Alex Lifeson recently discovered a brilliant new practice regimen to keep his chops up: playing Rush songs with former bandmate Geddy Lee.

It’s something they hadn’t done regularly in nearly a decade, as Rush played their final show in 2015 and called it quits after the death of drummer Neil Peart in January 2020. But lately, the guitarist has been getting a kick out of casually revisiting the band’s catalog with Lee.

“We decided that we would play some Rush songs. Because, you know, we haven’t played these songs in 10 years,” Lifeson tells UCR. “We started that a couple of weeks ago. We get together one day a week over at his place. We just picked some Rush songs and we started playing them and we sound like a really, really bad Rush tribute band.”

Lifeson confesses he had to shake some rust off when he and Lee got started. “Trying to figure out the songs, I’m thinking, ‘Why did we write that so difficult? Why is this so hard to play?'” he says. “After about three run-throughs of all of these songs, muscle memory kicks in and your hand just goes to where it goes. You sort of get out of the way and you play and you go, ‘Thank God, I did make this simpler than it felt.'”

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He adds, perhaps unnecessarily: “By the way, Rush songs are hard! So our fingers are getting limber and our calluses are building up again.”

Alex Lifeson’s New Gear and Envy of None Plans

Although Lifeson and Lee are having a blast playing through their catalog, fans shouldn’t expect anything to come of it. The guitarist is busy promoting his new line of Lerxst guitars, amplifiers and pedals and is hard at work on Envy of None‘s sophomore album. “We have 11 or 12 songs, and I think we have four that are sort of at that 85 percent stage,” he says. “I really love this material and it’s sounding great.”

Instead, Lifeson and Lee have one simple goal to their jam sessions: to have as much fun rocking as they did 50 years ago.

“I’m 70. It’s not as easy to get my fingers to do what my brain tells me to do,” Lifeson says. “They’re much lazier than they used to be and they have a poor memory. Doing this really helps a lot, and it’s fun. That’s it. The whole thing was that in the beginning, it was just fun. We’re having a riot together doing that. There’s no rhyme or reason. We’re not planning on going back on the road, finding a new drummer or anything like that. “It’s just fun to do it.”

As for the most daunting Rush song? “‘Freewill.’ There’s a lot of notes,” Lifeson says with a laugh. “The solo is crazy, the middle bass section is crazy and everything has to fit in at the right place. So that’s been a real challenge to play. But we’re getting there. We’re starting to sound like just a mediocre Rush tribute band now.”

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Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll

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