Monday, September 18, 2006
Rik Emmett reports on guitar workshop with Alex Lifeson
This past July, Alex Lifeson was a participant in GuitarWorkshop Plus; a Toronto-based musicians workshop which offers several courses for guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and vocals over 3 summer sessions. Also at the workshop was fellow Canadian musician and founding member of Triumph, Rik Emmett. Power Windows just reported that Emmett published a Q&A about his time spent with Alex Lifeson at the workshop in his September Network Newsletter:
Q: "I would love to hear about your time with Alex Lifeson."
Rik: He talked about his upcoming Greek holiday [we were in a Greek restaurant]: his love of good food and wine: his friendship with Pink Floyd crew people: how he shares Leaf tickets with Geddy, and is amazed at how people are rabid for them [even though he can take it or leave it, mostly leave it]; he chatted about opening act friendships he'd struck up with Eric Johnson, Morse, about the time he met Jimmy Page, and how he was like a nervous schoolboy, and he also spoke of when Geddy met Robert Plant ... The conversation also came from Brian Murray, who runs the workshop...they talked a lot - a LOT - about golf, since Alex plays a lot but is also a part owner in a course now north-east of the city ... [I don't play - I just listened to most of this] ... Lots and lots of shop talk about guitars & amps, etc. Alex has a new raft of endorsement deals.
We played an extended jam on a D tuning he's been writing in, which morphed into a version of 'Norwegian Wood'. After a lengthy Q & A, we played a 12 bar blues-y funk thing [loosely based on the groove of Steely Dan's "Home at Last" feel] ... and then we did a jam for the whole audience [about 160 guitars] on the chord progression of the old Rush classic "Working Man" - and Alex launched into a Geddy Lee vocal impression which brought the house down.
[The workshop] went great. Lots and lots of Q & A ... Plenty of jokes and anecdotes. He is a sweet and gentle fellow, and it was quite touching to see how rabid his fans are. Every single person, and the instructors and faculty, all lined up for autographs and photos. The meet & greet lasted over an hour.
Q: "Any chance that Uncle Rikky would show up on a future tour for a few shows????"
Rik: I dunno ... I kinda sorta doubt it, to be honest. When he talks about stadium shows in South America, and playing the huge halls all over the world: when he [gently, not with any bragging or anything] gives you insight into the privileged world of mega-wealth, and mega-success, the circles that he can travel in, the kinds of choices that Rush makes for itself, because it can afford to pretty much do whatever it likes, in whatever kind of creature comfort surroundings it chooses, you realize that it's a different league, a different set of rules. When they sometimes take on an opening act, an Eric Johnson, or a Steve Morse, it's because the double-bill makes sense in a kind of 'prog' way, or in a high-end Pink Floyd-ish kind of "technical" way: they tend towards the 'monster' musicians who dominate aspects of the guitar magazines. Because I am more of an eclectic singer-songwriter, it puts me into a different category. Besides, they don't really need an opening act in most markets. And if & when they do, they'd probably choose one that enhances their ticket sales by thousands [not hundreds]. A lot of music lovers would like to think that they are very open-minded and liberal in their tastes, but when you get them together in their respective groups, they tend towards a mob mentality of 'exclusion'. And Alex said, more than a few times, that Rush fans are very dedicated, very loyal, and very opinionated about what they don't like. To my perception, the 'core values' of their music [and any 'bill' they might put together for a gig] has to include the gymnastics of odd time signatures, of virtuoso ensemble playing, of lengthy intricate solos, of big riffs & themes, of esoteric lyric writing along social & political themes, etc. It's weird, in a way. They've used cartoons to open shows. They've openly engaged in pure shtick [the washers & dryers on stage instead of amps is a good example]. But they are also a very serious, conscientious band about a very narrow kind of quality, and it's the kind that has to say 'progressive' to a fan of that music..."