accident by design," Neil says.
"Every thing I do has to be that well-organized, or I'm not comfortable
with it.  But at the same time, within that frame of organization, I'm
really comfortable with contingencies, because I'm prepared.  It's an
interesting thing because a lot of people say it's better to be
spontaneous, to breeze through and let whatever happens happen.  What I
find with those people is that they're not prepared to take advantage of
the opportunities when they occur."

                        The Ultimate Involvement

    With so many years of intense drumming behind him, you might that a
certain amount of burnout might have set in on Neil.  Quite the
contrary.  He still seems earnest about his deep feeling for drumming.
"There are certain things about my playing that are just an honest
reflection of me.  I couldn't stop playing hard physically, because I
love physical exertion in so many other areas of my life.  And that
actually _came_ from drumming, because it was my first physical
endeavor--my first sport, if you like.  Before it I had never been
involved in anything athletic.  Drumming gave me the stamina to get
interested in cycling, cross-country skiing, and long-distance swimming.
So that comes out of my drumming naturally.
    "I've had this fleeting thought over the last year or so, trying to
think of any other human activity that so much uses everything you've
got physically _and_ mentally.  For me, playing drums is the ultimate
involvement.  It's as involving to an athletic degree as a marathon run
is, but at the same time your mind is as busy as an engineer's is, with
all the calculations a drummer has to make.
    "I have a quote from a NASA director who was a friend of ours," Neil
continues.  "He came to see us play, and afterwards he made the comment
that I'm obviously using a great deal of mental energy.  He thought it
was funny that I would expend so much mental energy on playing
_drums_--he said it with a certain amount of disdain--but that's what it
takes!  When you apply the standards I've described to drumming, it
_does_ become the ultimate expression both mentally and physically.

                            Peart On Congas?

    If you've followed Neil's career, you've seen his kit evolve.  Over
the last few years he's done away with his second bass drum (opting for
a double pedal), added a floor tom on the left side, and changed his
overall tom positioning.  For the new album, though, Neil did not alter
his kit.  "By adding the floor tom on the left and shifting my tom sizes
down, which is what I did for the last record, that gave me a lot of
possibilities.  I think that change gave me a whole new starting point
and made a lot of my fills just sound different.  It drove me to change
a lot of preconceptions about the fills and patterns I play.  I think
I'm still exploring it."
    Neil did have a specific idea he wanted to try:  "I thought of a
radical idea for a kit that came about do to the interest I've developed
in hand drums, which I really began exploring during our last tour.
After staring at a computer keyboard for long periods of time, there's
nothing better than sitting down and playing congas.  It's a great
release.  So I came up with a setup where I could play congas and bongos
with my hands, yet still trigger bass drum and snare drum sounds with my
feet.  I've been using my feet to trigger kick and snare sounds for a
few years now on certain songs in our set.  So I thought the concept was
a little radical, but still very interesting and very possible.  but
there was one problem:  The songs didn't really call for any bongo or
conga parts!  I was set up for a stylistic shift and prepared and
interested to make it, but in fact didn't have a place for it.  Maybe
I'll be able to apply it next time."
    What inspired him to get into hand drumming?  According to Neil,
"During our last tour, Primus was opening for us, and Herb Alexander and
I would have jams in the tune-up room before the show.  He had a
PureCussion drumset in there, and I had some hand drums.  We'd be
jamming, and members of their band and our band would drift in and out
of the room and join us in making some impromptu music.  For the most
part people would be using instruments that they don't normally play.
Someone would pick up an accordion, and someone else would pick up a
flute--that was primo!  Somebody would be playing bass, and somebody
would be playing on anything we could find to hit.
    "We had some great jams with just found sounds," Neil continues.  "I
remember one in particular where I was playing a beautiful pattern on a
bicycle frame against Herb's drumming on a garbage can, and it was
happening!  In Berlin, we had dressing rooms that were just little
outdoor trailers.  There were all sorts of metal grids from the arena
stacked outside.  We set up in this little shed--it was raining
outside--and both bands were just jamming on found percussion and a few
other instruments.  It was a great escape from the day, and a good
musical exploration."

                           Neil Also Waltzes

    The backstage jam sessions also led Neil to new areas in his
drumming.  "At a later point during the tour, Primus were gone and we
were out with Mr. Big.  So I went out and got a PureCussion set for
myself, because I really enjoyed Herb's.  I set myself a course of
study.  It was getting near the end of the tour;  you'd think I'd not
want to even be _thinking_ about playing drums.  In fact, I found that
playing something different was the cure for the usual boredom that sets
in.  I'd go into the tune-up room and play Max Roach's 'The Drum Also
Waltzes.'  It was such a good exercise for me, and it was so different
from what I was playing on stage."
    Neil also received some hints from Pat Torpey, the drummer with Mr.
Big.  "Pat's an accomplished drummer with a background in some areas of
drumming that I'm not familiar with--Latin, for instance.  He showed me
some great patterns to practice.  And I was just exploring any
possibility I could come up with.  I'd play an ostinato pattern and then
try to get my other limbs to work over the top of it.  It was an ideal
activity for me to be doing before a show.  It kept my drumming alive
for me during the last part of the tour, when normally I'm feeling like
I've been out for too long."

                             Rich Vs. Peart

    The drumming community witnessed a rare event a couple of years ago
when Neil Peart agreed to headline the Buddy Rich Memorial Concert, held
in New York.  Neil, who avoids performing clinics, made the exception
due to the fact that his involvement would help provide a college
scholarship for a needy drummer.  But what was it like to go from a
three-piece rock group to a sixteen-piece big band?  According to Neil,
"It was a major, major challenge.  I vacillated a lot about accepting
it, and I wished I had an excuse not to!  I wished I could have said,
'Sorry, I'm going to be in Finland that day.'  All kidding aside, I
realized that year that I had been playing drums for twenty-five years,
so I felt I should do it for myself to mark the occasion.
    "I got the video of the first Buddy Rich Memorial concert, and I was
just so impressed at how well everyone played...I had enormous
self-doubt after seeing it," Neil admits.  "But then I got inspired and
thought, I'll do it like Buddy would have done it!  I realized that all
the other drummers essentially just 'did themselves,' as opposed to
trying to play in a similar style to Buddy.  I tried to learn what Buddy
played on the songs I was going to be performing, exactly as he played
them.  I wanted to honor him by playing as much like him as I could. I
even tried to figure out the stickings he used, as much as possible.  I
felt safe, in a way, following his example into what were unknown
musical waters for me.  It was such a challenge because I had to try and
get into his mind.  Wandering around inside Buddy's conception of things
was amazing.  To see how he would set up a fill and execute it, and even
how he would view an entire arrangement, was very rewarding research for
    Unfortunately for Neil, the evening wasn't as successful as he had
hoped.  "I did have a few problems with the event.  I was the last
drummer to rehearse with the band on the rehearsal day, and since it was
late in the day a few of the guys in the band had to leave to play gigs.
Steve Marcus, Buddy's long-time tenor sax player, had to leave.  The
pianist had to leave early, so that was a drag.  The Basie and Ellington
songs I performed were both founded on piano/bass/drums trio, and to not
be able to fully rehearse with the piano made it difficult.  The setup
on the day of the concert wasn't well-planned, either.  I was far away
from the band, and it was very tough for me to hear them.  The horns
were inaudible to me!  when I watch the video of my performance I can
see myself _straining_ to hear them. It's hard to play under those
    "The performance came off okay, but I just didn't enjoy it.  The
next day I had a long drive from New York to Toronto, and the drive was
the perfect therapy for my disappointment.  I really got to think about
it, and I got re-inspired to try it again.  I want to be able to enjoy
it and do the kind of job I know I can do.  I hope to perform with the
band again."

                         The Future Of Drumming

    Rush has been around a long time.  They've influenced a host of
bands, some of which are almost direct descendants--groups like Primus,
Queensryche, Dream Theater, Fates Warning.  They all name Rush as a major
influence.  But does Neil feel as if he's passing the torch to these new
bands?  "On reflection, yes, I do think that passsing the torch is an
accurate metaphor.  I had a lot of reflections over the last couple of
years about the nature of heroism, what a 'role model' is supposed to
be, and the differences between the two.  That thought manifested itself
in a song on the new album called 'Nobody's Hero.'  A role model is
obviously a very positive example of what can be accomplished, and it's
what I think, with all humility and pride, Rush has been--a good role
model for other bands.  We've done things the way we think they should
have been done:  on our terms, making all our decisions based on that
and not on the market or what the record company told us we should do."
    As for his own place in drumming history, Neil is quite humble.  "I
suppose I've set an example as a busy drummer:  a guy who has played a
lot of different parts over the years--and has _still_ been able to make
a living," Neil says jokingly.  "But this brings me to an interesting
point.  A few years back drummers were being shoved down further and
further in the creative process.  I was really wondering what was
happening to all of the young drummers.  At that point most everything
you heard on the radio had drum machines.  the drummers you heard were
just keeping a beat.  It was considered very uncool to play drum
fills--and God help you if you did a drum solo!  In the '80s there was
no place for a drummer to _play_.  I was very concerned about the future
of drumming.
    "We got to the '90s," Neil continues, "and suddenly all sorts of
bands came up with drummers who are _playing_.  The recent bands coming
out of Seattle and from across the States are revealing some fantastic
drummers.  Somehow, the torch was passed.  These drummers were
practicing and improving throughout the '80s, preparing for the time
when they'd get the chance.  I honestly feel this is a very exciting
time for drumming.  It's so gratifying to hear it come back, and come
back with such a _vengeance_.  Just a few of the newer guys I've been
enjoying include Dave Abbruzzese of Pearl Jam, Matt Cameron from
Soundgarden and Temple Of The Dog--I love his playing--and Chad Gracey
from the band Live, who plays just what you want to hear."
    It would seem that Neil Peart is now secure with the state of
drumming.  At this point no one can deny his contribution.  "If nothing
else, I did consider myself a champion of drumming as an art form.  The
people who I held up and admired from the past had always approached it
that way, right from the first players I ever heard--Gene Krupa and
Buddy Rish.  I always championed the values of musicianship and of
drummers who could actually _play_.  all of that mattered to me and
always will.  A few years back it seemed as if those things didn't
matter anymore, and I felt undercut and genuinely worried.  But with
this new generation of drummers coming up, I can breathe a huge sigh of
relief.  Everything's all right!"


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