Sunday, January 26, 2014

Revisited: Rush members are now movie stars as well as music stars

I recently saw the film I Love You, Man for the first time and it reminded me of an interview I did with Rush a few years back. Since has removed all of the blogs I wrote for it three times a week from August 2009 to August 2011, I've decided to repost the article here.

Here we go:

From Nov. 28, 2009

Rush members are now movie stars as well as music stars

Rush has sold more than 40 million albums in its 35-year recording career, and that total continues to grow with the Nov. 17 release of the live best-of Working Men CD and DVD collection and a new studio record expected next year.

"I'm sure that over the next couple of months we'll get right into the meat of songwriting," singer, bassist and keyboardist Geddy Lee told me backstage at a recent awards show in Toronto presented by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson were on hand to receive SOCAN's International Achievement Award, while drummer/lyricist Neil Peart remained at his Los Angeles home with his wife Carrie and baby daughter Olivia, who was born in August. The two musicians kept their acceptance speech mercifully short, but were still appreciative of the honour.

"It's nice to be recognized as a songwriter," said Lee. "It's not something that happens very often when you're in a rock band that plays really fast. That's what you usually get recognized for. But it all begins with the song."

Rush has won seven Juno Awards, been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, and all three members are Officers of the Order of Canada. They also have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Canada's Walk of Fame, which is located right outside Roy Thomson Hall, where the SOCAN Awards were held.

I asked the pair if they'd checked their star, which is located between hockey legend Gordie Howe and comedy troupe The Royal Canadian Air Farce ("That kind of says it all, doesn't it?" quipped Lee.), before the ceremony.

"I didn't notice if anyone was sleeping on it," Lee replied with a chuckle. "My mother comes down and cleans it once a week."

Having a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is also appropriate, since the members of Rush have also become minor movie stars of late.

Rush had a cameo role earlier this year in the bromance flick I Love You, Man, which starred Paul Rudd and Jason Segel.

"The two key characters go on a man date and one of the common things they share is a love for Rush," explained Lifeson, since I haven't yet seen the comedy. "Our role was playing a gig at a club they attend.

"It was so much fun to do that. We basically played 'Limelight' for about 11 hours. We must have played it 2,000 times while they did their scenes. We watched from the stage and it was absolutely hilarious seeing Jason Segel and Paul Rudd go through their scenes and do different takes. They were all very, very sweet and very charming."

"It was a really great experience for us," added Lee. "The director (John Hamburg), who also wrote the film, is a huge Rush fan.

"He just wouldn't settle for doing that film with any other band. He was very considerate of our time and the way he presented us in the film was kind of an homage. We really appreciated the way it all turned out. It was really a lot of fun."

Peart played a role in the recently released Adventures Of Power, which won awards on the film festival circuit and is described as "an epic rock'n'roll comedy about the American dream, love, and air-drumming." It was written and directed by Ari Gold (Groove), who also stars in the film along with Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap), Jane Lynch (Glee), Chiu Chi Ling (Kung Fu Hustle), Shoshannah Stern (Jericho) and Adrian Grenier (Entourage). Peart describes the film on Rush's web site as "the best rock movie in many a year."

Some might argue that Suck could also be in the running for that title, though I wasn't that knocked out by the black comedy that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The movie focuses on a band called The Winners who are anything but until they become bloodthirsty vampires.

Alice Cooper appears as a vampire bartender, while Moby plays Secretaries Of Steak frontman Beef, Henry Rollins is a radio DJ, Iggy Pop portrays a rifle-toting record producer, Rough Trade's Carole Pope appears as a nightclub ticket-taker, Burning Brides' Dimitri Coats plays vampire leader Queeny and Lifeson cameos as a border guard.

Lifeson has also appeared in the hilarious Canadian television series Trailer Park Boys, and he'll also have a part in an off-the-wall-sounding new series starring that show's Robb Wells (Ricky), John Paul Tremblay (Julian) and Mike Smith (Bubbles) that's slated to start shooting in May.

"It's very, very bizarre, but it should be a lot of fun," explained Lifeson. "I think we're doing six episodes.

"I play one of the secondary characters in the story. It's about them as the actors from Trailer Park Boys who are putting together this kids show. I think the working title is Drunk And On Drugs Happy Fun Time Hour, or something like that.

"The premise is that I'm a German scientist who develops this potion and everybody in the town gets high on this hallucinogenic berry. The three actors from Trailer Park Boys become all these other characters in the town. That's about all I know about it so far."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jim Fidler - RPM

Jim Fidler's latest album, RPM, is a definite departure from his work with Pressure Drop, his collaborative efforts with other musicians and his solo catalogue.

It took the St. John's, Nfld. artist exactly eight months to make the 11-song, 54-minute album at his Roots Cellar studio. As in the past, he wrote, played and sang almost everything, while also producing the record. What's different, though, is the sound.

Fidler first became known as a reggae artist through Pressure Drop, embraced Celtic music in his early solo work, added sounds from other cultures to make what can loosely be described as world music, and has also mixed in pop, blues and folk to those elements to create a unique niche for himself. But RPM adds a new wrinkle, with distinct 1970s pop and rock influences.

Some of opener "Mister Man" sounds like it could have been included on Pink Floyd's The Wall, the piano introduction to "What I'm Going to Do" is reminiscent of Supertramp's "Bloody Well Right" and "Not the Thing at the End of the Line" also elicits vague memories of the decade of Watergate, oil crises and Archie Bunker.

"Mama's Little Boy" and "Dancing at the Rubber Ball" are more rhythmic, the fairly mellow "The Weed" sings the praises of marijuana and "We Need A Revolution" cites the importance of open communication. The album ends relatively quietly with the trio of "The Final Curtain Call," "Sleep" and "Dream (The Awakening)."

The other thing that sets RPM apart from Fidler's earlier work is that the lyrics came to him in a stream of consciousness after he laid down the bed for each track. There was no sitting down and jotting notes to guide him along. The result is what can be described as a concept album, as it traces the life and career of a fictitious musician named Mickey Finn.

Fidler may call for a revolution, but RPM also illustrates his continuing musical evolution.