Alex Lifeson Hanging Up Guitar? Rush Drummer Neil Peart Calls It Quits

It’s looking more and more as if Canadian rock band Rush will never hit the road again. Just prior to the release of the band’s multi-media package, R40 Live, bassist and lead singer Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson sat down with Rolling Stone to answer questions from fans and talk about the recent tour, and Rush drummer Neil Peart’s announcement that he was retiring from the road forever.

Early in the interview, Geddy Lee fielded the question “Even if touring is over, would all three of you continue to record new music together?”

“We don’t have any immediate plans for that. Right now we’re on holiday. I hope once the new year rolls around and the juices get flowing and we get hungry again we can talk about that.”

Shortly thereafter, another fan posed a direct question, asking “Do you think you’ll ever tour again?” Geddy Lee replied as follows.

“That’s the question that I’d like to know myself. I can’t answer that, really, because I have no idea, but it doesn’t look good at this point.”

Lee explained that this is a “painful” time for the band and that each band member has a different idea about touring.

“At this moment,” he added, “we’re not all on the same page.”

Of the band’s most recent release, Geddy Lee noted that the R40 Live album was especially satisfying to make, because it was recorded at a concert in the band’s hometown of Toronto. He said the concert brought the band full circle and was based on a concept of “reverse chronological order.” Lee said that selecting songs to fit that reverse order on the album was an arduous task, noting that the first version was about four hours long.

Rumors regarding the demise of geek-rock band Rush have been circulating for more than a year.

A June, 2015, Rolling Stone article quoted Geddy Lee as saying the following.

“It’s most likely our last tour. I can’t say for sure. But it doesn’t mean we don’t want to work together still, it doesn’t mean we won’t do another creative project, and I’ve got ideas for shows we could do that don’t involve a tour.”

In December, Jambase said that the decision whether or not to board another tour bus (or, in Peart’s case, the BMW motorcycle that is his preferred mode of between-show transport) was entirely up to the drummer. Alex Lifeson confirmed to Rolling Stone the longtime Rush drummer‘s hesitation to do the R40 tour at all.

“He [Peart] didn’t even want to do the tour, to be honest with you. It’s been increasingly difficult for him, but he committed to the tour and we got through it. As far as he was concerned, that was the end of touring.

“His shoulders were hurting, his arms were hurting, his elbows, his feet, everything. He didn’t want to play anything less than 100 percent. He was finding it increasingly difficult to hit that mark on this last tour. So, all those things combined, I get it.”

Geddy Lee lauded Neil Peart’s drum skills to The Guardian.

“Neil combines a few things that you don’t usually find in one drummer. He combines powerful rock histrionics with an incredible compositional sense more suited to a classical musician. He has the chops and ability to switch into a jazz-like improvisational mode at any time. The other thing is the pure physicality of what he does. When you see him play live for three hours, there are very few people on Earth than can play at that level for that length of time. Like he says, ‘My job is like running marathons while solving equations.'”

As frontman of Rush, Geddy Lee answered many questions about the band, but when Alex Lifeson got a word in edgewise, the results were often hilarious. When asked about favorite superheroes, Lee told Rolling Stone that he likes Superman and Green Lantern. The same question posed to Lifeson elicited a wry “Shemp” from the guitarist.

Shemp is Neil Peart's superhero
Lifeson’s humor is evident elsewhere, too. Fans of the offbeat Canadian TV series, Trailer Park Boys, are not likely to forget Lifeson’s appearance on an episode called “Closer to the Heart,” wherein the Rush guitarist is “borrowed” by the show’s protagonist, Ricky, so the boys can get into a Rush concert. Once Lifeson is released and on stage, another of the show’s characters, Bubbles, straps on a guitar and joins the band.

What will Neil Peart do when Rush is over? Maybe he will write more books. His memoir of the R40 tour, Far and Wide: Bring that Horizon to Me!, is set to hit bookstore shelves on September 13, says JamBase. It’s the third in a series of illustrated travel-themed tomes penned by Peart and is available for pre-order at Amazon.

Rolling Stone queried Alex Lifeson about the possibility that he and Geddy Lee would tour together without Peart on the drum riser.

“Well, we have been saying that every 40 years, we fire our drummer and get a new one.”

[Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP Images]