Interview: Alex Lifeson Discusses Rush's Rock Hall of Fame Induction and Deluxe Reissue of '2112'
The Rush guitarist discusses their Hall of Fame induction and the new reissue of 2112.
This is an excerpt from the April 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. For the rest of this story, plus features on Jimi Hendrix, Orianthi, the Slide Brothers and more, check out the issue at the Guitar World Online Store.
Despite an intensely devoted fan base and decades of massive success, Rush have been, for much of their career, regarded as the World’s Least-Hip Rock and Roll Act—the band of choice for adolescent boys mesmerized by 20-minute prog-rock epics, extravagant drum solos, and lyrics filled with tales of snow dogs, warring trees and French national holidays.
In the past few years, however, Rush have come to be cast in a more laudatory light. They've been embraced by Hollywood on television shows like Freaks and Geeks and in films like I Love You, Man, and the band members — guitarist Alex Lifeson, vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee and drummer/lyricist Neil Peart — autographed Stephen Colbert’s hand during an appearance on The Colbert Report.
They have also been praised by a host of bold-name musicians and music fans—from Billy Corgan and Kirk Hammett to Jack Black and South Park co-creator Matt Stone — in the award-winning 2010 documentary, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.
Now, in what could be viewed as perhaps the final step in their mainstream image rehabilitation, Rush will this year be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, honoring in a very public way the myriad commercial and artistic achievements of the band’s almost 40-year recording career. In that respect, it is also a fitting time for them to reissue their 1976 prog-rock classic, 2112, which represents a landmark moment in their commercial and artistic development.
Prior to recording 2112, did it really feel like the end was near for Rush? It’s been said that you took to calling the Caress of Steel tour the “Down the Tubes tour.”
That is how we were referring to it. And it definitely felt that way at the time. That was a very difficult tour. We were already extremely in debt, and it was just getting worse and worse. The crowds were getting smaller and there didn’t seem to be much interest in the album at the time. Everybody around was concerned about what the future was going to be. So there was a lot of reflection. I thought, Well, you know, I guess I could be a plumber again if I had to…
As the story goes, prior to your recording 2112, Rush’s manager, Ray Danniels, and your longtime producer, Terry Brown, actually met with your label, Mercury, and led them to believe that you were going to return to a more straightforward rock sound.
[laughs] Of course they did! I’m sure they were saying things like that right up to the delivery of the record. They probably were like, “Don’t worry, it’s gonna be great! It’ll be awesome!” But as the record was coming together we all truly were very excited about it. I don’t know if we thought we had quite what we ended up with, but we did feel it was something special.
Did Mercury every put any specific demands on you to return to a more commercial sound?
Not really. The essence of our deal was a production deal, so we were responsible for delivering the record, the artwork — everything — in its completed form. It was really up to us. But they did lament the fact that we seemed to no longer have the same interests as we had initially. And they were concerned about that. Of course they were concerned about that—they had invested a lot of money and time and effort in us. And they wanted only what was best for the band, which was for us to make them a lot of money! And that’s fine. They’re a business and that’s what they do. I get it. That’s okay. Truthfully, I think it lit a fire under us.
For the rest of this story, check out the April 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine, which is available now at the Guitar World Online Store.
Photo (above): Getty Images
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