RUSH’s GEDDY LEE On Making Albums: ‘Mixing Is The Death Of Hope’

In a new interview with NPR‘s “World Café”, RUSH bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee was asked to explain the term “post-production blues” as it relates to the album-making process, something he discusses in his recently released memoir “My Effin’ Life”. Geddy said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Well, the comparable I make is when [director/actor] Woody Allen is talking, I think, in [the 1977 American satirical romantic comedy-drama film] ‘Annie Hall’ and he says, ‘Marriage is the death of hope.’ And I always took that expression and applied it to music where I always felt mixing is the death of hope. Because when you’re making a record, it’s full of possibility — I mean, it really is a wondrous process; it’s like magic. And so when you come to the mixing part, which is the final, you have to review everything that’s on the tracks and make some very hard decisions about how they need to be placed. And some of the things, maybe the nuances you’ve fallen in love with, maybe there’s no room for them anymore. And I find that very painful process.”

Lee continued: “At the end, it’s a compromise between your dream and the reality of what actually ended up on the tracks. And I find that very disheartening. And so when we finish a record, I’m left with what we didn’t accomplish more than celebrating what we did accomplish. And I will get there. It takes me a bit. Some weeks later, when I’ve been away from it and I hear it fresh, I go, ‘Okay, that’s not bad.'”

Elsewhere in the interview, Geddy said that RUSH almost trashed its biggest song, “Tom Sawyer”, due to mixing issues.

“There were all these technical problems because we were using one of the first computerized mixing consoles in North America at the time,” he said. “Nothing was working and, at one point, I thought, ‘Maybe we just forget this song and move on’.”

Geddy previously discussed the problems RUSH encountered while making “Tom Sawyer” in an interview with Classic Rock magazine looking back at RUSH 1981 breakthrough album “Moving Pictures”. Lee said: “When we were working on ‘Tom Sawyer’, actually for the longest time it was the worst song on the record. We had more trouble with that song than almost any other song. I had real doubt about whether the song was working at all. I remember when we came to do the solo, and we’re having a lot of trouble getting a sound that [guitarist Alex Lifeson was] happy with. All of a sudden, [album engineer] Paul Northfield kind of jumped into action and came up with this idea of mic-ing the stereo speakers and doing [Alex‘s] solo in a stereo spread. Then it gave it that kind of tubular sound. And then it finally came to life.”

Geddy continued: “But when we finished and were even mixing the song, we’d had problems with the computer that was running the mix, so we all had our hands on different parts of the console, operating it manually because we didn’t trust the fucking thing…. Then when we heard it back in full, it was like: ‘Holy fuck!’ when those bass pedals came in. It was, like, ‘Okay, this works.’ But up until that point, there was a lot of doubt about that song.”

Lifeson added: “It went from being this immovable thing to being the obvious candidate to open the record — that opening and then Neil‘s [Peart] drums. But I do remember it being a real relief to tick off the chalkboard.”

Back in 1996, Lee told Huh magazine that he and his RUSH bandmates had “a really good time making albums. That sounds bullshitty and hokey, but it’s not,” he said. “We really have a lot of fun. It’s the weird little relationship that we have — it’s very humorous and very creative and very…democratic. I’m not saying it’s perfect — there’s certainly bumps in the road, and we do argue — but I think it keeps us going. I think the vibe when we’re hanging and all the stupid jokes and weird lexicon of words…I think every band is like that. Most bands are like that — they have their own language, their own words. It’s like being in a little club.”

“My Effin’ Life” was released on November 14 on HarperCollins. The book, which was edited Noah Eaker, is 512 pages and is available as a hardcover or as an e-book.

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