Gibson.com: You have announced that you're doing "Moving Pictures", in its entirety, on this tour. What is it about this album that you think makes it such a key album for fans? Even fans outside the core RUSH fan base, that's an album that probably reached out and grabbed more people than any you've ever done. What is it about that record that speaks to people?
Lifeson: It's probably a lot of things. From our point of view, that record was really fun to make. We were coming out of a period of writing longer pieces, thematic pieces, and actually with "Permanent Waves", it was probably the first time we got into a more economical style of writing and putting more punch into a four-minute or five-minute song than a nine- or ten-minute song. There was great positive energy in the studio when we made "Moving Pictures". The songs, I think, are among our strongest songs. There's great variety in character in the songs. They don't have a "same-iness" like some of our stuff does from an album. I think you can't help that. At least our experience is, you get very comfortable working in a particular key, or sound, or style; and of course, then the whole record — like, for example, "Grace Under Pressure", to me, when I listen to that, it really does sound like it was all recorded at that time in that studio with that amp. It has a same-ness to everything about it. I mean, I love that about that record, but with "Moving Pictures", you remember "Tom Sawyer", "Limelight", "Vital Signs" — I mean, they were all quite different. So I guess it was — I'm trying to think back to the last 30 years — probably a time where we were realizing a lot of these goals in our songwriting and it was a fresh start, and a change at least, not so much a fresh start but a change in where we were going. We arrived in the '80s and everything was kind of changing at that time.
Gibson.com: You guys seemed to make the transition from the '70s to the '80s a lot more successfully than a lot of guitar bands from the '70s. You seemed to hit the ground running, and not just change for the sake of change, but you had something to say in your music.
Lifeson: Yeah, we kind of had that in the '70s, too, because punk was really taking over when we were starting to pick up some more notoriety. Maybe not so much here as it was in Europe, but yeah, we managed to transition okay. And I think a lot of that has to do with our fan base. When you've got fans like we have, it just gives you so much more freedom to follow your path. And it made those transitions much easier than it has been for other bands.
Gibson.com: In recent years, your albums have gotten a lot more guitar-oriented. The '80s got a little synthy.
Gibson.com: The transition, if you want to call it that, to more guitar-oriented albums — where does that come from?
Lifeson: It's probably a reaction to what we were doing in the '80s, when we started incorporating keyboards into our sound. It was still a very new thing, and that's what really connected to us. But I think, once we got though the '80s, we realized we went as far as we could with that. The real core part of the band is really in the three pieces — and really in the guitar. And in looking back, strictly for scheduling purposes, we put the keyboard down before we put the guitar down. So that made things a lot more restrictive for me and I had to work around a sound spectrum that was already occupied by keyboards. And I think, as a reaction to that, in the '80s I went for a much wirier, thinner, clear trebly active pickup sound. In that period, I think that was just a response to the density of what the keyboard was doing. Around the early '90s, though, we all made this conscious effort to step away from keyboards, especially Geddy, which you would think would be unusual. But I think he'd had it and felt very confined in his area of the stage with keys and stuff. I mean, even with stuff we're writing now, I have been the one kind of introducing some keyboard lines. Part of that reaction was replacing keyboard stuff with guitar parts — "Vapor Trails", for example, has so much layered guitar stuff and it's fun to do. And even "Snakes & Arrows" has a lot of layering and it's great fun to do, and I love listening to it and I love doing it. But it makes it harder to really not depend on a lot of triggers and samples and stuff like that playing it live. But as I was saying, even now, where I want to bring some more keyboard back in, I am getting a lot of resistance from Geddy.
Lifeson: That's a good thing.
Gibson.com: So to bring it back to the new material you're working on, is this more guitar-oriented stuff? What kind of feel does it have?
Lifeson: Oh yeah, it's in-your-face guitar stuff. It's awesome, great. In fact, I'm really pleased with the way it's turned out. Everybody's playing really well. There's great energy and there's great rhythmic funk-ability going on there and some really cool stuff and I am really, really pleased with it.
Read the entire part 2 of the interview at Gibson.com.