Rock legends Rush were finally ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month. Steve Adams talks to frontman Geddy Lee about the band's long and successful career.
In ironic contrast to the band’s name, mainstream acceptance has been a very slow process for Canadian rock band Rush. When they were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month, it came 39 years into their recording career.
That they were inducted by long-term fans Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters and received a lengthy standing ovation made it all the sweeter, according to Geddy Lee, the band’s softly-spoken singer and bass guitarist.
“It was really overwhelming and we all got choked up,” he recalls.
“Our fans have always placed more importance on us getting in than we have – we’d always thought it was no big deal. But at that particular moment it sure did feel like a big deal.”
One of the most surprising elements was the reception Rush – who also feature guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart – received from musicians and stars from widely different backgrounds, Lee says.
“It was quite an emotional evening to feel the amount of love from so many different and unexpected places.
“When you have guys from Public Enemy turning around and patting you on the back – jeez, even Spike Lee was so nice and giving us respect – you kinda pinch yourself and wonder where the f**k am I?”
The events of the lengthy show – which also saw the likes of Donna Summer, Heart and Public Enemy inducted – gave the band cause to not only to take stock of their lengthy career, but their lives in general.
“It was interesting because my wife was with me and it was her birthday and I was feeling bad that she had spent it playing second fiddle to the band once again,” Lee explains.
“But so many iconic acts – such as Jackson Browne and Carole King – appeared that brought back moments of our life.
“My wife turned to me in the middle of the show and said there was probably no more suitable place to spend her birthday because we’d been living our lives through all these songs.
“It was a perfect moment for her to reflect and that’s what it felt like for all of us.”
On the other hand, Lee admitted he found it impossible to fully appreciate the band’s legacy in terms of the musical heritage around them.
“Part of you is saying ‘somebody’s made a mistake here’ and part of you is trying to enjoy it and accept what it means in terms of popular music,” he says.
“We’ve been so insular and off the mainstream for so long that it’s very hard to see yourself as part of that same estimable group.”
The one element that did feel right was that Rush received the honour while still performing as a working band, still striving to improve and make new music.
The trio are currently touring their 20th studio album Clockwork Angels – “a record we truly think is one of our best”, according to Lee – which garnered rare acclaim from the critics.
“Either they were asleep at the wheel or we did something right,” laughs the singer, who despite turning 60 this year (“I’m not allowed to admit that – my wife throws things at me”) still has a huge appetite for performing.
“I love to play – that’s my whole reason for being,” he states.
“And we’re playing better than we’ve ever played – and I say that without much hesitation.
“Something happens after you play for 40 years... you get good at it!”
Which is just as well, given the major sacrifices that touring involves, particularly for Lee.
While Lifeson and Peart spend days off enjoying their respective pastimes of golf and motorcycling, Lee is forced to sit in a hotel room largely in silence, preserving his voice for the next show.
“My days off have become exceedingly boring and I feel a bit like a caged animal,” he says. “I watch baseball, I read, I buy sh*t... I’ve started collecting iconic basses to keep me sane.”
Lee will finally escape his hotel room existence when the tour ends in early August. What happens after that is a point none of the band wants to discuss at present.
“Right now we’re looking to finish this tour and take a holiday,” says Lee, almost wearily.
“After a nice long break we’ll figure out what we’re gonna do, but right now we have not talked about it and we have zero intention of talking about it.”
That includes discussion of a 40th anniversary ‘R40’ tour next year, an idea the band’s management is determined to push through.
“They’re trying but they’re going to fail,” says Lee. “And there’s nothing wrong with an ‘R42’ tour – it doesn’t have to be a round number.
“After all, there’s been nothing round about our career.”
* Rush bring their Clockwork Angels tour to the LG Arena in Birmingham on May 26. For tickets tel: 0844 338 8000.