Neil Thinking About Publishing Another Collection of Essays
We might be seeing another collection of essays along the lines of Far and Away, whch came out in 2011, from Neil. In his latest blog post, in which he ponders the two opposing sides of his personality, he says the time seems right to collect his latest essays into a book.
“I’m thinking it’s time to publish another collection of stories. . . . Maybe Far and Near: On Days Like These. The cover image in my mind is [the] North Yorkshire one [used in his 2014 Bubba calendar], so that would work. (One thing I loved right away about the title “On Days Like These” is that it works for every image, and every day!) Then a variety of scenic photos on the back, as in Far and Away, to suggest the extent of the settings within. I would like to collect one more story, maybe of February in Quebec (a recurring theme!), then would want to write new intro and outro pieces for it.”
The essays that would likely be collected into a book are mainly from the road during the Clockwork Angels tour. Like his essays in Far and Away, these posts mix observations about traveling (what he calls “Roadcraft,” which is probably the name of a future book) with observations about life. For example, he talks about Britain’s wiggly roads, Canada’s view of the War of 1812, the good and bad duality of fracking, how a 60-year-old stays in shape, what books he’s been reading, and so on.
In this latest essay, Neil says the days since the Clockwork Angels tour ended have been relaxing and productive in equal measure. That kind of dual quality is the way he likes things, he says, and is pretty much characteristic of how he has lived his life. In short, that kind of duality is why his nicknames are both Bubba and the Professor (which is the name of his blog post, “Bubba and the Professor”). The Bubba in him is the guy who likes to beat on drums, drive cars fast, ride across the country on motorcycles, and have a good time. The Professor is the guy who lets him do all these things as long as he does them intelligently rather than recklessly. As he put it,
“I want to play the drums!” . . . “Fine, but we’re going to study and practice hard, and be as good as we can get.”
“I want to quit school and be a full-time musician.” . . . “Fine, but we’re going to give it everything and more, even chase across the ocean and be poor and desperate, until we get established.”
“I want to ride motorcycles all over the place!” . . . “Fine, but we’re going to learn to do it well, and wear all the proper gear, all the time.”
The one thing the two sides agree on is ending the day with a glass of whiskey. “Hey Perfessor—how about a drink?”. . . “That would be nice, Bubba. I’ll join you.”
Neil was given the two nicknames by friends. The late Andrew McNaughton, who was the band’s long-time photographer, was the first to call him Bubba, a little rub about Neil’s professorial side, and the Guys at Work, Geddy and Neil, were channeling the professor on Gilligan’s Isle when they started calling him that. “Not terribly insulting—but not exactly cool, either,” he says.
You can make the case that this duality is characteristic of Neil’s drumming, since it combines inventiveness and daring with precision, and of his lyrics-writing, since it’s conceptual and concrete in equal measure.
On the other projects he has in the works, the next big one is release of the Clockwork Angels graphic novel. He says he’s been working closely with Nick Robles, the illustrator, to make sure the look comes as close as possible to what he has in mind for the story. Nick’s “first renderings of Crown City were much more generic [than what I wanted],” he says, “the typical setting that resembles Victorian London. . . . . I had to steer him back toward the ‘grandeur’ of sci-fi cityscapes, something more awesome, spacious, and—yes—Utopian.”
Kevin Anderson, who wrote the novel version of the story, is even more closely involved. He “basically maps out the whole thing, panel by panel, even dictating their relative sizes, and the artist ‘just’ fills them in,” Neil says.
One of Neil’s most recent projects, his 2014 calendar, was satisfing to do, he says, and he’s hoping it sells better than his first calendar, for 2012, which was given away more than it was sold. This year’s calendar will be available at Guitar Center, the 300-store musical instrument chain. The company ordered 1,200 copies. The problem is, whatever the company doesn’t sell it gets to send back to the publisher. “At least people would have a chance to find them,” he says.
Meanwhile, Neil has been enjoying his Aston Matin Vanquish, which he’s taken out on a few California racetracks. In his last outing, he had a “lurid slide”—a skid off the track and into the gravel—but he managed to keep himself from pushing the panic button. “We corrected it enough to drive straight off into the dirt infield, rather than spinning, but as we went slewing into the dusty gravel (throwing up a mighty cloud of dust, we know from witnessing other ‘off-track excursions’), we were feeling plenty . . . ‘alert.’”
Adventure, prudence . . . It’s all part of Neil’s dual nature, and makes for a great read.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
Read “Bubba and the Professor” in its entirety.
Read summaries of many of the essays likely to be included in his next collection.