Hi Folks --
Here we are again -- a new album, Counterparts, is out and I hope you're all enjoying it. As usual, I have written a little "bio-thing" to accompany it, telling the story behind the making of the record, and thoughts on some of the songs. This will probably be sent out to educate the members of the press, and will also appear in the tour book (and possibly here in the newsletter -- if they've got *room*, by the time I'm finished answering all these questions), so I won't recount the same stories.
Instead, I'll get straight to what's special about this forum: answering the questions you people send in...
Q.1 What inspired the "Fear" trilogy, as heard in reverse order on the albums Moving Pictures, Signals, and Grace Under Pressure? Why were they recorded in reverse order?
Q.2 What is the significance of the phrase "Now it's dark" at the end of the liner notes for Roll The Bones?
Old Towne, ME
1/ I started with these two questions because many others have asked them too. The idea for the trilogy was suggested by an older man telling that he didn't think life was ruled by love, or reason, or money, or the pursuit of happiness -- but by fear. This smart-but cynical guy's position was that most people's actions are motivated by fear of being hungry, fear of being hurt, fear of being alone, fear of being robbed, etc,. and that people don't make choices based on hope that something good will happen, but in fear that something bad will happen.
I reacted to this the way all of us tend to react to generalities: "Well, I'm not like that!" But then I started thinking about it more, watching the way people around me behaved, and I soon realised that there was something to this viewpoint, So I sketched out the three "theaters of fear," as I saw them: how fear works inside us ("The Enemy Within"), how fear is used against us ("The Weapon"), and how fear feeds the mob mentality ("Witch Hunt").
As it happened, the last theme was easiest to deal with, so it was written first, and consequently appeared first on record, and the other two followed in reverse order for the same reason.
2/ The phrase occurs in David Lynch's comedy classic Blue Velvet.
Q. Any plans to celebrate your 20th with a tour, records, videos?
Yes indeed, we are giving that some serious thought. We can't think of another group which has survived for so long with the same individuals, and since those individuals are us, we think the occasion deserves some tribute. We haven't decided exactly what tribute yet, but we are thinking about the possibility of retrospective shows, live recordings, and videos. Later in the year we will have a clearer idea of what, exactly, we're going to do. But we're going to do something -- at least have cake!
Q. Is the boy on the Roll The Bones cover Julian Lee?
Flavio de Assis
Flavio, I'm only answering this because you're from Brazil. No
Q.1 Any reason why you used a single bass drum for the Roll The Bones tour?
Q.2 Are the references in Middletown Dreams to specific people, or are they allegorical?
1/ Just before recording Roll The Bones, I started changing my drum kit around a bit, to keep myself out of "familiar patterns." I had always wanted to try one of those "double pedals", a mechanical linkage which allows you to play with two seperate pedals connected to the same drum, and I found I liked it a lot -- the notes were cleaner and more even, and I could get rid of that big empty resonating chamber: the other bass drum. So I did.
2/ A bit of both actually. I was thinking of Sherwood Anderson and Paul Gaugin, a writer and a painter who found their "mission" late in life, but still followed them -- they dropped out of their jobs in insurance and banking, deserted their families, and took off to pursue a dream. Not that this was responsible behavior, you understand, but the theme of the song was the power of dreams, and I wanted to make the point that it's never too late, and it's not over until... etc. about those people, but were inspired by them as true-life examples. The young musician verse is more of a composite, based on so many small-town kids who follow that musical dream. An old story, but often enough a true one as well. (I'm here to tell you.)
"Middletown Dreams" came to represent a kind of "litmus test" for me -- the way people interpret that song shows how they look at life. Although this was not intended, it appears that I left those little stories vague enough that some people interpret them as representing *failure*, and that I was writing a pessimistic song. I call this the "Tragic View." Whereas, as you can see, I was actually writing about dreams fulfilled, and this is called the "Romantic View."
San Antonio, TX
This gets heavy, so bear with me... The cover art reflects a style of 17th century Dutch painting called vanitas, in which symbols, such as the skull (and also candles, books flowers, playing cards, etc.), were used to remind the good Netherlanders of life's brevity, and the ultimate transience of all material things and sensual pleasures. These paintings sometimes used a latin motto: "memento mori," which translates as "remember death." So, as you can see, this is basically one of those lame intellecto-jokes, the kind that make your brain hurt to think about (See also the line in "Cut To The Chase" -- "I'm young enough to remember the future." Like... What?)
But afterall, if you're not a follower of Shirley MacLaine, how can you "remember death?" You can only remember that it's there. (And that's a big rip-off.)
Q.1 Since you quoted the line "Now I lay me down in dreamland," I assume that someone else came up with it. If this is true, which writer came up with it, and in what book or poem of his or hers can it be found?
Q.2 Is it true that you guys were offered the sound-track for the movie Batman?
Great Neck, NY
1/ It's more a paraphrase than a quote, really, but it comes from a prayer which was stitched into a sampler above my grandmother's bed. It began like this: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..." When I came up with the line for "Second Nature," I pictured it with a kind of self-mocking smile, of irony, and of facing reality rather than ideals, so I put it in quotes.
2/ No, it's not true.
3/ Isn't it awful when you have to explain your jokes? It's so awkward when the joke fails, and people insist you try -- no one ever laughs at the *explanation* of a joke. Anyway, the idea was that these bunnies are taking matters into their *own*, um...paws, and making *themselves* appear from the hat, and flying around in it. Go on -- laugh your head off!
Q. Could you explain "Part IV of the Gangster of Boats trilogy"?
Um...part four of a trilogy, get it? See above.
Q.1 Any reason for your playing with your sticks upside-down sometimes?
Q.2 Is there any particular order to the numbers on the dice on the cover of Roll The Bones?
1/ When I was starting out, if I broke the tips off my sticks I couldn't afford to buy new ones, so I would just turn them around and use the other end. I got used to it, and continue to use the heavy end of lighter sticks -- it gives me a solid impact, but with less "dead weight" to sling around.
2/ No order -- just descending into chaos. (This is also for Michael Splawn, with the U.S. Army in Kaiserslauten, Germany, who asked about the dice as well.)
Q. Did you ever march drum corps?
This question actually came to me through Modern Drummer a couple of years back, but with no address, so I'm hoping it will make it back to Roy through this forum. In answer to that long-ago question, no I didn't, but I have a lot of respect for the complexities of modern drum-corp playing, and of course, I started out with the same 26 rudiments they do, and sometimes use that style of playing when it suits the music.
Q. It's fairly well known that you've been influenced to a great extent by the writings of Ayn Rand. Knowing that her philosophy places a great deal of emphasis on individualism and creative integrity, particularly in the realm of art, how do you reconcile this with the fact that the music of Rush is written collectively? What happens if one of you has your heart set on a particular part, but the other two are dead-set against it?
Miami Springs, FL
Well, I saved this one until last, and you can see why! Eric and other people often send long lists of questions, and I hope they understand that I just can't justify spending half a page on a complex answer for each arcane question (for myself or for the general reader) so I have to be selective. Since I'm giving my time to this as a service to others, I go about it in my own way -- like the selfish bum I am.
Sometimes I choose questions which a few people have asked about, but which are unlikely to appear in an interview; sometimes I choose questions I think are interesting; sometimes I head off a growing myth and debunk it for you; other times I just say "what the heck" and answer any old one. So okay...
For a start. the extent of my influence by the writings of Ayn Rand should not be overestimated -- I am no one's disciple. Yes, I believe the individual is paramount in matters of justice and liberty, but in philosophy, as Aristotle said long ago, the paramount good is happiness. My self-determination as an individual is part of the pursuit of happiness, of course, but there's more to it than that.
In this particular example, working together with Alex and Geddy is a more important part of my pursuit of happiness than is my attachment to any line of lyric or phrase of music. Thus the conflict you describe would not arise -- if we disagree on such a detail, we work on it until it satisfies everybody, and if (very) occasionally one of us has to sacrifice a petty preference, they hey -- it's no big deal. Especially when you compare such an issue against the satisfaction we get from the big picture, the sum of our work together, it would be foolish to sacrifice long-term happiness for a small difference in taste.
I've said before that in regard to my own work, the lyrics, I am more often excited by the input from the other two than I am disappointed by it, and I certainly never feel compromised by it.
And there you can see how complicated it is to identify and pursue happiness, and how complicated it can be just to answer one question (out of twenty submitted by the curious Mr. Simpson, though others often rival him.)
You see what I'm up against...
Bye for now,
November 4, '93, Toronto