Geddy a bit giddy as Rush hit 20

Rush   ''Andrew MacNaughtan
Rush ''Andrew MacNaughtan
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RUSH lived up to their band name with the latest album...but you’ll have to wait a while yet for the tour.

A spontaneous spirit gripped the trio prompting them to begin making 20th album Clockwork Angels, out last month, just as they were about to tour.

That Time Machine retrospective jaunt took them back to Sheffield before they dashed back home again to finish a record that returns them to the Motorpoint Arena in 2013.

“We like what we do, we like to work,” says Geddy simply, “but it was really difficult on us and at the same time very beneficial for the record.

“We started having written five songs, including the title track, recorded only two but we had the benefit of the spontaneity. We learned a lot about how quickly we are capable of recording now, a real confidence booster.

“And taking those songs out on the road without the finished album and seeing how the audience responded so favourably and knew the material was also testament to the way the world is now. Music spreads itself quickly across the internet, word of mouth, whatever.

“When we came back to recording we had a feel for how we were playing on tour so solidly in our mind we wanted to achieve that on the album. We felt we were really on top of our game on the last tour and hit a new level of interaction between the three of us. That was very much on our mind when we wrote the rest of the album. It was a reflection of what we had learned.”

And they didn’t skimp on content. At more than 66 minutes long, it is about double the length of early albums. Then this is a band that seek to create a musical event rather than a helping of music.

“We’re pretty long-winded and it’s hard to shut us up when we get going on something,” grins Geddy. “It just seemed this album had moments that needed fleshing out. We didn’t really watch the clock, not that we ever really watch it carefully.

“We were kind of in a groove, writing what we felt were necessary parts of the story and when we added it up in the end...holy crap, there’s value for money.”

Next year is the 45th anniversary since Rush formed and they have played more than 5,000 gigs.

Stylistically they have shifted through raw rock into epic synth-based rock and then somewhere in between, always based around the central core of Geddy’s high tenor vocal and his, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart’s virtuoso playing.

“It is intuitive. We don’t really know what the final result is going to be until we get into it, but we each have something in the back of our minds that we like to improve upon or prove to ourselves.

“We go into a project with a quiet goal individually: Neil might have things technically he wants to accomplish or I might have a bee in my bonnet about one aspect. Alex may have a feeling we achieved live that we haven’t on record.

“They’re vague goals and once you get into the meat of it you look to satisfy those things throughout whatever happens to be the style of the thing you’re working on. It’s very much a reflection of the moment.”

And that counts for Neil’s lyrics which have sometimes meant Rush facing controversy. 2112 was said to have political connotations and Vapour Trails had a personal, faith questioning aspect. Although Geddy has released solo work, he remains content to voice Neil’s words.

“I have to be able to stand behind the lyrics to sing them with authenticity and conviction. An audience can tell when you don’t mean it.

“I don’t always agree with Neil 100 per cent on what we’re talking about, but I have to understand where it’s coming from. And I have to feel there’s a point in the lyrics I can relate to strongly.

“At times we talk about lyrics in great depth and other times there’s no need. Maybe what I’m getting out of the lyric is very different to what he intends, because I know how I want to sing that song.

“I have a lot of respect for Neil’s way with words and his originality of thought so for me he’s got so much faith to allow me to mutilate his songs and take the bits out of them I feel are most effective.

“He’ll take the rest of the song and re-work it. He’s a perfectionist, respects the job I have to do as a singer and is quite happy to keep refining those lyrics until I get the vocal performance I feel I need, right down to the syllable.”

It’s a system that has helped the band sell 45 million albums and maintain a friendship that for Geddy and Alex began in childhood.

That solidarity is reflected by intensely loyal fans, often very defensive of a band that has rarely been fashionable.

“I don’t think there is a typical Rush fan because the diversity within the Rush community is striking, at least from the stage looking out.

“I see young guys who look too hip to be Rush fans standing beside a guy who looks my age and has come with his kid and handed Rush down like a father teaches his kid to throw a baseball.

“There’s always going to be the muso fan; players who come to see us because of our chops and that’s how we started. We are musos and are always into that thing that makes you want to play better, faster, with more confidence.

“Some nights you feel you can play anything and that’s part of the addiction of being a musician. You’re looking for the perfect evening where the three of you are in that sweet spot all night long; it does happen but not as often as you would want. On the nights where you feel stiff, you’re the same player, but some nights are more magic than others. I love it.

“We’ve had a long run and feel really fortunate about that. We’ve come all this way, we want to get our money’s worth by playing all these songs, just like the fans.”