Alex Lifeson of Rush turns 61 on August 27 2014. Why celebrate Alex's 61st? Well, Rush are planning a 41st Anniversary Tour for 2015, so Gibson.com thought we'd stay as kookily contrary as the legendary Toronto trio.
There's little need to reiterate Lifeson's standing in rock guitar's pantheon. He's hugely talented and unique, you already know that. And like Rush the band, he's grown into being “cool” as a third of what was once the most “uncool” band ever.
For great exclusive Gibson.com interviews with Alex Lifeson click Part 1 and Part 2 and also here. But here is what Alex has said over the years about his guitar craft and worldview to other websites and magazines. Words of wisdom, wit and fun.
Happy birthday, Aleksandar Živojinović (to everyone, he is Alex Lifeson.) We hope your 61st cake is even better than the 60th..
On his love for the Gibson ES-355: “I was also into people like [Jefferson Airplane’s] Jorma Kaukonan, and Alvin Lee. And that guitar was always a beautiful guitar. I’ve always really liked that whole sixties San Francisco music scene, and that guitar was probably the prevalent guitar at that time. So to me it seemed like a natural place to go. And I just grew with the instrument.” As told to Premier Guitar.
On getting his own “Inspired By” signature Gibson ES-355: “I was very excited about it. You know, I’ve gone through a lot of guitars over the years, and obviously at home I have lots of different guitars, and I use them all.
“But it was nice to come back to Gibson after not having been there exclusively for a long time. And they’ve been terrific in working with me and the kind of things I want modified on a guitar and set up the way I like. When they approached me with the 355, it just seemed to make a lot of sense. This was a model that was probably more in the background of their catalog. So it was nice to bring that to the forefront, because it really is such a beautiful instrument. It just sounds great.” As told to Premier Guitar.
On Rush's endurance and continuing appeal: “I've been saying this for a few years... but it really feels like the best time to be in Rush. The three of us are enjoying every second of it.” As told to MusicRadar.
On Rush being “normal guys”: “There is something about us that’s just not the norm in rock music. I don’t know what it is. We’ve been a little outside, maybe. We’ve been grounded. We don’t live the big rock lifestyle. I was a father when I was 17. I had that responsibility when I was young. You took the kids to school and got groceries. It’s what everyone else does — except, maybe, Axl Rose.” As told to Dallas News.
On Rush getting the honor of a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. “What a huge thrill! For three guys from Canada who just wanted to play music, to get that kind of recognition...well, we're still stunned.” As told to MusicRadar.
On Rush's megastardom in Brazil: “Rush fans are pretty crazy everywhere, but they're particularly wild in South America.” As told to MusicRadar. He's not wrong. Just watch.
On his Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion: “I ordered one from Gibson way back in ‘78 or ‘79. And then later that year or the following year, they brought out the Howard Roberts Fusion and to me, at the time, it seemed like the perfect guitar. It was a hollowbody, it looked like an oversized Les Paul, and it had a nice balance to it when you played it. So it had all the things that I looked for in a guitar, and it’s still one of my favorite guitars to play to this day. I think all of “Tom Sawyer” is on that guitar.” As told to Premier Guitar.
On his other favorite Gibsons: “I’ve got a [Les Paul] Custom that weighs about 80 pounds, and I’m sure that that last E chord I played is still ringing out! It’s amazing! It’s such a heavy piece of wood that sustains like crazy. And then the Goldtop is great. It’s a ‘59 reissue, and I love the neck on it. That one is set up with a piezo with no vibrato. They all have their own job. They are tools for me.” As told to Premier Guitar.
Here's Alex talking more on video to Gibson about his gear.
On misconceptions about Rush: “Rush have always had this reputation, particularly to non-fans, of being an ultra-serious and cerebral group when, in fact, the reverse is true. We don't take ourselves seriously at all. Sure, we take our music seriously, but that's altogether different.” As told to MusicRadar.
On the 2112 album saving Rush's career: “We were already extremely in debt, and it was just getting worse and worse. The crowds were getting smaller and there didn’t seem to be much interest in the album at the time. Everybody around was concerned about what the future was going to be. So there was a lot of reflection. I thought, Well, you know, I guess I could be a plumber again if I had to.” As told to Guitar World.
On staying and playing motivated: “Every night I try to play better than I did the night before. I'm never satisfied. I think I'd be scared if I was satisfied, because that would lead to complacency. I'm always trying to play a perfect show, and when you consider that we perform for three hours, that's a very elusive thing." As told to MusicRadar.
On his favorite Rush solo, “Limelight”: “I've always enjoyed the elasticity of that solo, particularly the way it sounds on the record. It has a certain tonality I just love. I do like playing the solo live, but I think I prefer listening to it on the album. On record, it has a magical quality to it—it really conveys the pathos of the song and the lyrics. I've never been able to re-create that live. I get pretty close, but it's never exactly the way it is on record. I'll keep trying, though." As told to MusicRadar.
On the influence of Genesis's Steve Hackett: “Steve Hackett is so articulate and melodic, precise and flowing. I think our Caress of Steel period is when I was most influenced by him. There's even a solo on that album which is almost a steal from his style of playing. It's one of my favorites, called “No One at the Bridge." As told to Guitar magazine.
On his hero-worship of Jimmy Page: “Of any guitarist, Jimmy Page was my biggest influence. I wanted to look, think and play like him. Zeppelin had a heavy influence on Rush during our early days. Page’s loose style of playing showed an immense confidence, and there are no rules to his playing.
“I met Jimmy Page at a Page/Plant concert in Toronto in 1998. I was acting like a kid, all googly eyed. I was freaking out and my hands were shaking. I was so thrilled to meet him because his work meant so much to me.” As told to Guitar World.
On making space for his solos: “When we write a song I think in context of a space for the solo. It's left at that. We work on the arrangement to get it tight. When we go into the studio to get the basic tracks down, I spend a couple of days and start doing my solos then. That is usually the first time I think about or work on my solos.” As told to Guitar magazine.
On recording solos: “I prefer doing very few takes. Over the years, I’ve found that when I’m soloing, I get stale very quickly. I’m too self-aware of my playing. Everything works best for me when I’m impulsive.” As told to Vintage Guitar magazine.
On his own personal faults: “I complain about everything. I complain about my coffee not being hot enough, I complain about my weight. 'Honey, you've shrunk my clothes!'” As told to Classic Rock.
On Brit bands' early influence: “Pete Townshend can make an acoustic sound so heavy and powerful. I've always admired that. On “Between Sun And Moon” there's a musical bridge before the solo that's very Who-ish. I even throw Keith Richards in there." Lyrically and musically, it's really a tribute to the '60s.” As told to Guitar Player.
On the skills of Jeff Beck: “Jeff Beck has a tone like no one else, maybe because he doesn’t play with a pick very much. He also has a very strong left hand and can move the strings almost effortlessly.” As told to Guitar World.
On Jimi Hendrix: “Hendrix was a natural genius who played many beautiful styles. Talent as great as his doesn’t come through life very frequently. Hendrix was one in a billion.” As told to Guitar World.
On how hard he has to work onstage: “There are still times when I’d like to have another guitar player in the band… most times!” As told to Vintage Guitar.
On Rush's planned “41st Anniversary Tour” (ever contrary!) of 2015: “We want to try and play different material this time. I've always wanted to do some rarer Rush material, and this should be a good opportunity to do that. I also think it's going to be a long tour. We just need to stay healthy until then.” As told to Rolling Stone.
Alex, on what he thinks should be on his own tombstone: “Oops! Sorry.” As told to Classic Rock.
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