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Subject: 07/17/91 - The National Midnight Star #290  ** Special Edition **

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          The National Midnight Star, Number 290

                 Wednesday, 17 July 1991
Today's Topics:
 Geddy Lee interview from 4/86 Guitar Player magazine (long)
----------------------------------------------------------

[ Here's an interview I forgot about sending out (sorry Terrance) - better
  late than never, eh?   Stay tuned for the upcoming crossword puzzle!
                                                                 :rush-mgr ]

From: stedmant@LONEX.RADC.AF.MIL (Terrance A. Stedman)
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 91 22:08:41 EDT
Subject: Geddy Lee interview from 4/86 Guitar Player magazine (long)


                  Geddy Lee of Rush   Rock's Leading Bassist
                                by Tom Mulhern

 [ From Guitar Player magazine (April '86).  Reproduced without permission. ]

 Bouncing across the stage, plucking furiously on his Steinberger,
Geddy Lee appears to be having a great time.  For a brief moment, he stands
by as Alex Lifeson heads for the solo's climax, and then he leisurely strolls
back behind a pile of keyboards to give voice to the next chorus.  Moments
later, he's centerstage, again deep into his bass lines, singing into yet
another mike, adding extra bottom end to Rush's sound with his synthesizer
pedals.  In the course of nearly two hours, Lee operates like clockwork,
playing a verse on bass and a chorus on one of his keyboard synthesizers,
or vice versa--juggling his instrumental chores without a hitch.
 In his ever more demanding role with the Canadian high-tech power
trio Rush, 32-year-old Geddy Lee has become almost as well-known for his
synthesizer work as for his biting bass lines (in fact, he was the featured
cover artist for the September 1984 issue of Keyboard magazine).  But no
matter how many verses he sings or keyboards and pedals he manipulates,
Geddy Lee continues to love the bass.  His talent and devotion to the
instrument have earned him honors in many polls, including Guitar Player's
Readers Poll for the past five years.  So far, the only other bassist to
achieve this, and thereby be inducted into the Gallery Of The Greats, is
Stanley Clarke.  His bandmates have also won numerous polls (Lifeson, profiled
on page 94, won as Best Rock Guitarist in Guitar Player's 1984 Readers Poll).
 Despite the accolades, Geddy is as down-to-earth and softspoken
as he was when he was first interviewed for Guitar Player six years ago.
Since that time, the band has released five albums, gaining sophistication
as it gained a larger audience.  And except for Neil Peart coming on as
the band's drummer in 1974, Rush has remained essentially the same since
its inception in 1968.  In 18 years, the band has evolved a long way from
a hard-working bar band with Geddy's high-pitched vocals belting out covers
of Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Cream, and John Mayall tunes.  Slowly, the group
eased into progressive rock while retaining its heavier edge.  Today the
band that won a Juno Award (Canada's equivalent of the Grammy) as 1974's
Most Promising New Group is fulfilling that promise.
 Long known for using a Rickenbacker 4001 bass and a Rickenbacker
4-string bass/12-string guitar doubleneck, Geddy switched to a Steinberger
for 1984's Grace Under Pressure, then to an English-made Wal for Rush's
latest, Power Windows.  In the following interview, he discusses his new
instruments, the complexity of his roles, and how the electronic revolution
affects bassists.
                                  *   *   *   *

>Your playing on Power Windows is more aggressive than on Grace Under Pressure.

Yeah, I was definitely getting a little bored with role-playing on Grace
Under Pressure--having to split my time between keyboards and bass.  I'm
a bass player, not a keyboard player.  I play keyboards in this band, to
serve the purpose of the textures needed, but I love my bass.  So, I was
getting a little frustrated with the role I had sort of locked myself into,
and on this record I wanted the bass parts to be more aggressive; I wanted
to make more of a bass statement.

>Have you ever given any thought to bringing a keyboardist on the road or
into the studio to afford you more freedom?

Well, we used a keyboard player in the studio this time--Andy Richards--to
help out on a lot of the programming and to play many parts, too.  In the
end, though, his parts were mostly different interpretations of something
that I had come up with.  So, we had another opinion this time around, and
he added some really nice parts--parts I never would have thought of playing
and sounds that I wouldn't have gotten.  It was a big help.

>Once again, though, it all falls on you onstage.

Yeah!  I have to reproduce all of this stuff, but that's okay.  With modern
technology, it's a lot easier to do that in the keyboard area than it's
ever been, because of the PPGs, Emulators, and all this other fancy synthesizer
equipment that you can get.  But as far as bringing a keyboard player live,
we talk about it from time to time, but we just can't bring ourselves to
add anybody to our line-up.  We get along well, and we communicate as musicians
well--the three of us.  What we do is a lot of fun, and we're really afraid
of jeopardizing that by adding another member.  At the same time, it keeps
our two-hour show so challenging [laughs] to get through, from a lot of
points of view.

>Why don't you get a 5- or 6-string bass to cover more of the low end?

I have, actually.  The guys at Wal have put together a real nice 5-string
that has a low B, and they built one for Percy Jones of Brand X.  It looks
real nice, and it's a good idea, too.  Whenever I thought of a 5- or 6-string
bass, I always envisioned the added upper string, which would almost leave
the bass range.  But I think a lower B makes a lot of sense, especially
in the world of footpedals and synthesizer bass.  You know, we're using
that kind of bottom so much on records--that really low stuff.  I'm considering
a 5-string now; it might be a good addition.

>On Power Windows, your bass tone is different.

Yep.  That's a Wal bass.  I used one on every track of the album.  The
scenario went like this:  I arrived at the Manor studio in England with
a nice selection of basses--some of mine, such as my Rickenbacker and my
Steinbergers, and some I borrowed, including nice old Fenders.  Peter Collins,
our producer, arrived with his Wal.  So I put all these basses up and started
the first track, which was "The Big Money."  And what happened?  His Wal
sounded more suitable than all those other basses.  Not that the basses
didn't sound good--they did.  But the particular sound we were looking for,
to suit the track, was coming from the Wal. So I used it for that track,
and then every time we got into a new song, we'd do the comparison; soon,
we just stopped comparing and decided to go with the Wal.  It sounded right
for this album.

>It seems to have the Rickenbacker bite, but with more midrange and bottom
support.

That's right.  The sound on this record is actually a bit of a throwback
for me--to when I was using Rickenbackers a long time ago.  It's a brighter,
livelier tone, but it seems to have some of that "solid-state" punch that
the Rickenbacker didn't have.  Originally, we started out with a lot less
low bottom in the bass sound, but as the album progressed, we EQ'd more in,
and opened up the bottom end more.  So, we ended up with a warmer sound
than we had expected.  I was pleased with it.  The main thrust for this
album was a lively, more positive sound on all the instruments.  That was
the direction that our producer, our engineer, and we wanted to go in, and
the Wal just fit into the scheme of things.  The Steinberger I used on
Grace Under Pressure sounded good, too, but it's a darker-sounding bass,
and it just didn't seem right for the material this time.

>It didn't cut through as well as the Wal.

No.  Grace Under Pressure is a much darker-sounding record; the bottom end
is a different shape, and the top end doesn't have such a nice twang.  Different
sounds for different periods, I guess.  After Power Windows was finished,
I visited the Wal people, and they built me the bass I used in "The Big Money"
video.  They really build their instruments with a lot of care and take
a lot of pride in their work.

>Did you want anything special done on the bass?

I just wanted to have it sound close to that bass of Peter Collins'.  The
only difference was that most of the basses they make are in natural wood
finishes, and I'm not a big fan of them.  So I asked for a black one.  The
sound is slightly different because it's a more reflective surface than
a natural.  But it's only different in a positive way; it's probably a little
brighter than the other ones.

>Do you generally use both pick-ups at once, or do you favor the bridge
pickup for more treble?

I use both, but I lean a bit more to the treble pickup than the bass pickup;
there's a mixing dial instead of a toggle switch for balancing between the
two pickups.  Everything else is well cranked up.  There are all kinds of
active electronics in it, too, but I didn't use them very much.

>Some of the tones on Power Windows sound as if you used a pick.

I didn't.  I still can't use a pick properly; it feels like it's in my way.
I do use my nails a lot, though.  A lot of times, I use them when I want
that pick sound, even if it's for just one moment.  I think in the first
half of "Middletown Dreams," I used my nails.

>"Territories" [Signals] has a clicky sound, too.
[ There is an obvious goof here.  "Territories" is on Power Windows. ]

Yeah, that's just the EQ, though.  I'm not using my nails--in an obvious
way.  I mean, I have longer nails, so the way I hit the strings affects
the top end, anyway.  In part of "Territories," there is a slight mute that
gives me a bit of the harder top, especially in the second bridge, where
there's a bit of a funky, faster lick.

>"Marathon" [Power Windows] has a very snappy sound.

Yeah, that's still playing flat-out.  But when I grow my nails, I think it
does affect the top end.  I get a bit more twang out of it.

>Do you tend to pick or pluck closer to the bridge or closer to the neck?

It really varies with the part.  It depends on what kind of sound I want
to get for a song.  A lot of times, it's right over the back pickup for
more bite.

>Do you change your strings often when you record?

Yeah, pretty well for every track.  Fresh, new strings.  For this album,
I had a different gauge than normal, because the Wal had a set of strings
on it that I never used before.  They're Superwound Funkmasters.  They're
much lighter than I was used to, and I thought the G looked like a guitar
string.  They really suited my style, because they gave me more definition,
especially in the upper ranges.  And I think the combination of the way
I sometimes pluck the strings, plus a lighter gauge, plus the Wal gave me
all that different clarity at the top end.

>During the Power Windows sessions, did you go directly into the board,
or did you use an amp?

Both.  I usually keep the amped and direct sounds on two tracks, but we
were trying to do this record in a more decisive manner, so once we got
a sound that we felt was good, we committed it to one track.  We figured
that if we were going to have problems down the road, then we'd see what
would happen.  But nine times out of ten, it worked out fine.

>Do you ever lay down just a reference bass track that's recut later in
the recording process?

Yeah, sometimes.  For instance, this time we recorded the bed tracks in
a different manner than we ever have before.  In the past, we had been pretty
insistent on playing as a trio and trying to get a performance.  Even if
we ended up redoing the bass or guitar, we tried to get something that felt
like a band performance.  By doing that, you're sort of at the mercy of
circumstance--you're looking for that magical take.  Now, how do you define
a magical take?  It's so hard.  It's really subjective.  So, invariably you
end up doing a lot more takes than you need, and you try to pick the best
moments from each one.  You start the sessions with high hopes, and at the
end, you have a lot of tape, trying to pick those magical moments.  So Peter
Collins said, "Look, I don't work that way.  Let's try a different way and
see if it suits you."  He suggested that we use one piece of tape. On that,
we laid down a click track and coded the click with an SRC (SMPTE reading
code) so that we could sync the machine to any kind of sequencer or other
electronic device.  As long as you're in time with the click, whatever sequences
you decide to add later will always be in time.  Then you can put them in
at any point in songs; there are codes for the whole song on one track.

>What's your next step?

Step two is putting down a rough arrangement, using some very simple sounds,
such as a guitar or keyboard, that basically map out the entire structure
of the song from beginning to end in real time.   At that point, we still
don't have any drums, bass, or anything like that.  I put down a guide vocal
track in the spots where there's supposed to be vocals, and then guide keyboards
to fill the sound.  So we end up with a lot of care taken in a very good
guide instrument track.  Then, once we have the drums sounds we want, all
three of us start playing to the guide tracks.  And after a few run-throughs,
when we're at a stage where we're ready to do a take, Peter is not concerned
with the bass and guitar; he's just listening to Neil, making sure that
there is a good drum performance.  They record the first couple of run-throughs,
and we get a good live feel on the drum tracks, plus we have all the other
main parts in rough form.  So, in effect, Neil's playing to a full track.
He responded really well to that kind of recording, and I think he did
three or four tracks on the record in one take.  That method seems to make
you focus; you say, "This is going to be the take, so I won't have to look
for that mysterious piece of tape."

>This approach takes the heat off the whole band while putting a lot of
pressure on Neil.

It does.  But at the same time, you also know that if something goes wrong
with the bass, guitar, or synthesizers halfway through, you can stop and
drop a new part in, instead of worrying about editing takes together.  You
end up with a lot more spontaneity and positive energy on the track because
you can put everything you've got into it.

>Doesn't a click track create sort of a tyranny to the beat?

Well, I don't know.  Not being a drummer, I couldn't comment on that, because
it is really a drummer's domain.

>But can you feel the difference?

Yeah.  If you're playing to a click track, you know you're playing in time.
But there are times when you want to stray from that, and if you want to
change the tempo, suddenly change the feel, that's all acceptable, depending
on the kind of music you're playing.  In the past, like on "Losing It"
[Signals], when we hit the middle section, we changed tempo, and it just
didn't seem right to play with a click, so we turned it off.  And I think
during the making of "Marathon" on Power Windows, there were times in the
middle section where we were playing in 7/8, and it felt different.  It
was an intrusion to have the click in.  At times like that, we just shut
if off.  Sometimes you have to say, "Get this thing out of here" [laughs].
If you're trying to play in 8, 4, or whatever to keep a solid tempo, and
all of sudden you change it to an odd time, it's madness.  It won't work.

>How do you make a break from an even tempo--say, 4/4--into an odd one,
such as 7 or 13, while making the odd-metered part seem as if it fits?

That's a matter of careful choice in notes, I think, and also a matter of
what time signature you're comfortable playing as a band.  We've played
in 7 almost as much as we've played in 4/4, you know.  So, for us to break
into 7 is the most natural thing in the world.  It's probably as natural
to us as it is for [former Yes/King Crimson drummer] Bill Bruford to play
in 5 [laughs].  He can make 5 seem so smooth--the guy can rock-out in 5;
it's unbelievable.  But it depends on how familiar you are with that particular
feel and how much you thought out the music around it, so it doesn't feel
herky-jerky.  If the music isn't written to exaggerate the rhythm but rather
to complement the melody, then if it happens to be in a different time,
it's smooth.  Many times with rock and jazz-rock, there is a tendency to
have the instruments exaggerate the fact that you're playing in odd-time.
That sort of draws attention to the odd meter.  A lot of musicians practically
say, "Look at this time we're playing in now."  There are times when that
is great, though, and it's a lot of fun to do.  Like, I think in Genesis'
"Apocalypse in 9/8" [A Trick Of The Tail, Atco, SD 38-101], they do that,
and it's a tremendous piece.  I love it.

>On the other hand, "Dance On A Volcano," from the same album, is in 13/8,
yet it has the smooth, driving feel of 4/4.

Right.  So, there are times when you want to draw attention to it and times
when you don't.  I think you just want to play in 7 because it feels right
for the part, for the moment.  It's a nice change for the musician to break
out of simpler time, but you always have to look at the overall song from
more than just a rhythmic point of view.

>When it's time to lay down your final bass tracks, do you go in by yourself?

Yeah, but you see, I already have a guide bass, essentially, because of
what's on tape from a couple of run-throughs that we did with Neil.  And
I can listen back to see if there's anything spontaneous that I like in
the performance.  Then I compose my bass part in finer detail.  I always
have a bass part worked out in advance because we've rehearsed the songs
for two months before going into the studio.  But I sort of fine-tune them
and look at all the little melodies, trying to improve them.  Then I lay
down my bass parts.

>After playing bass through an entire song, have you or the producer ever
decided that perhaps synthesizer or bass pedals would be better in sections?

Because we use a lot of synth pedals, that's something that gets talked
about quite a lot during the bass parts.  Many times, it's the other way
around.  I already have sections designated as synthesizer, and leave the
bass out; then the producer says, "No, we don't want synth bass here--we
want you here."  And I generally do one or the other because I know if I'm
going to be playing keyboards onstage, I can't play bass.  So I'm always
a bit strange about putting bass parts in that I won't be able to play live:
Every night, I'll miss that part.  On this record, I did it a couple of
times because everyone was saying, "Come on, you can do it."  But I'd still
rather record it the way I'm going to do it live.

>Have you ever considered completely ignoring the live aspect while recording?

We did, to a degree, this time.  We did a lot more overdubs and melodic
structuring for the keyboard, guitar, and vocal areas than we ever have
before.  But with something as fundamental as the bass, I couldn't put a
great part on the record that I couldn't do onstage.  It would just bum
me out too much not to be able to play it.  Also, writing in that fashion,
I know where my parts are; I know when I have moments where I can do what
I want on the bass.  I also know where there are moments that I can't, when
I have to leave it open to a different texture.  And over the years, I've
really come to like changes in texture that happen during a song due to
the alternation between electric bass and synth.  It's a nice sort of built-in
dynamic that happens at the bottom of the track.

>"Subdivisions" [Signals] has that effect.

That's right.  There are a few songs where we've utilized that--"Mystic
Rhythms" [Power Windows], for example.  The bass appears in the middle section
and then in the second verse and in the ride-out.  The bass is such a nice
lift when it comes in there because the bottom end has been set aside until
that point.  And I like that kind of dynamic.  I think it helps the trio
sound like more than a trio.

>Rush's last two albums have shown a refined, sophisticated sound.  But
a lot of people still view Rush as a heavy metal band.

I don't really deny it; that's where our roots were--no question about it.
We always called ourselves a hard rock band, even way back when heavy metal was
first starting, because it just seemed more suitable for what we were doing.
We've always been hard to categorize, and people love categorizing bands.
We always called ourselves progressive hard rock, but how many progressive
hard rock bands can you think of [laughs]?  That's not a real active label.
But now there are so many diverse streams of rock music like never before--
heavy metal, new wave, synth pop, techno-pop, jazz-rock--all these different
branches, so I don't think very many heavy metal fans would agree if you
called us heavy metal.  Although there are moments where we can play quite
heavy.

>For impact?

Yeah.  I mean, we understand the power of bass, drums, and guitar in a heavy
format, and we use that from time to time.  And we like to look at that
as one in our arsenal of textures, as opposed to that being our main thrust.

>You've done shorter songs, rather than extended pieces, on the last three
or four albums.

It's funny.  A lot of people ask us why we're playing shorter songs again,
but if you look at our history, there are a lot more records from day one
that consist of shorter songs.  There was only like a three- or four-album
period where we were doing long, involved pieces.  Before and after that,
the songs have all been between four and seven minutes.  We still don't
write a song under four-and-a-half minutes; we're still asked to shorten
our songs, so they can't be THAT short.  The quintessential Rush length
seems to be between five and six minutes--a good length for the kind of
music that we do.

>Do you risk losing spontaneity by so much preparation before recording?

On this album we spent almost two months writing, rehearsing, and demoing,
trying to look at every aspect, but I find that it's much better to do that
than to do it on the spot, and it's more economical.  It's better to be
prepared and have confidence in the material beforehand.  That's what makes
the biggest difference.  And the more confident you are when the "record"
button goes on, the better record you're going to end up with.

>Have you ever written as you recorded?

Yeah.  Hemispheres was done that way.  It was a lot of pressure and a lot
of strain on the brain.  And it took us a long time to achieve what we wanted.
In the end, we had a certain confidence that we'd never really be stuck.
It's good to do that, I think.  It's like on-the-spot training.  "Okay,
we need one more song.  Let's write it."  You can do it.  You know you can
reach back and put something together, but the more time you have to live
with the material, the better record you can make.

>Why did you record Power Windows in three places?

Well, we recorded the last four or five albums all in one spot.  And Grace
Under Pressure took about four-and-a-half months to make.  Towards the end,
we got a little claustrophobic.  So this time around, we wanted to avoid
that: Let's try to put some perks in there for our own interest.  We divided
the album into three projects, and for the middle we rewarded ourselves
with a Caribbean stop.  We said, "If we're good boys and get everything
done in five or six weeks, we can go to Montserrat and record for three
weeks."  I tell you, it's really nice to look forward to that.  Having worked
in only one place [Le Studio in Toronto] for so many years, it was nice
to move around.  It kept everybody excited and fresh.  It gave us an opportunity
to listen to material in a different environment every few weeks.  All those
things helped make the record better.

>During the sessions, do you ever listen to rough mixes through a car stereo?

Well, we do rough mixes at various points as we go.  We usually don't have
our cars around, but we listen on a Sony Walkman or a ghetto blaster--some
system that you're used to hearing stuff on.

>Since compact discs are becoming more popular, did you intentionally make
the album cleaner or more dynamic to take advantage of the digital medium?

No.  We usually take the same approach because our albums have been on CDs
for years.  And I don't think your attitude should be any different whether
it's going to become a CD or a record.  You always want to make it as clean
as you can.

>But you can get much more stereo separation with a CD, and therefore any
panning is going to be more dramatic.

Yeah, that's true.  But I think what is affecting record-making more than
CD is the Walkman.  We're living in a Walkman generation.  Everybody has
them, and it's rejuvenated stereo to a large degree.  People are more concerned
with doing things that move around in headphones, and playing with stereo
perspectives, stereo echoes.

>On Power Windows, and in today's music in general, almost every instrument
has tons of digital reverb, making things sound wetter and wetter.

I don't know if I would agree with that.  I think there is a lot more
experimentation with different kinds of echoes and ambiences.  A lot of modern
records are very dry, but they're electronically dry.  It's so rare that
someone uses a straight reverb plate anymore.  It's usually some very complex
reverb or reversed sort of nonlinear reverb or "Let's gate this reverb so
it will start out in a roaring Taj Mahal, but then chop it off."  A lot
of it is shock value, experiments--playing with echoes.  It makes it more
interesting, from the overall perspective.  You can tamper with the kind
of room you're putting instruments in.  You're no longer limited to the
room where they were recorded.  The flexibility is there, and if you're
not happy with the sound, the track develops in a different direction.
You're not stuck with the same ambience; you can just electronically create
a new one.

>Do you work in a home studio?

I have some home equipment.  I have a Otari 8-track and a few outboard pieces.
I prefer to keep them in a very low-tech vibe.  And I prefer writing in
a simple environment, technically, because I hate getting bogged down when
I'm writing.  I hate getting hung up on playing with toys when I should
be playing with notes.  That's my biggest fear in getting a fancy studio:
ending up figuring out how everything works, but not writing.  I'd play
with a digital echo unit for three hours instead of writing songs or parts.
I prefer to have a simple setup, and a lot of times I just use cassette
players to record.

>Do you ever use a drum machine when you're working out songs?

Yeah, for most of our records, Alex and I use a drum machine to give us
a guide rhythm.  And sometimes Neil likes and even includes in his parts
some of the goofy patterns we come up with.  But generally, it's a tool
that lets us zone-in on what the tempo should be and what feels good, so
we can establish the momentum for the tune.

>Have you tried any bass guitar synthesizers?

No, I confess I haven't.  I'm so immersed in the world of synthesizers that
I've always wanted to keep my bass a bass [laughs].  I think it comes from
too much synthi exposure.  One of the guys in Steve Morse's band told me
a great phrase that came from Pat Metheny; I believe it's called _option
anxiety_.  I try to avoid that on my bass.  I have plenty of option anxieties
in the world of synthesizers.  I'd like to keep the bass fairly pure.

>Back in 1980, you said you weren't using any effects pedals for bass guitar;
has that changed?

No. I'm still not using any effects.

>Not even a chorus?

No.  Well, in the studio I use chorus a little bit.  I used to use it a
little onstage, and I think our sound mixer up front adds a bit of chorus
on the main house mix.  But I just go straight into my amp.

>When you record your bass parts, do you sit in the control room?

Yeah, I do.  And I prefer to do my bass parts at low levels.  I don't know
if other bass players ever noticed this, but when you're sitting around before
you plug into the amp, you think, "God, my fingers feel great today!  I
can run up and down the neck, play fast, play accurately."  And then, when
you plug into a loud amp, you suddenly don't feel quite as smooth or as
nimble.  I find that the louder the amp gets, the farther away you feel
from your instrument.  So, when I'm recording a bass part in the studio,
I like to do it through small speakers at a low level, so that I can feel
the response.  I play more accurately and I feel looser.  It may be just
psychological, but I don't think it is.

>What made you choose the Steinberger for this tour and the previous one?

Well, number one, I wanted a different sound.  I was sort of bored with
the same sound I was getting.  And number two, I liked the compact feel
of the Steinberger.  It's small and concise.  For me, playing onstage surrounded
by so much gear--keyboards, microphones, and stuff--it's a very practical
instrument to use.  I felt that if I could get a sound out of it that I
was happy with, it would make a lot of sense to use it because of its shape.
And in the end, I liked the sound I was getting out of it onstage.  It's
very ballsy-sounding.  So the size and sound made it an ideal touring bass
for me.

>Are you using the Wal onstage at all?

I'm still using the Steinberger onstage.  I have the Wall out with me, and
it sounds really good live.  But until the show gets to a point where I
feel comfortable enough to start changing basses from song to song, I'm
going to stick with the Steinberger and slowly work the Wal into the show.

>Did the lack of a headstock on the Steinberger create any psychological
problems?

It was a bit odd at first, I must admit.  But I got used to it pretty quickly.
It's a great size for me.  When I was using the Rickenbackers and started
piling up all this keyboard gear around me, invariably I was knocking mikes
over [laughs], and my corner of the world was getting real clumsy.  I started
feeling like I was still growing.

>Have you ever considered a headset mike?

We've talked about it.  And last year, we tried one out, but the engineers
weren't happy with the quality of the microphone.  I'd really like to eventually
do something like that, because I have three different mike setups onstage.
[Ed. Note: Two mikes hover over Geddy's keyboards--where he spends about
50% of his time--and one is freestanding near centerstage.]

>Do you still have a set of Taurus pedals near your centerstage mike?

I now have Korg MPK-130 MIDI pedals wired into my synthesizers.  They work
great.  I have a totally different keyboard setup this year.  It's quite
complex, and having these MIDI pedals has really helped.

>At one time you had a set of Taurus pedals wired into an Oberheim synthesizer.

Right.  That was my version of MIDI [laughs].  I had MIDI years ago.  I
was able to control all the Oberheim stuff from my Taurus pedals, but I
had that system dismantled this year.  Now I'm on a total MIDI system for
keyboards.

>Does something as simple as MIDI make your job much easier?

Oh, yeah.  MIDI has really saved me onstage.  Because I use so many Emulators
on this tour, if I had them all onstage, it would be ridiculous.  So I've
been able to keep all the Emulators offstage and I'm using Yamaha MIDI
controller keyboards, plus everything is computerized and programmed offstage.
So, I can control them all from two simple keyboards up front.

>What kind of equipment are you using for bass right now?

Pretty much the same as I was five years ago.  I'm still using BGW power
heads--the same ones, as a matter of fact, and they're still going strong.
I've got the same custom cabinets, using 15" speakers.  I have a Furman
preamp, but I'm using a different EQ after the preamp, an API550A.  It's
like an old studio equalizer.  It's a real warm-sounding equalizer.  I used
it in the studio for Grace Under Pressure, and I loved the sounds I was
getting out of it.  I really like having a very flexible EQ for bass.

>Are you using a wireless unit onstage?

Yeah.  I'm using a Nady wireless unit.  I finally acquiesced.  Our stage
started getting bigger [laughs], and I thought it would be more fun to run
around.  I was a big believer in the cord for a long time.  Once I realized
that the wireless wasn't going to screw up my sound or the feel of what
I was playing, then I went along with it.  I didn't trust it for the first
couple of months; I thought it was going to break down.  Old habits die
hard.

>You don't use your 12-string guitar anymore.

Nope, I haven't played it in years.  I hang onto it for fun, but I haven't
played it in a long time.  We sort of got into a more contemporary synthi
period, and a lot of instruments like the 12-string just haven't come up
for use in the studio.  Certainly they're there, and they're good-sounding
instruments.  But the kind of direction we're going in right now doesn't
seem to have a spot for them.  Of course, so many of those sounds come on
floppy disks now [laughs]; it's changed so many things.

>Do you find that, as you gain more facility on the keyboards, you're tempted
to jettison other instruments?

I think it's a different attitude.  On this record, the synthesizers that
Andy Richards helped us out with many times started with a sampled guitar
sound.  He actually changed and shaped them to become a great synthi sound.
So, classical guitars and other string instruments are still being used,
but in a different way.

>There's an excellent sample of a Steinberger bass available for the Synclavier,
which can be controlled by a guitar.  Would you feel comfortable with a
bass guitar synth controller if it tracked the notes the way you wanted?

If it tracked right, I'd give it a whirl; sure--if I had 100% confidence
in it.  But it's true what you can do with a synthesizer, sampling your
own bass sounds.  I know when I was getting ready for this tour, a gentleman
named Jim Burgess, who is helping me on my keyboard setup, sampled a couple
of licks off of our album on Emulator just to show me how it would sound.
And it sounded great.  Think about how much time you spend finding one bass
sound for each song, and you can stick that into a digital sampler and have
it come back at the drop of a hat.

>You don't have to worry about the strings going dead or your amp settings
being wrong.

Yeah, but I can't use it in the show on the keyboard, because it never feels
right playing my bass lines on a keyboard.  Sampling isn't perfect enough
so that you can make it completely realistic--you still can't get the feel,
because digital recording of a sound gives every note pretty well the same
value, which you never do when you're playing a lick.  On "Manhattan Project"
[Power Windows], Andy played sort of a fretless-sounding bass line on a
Roland JP-8 keyboard synthesizer.  It sounded great, so to do it live, we
sampled that JP-8 sound into my Emulators.  So it worked, but it didn't
work at the same time.  I use it live and it sounds okay, but every slide
has exactly the same value, which you would never want.  When you play a
fretless part, you slide through some notes and pass through others at a
different rate.  You can't really do that with a stored sound, unless you
have a complex sampling situation where you sample each note differently.
So, it has its drawbacks, fortunately for us bass players [laughs].

>Will sampling and synthesizers make the bass passe?

You never know, but I doubt it.  I mean, they said drum machines might make
drummers obsolete, and there's a real drummer's revival going on right now.
I know in England, producers are sick of working with guys who can't play.
Everybody dropped what they were doing and started buying drum machines
and composing drum parts.  That's great for people who are musically talented
anyway.  If you're borderline, you're really boxing yourself in.

>It must be frustrating for drummers to hear drum machines on so many records.

It's all the synth-pop bands that are taking a different, more computerized
route.  But I know in a lot of young bands, most players are going toward
heavy metal as an outlet.  If you look at the young harder rock bands, there
are guys in there really concerned about their playing and trying to do
something different.  They're working on their stuff.

>"Red Lenses" [Grace Under Pressure] has a really different feel for a Rush
song, more of a groove.  Was it done in a different way?

It's a different kind of song.  It was the last thing we wrote for Grace
Under Pressure.  Usually the last track we write on each record is different
from everything else.  It's probably a reaction against working so hard,
and all of a sudden you want to do something different to round-out the
record, give it some more variety.  I like it a lot because it is different,
but it's very indulgent.  I'm always surprised when people like those tracks.
You can understand if a musician gets into it, but you don't think the general
public will.

>In "The Weapon" [Signals], there's a short bass solo during the fade-out,
and you rarely do solos.  Was this an afterthought?

There are a couple of tracks on the last few records where just before the
fade-out, I try to put my two cents in [laughs].  I did that on "Red Lenses."
As it's fading out, I like to get loose--it's almost a reaction to being
so structured through the whole song.

>Do you plan in advance for songs to fade out?

Sometimes.  Sometimes we're not sure, so we ride out for a long time, and
then end it.  We have the option.  Invariably, every time we decide we're
going to fade out, we start getting into the fade and everyone loosens up
and the track starts getting better.  That happened with "Mystic Rhythms"
[Power Windows]; the fade-out is about a minute long because we liked every
little nuance.  The end of "Grand Designs" [Power Windows] is also like
that.  There are about seven phrases, and they're all different.  None of
that was planned; Neil was doing the drum track, and at the end, the sequencers
were going and he just kept punching-in and going, basically flailing and
hacking through it.  Everybody loved it, so we decided to keep it in.  Then
we had to learn to play it onstage.

>How true to the album's lines are your onstage parts?

I invariably start changing them, once I get the confidence to do it.  Then
I start screwing around with the part, just to keep it interesting.  Sometimes
I have to slightly vary what I do in a verse, to accommodate singing and
playing at the same time, but I really try to do the same thing.  It's sort
of a challenge for me.  I've been fortunate to pull it off so far [laughs].
Sometimes it's not changing a part so much, but changing the feel a little
to accommodate the vocal.  And just through years of experience, I try to
write my bass and vocal lines in sympathy with each other, to a degree,
so my brain can follow the same thread.

>Six years ago, you said you were working on arrangements of pieces written
by musicians in other styles--in particular, John Abercrombie's "Timeless."
Do you still work on arrangements like that?

Actually, I haven't in a long time.  I do most of my own playing now in
my spare time.  And I'm going through a period where I haven't been listening
to a lot of other people's stuff.  There isn't much out there that's getting
me off.  I've been playing on my own mostly.

>Do you ever get to play with anyone besides Rush?

You know, there was a period when we were goofing around with a lot of
musicians--when we had some of our friends opening for us a couple years
back--but in the last few years, we've gotten a little insular, in that
the only people we really jam with are each other.  We have some great jams
onstage in soundchecks.  It seems to be enough, but I would like to do it
more often, to tell the truth.

>After playing with the same trio for so many years, it must feel strange
when you do work with other musicians.

Yeah.  Well, the few times I have had the opportunity to play with others--
drummers, especially--I really notice it.  You notice whether the other
musicians are really listening.  That's what I find interesting about jamming.
It makes the difference between a good jam and a horrible one, especially
if you're a bass player.  They often relegate the bass player to doing a
twelve-bar.  Yippee.  So then, nobody is listening to you, you can't move,
and you can't take the jam in any kind of direction.  And by the same token,
if you're not listening to anyone else, you can't follow them.  It's a lot
more interesting if you're playing with musicians who aren't just listening
to themselves.

>For that reason, do you feel more comfortable in a band context?

I do--out of circumstance.  Since I've been in this kind of musical situation
for so long, it's become my musical world, and it's become more comfortable
than going outside of it.  Although it's probably not as healthy as going
outside of it.

>On the other hand, some musicians step out of their successful bands and
fall flat on their faces.

Yeah, well, I don't have a great solo statement to make at this time, although
I find it very good for me as a musician to work with other people and to
learn other techniques.  That's really the only way you can expand.  You
can only take yourself so far on your own, and then you must communicate
with the musicians.  You bridge gaps and learn more.

[end interview]


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