Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee are still jamming together: "We’re actually playing a lot of Rush songs" – but there are caveats

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: 2017 Musicians Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee attend the Press Room of the 32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center on April 7, 2017 in New York City. The event will broadcast on HBO Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET/P
(Image credit: Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

Rush gave us a lot – 47 years of songs and shows, but the idea Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson would just stop that part of their lives in 2015 has often had fans wondering. But Lifeson already confirmed the two still play together, and now he's revealed some more about that – including the fact they are playing Rush songs together again.

"Ged and I are hanging out a lot — and we always do — but now we’re hanging out at his place and we’re playing," the guitarist tells Rolling Stone in a new interview. "And we’re actually playing a lot of Rush songs."

Cue clamour of excitement from fans, and some self-effacing honesty from Lifeson…

"It’s funny because we sound like a really bad tribute band for the first three or four run-throughs on these things," he admits. It’s, 'Oh, my God, what did I play there? Why did I play that so hard?' And then muscle memory kicks in, and we’re having a ball doing it. It’s good for the fingers."

But don't get carried away – it looks like this is as far as it's going to go.  

"We’re together in a room like we’ve always been. That’s been really good, but there’s no chance that we’re going to get a drummer and go back on the road as the rebirth of Rush or something like that. And if we wanted to write new material, nobody cares about new material anymore. They just want to hear the old stuff from guys like us."

Offers come in all the time

We're not convinced of that – Rush never phoned it in with their material, and their fans loved them for it. But after losing Neil Peart, can anyone really blame the 70-year-old Lifeson for just wanting to play music with his best buddy and leaving any expectations at the door? 

"Yeah, they are special," Lifeson agrees with Rolling Stone on Rush fans being a dedicated bunch. "But maybe the feeling is that it’s just really about taking people back to an earlier time in their lives that they have very fond and vivid memories of, and I get it and that’s great. And then you do it for the money. And that’s not what we were ever about or what we would want to do. Offers come in all the time, but I don’t know. I don’t think that’s something that we’re really interested in."

Geddy Lee seems to have been far more open to a Rush return of sorts, and Lifeson is well aware of this. But it's not that simple now. The guitarist has dealt with stomach issues resulting from a failed hiatal hernia that will mean permanent changes to his lifestyle. And that inevitably includes touring. But even the guitarist was swaying between yes and no at one point when Lee brought the subject of Rush up.

"No, we’ve talked about it in depth, and I was waffling between maybe considering it and not," Lifeson confirms. "And then my health issues came up. I know if we went on the road, it couldn’t be like we used to do it. You need to go out for five or six months. You can’t just go out and play on the weekends. It just doesn’t work that way, especially if it’s going to be a big production. 

"I don’t know. We talk a lot about it. We’re in different worlds. I’ve been working on this Envy Of None stuff for four or five years now [Lifeson's studio project with musicians including Andy Curran and Maiah Wynne who are currently working on a second album). He’s been busy writing his books and he travels a lot and he does all those things that are important to him.

"He hasn’t been playing on a regular basis, and that’s why he really loves it when we’re together like this," Lifeson points out. "And this is where we came from when we were kids. This is not about putting something together for a possible tour or a record or something. This is the joy of those two teenagers sitting in a room looking at each other and trying to learn how to play an instrument better."

Who can possibly begrudge that? Despite dealing with health issues that have also included arthritis, Lifeson is still spending at least an hour every day focussed on his guitar playing – and has been very active on the signature gear side too.  Ultimately, he doesn't want to compromise a band that never, ever compromised and will always be admired for that.

"I’d rather have that and the sadness of not doing it again, than doing it again and sitting on a chair on stage because I can’t stand [laughs]," he tells Rolling Stone. I’d rather be remembered for that than something that’s more current.

"We talk about it," he says of Lee, "but at the same time, he’s my best friend and he loves me and he cares for me. He knows that I do have issues both physical and emotional with this whole idea. And he respects that we have so much respect and love for each other. I would do something like that, that he wanted to do, because I love him and I want to make him happy. But he knows that I wouldn’t be happy. It’s the bond that we have."

Read the full interview at Rolling Stone

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.