Grace Under Pressure: Tour Book
By Neil Peart
GRACE NOTE . . . Now let me just think about this. I guess shortly after the release of our Signals album we began to think and talk of the future. In the early part of the tour, our long-time friend and co-producer, Terry Brown, flew down to meet us in Miami. After the show, riding on our bus through the dark and steamy Florida night, we sat back, drinks in hand, to discuss our future course.
Alex, Geddy, and I had been discussing these things for a while now, and had decided that it was time for us to strike out on our own, and try working with someone else. We wanted, no needed to find out if someone, perhaps from a different background, might have different approaches and different techniques to offer to both our music and our sound.
UNDER LINE . . . It was important (and difficult) for us to express to Terry that this in no way signified a dissatisfaction or lack of confidence in him. It was just that after almost ten years and eleven albums together, we had evolved into a comfortable and efficient recording team, the four of us, and we could even pretty well predict each other’s opinions and reactions to different ideas. As positive as this situation may sound, this is exactly what we were worried about.
PRESSURE POINT . . . Still, it’s no easy thing to tell someone that after all this time you want to work with someone else for a change—and still harder to be told it. It was tough for us, and it was tough for Terry. We had been through so much together, and he has contributed so much to our development and refinement—both as people and musicians. It was awkward, difficult, and even a bit painful, but we had to do it or always wonder “what if we had?” While objectively one may recognize the right thing to do, subjectively it’s sometimes too easy to rationalize the easy way out. We had to cut the umbilical cord.
GRACE NOTE . . . At first, “The Great Producer Hunt” was a lot of fun. We searched through the credits of albums we liked, and we made lists. Tried to figure out “who did what to whom.” Was the producer or the artist more responsible for the ideas and textures that we were responding to? Would so-and-so be of more benefit to us in a creative, musical sense, than would so-and-so in an interpretive, production sense? This kind of stuff is fun.
UNDER LINE . . . But it was time to get serious. People were contacted. Who is available? Who is interested? During out European tour of ’83 we met with a number of producers and engineers of the English persuasion. “Well, so-and-so has a really nice manner, but so-and-so really seems to know a lot!” We talked and talked with them about sound, about music, about other people they had worked with, about Method, about Technique, about studios and effects. If nothing else we learned a lot just from all that talking. Then we talked among ourselves, wondering. We made a decision—
We would pick Mr. So-and-so!
PRESSURE POINT . . . And everything seemed pretty nice for a while there. We met again with the illustrious Mr. So-and-so, discussed our mutual ideas, criticisms, habits, and tastes, and we came to an understanding.
Then, only two weeks before we were to start working on new material we got The Call. “Mr. So-and-so has decided that he’s not the right person for the job.” Right. Great.
GRACE NOTE . . . Naturally, we were a bit shaken at first—wind out of the sails etc.—but it turned out to be a very positive time for us. Another list was made, more people were contacted. Who is available? Who is interested? Time was growing shorter, but we were determined to find someone. Some people urged us to go ahead and do it on our own, as we certainly could have done, but our intention was to work with someone new—and we were going to!
All of our unemployed friends began to volunteer.
UNDER LINE . . . The important thing was, we were suddenly totally on our own, responsible to make the decisions and set the wheels in motion. Of course, there were people behind us to help with the organizing and contacting, but the rest was up to us. This really drew us together and gave us a strong resolve and a mutual determination to make a really great record.
Doing well is the best revenge.
So, we contacted Mr. Whosis, yet another English producer of great musical and technical ability. We met with him at our rehearsal place, and he had much to contribute in terms of arrangement and interpretive ideas. He seemed to be very interested in working with us as well, and just had to sort out “a few complex little problems” in order to free himself to do the project.
PRESSURE POINT . . . Not so great. These “complex little problems” are somehow insurmountable, and Mr. Whosis cannot make himself available. For crying out loud!!
Now this began to shake our confidence a little. “What are we—chopped liver?”
Back to the list again. Who is available? Who is interested? Of course, by now we were getting closer and closer to the time booked for the studio, and week by week we are postponing it. And, naturally enough, a lot of people with whom we would have been interested in working, are already committed to other things by now. Yikes!
GRACE NOTE . . . All was not doom and gloom, however. In mid-August we had begun to work on new material, and we poured our determination and angst into that. On the first night, while we were just “banging around,” we put together the three parts to what would become “Between the Wheels.” Within a few days we had written “Kid Gloves” and “Afterimage,” and we, at least, began to feel more confident with ourselves. By the end of three weeks we had written and made rough “demos” of those three, plus “Red Sector A” and “The Body Electric.” We had that to be happy for.
UNDER LINE . . . The fact that we had already booked studio time wasn’t the only deadline hanging over our heads. Anticipating that we would have everything sorted out by then, we had agreed to play a series of shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York in mid-September. Not having played live since summer meant that we would need a week of rehearsals to get toned up for that.
Our usual habit after writing new songs was to go out and play a few small shows, a few big shows, and then go right into the studio. This time we felt it would be suitably dangerous to come right out of hibernation and on to one of the most prestigious stages in the world. (Weren’t we brave!) Since we were definitely not ready for the studio as yet, we returned from New York to the rehearsal place and continued working on material while we were looking for Mr. Good-ear.
PRESSURE POINT . . . And the hunt continued. Phone calls, telegrams and telexes flew around the world. Anyone we could think of whose worked we liked, we contacted, no matter how unlikely they seemed. More people were brought in to see us. Messrs. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Epsilon came over, and we went through a quadruple deja-vu—repeating the same conversations about what we wanted from a producer, what we wanted from our music, what they had done, what they could do, what was important, what wasn’t—etc., etc., etc.
“Just two things we’re looking for in a producer: ideas and enthusiasm.”
GRACE NOTE . . . We adopted “Roger Kneebend” as our mascot producer—a ten inch-tall action doll (formerly owned by Geddy’s son Julian) replete with flippers and wet suit. He was placed prominently atop Alex’s tape machine—so he could stay on top of the recording! (Groan)
Then it became four things we required in a producer: ideas, enthusiasm, flippers—and a wet suit so we can spit at him!
Yep, we were losing it!
UNDER LINE . . . It was a tough thing we were putting these guys through. By this time we had written and recorded “Distant Early Warning” and “The Enemy Within,” and had begun work on “Red Lenses.” Our method was to talk in general ways to each of the “candidates” until we began to feel a bit more comfortable with each other, and then at some point play all of these songs—and expect them to offer intelligent criticism and suggestions. Then, on the second day we would choose a song for which they had some ideas, and work on it together. No question, they were on the spot in a big way—but so were we!
PRESSURE POINT . . . Peter Henderson was a bit of an unknown quantity to us at the time, but perhaps because of that we had high hopes for him. He arrived from England one sunny afternoon, and we greeted each other a bit nervously. We sat on the floor of the rehearsal room, amid all our gear, and, like dogs meeting in the road, we sort of metaphorically sniffed ’round each other. As often happens, friendship and mutual respect began to grow out of a discussion of other peoples’ music. Shared likes and dislikes on such a personal subject can be so important. One of the things that most impressed us about Peter immediately was that he was obviously—like ourselves—a tremendous fan of music. If we spoke of a group or a song that we liked, it was in terms of the second song on side two, or the third track, side one—knowing the titles and the order—the way a fan does. Not as if we were “talking shop” but just talking about a subject that interested us all. This we liked.
GRACE NOTE . . . After dinner that night we played him the songs, and went through the same rap again about the flaws in the songs, what we really wanted it to be like, our feelings about perspectives and possible improvements and what did he think about this or that idea?
Well, he thought the kinds of things we’d hoped he would, and expressed them in a very intelligent and confident way. When he had left the room that night, the three of us turned to look at each other—smiling and nodding. Eureka!
But, we were still pretty insecure from our previous disappointments. Would he feel he was “the right man for the job”? Would he have some “complex little problems” which he had to sort out? Would he disappear and never be heard from again? Probably.
We were determined to ask him first thing in the morning if he would like to commit himself to the project. After breakfast, we told him that we felt he was the man, and asked him if he were interested.
“Well”, he replied with a dry English smile, “I wouldn’t have come all the way over here if I wasn’t interested, would I?”
“Alright!” “Great!” “Let’s Go!” we chorused.
Then someone thought to add: “Oh, by the way—do you have a wet suit?”
UNDER LINE . . . So, away we went, off to Le Studio to finally begin recording. We could hardly believe it! These songs had been demoed, rearranged, and demoed again so many times—we though it would be easy. (Ha!) Of course, we had to get to know each other, to develop a working relationship—and start to have some fun with each other. It was around this time that the title “Grace Under Pressure” was suggested. Not only was it relevant to so many of the songs, but it was also rather fitting to the way this album was going. The fact that we didn’t always exhibit this quality made it none the less a desirable one! It seemed appropriate.
PRESSURE POINT . . . I have mentioned that we had worked with the same co-producer for a long time now, so we had to (and were determined to) start right from the ground up in making things as different as we could. For myself it was a welcome opportunity to try some new approaches. It would be too easy to just do what we had had good results from in the past.
So, I am hitting different things out in the studio, Peter is twiddling different things in the control room, both of us a bit wary of the other. Suggestions and opinions are exchanged, we try some more different things, and a good basic sound is finally achieved. We move on to the bass, then the guitar sounds, and soon we are working away at “Distant Early Warning.”
GRACE NOTE . . . 1983 was a tough year for many people, no question about it—but wasn’t the weather nice? I can’t remember a more glorious summer, nor—and some may disagree—a more glorious winter. Our time off before writing, and the August and September of the writing period, were so hot and incessantly sunny that it was almost tropical. (And as much of a struggle sometimes as in the tropics to get any work done!) Then while we were in the studio from November into March, it was bitter cold and we had tons of snow. Five or six feet of it must have fallen through the winter—heaven for the cross country skier. (Me.)
The crew arrived to load in at the studio with the first big storm of winter, ill-prepared in running shoes and light jackets. Early that first morning they were all off to “Mickey’s” in Morin Heights, to return resplendently clad in giant green hunting boots, and very attractive ski jackets.
Our crew are also very “graceful under pressure.”
UNDER LINE . . . Yes, it was a year of crisis and tragedy—both globally and on the home front. While we were at “Writing camp” the Toronto “Globe & Mail” was delivered to our doors each morning. Since it was there, I found myself reading it over breakfast every day, before I would start working on lyrics. The topics of the day, especially as expressed in the editorials and letters to the editor were necessarily on my mind, and this circumstance affected the lyrics to certain songs profoundly. This was the time of the Korean 747 murders, the on-going cruise missile controversies, acid rain (one of my pet protests) was large in the Canadian news, wars raged everywhere—and we, our families, and our friends were trying to cope with economics, death, illness, stress, romantic problems, unemployment, and depression. (Well, not all at once!) Songs like “Distant Early Warning,” “red lenses,” and “Between the Wheels” were definitely interwoven with these thoughts and feelings. Like the newsman Peter Trueman says: “That’s not news, but that too is reality.”
PRESSURE POINT . . . There is a certain state of mind, not exclusive to musicians, which is called (in medical terms) “The Black Ass.” Things in your life may be whirling just a little beyond your control, it may be “one of those days” when humanity and fate conspire to throw obstacles in your way—or maybe you’re just “too tired.” Everybody gets their share of dark clouds.
You’re working away at a song that you know can be good, but it just won’t be. You sit in the studio with aching hands and heavy heart, unable to deliver the performance that the song demands, after grinding it out for so long. You listen to a playback of something, and when it’s over, no one says anything. Pregnant silences. Avoiding eyes. (Anyone know a good joke?)
A certain tension descends at these times. The room is silent. Everyone knows something is wrong, but no one really wants to be the one to say “it ain’t right.” To criticize is to presuppose an alternative, to suggest an idea is to put your own pride on the line, to expose your vulnerability to possible rejection and disagreement. To listen to someone else’s idea, with which perhaps you do not agree, is a challenge to your objectivity and self control. It’s hard to say what’s right about it before you say what’s wrong about it.
Handle with kid gloves, handle with kid gloves. Indeed.
GRACE NOTE . . . Oh, well, of course we had some fun, too! The “Commons” hotel was sometimes a welcome watering-hole at the end of the day (or night, really). We played volleyball until the snow got too deep, tried to drive the rental car across the lawn after the snow got too deep. (Alex’s idea, naturally) We practiced our “snow diving” off the porch into two or three feet of fresh snow. Skip and Larry decorated the little guest cottage, (“The Little House on the Driveway”) with Christmas lights and a wreath. Peter, Alex, Geddy and Larry got up early to play tennis, I got up early to go skiing, Skip got up early to come home from the “Commons” and Jack got up early to roll over. (UPDATE: In sad news, Skip passed away in Sept. 2013.)
And, yes, from time to time we had visitors from “The Outside,” a brief interlude with family or friends made a terrific change from looking at each other all the time. The great people at the studio, Andre’s wonderful food, and the fantastic library of movies (“The Man with Two Brains” was a big hit this time) helped to provide diversion and make us as comfortable as we could be (considering our condition!).
We enjoyed a pleasant day in Ottawa, having ourselves immortalized by the famous portrait photographer, Yousuf Karsh. It was an inspiring and elevating experience to sit before the lens of the portrayer of kings, queens, presidents, popes, astronauts, authors, scientists, and film stars. And there he was, taking an album cover photo for bums like us! It was wonderful to see, at his seventy-five years of age, his tremendous energy, creativity and swift changes of mood. He provided us with a memorable and broadly applicable quote when told that the lights in the room were not independently adjustable: “That is not an answer that I can accept. That is not an answer that I can accept!”
I wish I had said that. (I will, I will!)
UNDER LINE . . . By this time we had completed the basic tracks, a couple of months of keyboard, guitar, percussion, and vocal overdubs, and we were beginning the mixing stage. It was all taking a lot of time, but at least things were progressing.
Throughout this period I was in a daily (or twice, or thrice daily) communication with our art director, Hugh Syme, back in Toronto. He was “herniating” (his own word) over the cover painting, and I tried to offer what help I could over the phone, without actually seeing it. (Difficult, you may imagine!) Detail after detail of the artwork was ironed out, the credits painstakingly compiled, the lyrics corrected and typed up for the typesetters, the photograph and typeface chosen, inner sleeve and label designed—until one day a transparency of the painting hangs on the window at the studio, beautifully lit by the sun on the snow behind it—and Hugh can get some sleep.
PRESSURE POINT . . . But not us. By this time we were decidedly late, as our record company and the advancing year were more than eager to remind us. (As if we needed reminding!) The pressure was on. Fourteen hours a day became the norm, with dinner hastily eaten right in the studio lounge. But why, after all, shouldn’t the mixing be as stubborn as everything else? (You expect a break or what?)
Admittedly, in these last few weeks things began to drag on a bit too long. It became more and more difficult to concentrate on life outside the studio, life becomes so cloistered, like some weird monastery. One drifts farther and farther away from the everyday affairs of your family and friends. Mail piles up, neglected business rises even higher, but everything seems somehow remote in the grip of this crazy obsession. Time to go away now!
At this point we had another series of meetings, this time with the video people. We had decided to try and get moving on that end of things as soon as we could. We knew we wanted to use several different directors, and do quite a few songs in different styles, but what songs?—and which directors? All of these songs would make good videos, but we only had so much time—actually so little time.
SAVING GRACE . . . But, yes, finally it is done. Fans and critics have yet to pass their judgments, but we are well pleased. Our records tend to follow in cycles, some of them exploratory and experimental, others more cohesive and definitive. I think that this one, like Moving Pictures, Hemispheres, or 2112 before it, is a definitive one of its type. An indefinable thread, both musical and conceptual, emerges in a natural way, and links the diverse influences and approaches into an overall integrity.
Of course, to arrive at this happy station, all of the experimentation and exploration is shown to be worthwhile. We are glad that most of our fans understand, appreciate and support this fact. As we approach our ten-year milestone, it is more than ever important to remain true to our youthful ideals; to resist the urgings and demands of the shortsighted, the narrow-minded, and all those who are fearful of change.
We think that we can adapt. We are determined to remain—as far as ever we can—graceful under pressure.
Or at least try not to scream out loud.
Management by Ray Danniels, SRO Productions, Toronto
Road Manager and Lighting Director: Howard Ungerleider
Crew Chief, Stage Manager, and President: Liam Birt
Concert Sound Engineer: Jon Erickson
Production Manager: Nick Kotos
Stage Right Technician: Jim Johnson
Centre Stage Technician: Larry Allen
Stage Left Technician: Skip Gildersleeve
Guitar and Synthesizer Technician: Tony Geranios
Stage Monitor Mixer: Steve Byron
Concert Projectionist: Lee Tenner
Personal Assistant: Kevin Flewitt
Concert Sound by See Factor Inc.: Jim Staniforth, Jason MacRie, Bill Fertig
Concert Lighting by See Factor Inc.: J.T. McDonald, Jack Funk, Ray Neindorf, Ed Hyatt
Concert Rigging by Southfire Rigging: Billy Collins, Tim Wendt
Laser Images: Glen Tonsor, Craig Speaderman
Busheads and Truckfaces: Tom Whittaker, Pat Lynes, Bill Barlow, Arthur MacLear, Red McBrine, Steve Conley
Program Design by Hugh Syme
Photography by Dimo Safari, Fin Costello, and Yousuf Karsh
Booking Agencies: American Talent International NYC, The Agency Group, London, and The Agency, Toronto
Our gratitude for patience and understanding to those who share much of the pressure, and little of the grace: our families.
Hi there folks! I’m the blurry blob in the middle of all those DRUMS! I don’t know where they came from, but every time I turn around there are more of them! When they’re packed away in those dark, warm cases you don’t suppose they . . . ? (Eerie music fades up.)
“You are entering a world of imagination . . . ”
You are entering a world of drums—that’s what! I’ve got drums literally coming and going this year. Everywhere I turn, more of ’em close in around me. More and More of them, getting bigger and bigger—and they’re red!! Red, like blood! “Izzen dat scaddy, kids?” O-O-W-H-O-O-O-o-o-o.
O-kay! . . . Ahem. The main kit remains the same, the prototype for what they’re calling the Tama Arstar these days. Two 24″ bass drums, 6″, 8″, 10″ and 12″ concert toms, 12″, 13″, 15″ and 18″ closed toms, and a 22″ gong bass drum is the basic outfit. The “Old Faithful” 5×14″ Slingerland snare is still number one, and I am again using a metal timbale, a 13″ Tama to be exact.
The symbols are of course by Avedis Zildjian, 8″ and 10″ splash, 13″ hi-hats, two 16″ crashes, one each 18″ and 20″ crash, a 22″ ride (ten years old now!), an 18″ pang, and a 20″ China type. There is also a China type which is really from China. (As opposed to America, Switzerland, Italy or Turkey.) On the rear kit there are more Zildjians — another 22″ ride, 16″ and 18″ crash, 13″ hi-hats, and another of those Chinese jobs.
The rear set consists of a Tama 18″ bass drum, another Slingerland snare, three Simmons tom modules and one snare module, and the Simmons “Clap Trap” with foot switched both fore and aft.
The incidental percussion department is also in a change of state as we speak, but may consist of orchestra bells, wind chimes, crotales, temple blocks, cowbells and/or a bell tree, I’m just not sure.
I’m still using the Remo clear-dot heads on the snare(s) and bass drums, Evans Heavy Duty Rock (top) and Evans Tom Tom (bottom) on the closed toms, Remo black-dots on the concert toms, and plain Remos on the timbale and gong bass drums. All of the hardware (but for a couple of small bits) is by Tama, as are the “Camco” chain-drive pedals, and I’m still chewing up Promark 747 sticks, which have the varnish filed off the shoulder area by Larry. (He’s the blurry black blob in the back tearing his hair and gnashing his teeth over the drums, the monitors, the headphones, the electronics and all of the presets for the Simmons and the Clap Trap!)
AH-HA-HA-HA-ha-ha!! (O-o-o-o-o . . . scaddy!)
Hi there, and welcome, sports fans around the world. I’m Geddy Lee, once again bringing you play by play coverage of the 1984, Grace Under Pressure Tour, Equipment List!! (Applause)
Total Basses—Steinberger L2*, Rickenbacker 4001, and Fender Jazz.
Synthesizers—PPG Wave 2.2#, Roland JP-8 and TR 808, Oberheim OBX-A and DSX digital sequencer, Moog Taurus pedals and Minimoog.
Amplifications—BGW 750C power amps, Furman Sound PQ-3’s used as pre-amps, and API 550A equalizers. Special Brother Russell mystery speaker cabinets (built by monks somewhere in Arizona) with two 15″ speakers in each.
Also a Nady wireless unit complete with a “BZZZ Thing.”
Well, now, that’s over with!
Let’s play two!
* Rookie of the Year 1983-84
# M.V.P 1983-84
PS. Contrary to what was said on another page, I do not use a Hentor Barbarian bass—they’re too long . . .
So, another tour, huh? Well, let’s see. I’ve got these great new guitars. You may have heard of them: they’re Hentors. They’re named after Devidip Hentor who was a very interesting character. He was born some years ago and grew to amazing lengths. Instead of body hair he grew a kind of green woolly substance all over his upper torso which resembled a sweater. He was a brilliant man who could sit in a chair all day and think of a million great things to do without actually doing them.
He was an inspiration until his unfortunate accident whilst jogging in three feet of snow wearing cheap snowboots and light summer cottons. Two models were built and I’m lucky enough to have them both. One is a “Sportscaster” and the other is I’m not going to tell you. (Hey, check Geddy’s page and see if he mentions his Hentor Barbarian bass!)
Anyway, these guitars look a lot like the guitars I had on the last 47 tours. So much so that if someone was really stupid they’d think they were different guitars. I also got a new Jimmy Johnson and I haven’t seen one of those in at least eight years.
Otherwise everything’s the same. So, here we go . . . I use amps! And magic guitars that have no long black wires; and talk about strings! I have at least six on all my guitars. I also use expensive boxes with knobs and lights on them and instructions in more than five languages except English. I also have these piano-like things but I’m not sure on how to switch them on. You have to use a special Jack for that. Finally, all the equipment I use is made in factories.