DRUM! Readers Interview Neil Peart

Thus Spoke Neil

DRUM! Readers Interview Neil Peart

When we decided to put Neil Peart on the cover to help celebrate Retrospective III, Rush’s new best-of box set, we got the bright idea to let DRUM! readers interview “The Professor” themselves. So we asked you guys to submit questions by email, then we sat back and waited. A gazillion emails later, we realized there was simply no way to print every single question that was posed without publishing an issue as thick as a floor tom. Instead, we had Peart choose the questions that best captured where his head is at – rhythmically speaking. What amazed us was how incredibly varied, original, and specific the questions were – the kind that could only come from diehard Rush fans. So what pearls of wisdom does the world’s greatest prog-rock drummer dispense after 33 years on the job? Read on to find out.

What is your favorite live solo?

Michael S. Conley
Sugar Hill, Georgia
Rush fan since 1982

By far my favorite recorded solo is “De Slagwerker,” from Snakes And Arrows Live, which is, of course, the most recent one.

It’s strange, but people often seem to expect me to cite something from the past as my favorite solo, song, or album – perhaps to mirror their own opinion. While such people are certainly entitled to their preferences and prejudices, I always think it would be a terrible shame if I preferred my work from, say, ten years ago to what I’m doing now. I hope I stop before that day ever comes.

All of those old recorded songs and solos represent the best I could do at the time, but I continue to learn, gain understanding, and work hard on getting better. If you’re not getting better, what are you doing?

I have read a number of interviews where you mention that when you get new cymbals you don’t use them on stage. You have your drum tech put them on your practice set until they are “broken in.” I’m not sure I have ever really understood this.

Jeff Kolln
Yelm, Washington,
Rush fan since 1974

Believe me, when I was starting out, nothing would have made me happier than having new cymbals to play, especially when I was living with a broken one, vainly drilling holes to stop the spreading crack while saving up for a new one.

I have known drummers who refused to clean their cymbals because they believed the dirt warmed up the sound. Well ... perhaps. But really, aging has a similar effect. I have long felt that a much-played cymbal changes in many ways from a bright new one. For example, over time a ride cymbal develops a subtle array of overtones across the bow that lends it a more complex attack, and the bell becomes warmer and more musical. With crash cymbals, the difference is more immediate, and greater: after two or three shows, the attack, swell, and decay become more unified, and even the physical movement of a struck cymbal becomes more responsive – it starts to “dance,” I always say.

The metallurgists and alchemists in the cymbal-making business confirm that my feelings are true. Once a cymbal has been played for a while, and the metal has flexed and vibrated, it truly does loosen up, even at the molecular level.

On the higher, musical level their physical and sonic responses are likewise looser, more resilient, and more responsive. Thus, not only do I like to break in new crash cymbals on my practice kit, but because the 16" crash in front of me is so critical, if it should happen to crack, my drum tech, Lorne Wheaton, will move the aged one from my left side over to the right, and put the newer one on the less-important side.

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