Snakes Alive! The S&V Interview with Alex Lifeson of Rush

Photo: Andrew MacNaughtan

So I've been diving into the Blu-ray Disc of Snakes & Arrows Live (Zoe/Anthem), and I'm impressed with both the look and the sound. Well, thank you. It really came out well, I thought. It looks great, the camera angles are great, and having 2 days [to shoot two shows] really made a big difference in terms of the variety of shots that we had to work with.

You and [surround co-mixer] Richard Chycki really seem to be in tune in how you approach mixing your material. Rich is very settled in with the way that he hears the band, which certainly helps. Actually, he just moved into my home studio, Lerxst Sound, back in May. We just did a big renovation there; we redid the control room. Now we're all set to do some serious work out of there. Well, more serious work.

So there are other things in the works? Yeah, I hope so! I mean, I've got some time off [chuckles]. I've been a little bit unmotivated lately, since we've been working so much over the last 7 or 8 years. But the things that we've done physically in the studio have been inspiring, so we're planning to do a bunch of things. Rich has a number of projects, including some Rush stuff, that he'll be continuing to work on at the studio. [Just what some of those projects might be will be covered in an interview I did with Chycki that will post in the fall.]

Did you have it in mind from the outset that you were going to do concurrent DVD and Blu-ray releases of Snakes & Arrows Live? I think we all assumed from the beginning that since we were shooting the shows in HD that we were going to make it available on Blu-ray as well, yeah. I got myself a Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray Disc player a while back, and I find it's hard to go back and even watch anything that's not Blu-ray. It's remarkable, it really is.

What sold you on Blu-ray as a format? The first Blu-ray collection I watched was the fantastic Planet Earth series. The clarity of detail was astounding, and I sat there shaking my head in disbelief. Not too long ago, I watched The Dark Knight, and that was quite impressive as well.

And watching Snakes & Arrows on Blu-ray, boy, you see everything - the saturation, the color, the depth, the perspective. We had some really great camera angles that lent themselves to such an intense experience.

The direction from the Lamoreux Brothers [Pierre and Francois] was marvelous. They employed different camera angles as the set went on; it wasn't always the same cut-to. There really seemed to be a shift in how it unfolded. That's the advantage of having the 2 days at AHOY [the venue in Rotterdam, Netherlands]. As a band, we're pretty solid in terms of time and tempo. If we wanted to insert a song from the second night into the first night, it wasn't a problem at all - we were able to set up for a completely different shoot on the following day, even for different crane shots over the audience. It was great to have that flexibility.

So I have to ask you, after having watched this on Blu-ray, will you play "Stairway to Heaven"? [chuckles] Who wrote that?

It was on one of the Post-It notes that your female Barbie fan club had in their hands down in front of your pedalboard. During one of the crane shoots that swoops down when you're standing in front of the board, I could read three of them completely backwards through the back of the notes. Early on in the set, there was a shot taken toward the board where I could read the "Stairway" one directly. One of the other ones said "You're hot"… Yeah - "My Mom thinks your [sic] hot."

As an editor, I do have to say "you're" was spelled wrong there, but I'm willing to let it go. I noticed that too! I had words with Bucky [Alex's guitar tech, Bobby Huck] about his grammar.

I also like the one about the smells - "If I smells bad, don't eat it." Right! [chuckles again] I'd say that you've been able to read as many as you should!

The other one I could read completely was, "Why when we 'do it' you always yell 'a shot and a goal.' " Ah yes, a Canadian reference. . .

So Bucky wrote out all of these notes? Well, it started out with just him, and we did it for the whole first half of the tour. And then he'd get help from other guys in the crew, and they would come up with different things every night. He'd have to write a half-dozen or so of these notes every night to try to be different.