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Between the Acts: How the end of Rush let Alex Lifeson be ‘as creative as I want to be’

Between the acts

How the end of Rush let Alex Lifeson be 'as creative as I want to be'

Guitarist and charter member of the legendary Canadian prog-rock trio says he's actually been 'busier lately than I have been in a while' since the band stopped touring and recording

Casey McGlynn’s illustration for Alex Lifeson’s first column for the West End Phoenix newspaper in Toronto.

In Between the Acts, The Globe and Mail takes a look at how artists manage their time before and after a creative endeavour

After a distinguished career as a charter member of the legendary Canadian prog-rock trio Rush, the guitarist Alex Lifeson had a wide-open schedule when the band decided to hang up its amps, cymbals and elaborate lyricism in 2015. The musician, 64, speaks about his latest projects, musical and otherwise:

Alex Lifeson of Rush performs in Los Angeles in 2015. The Associated Press/File

It's been a little over two years since Rush last toured. We have no plans to tour or record any more. We're basically done. After 41 years, we felt it was enough.

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But I've actually been busier lately than I have been in a while. I'm writing a lot. I'm writing on four or five different little projects. I get these requests to do guitar work with other people. It's really a lot of fun for me. It's low pressure: I get to be as creative as I want to be and I can work a little outside of the box, which is really attractive to me.

I'm also writing for the West End Phoenix, a new monthly newspaper in Toronto. [Editor-in-chief and author and a founding member of the Rheostatics] Dave Bidini came to me and asked me if I'd wanted to have fun with a little column, and have artist Casey McGlynn do illustrations for it. It's been great. Casey's illustrations work really well together with what I'm writing.

For my first column, though, I was panicking. I thought, "What am I going to do? What can I do that's going to be funny or different or special in some way?" So, initially I wasn't sure about it. This is not my field. But Dave's a persuasive guy. He told me to write 150 words, that Casey would do his illustrations and that it would be great. I think I submitted 1,200 words. Apparently, I don't have a problem with content.

It's fun to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. If you have a little bit of confidence and you just get out of your own way, these things can happen. The same thing happened when I got asked to do a small role in a TV show, Crawford, a new comedy on CBC from Mike Clattenburg, who created Trailer Park Boys.

I thought I couldn't do it – that it was something for real actors. But I ended up doing a few episodes. It definitely was not in my comfort zone. But if you throw a challenge at yourself and dive into it, it can be really gratifying.

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