The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been a source of tremendous frustration for years in the Rush fan community. The group didn’t appear on a ballot until this year, even though they’ve been eligible since 1998. It’s caused some fans (most notably VH1 Classic‘s Eddie Trunk) to sour on the whole institution, but Rush themselves always claimed that this didn’t bother them, and the patience paid off. Singer-bassist Geddy Lee chatted with Rolling Stone a few days after he heard that Rush had finally been inducted.
Where are you calling from?
I’m on vacation. Right now I’m happily staring at the ocean.
So, congratulations. How did you hear the news?
My manager called. Nothing remarkable. No great anecdote or anything. He called and said we were inducted and I said, “That’s very nice.”
Did it surprise you at all?
A little bit, yeah. I was surprised we got in first time out there. It took us so long to even get on the ballot, and there were other groups like Deep Purple and Procol Harum, who I respect greatly and I assumed would be voted in as well.
Does any part of you have mixed emotions since it took so long?
No. My emotions are very simple and always have been about the Hall of Fame. It’s something that I had absolutely nothing to do with and had no control over, so I never thought much about it, to be frank. But I appreciated how much it meant to our fan base. It really did mean a lot to them. It was kind of a cause they championed and I appreciated their feelings but beyond that, I really did not concern myself with it.
You’re definitely going to the ceremony, right?
Oh yeah, we’re gonna be there. I’m not saying I’m not proud to be inducted, because that would be wrong. I think it’s a terrific honor and we’ll show up smiling.
I imagine you’re going to perform, too.
I don’t know what the deal is. I assume we will. I think it’s a tradition, but I haven’t heard any details, to be frank. I assume it’s a tradition that the artists play a song or two, so I assume that’s what we’ll do.
This also means people can finally stop asking you about it in every interview.
That’s right. [Laughs] It also made my mom very happy, so that’s worth it.
I’m sure some small percentage of your fan base will say, “They should protest the whole thing by staying home.”
I never got too hot and bothered about the subject, and I don’t think that’s a very gracious way to respond to an honor.
Axl Rose stayed home last year, and the Sex Pistols refused to come, too.
We’re nice Canadian boys. We wouldn’t do that.
It’s a pretty eclectic lineup this year. Are you fans of the other inductees?
I certainly have worked with Heart and I know them well. I’m very happy for them. I have great respect for Albert King and for Randy Newman. I don’t know the music of Public Enemy very well, but I know they have a very strong fan base. They’ve certainly played a role in the development of that style of music for sure, so it’s a nice group.
To be frank, I am disappointed that Deep Purple is not included in that group. Certainly Heart and Rush would not sound the way we sound without Deep Purple.
I’m sure they’ll get in soon.
Yeah, I hope so.
I keep saying this to everyone, but I can’t picture the jam at the end of the ceremony.
Yeah, that’s for sure. What do you jam to? “YYZ?” I don’t know. [Laughs] That’d be pretty fun.
I guess Chuck D could do the rap on “Roll the Bones.”
I guess! Maybe we can learn one of their songs.
This is capping off a pretty good run for you guys these past few years.
Something happens when you become an elder rock & roller and you’re still functioning. People start to give you awards and recognize achievements. It’s the life achievement period of your career. You spend most of your life working and trying to hone your craft, working on your chops, working on your writing and you don’t really think about accolades. Then you get a bit older and they start coming your way. It’s a nice pat on the back. It’s been cool.
You guys have been touring like fiends. Right when one tour ends, it seems like you start another. It’s almost like back in the 1970s, when the tour never stopped.
We’re kind of in a groove right now. We feel really good about the way we’re playing. We feel like we’ve raised our game in terms of musicianship and our level of chops. We’re also very excited about the way Clockwork Angels turned out. The fan acceptance of it has been very cool. We’re happy to go out and bring it around the globe.
Are you thinking about doing anything to honor the 40th anniversary of the band that’s coming up?
Well, certainly any time an important anniversary pops up, the schedule-makers and managers are all over it. But right now, our concern is to continue touring Clockwork Angels and then get a holiday after that. Then we’ll see what’s left and how much gas we have in the tank before I would even think about an anniversary tour.
I love that you’re playing so many mid-1980s deep cuts in the first part of this show.
For the first set, we’ve become our own opening act, playing all these obscure deep cuts. Then the second set, we bring out everything but the kitchen sink.
Then you wrap it all up with “2112.”
Yeah, it’s been fun to do it. And the fact is, it’s a good release for us because as the show wears on, we get more and more three-piece, which is kind of a nice way to end it.
And you couldn’t not play “2112” in 2012.
It’s very true. [Laughs] Very true.