Geddy Lee of Rush: “Compared to punk bands, we seemed like Beethoven.”

Alex Lifeson and yourself had been close friends for several years before Neil Peart became a member of Rush in 1974. How did you manage to integrate him as an equal member of the trio, rather than just the drummer in your band?

Upon Neil’s arrival to the band, we quickly realized that we shared many interests. We all had a similar sense of humor, with a love for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Additionally, we were all fans of The Lord of the Rings. Our taste in music also aligned, as Neil was particularly fond of Cream and Ginger Baker, just like us. This common ground proved beneficial when, only two weeks later, we embarked on our first American tour, which was quite overwhelming. We believe that our shared experience of being shy Canadians bonded us even more. However, for the past 40 years, we have always joked that Neil was still the “new guy.”

What was the funniest experience you ever had on the road? DistantEarlyBlooper

We were in Manchester, UK and after the performance, we returned to the bar at our hotel. Alex was feeling a bit stressed – he had become a father the year before and was missing home – so he decided to have a cognac-drinking competition with our 6ft 11in stage manager. After consuming about 12 shots, he accidentally broke a glass at the bar. Our managers then took him back to his room, but he couldn’t be contained. He came out of the elevator on a room service cart, and returned to the bar. Chaos continued for the next few hours.

Rush in 1978 (from left): guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer Neil Peart and bassist and singer Geddy Lee

During the rise of punk, I recall many music journalists expressing intense disdain towards prog rock as a genre and Rush as a band in particular. How do you reflect on this time period now? – eternalsceptic

I have a fond memory of this experience, as we were in London working on an album while the Sex Pistols were on television. It was captivating to watch. Additionally, the simplistic three-chord style of these bands made our own musical abilities seem more impressive in comparison. In a way, the punk movement validated our playing skills and encouraged more intricate compositions. I fully supported this.

What advice would you give to an intermediate level bass player looking to improve? Jamerson
Find riffs that are hard to play and just keep playing them. Get to know the parts of the fingerboard that seem like unknown spaces. I found it helpful to listen to players of differing styles. Trying to mimic them challenged me to be a better player.

I am curious about the band’s comedic style. How did Rush become associated with South Park and I Love You, Man? bcdcdude

Our sense of humor was always present, but perhaps due to our youth and lack of confidence, we kept it hidden. As we went through various stages in life, including difficult ones, we eventually reached a point in 2002 where we embraced our true selves. Our connection with South Park developed because Matt [Stone], a devoted Rush fan, incorporated subtle references to our band. Eventually, we formed a friendship. During the making of I Love You, Man, we were experiencing a period of renewal as Neil rejoined the group. In the past, we would have turned down opportunities that were outside of our comfort zone, but after 2002 we began to say yes more often.

Geddy Lee surrounded by guitars and music kit

The standard of music and lyrics in Rush was always very high, but did Neil ever present you with lyrics that made you think: wow, you’ve outdone yourself? Drspankle
A number of times. Working on lyrics with Neil was an evolution of a partnership. In the early days, we were very hesitant to criticise anything he wrote, because he was the one willing to do that job. But as time went on, I became his trusted sounding board. There were many tracks – like Bravado, The Garden and Dreamline – that felt so relatable that the songs almost wrote themselves around Neil’s lyrics.

Can you provide some insight into the atmosphere during the 2015 R40 tour by Rush, especially with Neil’s desire to retire from performing? Lurkst

The tour began with a positive atmosphere, as we had put in a lot of hard work to create a reverse theatrical retrospective. It was an enjoyable experience, but as the tour came to an end, the mood shifted and divided into two groups. Neil became more content while Alex and I grew more melancholy, as we had hoped to bring the tour to fans worldwide, but Neil had only agreed to do 30 shows. He felt like he was nearing freedom, causing us to have differing opinions by the end.

What does honest music mean to you in today’s world, as sung in the lyrics of “The Spirit of Radio”? ProfKaufman

Regardless of the style, the audience can sense an artist’s sincerity and passion for their music. It’s not just about making money, but truly connecting with the audience. Our goal was to create music that brought us joy, and we hoped that there were others who shared our musical taste. We stayed true to ourselves and it paid off.

Can you confirm that people generally view you as a very friendly person? Have you ever had someone speak negatively about you? When was the last time you told someone to leave you alone? Bone67

I consider myself to be a decent person. I hold onto resentment when someone mistreats me, and there have been a few individuals over time that I called out in my book. However, I generally try to be kind as I was raised well and aim to avoid making negative judgments.

Geddy Lee recording the Rush album Permanent Waves in 1979

Who are some current drummers that you highly admire, since there will never be another Neil Peart? – SmilinPeter

In this day and age, we are fortunate to have a plethora of talented drummers. I am particularly impressed by the skills of Danny Carey from Tool and Chad Smith from Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have distinct styles from Neil Peart, but possess incredible strength in their playing. Recently, I also discovered Anika Nilles, who played on Jeff Beck’s last tour, and I was blown away by her talent.

My name is Richard Geddy because my mother saw my father, who had long hair like yours, at a rock bar and was attracted to him. It’s a well-known story. Have you ever come across anyone else who shares your name, Richard? richardgc

I feel self-conscious whenever someone introduces their young child, Geddy, to me. I am more accustomed to people naming their pets Geddy. However, I view it as the highest form of flattery and try to take it as a compliment.


Have you ever used the washing machines that were on stage? PaleSnowflake
No, they were dryers! And the heating element was removed, so they were just props. We used to have guests come out and pretend they were doing their laundry. I can’t remember what year it was, but my favourite moment was with Jack Black. He came out in Anaheim and basically took all his clothes off except for his tighty whiteys, put them in the dryer, then hopped up on top of it and formed the sign of the man on the star from the 2112 album cover, his pants revealing his plumber’s crack.

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Which musical hero would you like to ask a question to and what would you ask?

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to have a conversation with Chris Squire, the bassist of Yes. He was a significant and admirable player to me, but our paths only crossed backstage at one of Rush’s concerts in London a long time ago. It was too chaotic to have a proper discussion. I am curious to learn more about his inspirations and the evolution of his musical style.

Is it necessary to impose restrictions on AI advancements? RDMiller

I do not particularly admire this individual, but there is a quote from Thomas Edison that states: “what man’s mind can imagine, man’s character must govern.” I believe this is relevant to the situation. It would be ideal if there were universal standards that everyone could agree on, but achieving global consensus on anything is a challenge.

How did you come up with the idea for the incredible polyrhythm in the intro to The Spirit of Radio? Rockmanalive

This was a collaborative effort between the three of us in a rehearsal space. Alex created the distinctive riff that opens the song, and Neil and I discussed ways to incorporate counterpoint. We had Alex’s circular riff and aimed for a jarring and unconventional sound before transitioning into a more traditional rock riff. Our goal was to showcase a range of musical styles that can be found on the radio.

Which album from Rush’s past would you choose to record again and why?

It’s a risky inquiry! I have never completed a project that I was completely satisfied with, but I believe it’s a futile task. Therefore, I will decline and say that I would not like to redo anything. Let it remain as it is, imperfections and all.

Will we be hearing any new music from you and Alex? CygnusX5

Definitely, Alex and I will both release new music. Is it possible that we will collaborate on new music? I believe it’s highly probable.

Did you, Alex, and Neil have a great time together during your experience with Rush? Richard2112

If you claim to have no regrets, you’re not being truthful. Personally, I regret not spending enough time with my son and neglecting my marriage for the sake of my band. However, I have no regrets about the journey of Rush. I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to play with the immensely talented Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson as well as call them my dear friends.


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