Nardwuar: Who are you?
Geddy Lee: (pause) I beg your pardon?
Nardwuar: Who are you?
Geddy Lee: Who are you?
Nardwuar: I am Nardwuar the Human Serviette, and you are?
Geddy Lee: You are the Human Serviette?
Nardwuar: Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
Geddy Lee: Well, that’s rather gross. What does that mean?
Nardwuar: Just like, you know, napkin – you know, wiping things up with it. But you
are….Most importantly, you are….
Geddy Lee: I am a guy.
Nardwuar: You are Geddy Lee!
Geddy Lee: Yes.
Nardwuar: Geddy, you are God! I must say that! You are God! You are Geddy Lee! You are God!
Geddy Lee: Well, that’s an unusual way to describe me.
Nardwuar: So Geddy, at one time did Rush open for the New York Dolls at the old New
Yorker Theatre in Toronto?
Geddy Lee: Uh, we opened for the New York Dolls at the Victory Burlesque Theatre in
Nardwuar: How “glam” were you back then?
Geddy Lee: How “glam?”
Nardwuar: Yeah, how “glam” were you back-
Geddy Lee: I think we were going through a transition of being slightly “glam” in a
bar band sense – because at that stage we were pretty much a bar band –
and, uh, the transition from that to kind of a more rock band.
Nardwuar: Because you very effeminate at that time. I had this wall towel of you guys
where you were all wearing silk kimonos!
Geddy Lee: Yeah, we used to. We used to wear silks and satins and ridiculous platform
shoes and sequined tops and things like that.
Nardwuar: Was there any particular shampoo that you used at all, Geddy?
Geddy Lee: Well, that’s a rather dumb question.
Nardwuar: Well, I was just curious – to bring out that special Rush look in the early
Geddy Lee: Yeah. Well, I can this interview is going into a very boring direction for me.
Nardwuar: Well, Geddy, first off, you started your own label, Anthem, because no one
else who would get behind Rush. You guys were the prototype for the
original Canadian DIY punk band!
Geddy Lee: We were – I beg your pardon?
Nardwuar: Like, you guys started Anthem, your label, because no one else would get
behind you guys. You are like the original Canadian DIY band! Do It
Geddy Lee: Yes. Well, I guess so.
Nardwuar: Now, I also heard, Geddy, that you like baseball.
Geddy Lee: Yes?
Nardwuar: Mike Piazza of the Mets likes Slayer. Do you hang around any baseball
Geddy Lee: Well, I have some friends who are baseball players.
Nardwuar: Did you ever hang around Dave Winfield at all?
Geddy Lee: Uh, no, I met him one time.
Nardwuar: What did you think when he killed that pigeon a few years ago, you being
a Blue Jays fan, I’d imagine?
Geddy Lee: (laughs) Well, I think it was kind of an unusual circumstance, to say the
Nardwuar: So, Geddy, did you hang around Vitas Gerulitis a little while back?
Geddy Lee: Yeah, he was a friend of mine for a while.
Nardwuar: And Vitas Gerulitis hung around John MacEnroe, who hung around the Dead
Boys! Did you ever see the Dead Boys in the early days of Rush?
Geddy Lee: No.
Nardwuar: Didn’t the Ramones open for Rush at one time?
Geddy Lee: No.
Nardwuar: “Rush, little known pretenders to punk rock’s raunchy throne, stormed on
stage at the Summit Arena in Houston, and received the earsplitting roar
usually reserved for such legendary hard rock bands as Led Zeppelin and
Grand Funk Railroad.” This was from Macleans Magazine, 1977. “Rush, little
known pretenders to punk rock’s raunchy throne!”
Geddy Lee: That’s pretty odd.
Nardwuar: That was Maclean’s Maga-
Geddy Lee: Yeah, I know. Well, I guess to Maclean’s Magazine we must have seemed like
punk, which doesn’t say much for what Maclean’s Magazine knows about music.
Nardwuar: Geddy, how come you guys never did do a full-on punk album? A lot of my
friends were wondering that, because that would have been wicked! A Rush
Geddy Lee: It’s because we weren’t a punk band.
Nardwuar: But you had some punk-associated type things with you. For example, didn’t
Gerald Casale from Devo do some of your videos?
Geddy Lee: Yeah, but he wasn’t punk.
Nardwuar: And you wore a Devo pin as well!
Geddy Lee: Yeah, but they weren’t punk.
Nardwuar: But you had that kind of feel though. Like, you wore skinny ties. And you
seemed to be kind of inspired by New Wave. Like, were you into Gary Numan ?
Geddy Lee: No.
Nardwuar: What about “Digital Man” and “Spirit of the Radio” having reggae parts?
Would you say there was any punk feel there at all? Why didn’t you-
Geddy Lee: I don’t know why you associate reggae style with punk.
Nardwuar: It was the whole New Wave-
Geddy Lee: It’s a completely different genre of music.
Nardwuar: Well, a lot of the punk bands use that. Like, the Clash did reggae. Even D.O.A. from Vancouver broke into some reggae as well. I just kind of saw some of that Police influence in those songs.
Geddy Lee: Yeah, well, the Police were a pop band, not a punk band.
Nardwuar: So do you take offense to the word “punk” then, Geddy?
Geddy Lee: No, I don’t take offense to the word at all. There were some punk bands
that I liked, but I don’t see how you can associate them with our music.
Nardwuar: Well, I just see that you guys had that punk feel, because you had the
Melvins open for you guys. Do you think the Melvins were the best band ever
to open for Rush, Geddy?
Geddy Lee: Uh, no. I think – Melvins were a pretty interesting band. Unfortunately,
they really didn’t fare very well in front of our audience.
Nardwuar: What happened?
Geddy Lee: Well, they weren’t very well though of. (laughs)
Nardwuar: How about the other bands you’ve had? Like, you had that band Wrabbit. Do
you remember them? W-R-A-B-B-I-T?
Geddy Lee: I can barely remember them.
Nardwuar: Or Chalk Circle? Didn’t the Melvins do as well as Chalk Circle?
Geddy Lee: No, actually Chalk Circle did better.
Nardwuar: Now, Geddy, what are you guys listening to right now, besides your live
album, Different Stages? What are you listening to right now?
Geddy Lee: Um, I’m listening to Bjork. I’m listening to some bass and drums
collections from Ninja Tune.
Nardwuar: Are you a big Sloan fan ? Because didn’t you have like “Twice Removed”
from the Canadian band Sloan, in your car stereo a little while back?
Geddy Lee: Did I have what?
Nardwuar: Sloan. The band Sloan. Are you a big Sloan fan at all, Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: Uh, not particularly. I’ve heard a few of their pieces. Some of the stuff
is interesting to me; some of it is not.
Nardwuar: Because they have that song called “She Says What She Means” that has a
very, very familiar bass line to “Spirit of the Radio.” It’s their new
song: “She Says What She Means.” I was just curious if you had heard it at all?
Geddy Lee: No, I haven’t.
Nardwuar: Have you heard that Mixmaster Mike from the Beastie Boys used “Tom Sawyer”as their show opener to the Beastie Boys’ Canadian dates!
Geddy Lee: Yeah, I heard that.
Nardwuar: And what did you feel about that?
Geddy Lee: I thought that was kind of cool.
Nardwuar: Geddy, do you feel guilty at all about the thousands of teenage boys who
ended up with blisters on their thumbs trying to be a cool rock bassist
Geddy Lee: (laughs) No. Yeah. I feel real guilty about it.
Nardwuar: Have you ever talked to Lemmy from Motorhead about basses? He has like a
customized Rickenbacher bass and yours is stock.
Geddy Lee: Well, it’s been many years since I’ve talked to Lemmy and I remember at
the time, we didn’t talk much about basses.
Nardwuar: What did you talk about, Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: Oh, other stuff.
Nardwuar: Geddy, speaking of talking, Ben Mink has said that you speak fluent Yiddish?
Geddy Lee: Uh huh.
Nardwuar: How many other rock stars can do that? How many other rock stars can speak fluent Yiddish like Geddy Lee of Rush?
Geddy Lee: (laughs) Well, aside from Ben Mink, I don’t know too many.
Nardwuar: Your voice really is truly amazing. However, Geddy, Rolling Stone Record
Guide seems to think that you have “a voice like Donald Duck.” What the
hell is their problem?
Geddy Lee: I dont know. You will have to ask them.
Nardwuar: And speaking of your voice, have you heard the Pavement song, “Stereo,” off
the Brighten the Corners album that has the lyrics, “What about the voice
of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an
ordinary guy. I know him, and he does!”
Geddy Lee: Right. I’ve heard about it. I haven’t heard it myself.
Nardwuar: What do you do when you hear a song like that? Do you feel proud that
you’ve installed these young punkers – again, going back to the punk
allusion, Geddy – with these feel of Rush? What do feel about that when you
hear a song like that?
Geddy Lee: I think it’s amusing. I think in a weird way it is complimentary.
Nardwuar: And, Geddy Lee of Rush, have you seen the book Mondo Canuck by
Geoff Pevere and Greig Dymond?
Geddy Lee: Uh, no, I haven’t.
Nardwuar: Because in it there, they quote from Creem Magazine in 1976 by a Rick Johnson who writes”
“The first thing you notice about Rush is that they’re not as
gross looking as Bachman Turner Overdrive and that they have a somewhat
lower thud weight than most other Canadian bands. True enough, Canuck
rockers do seem to have some sort of uglier-than-though competition among
themselves along with a tendency to pounce on unsuspecting ears like a
carnivorous dumptruck.” What is the deal on Cream Magazine? Why do
Americans think Canuck rockers are so ugly?
Geddy Lee: Uh, I have no idea. I guess when you’re, uh, you have to take that time
period into consideration and when you think of the bands that were
successful from Canada around that period, you’re talking about the Guess
Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive and that’s pretty much it. So it doesn’t
paint a very pretty picture, does it?
Nardwuar: No, but I was curious… How about female fans? Did you have many female fans, Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: Now?
Nardwuar: Back then.
Geddy Lee: Back then, very few.
Nardwuar: Yeah, because critics were saying that you were ugly and maybe that’s what
they were equating it with, but that’s not true, because what’s wild about you
guys is, I would say your brand of rock, Rush’s rock, is kind of like “geek
rock” in a way and it is also “thug rock.” Because you have the “geek rock”
– a lot of the kids who were into Dungeons and Dragons were into you guys,
but also the thugs in the school – the big tough guys – were also into it.
Would you agree with that , Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: Well, I think our audience was mostly musicians, and if you want to call
them geeks or not is up to you, but there were a lot of musicians in the
crowd and, uh, we also seemed to appeal to people who were a little
Nardwuar: Geddy, the Canadian Content on the Rush resume is amazing! You are the man!
Like I said, you are God! You are Geddy Lee! You sang “Take Off Eh (to) the
Great White North!” Tha’ts great to have that on your resume!
Geddy Lee: Well, it’s amusing.
Nardwuar: It’s excellent! And… you also had Count Floyd – Count Floyd from SCTV! –
introduce the tune “The Red Barchetta” at one of your concerts! Like didn’t
that happen? You had like Count Floyd introducing one of your songs?
Geddy Lee: Yeah, the song was “The Weapon” I believe.
Nardwuar: On a big video screen!
Geddy Lee: Yeah. He did a couple of intros for us.
Nardwuar: Geddy Lee of Rush, what was it like being present for the recordings of the
greatest Canadian record of all time?
Geddy Lee: What was that?
Nardwuar: “Tears Are Not Enough!” Artists for Africa!
Geddy Lee: (laughs) Well! It was interesting. It was fairly comical to watch all these
people being one by one brought to the mic and ordered around by David
Foster. Uh, at the same time, it was a lot of fun to meet people like Neil
Young and Joni Mitchell who are artists that I have had a lot of respect
for for many years but I would say it was a very odd pairing of human beings.
Nardwuar: Well, just how annoying was David “blowdry” Foster in the studio on that
fateful day in March, 1985, Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: Well, I remember him asking Joni Mitchell to sing her line over and over
again, and, to everyone standing around, every performance was wonderful,
and yet he insisted on making her to sing it over and over again – to most
people’s amazement. And then when Neil Young came in, he sang it once, and,
uh, David Foster asked him to sing it again because it was a little out of
tune, and Neil replied to him that that’s his style and he’s not going to
do it again, to which a great swelling of pride welled up in all the
Nardwuar: Your line “And you know that we’ll be there” – that’s awesome! Did you have
any trouble getting that off at all?
Geddy Lee: No. It was one take.
Nardwuar: Did you get to talk to Canada’s “country gentleman,” Tommy Hunter,
Geddy Lee: No, no, I didn’t.
Nardwuar: And, Geddy Lee of Rush, Terry Brown has produced, like, all your albums
except the first one, and he worked on, like, Wild Thing by the Troggs and
Substitute by The Who.-
Geddy Lee: No, wait. He hasn’t produced all our albums.
Nardwuar: No, like-
Geddy Lee: He hasn’t worked with us since 1981.
Nardwuar: Oh, geez. Well, your brand new album – who produced that?
Geddy Lee: Peter Collin.
Nardwuar: But I was shattered to learn though from Terry Brown – shattered to learn
when he revealed that “Tom Sawyer” is comprised of three drum takes!? Three
different drum takes for “Tom Sawyer!” Say it isn’t so, Geddy!
Geddy Lee: Uh, I don’t remember that, to be honest.
Geddy Lee: But in those days, you were recording everything analogue and you are also
playing as a band, so when you record it, it wasn’t just drums playing by
themselves. It was bass, drums, guitar playing the bed tracks together. So
the only technology available was to cut between different takes, which was
quite normal in those days.
Nardwuar: So does that mean there’s edits in “Tom Sawyer,” Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: There very well could be.
Nardwuar: Oh no! Well, Terry Brown produced you guys, Geddy Lee. Who have been some
of the other behind-the-scene characthers in the Rush empire? Like, who
have been your roadies? Have there been any good Rush roadie stories?
Geddy Lee: Well, you know, it’s twenty-five years of stories. It’s hard to pull one up
Nardwuar: Is there any truth to the rumour of Rush roadies accepting Ayn Rand books
as bribes to get backstage to meet you guys?
Geddy Lee: (laughs) I don’t think so!
Nardwuar: And, Geddy, do you really believe all that Ayn Rand shit? I mean, come on,
do you believe all that or is it Neil’s thing?
Geddy Lee: Um, Ayn Rand was someone who was very influential on Neil and myself, uh, I would say almost twenty years ago, and, yes, I think she had a lot to offer
in terms of her theories on her artistic manifesto and her beliefs in
individualism. At some point in my life, she was a formative influence,
but one of many, I would say.
Nardwuar: Who is your favourite character in The Fountainhead , Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee:My favourite character in The Fountainhead?
Nardwuar: Which one do you think-
Geddy Lee: (laughs)
Nardwuar: Which character do you think parallels your life the best in The Fountainhead?
Geddy Lee: None of them.
Nardwuar: And, Geddy Lee, Neil wrote all those Ayn Rand-y lyrics. Like, he wrote all
those Ayn Rand-y lyrics. He’s pretty smart. Like, I saw him interviewing
Prime Minister Jean Chretien on MuchMusic a while back. Neil Peart versus
Jean Chretien! Did you see that?
Geddy Lee: Yeah, I did.
Nardwuar: That’s amazing! Neil Peart versus Jean Chretien. He had Chretien totally on
the hot seat!
Well, he’s a smart guy. What can I tell you?
Nardwuar: Did Maggie Trudeau come to any Rush gigs , Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: No.
Nardwuar: Have you ever approached Keith Richards when he was wasted?
Geddy Lee: No.
Nardwuar: Did you get to meet Keith Richards or the even the Beatles at all?
Geddy Lee Uh, I met Ron Wood and Keith Richards once briefly at a video shoot.
Nardwuar: And, Geddy Lee, are you guys still into the drugs? Like, in high school,
Rush were THE band to smoke dope to! And songs like “Passage to Bangkok”
only made us want to get higher and higher!
Geddy Lee: Yeah, well, I don’t smoke dope.
Nardwuar: Geddy, what to you is real prog rock? You know, ELP, Yes, Amon Duel,
Can, Gentle Giant? What to you is real prog rock?
Geddy Lee: Well, prog rock, I’m afraid, is a dying or an outdated form of music.
Nobody’s really carrying the tradition on, but in its day, Van Der Graft
Generator and, at times, Genesis and, you know, Yes – those bands were
interesting to me.
Nardwuar: What got you into prog rock? Were you into the Toronto ’60s scene at all?
Did you ever see the Ugly Ducklings or the Poppers or the Mandala?
Geddy Lee: I saw all those bands. Yeah.
Nardwuar: So how did you-
Geddy Lee: Kensington Market!
Nardwuar: Were you in any early bands? Did you share any bills with those bands in the early days ?
Geddy Lee: No, I was too young.
Nardwuar: So how exactly, Geddy, does one get into prog rock? You know, to go from
the Ugly Ducklings to prog rock. What made you go prog? What made you
interested in that type of music?
Geddy Lee: I think its musicians’ music. I think as you form – my tastes were formed
out of bands like Cream and The Who, uh, and those kinds of rock bands, and
as you get better as a player, uh, those bands came along at that time, and
that appeals to people that like to play, so, you know, it is the only rock
alternative that is viable that is not jazz, if you want to play something
Nardwuar: Was there ever a Triumph-versus-Rush rivalry at all? Because Triumph were kind of like a bad Rush. Was there ever a Triumph-versus-Rush rivalry?
Geddy Lee: (laughs) Not in my mind.
Nardwuar: Because they put on a good light show, but they’re weren’t no Max Webster,
were they? I mean, Max Webster! That was the hit! They were it!
Geddy Lee: That was a great band.
Nardwuar: Were Max Webster kind of like a baby Rush?
Geddy Lee: No, they were completely their own personality, very different from us.
Nardwuar: Geddy Lee of Rush, what was the biggest thing you ever had chucked at you
on stage in Rush?
Geddy Lee: A shoe.
Nardwuar: That was the biggest thing?
Nardwuar: Like, nobody’s ever grabbed like a microwave or anything else bizarre and
suddenly ended up at your feet-
Geddy Lee: No no no. No fridges. No missiles. Just a shoe. And believe me when a shoe
hits you in the head, it feels pretty darn big.
Nardwuar: And, Geddy Lee, if you were a dog, what breed would you be?
Geddy Lee: Next question.
Nardwuar: Anything else you would like to add at all to the people out there, Geddy Lee?
Geddy Lee: Mmm. No, thank you.
Nardwuar: Why should people care about Rush?
Geddy Lee:I haven’t got the foggiest idea.
Nardwuar: Well, thanks for your time, Geddy. Keep on rockin’ in the free world. And,
doot doola doot doo…
Geddy Lee: Okay.
Nardwuar: Geddy Lee, doot doola doot doo…
Geddy Lee: Good bye!
Nardwuar: No, Geddy Lee, doot doola doot doo…
Geddy Lee: See ya!
Nardwuar: No, Geddy Lee. Please? Doot doola doot doo…
Geddy Lee: See ya.
Nardwuar: Please, Geddy…..Doot doola doot doo..
Geddy Lee: (dialtone–Geddy hangs up)
Interview done over the phone, Dec 4, 1998