After more than 35 years making music together, legendary Toronto-area rockers Rush, you might think, wouldn't have much left to accomplish. But this weekend, the trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The honour arrives just as the band is back in studio, writing away and gearing up for another spin around North American stages. Lifeson talked to The Globe and Mail about the hallowed halls of fame, and enjoying the fourth decade of Rush.
How does this latest accolade feel?
Well, it always feels nice to get this sort of thing. It's funny, because Geddy and I have been writing for the last five or six weeks at a nice, easy pace - we have about half a dozen things that we've put together, and [we're]getting excited about it, so the whole cycle continues. Although it's very nice to get this award, we're moving forward.
You've said you're not concerned whether Rush gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Is that still true?
Honestly, I really, really don't care about it. There's so many politics involved in that. I think there are so many other bands that are deserving to be in there, even before us, bands that we looked up to and were influenced by. They've got a lot of bands in there that I don't think should really be in there. It's fine, they can do whatever they want - it's their hall of fame and whatever. Personally, in the long run, I'd prefer that we don't get the offer, because I'm not so sure I'd want to go. Our fans are very insulted that we've been passed over so many times, but honestly, it doesn't matter to us.
Has your songwriting role changed over the years?
I think, essentially, it's the same it always has been. We bring different things to it - obviously Neil brings lyrics and Geddy and I write all the music. Geddy and I have very different approaches to writing. … I have a low attention span, whereas he's much more methodical. … So when we're writing, we really have a nice balance in our process. I tend to throw things out - I'm always kind of noodling in the corner, and he'll hear something, and say, "Let's put that down right away!" because he understands me.
It's a funny thing with writing: You fall in love with these things and you're so excited about them, you can't wait to start working on them the next day, and then you reach a point where you just hate them and you're not sure if they're any good. And you get away from them for a few days and then you fall in love with them again. It's this crazy yo-yo relationship you have with new material.
How far off is the next album?
We were off for a year and a half, and now it's just pouring. Everything is totally crazy and there's not a minute left in the day. We've got these half-dozen songs, and we'll probably go in the studio and work on a couple of them and see how it goes, perhaps release something - and I say perhaps - and then we plan on being on the road in the middle of June. Ideally, we'd like to showcase a couple of these songs on the tour, come off tour in mid-October, go back in the studio and continue writing, then record through late this year and early next year, and then release the album in the spring of 2011 on a slightly more substantial tour. This [year's]tour will probably be about 45 dates. Most likely summer, 2011, would be more like 70.
With the advent of iPods and downloading, is live performance more central for you?
I would say that it's a little more relevant. It used to be that you made an album and then you went on the road to promote that album, hoping for good record sales. Well, good record sales basically don't exist any more, and the emphasis has been more on the live show. We're fortunate that we've got a good track record of being a live act. We feel very, very comfortable in that arena, and we're always looking to expand and try new things in the stage show.
So it's challenging and exciting for us, and I think we deliver. We tend to rehearse for a few weeks on our own, then we do four weeks of full-band rehearsal, and then we do two weeks of full-production rehearsal where we treat it as a show. That's primarily for the crew, but we play the set every day, sometimes twice a day, so we're so ready by the time we hit that first gig.