Geddy Lee and and Alex Lifeson recently sat down together to reflect on Rush and the 40th anniversary of their Moving Pictures album with George Stroumboulopoulos for his Strombo Show and as hoped, it's a fascinating conversation. As fans, and anyone who has seen the excellent documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage, know, the Rush story is one of extraordinary perseverance, talent and friendship. And the duo were also able to reflect on the loss of Neil Peart.
"Life post-Neil is still fresh, in a way." admitted Geddy Lee. "I think he would be proud of this, and certainly be proud of the live aspect of this record because his playing is really good. And that's all he cared about… I shouldn't say that's all he cared about but that was first and foremost in his mind."
Stroumboulopoulos also sensitively approached the subject of Rush retiring and how the two musicians handled it. "I would say Al and I had different ways of dealing with that," responded Lee. "Al threw himself into little projects and bigger projects – he kept working throughout the whole thing and that was a real tonic for him. I can relate to that because when we went through our first set of tragedies with Neil back when he lost his wife and daughter, I did that. I threw myself into my solo album and it saved me in many ways. It fed me – let's put it like that.
"So for myself, I turned to writing; I turned to book writing," continued Lee. "And that was a way for me to not compete with that moment and those feelings, but a way to take stock and recharge my batteries in a different way. So we've handled it quite differently. But at the end of the day, it was a difficult thing to put aside. I don't think there are many bands who had a 45-year career that were as close as we were.
Lifeson has since forged ahead musically as one quarter of new project Envy Of None – whose debut album includes a poignant musical tribute to Peart.
"I know right after the tour, both Ged and I felt we still had a lot of gas in the tank," noted Lifeson. "The show looked great, we were playing really, really well. If we could just squeeze out another 150 shows [laughs].
"Let's be honest, it was frustrating to end when we ended. I was frustrated because I worked so hard on that tour in terms of design and putting it all together, and the whole concept of going backwards – a chronology that exposes itself, or exploits itself, while going back in time.
"And so I was really proud of it, I wanted to take it to Europe to play for the European fans, I wanted to take it to South America and that wasn't going to happen, so it was truncated in my view, in my mind. And I had to swallow that because I had to think of my friend's needs and what he wanted. It was frustrating, and so we walked away from that and went to do our other things. I went travelling, Alex was golfing and then Neil got sick. So what do you do with all those feelings? You just throw them away because they don't mean anything anymore."
Geddy Lee confirms that he's still playing music but joked he's "forgotten how to turn on my tape recorder" and he's continuing work on a memoir. "Then I will have a free space in my mind and in a way it was a kind of therapy for me to work through all of these things and I think I will then be in a good state of mind to move forward [musically]."
For Lifeson the year anniversary of Peart's death coincided with a turning point in his own grieving process and return to music.
"I didn't really play much, didn't listen to music – I couldn't stop thinking about it and then it was almost after the anniversary it was like walking through a door and I was like, 'ok I'm just gonna think about the good stuff and look forward to doing something else. Then I got involved in the Envy Of None project and that felt really good because I was playing on a regular basis, doing something that I've always done. That felt like a really good therapy for me."
But one question for fans will linger now – and the pair address that too.
The duo confirmed they haven't played together since the end of Rush but have "talked about it an awful lot". But it's only a matter of time for the two old friends. "That's a special thing we know we have," said Geddy Lee, "And one day we will."
"We spend so much time together anyways," added Lifeson. "We love spending time together, we do stuff."
"We did that about a month and a half ago," responded Lee. "We hadn't had dinner in a while and we just went out to dinner. I remember the feeling, we sat down at the table, we looked across the table and this is where we have been for 45/50 years together. And we both did a double-handed high five and continued the evening. And got pretty wasted, it was good."