Neil: First the Planning, Then the Magic
Neil shares his thoughts on touring and motorcycling this month with The BMW Owners News Magazine, called BMW ON, and he sees in motorcycling the perfect foil to drumming.
“For me, the riding time is stimulation,” he tells Don Argento for the piece “Backbeats & Backroads.” “It’s a different kind of concentration and certainly a different kind of responsibility [than drumming]. On stage I feel responsible to a similar degree, but a mistake isn’t going to kill me. There’s a big difference there. I find they complement each other. I notice that when I take a day off the bike, I feel the pain much worse. . . I feel like maybe the vibration is therapy in itself—just being on the bike.”
Neil attributes his success to almost two decades of motorcycling between shows to the care he takes to do it right. That means servicing his motorcycles every 6,000 miles, even while he’s on the road, and replacing them after 50,000 miles, even if they’re running well. And it means wearing the right gear, always riding with a partner (in case he has to commandeer his bike to get to a show), and, no doubt most importantly, tuning out the distractions, including the music.
“I never listen to music in a headset,” he says, “but songs will play in the mental jukebox. As soon as things get dicey, whether in traffic or you’ve got a curvy bit of road, some gravel, or something like that—the music stops. It goes into pause, you deal with the moment, and then the music will restart again. It’s phenomenal how that works.”
Neil says his life touring with Rush can be divided into three periods, based on what he does to avoid the tedium and potential toxicity of living on the road. For the first decade, he escaped through books, giving himself the education he left behind to pursue his musical career. For the second decade he became a dedicated bicyclist, his longest ride 100 miles, and for the last two decades he’s been motorcycling.
For him, it’s always been BMWs, first the RS series and now the GS series, but it wasn’t for any reason other than he liked the look of the bikes as a kid. “It goes back to the old black ones with the white pin-striping,” he says. “That always looked to me just how a motorcycle should look.”
Thanks to John at Cygnus-x1 for making the article available. Read it now.