Neil Peart on How to Act 20 at 60
Neil says in an essay he wrote for Drum Works magazine that he spent a good part of last year gearing up for the Clockwork Angels tour, which meant going to his local YMCA several days a week for rigorous workouts and spending other days at the Drum Works studios about 50 miles up Highway 1 from his home in Los Angeles—a great commute, since he gets to drive up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. “You really cannot beat that,” he says.
His workout routine, which he developed wth the help of his brother, who does that kind of thing for a living, is interesting, because it’s designed to get a 60-year-old man in shape to act like a 20-year-old kid.
First there’s the endurance training on the elliptical and other workout machines, and then there’s the yoga, which is intended to make him flexible to minimize the chances of straining his back, shoulders, and knees, which are the indispensable body parts of a drummer, especially one that hits the drums as hard as he does.
On the yoga, Neil says he starts with what is called a sun salutation, a series of 12 poses that you’re supposed to do in a single, graceful flow. You start out upright with your arms hugging your chest, raise your arms to the sky, and then dip down, lunge forward, push yourself up into a plank, then do what they call an upward and downward dog, then you lunge again and head back up into your starting position.
Neil says he doesn’t care too much for the part that involves the lunges (“but they feel . . . worthwhile,” he says).
Separate from the sun salutation, he does “warrior poses,” in which you stretch your body as you would if you’re a warrior in a Hollywood movie, dramatically posing to show even automatic-weapon-toting enemies that, even if you’re going down, you’ll be the more dashing of the two.
He also works out a bit using weight machines. “I’ll do leg presses, bicep curls and tricep presses, leg curls, chest presses, leg lifts, and high-lat pulldowns,” he says. “I do twenty reps of each, and for me, the appropriate weights have gravitated to 50, 70, and 90 pounds, depending on the muscle group. In the free-weight room, I do twenty chest flys with 15-pound dumbbells on an inclined bench.”
Then he finishes off with a swim and then hops on his bike for the 20-minute ride back home.
Neil says he does the cooking at home, so he’ll stop at the grocery store on his bike and pick up that night’s dinner, usually fish or chicken with steamed vegetables and a “comforting carbohydrate.”
It sounds a bit regimented, but I imagine it would have to be. Drumming for three hours a night on tour is grueling for anyone, let alone someone who would be eligible for retirement benefits in a few years.
Developing the tour playlist
Neil also talks about how the band devised its set list for the tour and on this point he answers why they decided, for the first time ever, to systematically swap out different somgs on different evenings.
To refresh your memory, the band switches out five songs on alternative nights. On the Clockwork Angels part of the show, they’ll play “Carnies” on one night and then “Seven Cities of Gold” on the next night. Other swaps include “The Spirit of Radio” for “2112,” “Bravado” for “The Pass,” “Manhattan Project” for “Dreamline,” and “The Body Electric” for “Middletown Dreams.”
The alternative playlists came about as a compromise. They wanted to play all the songs but to do so would have made the show far longer than any other show they’ve played and would be too grueling to do. So they created the alternative playlists to get all the songs in. They just wouldn’t play them all in one night.
“There were no obvious candidates [to drop from the playlist], and when I mentioned this reality to Alex and Geddy, the three of us couldn’t agree on dropping any,” he says. “So I suggested something different for us: putting together two shows, Show A and Show B, that would alternate . . . different songs each night. . . . This idea seemed more attractive to us [than dropping songs].”
Neil’s Drum Works essay is pretty interesting. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here.