What's the rush?
After nearly four decades on the road, Canadian prog heroes Rush are finally coming to Ireland. Geddy Lee talks to KEVIN COURTNEY
You’ve been together since 1974 and have remained friends all this time. Do you think you’ll make it to your 40-year anniversary?
I don’t see any reason not to. We made it this far. If we’re not sick of each other yet, we’re not gonna get sick of each other in the last couple of years. We’ve had moments where we’ve been frustrated and tired and not happy – that happens in life – but I don’t think we’ve ever looked at each other and said: “I don’t wanna do this any more.”
You’ve built your reputation on fast fretwork and skilled musicianship – are you worried that as you get older, you’ll be overtaken by the young musos?
That’s the reason why we’ve been going on tour so much in these last couple of years – it’s through fear of that happening. Right now, and certainly on the last portion of the tour, we feel we’ve been playing as well if not better than we’ve ever played before, so it’s kinda like, “this is working really well, so let’s just ride it”. A musician can evolve into another phase of their life and still be viable. It’s not so easy for an athlete to do that.
This is your first Irish visit. Why have you neglected us?
I don’t know why it worked out that we’ve never come to Ireland before, but we made sure this time – “yeah, let’s go, it’s time”. It seems like every tour I suggest we do that, but it just doesn’t work out. So we’re out of excuses and we’re coming.
What’s your live show like this time round? Last tour there were three giant washing machines on stage – was that to represent the different cycles of the band?!
We let our imaginations run wild a bit when we’re setting up our stage show. And we’ve got a really fun set-up at the moment. It’s a journey back to the future. We do a long show – about three hours of music, lots of films and various stage set-ups that we have.
Do women come to your shows of their own free will, or are they mostly dragged there by their husbands?
We let the women in if they insist on coming. Some of them are willing.
You were Canada’s answer to Yes. But who are your contemporaries now? Muse?
I think that rock’n’roll is evolving, and bands like The Rolling Stones have proved that you can age gracefully and keep rocking. I don’t know if there are many bands doing what we do, so in a way we’re one of the last leaves on the prog-rock tree. There are a lot of bands carrying on the tradition in a more modern way, bands like Radiohead and Sigur Rós, those are pretty progressive bands.
Is it hard for virtuoso musicians like yourself to listen to less musically accomplished bands? Are you thinking, “they didn’t quite nail that Locrian mode”?
No, I think you can appreciate something for what it is. I don’t listen to bands that are just like us. I listen to all kinds of music. Most musicians are like that. They keep an open mind when they hear something they think is cool, whether it’s their thing stylistically or not. At the moment, I’m a big fan of a band called Fleet Foxes. I’m one of those old fogies that still likes to buy CDs.
You were inducted into the 2010 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
That was awesome. Any time you get an honour like that it’s pretty awe-inspiring. You scratch your head and try not to think about it for too long. It always means a lot when people who do the same things as you do recognise your work.
Do you have any hobbies? Flying jetliners, perhaps? Extreme potholing?
Alex is a big golfer and he owns part of a golf course. I love to travel with my family or with just my wife — we go on biking and hiking trips. The world is great to crawl around. I think years of playing in arenas has made me, when I go on a trip, want to spend the time outdoors. I’m a big wine lover, and we go to wine regions. Neil is a huge motorcycle enthusiast. He likes to write and travel, and he’s got a child just over a year old. He’s started a second family, so he’s got his hands full.
Do you ever bump into any Irish bands on tour?
In the old days we toured with Thin Lizzy, and we were pretty good pals with those guys, and we did a lot of shows with Rory Gallagher, who was also a really good pal. And Gary Moore. I was really sad to read about [his death], cos he was such a sweet guy.
Rush play the O2 in Dublin on May 12