House of Strombo Rush Interview Summary

This post contains my summary notes from Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee of Rush on The Strombo Show.

In this conversation Alex and Geddy talk about the early days of Rush, the “Moving Pictures” album, early influences, songwriting and more!

Summary Notes

Freedom to be ourselves (0:40)

Geddy: “I kind of felt we always were ourselves, it just didn’t always work out…”

Always had the freedom to make mistakes through experimentation, by being authentic, being themselves.

Early influences that shaped their sound (4:50)

Initially it was blues/rock bands like: John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Jeff Beck, Cream.

Then Progressive Rock started to become more prominent and influenced the band.

Crafting of songs: Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon.

Nothing was off the table influence wise, as long as the band felt they could capture the influence authentically. 

Alex: Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie, Jeff Beck, Yes, King Crimson

Alex: “Listening to the crafting of a song, what works, what doesn’t work, what stands out, the pacing, all of those things about the structure of a song, you learn about that through listening, you may not be influenced by the music, but how it’s constructed and how it works becomes the important thing…”

Persona bands (7:10)

The band would come up with persona bands (e.g. Fabulous Men) and take on that persona in their songwriting. The song “Vital Signs” was a direct result of the persona band Fabulous Men.

It was mostly done for fun, and if it pushed and influenced the band it was a byproduct.

Would typically use it to have fun jams in between takes.

Influence of home (Toronto) (10:05)

Geddy: “We were playing that kind of music to escape from all that shit, to escape from the home life, to escape from, in my case, a family that was reassembled postwar and had its share of function and dysfunction…”

Music was the escape. The salvation.

Alex: “We worked hard, and we picked that up from our parents. We wanted to work hard. It didn’t feel like work. But you were willing to work 24 hours a day on something if you needed to.”

Wanted to “make it”. Didn’t know what that meant. But knew they wanted to achieve it.

Building the brand (12:50)

In the early days Rush wasn’t getting much radio play, or industry attention.

Had to build an audience/fans by playing as many gigs as possible, hitting the road, opening for anybody that they could.

It was around the release of “Moving Pictures” that everything came together. It wasn’t an overnight success, it took time.

Geddy: “Fame is a lot easier to get than financial success. You give the appearance that you’re successful, but you’re still trying to make ends meet. You’re pouring every bit of profit that you have back into the show to make it better…”

Writing and thinking about playing the song live (16:40) 

Having the mindset of playing a song live drove the arrangements and songwriting. Shaped a song by the limitations of what they could pull off live.

Today’s youth and discovering new music (33:15)

How do today’s youth discover new music? The options were much more evident to Alex and Geddy when they were growing up. 

Geddy cites a stat that 70% of youth today listen to older music versus music created today.

Valuing hard work (36:20)

Early tours had plenty of exposure to alcohol and drugs, and found ways to resist falling into that blackhole. In one leg of a tour played 21 nights straight.

Geddy: “We valued our work, we valued the quality of our gigs, we couldn’t let it interfere, otherwise there was no point to be there…”

Alex: “The music was hard to play, we were very disciplined when it came to shows, not even a beer during the drum solo…”

Geddy: “Can you imagine going on and playing La Villa Strangiato right after you smoke a couple of joints, I don’t think so…”

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