What drives a group of musicians to form a Rush tribute band? Mainly, a love and appreciation of Rush's music, the desire to perform it as accurately as possible for other die-hard fans, the appeal of the musical and technical challenges involved and finally, the pure satisfaction and enjoyment of playing these great songs as authentically and respectfully as possible.This is a tall order indeed, and you can only get out of it what you are initially willing to invest. Time, practice, effort... and gear. Lots of gear.
A bit of History...
Permanent Waves first came together in November 2001 and quickly made it's mark in its native Ottawa as well as outside, with repeat performances at such prestigious establishments as "Le Medley" and "Chez Maurice" in Montreal and "Barrymore's" in Ottawa. In 2005, two of the founding members moved away to pursue career opportunities and were replaced with musicians from "Exit...Stage Left", another Rush tribute band from Montreal. In 2007, that lineup recorded a demo featuring a version of "The Trees" which would eventually be selected to be included on the Silent Echoes: A Tribute to Rush CD released in 2012 on Shark Bite records. However, the logistical challenges of rehearsing as well as increasing transportation costs and a steady decline in worthwile gig opportunites made keeping the band going an unjustifiable proposition. In 2007, the band retired from public performance as some members retreated to focus on new family obligations, while still getting together occasionally and jamming their favorite classic Rush tunes.
Getting back together...
However, in March 2010, a chance ad from a local bass player "looking to jam some accurate renditions of Rush tunes" and a local drummer showing pictures of his Neil Peart-inspired drum kit on a Rush fan site were enough to spark the flame once again. The original guitarist joined forces with a new bassist/vocalist and a new drummer, rejuvenating the lineup, re-igniting the passion for playing Rush and taking the authenticity to a new level by performing as a trio for the first time it the band's 10-year history. Once the lineup was established, of course, the next logical question was: "what will be the set list?"
The Set List...
In the past, Permanent Waves made it a point to have at least one song from each album in the repertoire. This gave us a chance to expand our technological abilites as well as gauge the audience response to material from different Rush eras. This time around, we looked to our own personal favorites which we kept jamming even while the band was on break, as well as the songs that drew the best response in the past, and invariably we found ourselves drawn to pre-Signals material. This led us to bring back an idea we had before going on hiatus in 2007 - a song-for-song recreation of the "Moving Pictures" tour for the 25th anniversary of the album's release in 1981. Sadly, that show never took place for lack of a venue, but the idea was resurrected just in time for the 30th anniversary. When the "Time Machine" tour was announced with Moving Pictures played in its entirety, it confirmed to us that it was the right time for a nostalgia Rush show.
In our case, however, the show is a recreation of the "Moving Pictures" tour, the same songs played in the same order, with the possibility of a few pre-production "Signals" tracks which were added near the end of the tour and a few surprises at the encore. The source of reference material for this is not only the "Exit...Stage Left" album and video (the album is a mix of "Moving Pictures" and "Permanent Waves" tours, and the video covers only half the show), but also a complete bootleg recording of a Los Angeles show from June 10th, 1981. This allowed us busy family men that we are to establish the entire set list and playing order in one fell swoop so we can concentrate on delivering the most passionate and accurate performance possible. Instead of trying to emulate the different sounds from various eras, we can concentrate our efforts to reproduce a very specific snapshot of the Rush sound, vibe and feel from a particular point in time.
Dan: Drums and Percussion
"How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb? Five: One to screw the bulb in, and four to talk about how much better Neil Peart could've done it". That joke certainly rang a bell with me when I first heard it said. It made me realize the kind of drummer I wanted to *aspire* to become (insert wishful thinking here). In my 30+ years behind the instrument, I've come to realize that many drummers like or dislike Neil's approach to drumming. In my armored youth, I would always defend this notion with clenched fist. In my later years, I would come to embrace the thoughts and opinions of why Neil's technique didn't appeal to them. In conclusion, I came to realize good music is just that......good music!! And whoever the original drummer was charged with holding down the beat behind this "good music" is, in my opinion......a definition of a "good drummer". No matter what the song or style of music being played.
I could spend a whack load of time listing all the same old boring details that are commonly found in people's band bio's, but if truth be told......I'm just a devoted fan of Rush's music who happens to play drums. I've been given an opportunity within Permanent Waves to collaborate with musicians who share the same passion and enthusiam as I when it comes to "attempting" to play this material. I'm also very aware of a notion that.....we will "never" sound identical to the original Rush (I mean seriously......who can?). But....for this humbled drummer, the fun lies in trying. My drum teacher once told me "no matter what Dan, however long it takes, if you keep trying and you keep putting in a solid effort......you will be rewarded". How very right he was!! Those words have stayed with me my entire life and I've applied them to many different speedbumps I've encountered throughout the years.
When we (my fellow bandmates and I) get together to work on the material at hand and we collectively apply a mandate that is fueled by aformentionned passion, enthusiasm, dedication, there's indeed a reward to be had. In addition, when combined with our amount of accumulated years of experience behind our respectives instruments............as predicted, we're pleasantly rewarded with a single fact: "hey, this is sounding pretty darn good". Now, I'm the type of person who, when it comes to such revelations, likes to stay grounded and realistic (some will no doubt argue this fact but hey....bring it on) . I'm suddenly reminded of a movie entitled "Highlander" in which Sir Sean Connery (try saying his name three times in row...lol), anyhow, Sir Sean plays an immortal Scottish swordsman who must confront the last of his immortal opponents. At the end of the epic battle, the victor proudly proclaims atop medieval ruins and with bolts of lightning surrounding him "There can only be one!!!!" The same thing can certainly be said when it comes to Rush.....there can only be one!!! We, at our very best, will always strive to be but a mere reflection of the greatness that is Rush. Our collective job is to ensure we deliver the best possible, streak free reflection of the music. From my drumming chair, I can honestly say " hey....this is sounding pretty good and if this makes the grade for this die hard fan.....other Rush fans will probably enjoy our reflective efforts of the music as well? That's the hope anyway?
In conclusion, playing drums for me
isn't about just being on stage, playing drum solos, being in the limelight
(pardon the pun) etc.... It's about trying to be humble and putting
an effort to be the best hired gun you can be. I always put the music first
and foremost in any project I'm involved with. I'm so very thankful that,
30+ years later.... I'm still able to even to participate in bands and
play music - even if it's only for fun!!
Vince: Bass, Vocals, Keyboards, Bass Pedal Synthesizer, Occasional Rhythm Guitar
When the bass player whose ad originally provided the spark to get the band going had to step down for family obligations, we decided that we had too good of a thing going to give it up and so we decided to move forward with someone else. We were therefore confronted with the difficult prospect of having to find a suitable replacement who would have both the ability and the availability to join the band, but at the same time the personality and attitude to mesh into the careful balance of humble dedication and positive energy we had created - a tall order indeed! Having learned from previous experience, we decided not to hold open auditions but rather approach musicians whom we already knew had the chops and the attitude we were looking for. We scoured our personal contact Rolodexes (as well as YouTube and Facebook!) for local musicians we knew from other progressive original or tribute acts and came up with a short list of six talented individuals. We proceeded to tap these guys on the shoulder, but unfortunately none were in a position to commit to the band and they graciously turned us down.
We then received a strong recommendation
from a teacher at the Nepean School of Music on this 21-year-old bass prodigy.
Old jaded musicians that we were getting to be, we didn't think someone
that young could play Geddy Lee's bass lines with enough authenticity,
let alone fit in a band where most of the other members were his father's
age! We old codgers were about to get another lesson in judging books by
their covers. We decided at the last minute to invite Vince to our annual
Christmas Fun Jam, a yearly traditional gathering to catch up and play
some Rush tunes with our original drummer. We threw 17 classic Rush songs
at him with less than 24 hours notice and he sailed through the jam. We
quickly realized we were on to something and arranged a formal audition,
and were completely blown away by the result - all that and vocals too!
From the first few songs it was obvious we had found our bass player (as
well as learned a thing or two about age discrimination!) Vince brings
a strong technical background and quiet confidence to his playing, along
with strong keyboard chops and the distinction of already owning his own
synths and MIDI bass pedals even before the audition! As Dan pointed out,
"To be playing like that at such a young age, you must have put in a lot
of Woodshed Time!"
Paul: 6 and 12 string Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Bass Pedal Synthesizer
Why do I get the feeling that I’ve been here before… I must admit, after playing continuously in five different Rush tribute bands from 1994 to 2007, it is very invigorating to re-approach the material with fresh ears and a new lineup after such a long break. The level of detail and authenticity we are aspiring for with this new band has inspired me to review every aspect of my performance, not only the guitar selection and playing, but also the sounds, effects, as well as all the keyboard, sequencer and sampler programming. No stone is left unturned in reviewing every element of the performance and comparing with the original recordings (through various speed changes and filter settings) and original equipment lists from various documented sources.
This time around, I am surrounded by fellow gear heads, which has brought forth new insights and a fresh perspective on gear selection and synthesizer programming. Stage right (my side), I have found that the trusty D-550 is still the best choice for all Oberheim sounds, with the addition of a multi-timbral expansion which allows triggering the sequencer and bass pedals simultaneously from the same unit. I also added a Roland SH-32 Virtual Analog Synth module for improved filtering on some of the sweep sounds. The Akai sampler is still used for phrase sampling, in addition to the SPD-S on the drums which contains far more memory space for extended percussion samples as well as sound effects. I’m also adding an ES-335 to the usual stable of Epiphone Doubleneck and PRS guitars, for that vintage look and vibe. Stage left (Vince's side), the D50 still occupies the main position as keyboard and controller, but with the addition of a Roland JP8000 Virtual Analog Synth which offers a far more credible MiniMoog emulation than the D50 ever could.
We picked up where we left off in 2007 and started off by doing a reproduction of the Moving Pictures tour. Originally we wanted to do this for the 25th anniversary of the album’s release in 2007, but better late than never, we should make it in time for the 30th! We always found in the past that the pre-Signals material got the most enthusiastic response, and we thought that the time was right to mark the release of Rush’s landmark album with a retro set. The timing of Rush’s “Time Machine Tour” seemed to confirm this was a good idea! We decided to start off by working on the core set of Rush classics and capturing that specific sound and vibe, and we’ll be adding newer material to subsequent shows.