As anyone who attended Rush‘s R40 tour earlier this year could attest, the Canadian prog legends have a lot of famous fans. Goofy videos that played during and after the show featured Paul Rudd and Jason Segel — who made Rush the fulcrum of their male-bonding odyssey in I Love You, Man — as well as Jay Baruchel, Eugene Levy, Peter Dinklage (whose violinist brother joined the band onstage at select shows) and other familiar faces.
Add to that list outspoken filmmaker Michael Moore. The director didn’t play a part in the R40 show, but he did turn up at SiriusXM last week to moderate a Town Hall fan Q&A with Rush co-founders Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. Moore took his hosting duties seriously, facilitating an unusually insightful exchange between the band and a select group of core boosters. Here are 10 things we learned during the chat, which premieres November 25th on SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind station.
1. Michael Moore is a serious Rush nut.
The director started off the chat by flaunting his O.G. fan credentials, talking about how Rush’s music held special resonance for him as a kid growing up in the factory town of Flint, Michigan, and how he first saw the band play in a minor-league hockey arena in Sarnia, Ontario, prior to their big American breakthrough. (Lee countered by noting that there wasn’t a hockey arena in southern Ontario that Rush didn’t play in their dues-paying years.) The anecdote established from the start that this was no casual fly-in for the director: Time and again, he spoke of the band, their catalog and their uniquely devoted fan base with deep knowledge and respect.
2. He’s also a proud member of their target demo.
In one of several impromptu paeans to his favorite Rush classics, Moore expounded on the poignancy of ‘Subdivisions,” the band’s unforgettable 1982 portrait of suburban adolescent alienation. “I believe that song has saved lives,” he said. You got the sense that his was one.
3. Rush get that their Canadian-ness is funny.
When Moore asked Lee and Lifeson how being from Canada had helped to shape Rush, the bassist-frontman cited the politeness of the culture they grew up in as a factor in their unusually high level of humility. His typically thoughtful response quickly segued into a parody of Canadian manners. “I apologize for saying that, Al,” said Lee with mock remorse. “But I’m sorry — it was my fault,” replied Lifeson, completing the riff with perfect comic timing.
4. Hemispheres was no picnic …
If 1976’s 2112 is Rush’s signature prog opus, 1978’s Hemispheres is the one where their musical ambitions almost got the best of them. “We wrote a record that was so effin’ hard to play … we really had to push our abilities,” recalled Lee. “But isn’t that exciting also …?” asked Moore. Lee’s retort: “Yeah, but you kind of lose the excitement in the pain.”
5. … but Permanent Waves was a breeze.
Moore accurately described “The Spirit of Radio” as a sort of meta-Rush anthem, an encapsulation of “the joy that we all have just driving down the road and listening to Rush.” The upbeat quality of the song, and the streamlined character of Permanent Waves, the 1980 album on which it appears, may signify the band’s elation at leaving behind their high-prog trappings. “The writing of that album came together very quickly, and it was kind of a nice change,” recalled Lee. “We were just up for a change of style.”
6. Rush’s view of today’s music biz is pretty grim.
Both Lee and Lifeson painted a rosy picture of the music industry that they came up in, an environment in which band and label worked together as a team, and artists had the time and space to develop their sound and find their audience. (“What was great about our era,” said Lee, “was there was patience on the side of the record companies.”) And both shared equally cynical perspectives on the conditions bands face today. Lifeson put it best: “Now, what’s left of record companies are more speculators.”
7. Geddy Lee is the proud son of a quintessential Jewish mother …
Lee joked that his mom was a “master of using guilt — like a fine blade.” But at Moore’s urging, he also touched on the darker aspects of his family history: Both of his parents were Holocaust survivors, and his mother, Mary Weinrib, was imprisoned at the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Lee expressed pride that she didn’t bury her memories. “I was fortunate that my mom is an incredible person,” he said. “She talked about the horrible things that she had to endure.”
8. … who happens to be BFFs with Dave Grohl’s mom.
Weinrib wasn’t always supportive of her son’s rock & roll aspirations, but these days, according to Lee, she’s his biggest fan — more than happy to enjoy the perks that come along with being a Rush Mom. She’s even featured in an upcoming book about mothers of rock stars written by Dave Grohl’s mom, Virginia. Apparently the pair hit it off handsomely. “They got along like a house on fire,” said Lee, who related how, thanks to Dave’s generosity, the two moms got to watch a Toronto Foo Fighters show from seats on the stage.
9. Rush are a real-life I Love You, Man story.
The Rudd-Segel bromance in the film blossomed out of a shared love for the group they call the Holy Triumvirate. But the movie could have just as easily been about the band itself. “We have a great foundation in our relationship with this friendship that’s existed for a long time,” Lifeson said in response to a fan who asked about the secret to their longevity. “There have been external issues that have happened that have been very difficult, very emotional, and we’ve weathered them as friends and brothers, because we love each other.”
10. Moore gets what it means to be a Rush fan in 2015.
As Lee and Lifeson discussed in a recent fan-powered Rolling Stone interview, Rush’s future is uncertain — the R40 run, which wound down this past August, may very well have been the band’s final large-scale tour. Near the end of the broadcast, Moore perfectly summed up many fans’ attitude toward the current state of Rush with a touching tribute. His message, in so many words: “You do you.” “Because we love you, we want you to be happy and fulfilled,” he said to Lee and Lifeson, and, by implication, Peart. “Whatever you choose, we’re foot soldiers in your army.”