I’m a sucker for “unofficial releases” that are nothing more than a journo’s taped interview with a band, later set to CD-R boot. And here’s a classic example of this non-canon release: a half-hour chat with Alex Lifeson. Although the internets give this a release date of 1992, the conversation dates it at 1987-ish, around the time of Hold Your Fire.
Listening to Alex talk is always an interesting proposition for me. I always think of Geddy as the voice of the band in the literal sense, but so much of what I’ve read over the years, both in books and in the actual lyrics, are written by Neil. So the thought of Alex doing anything other than playing the six-string is out of sorts for me. But it turns out he’s a wonderful conversationalist in this interview. A good chunk of the talk deals with how the band approaches music, and he details their unique writing process. When the band hides away on a Canadian farm for a few weeks to write, Neil is in one end of the house, shuffling papers and penning lyrics, while Alex and Geddy are at the other end, noodling on their stringed instruments, taping riffs and jamming away at embryonic songs. It seems strange that a band with lyrics and complicated music twisted tightly together can write like that, but it works well. Each night, the band regroups and laminates together the raw pieces into well-crafted songs.
One of the funnier bits in the interview is a discussion about the early days, in which Alex admits that back in the day, he used to work at a gas station pumping gas during the week, and then the band went out on weekends to gig. He also said in the early years (the mid-70s), he was barely making rent on a tiny apartment, and when he wasn’t on tour supporting albums like Caress of Steel, he was working as a plumber for his dad. It’s hard to imagine Rush as anything but successful, but according to this interview, they struggled until Moving Pictures.
Lifeson seems to have his head on straight, even if they are somewhat more famous by this point. He emphasizes that the music is most important to them, not the partying, which kept the band together for so long. He also talks about family, and how his then-17-year-old son was more of a friend than a kid to him (he was 34 at the time). He also mentions his son’s teenaged attempts at music and bands, which is humorous.
This interview sounds like it was recorded in a restaurant. Alex is recorded well, but the interviewer’s voice is a bit muffled and has a heavy accent, so it’s hard to hear exactly what he’s asking. There’s not a smooth start or stop on this, and it is by no means a pro release, but it’s an interesting snippet of conversation. You’ll have to hunt to find this one, but if you’re a fan, it’s a nice little view into the late-80s world of Rush.