Thursday, March 26, 2015

My first book: Art of Rush

I can now reveal the project I've been working on over the past year: my first book, The Art of Rush.

It's a beautiful coffee-table keepsake that the band Rush, and its art director Hugh Syme, asked me to write in celebration of the group's 40th anniversary.

I was approached to write The Art of Rush by my friend Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon. I'd written the sleeve notes for his band's most recent album, Echoes from the Underground, which features Rush's Neil Peart on drums on stunning tracks such as this one. and so Matt kindly recommended my writing skills to Neil and Hugh. When Matt told me about the concept for the book, I'll admit I was dubious that anyone would want to read about how album covers were made.

That was before I first talked to Hugh.

Limited Edition, with custom slipcase
The art director regaled me with stories about trying to herd a warren of rabbits for the cover of Presto, furtively crossing the Canadian border to do a Guerilla film shoot for A Farewell to Kings, descending into the depths of an autopsy lab to find a brain for Hemispheres, building a swimming pool inside his studio for Test for Echo, and tying photographer Deborah Samuel to the stake and setting her on fire for Moving Pictures. Ok, I'm exaggerating about the last part. Hugh only made it appear as if Deborah, posing as Joan of Arc, was being burnt alive. But, as he recalls, a bottle of The Macallan whiskey may have been involved to calm the nerves before the stunt.

Limited Edition, with Anvil roadcase
Interviewing band members Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neil Peart was just as interesting. As a longtime fan of Rush, I was thrilled to delve into the conceptual discussions about the theme of each album and its lyrics. A hallmark of Rush's releases if the considerable care that goes into every aspect of what they do, including the artwork. As such, readers of The Art of Rush will be surprised to discover just how much effort went into each album cover. In the days before Photoshop, each element of the artwork had to be handcrafted and pieced together like the innards of a Swiss wristwatch. Take the inside gatefold of Hold Your Fire, for example. Hugh first had to construct a miniature model of a city street and then super-impose a picture of a fireball juggler on to it. It's the kind of thing Hollywood special effects teams used to do. Nowadays, of course, Hugh utilizes digital technology to create Rush's art. But as Neil put it, “The tools got easier, but the thinking doesn’t.”

A casual observer would be amazed to discover that Rush's album covers, which boast more diversity than the Period Table of Elements, have been designed by the same person since 1975. Many album cover designers offer up variations of a narrow style. But Hugh is an art director whose expansive vision complements Rush's tradition of continually pushing the boundaries of its music.

This project was a great pleasure to work on and I feel privileged to have done it.
The Pre-order for the Art of Rush book will begin on Friday, March 27 at 10 am ET at on Friday March 27 at 10 a.m. ET.

Roadcase Deluxe Limited Edition 1/100

  • Limited to 100 copies, this deluxe limited edition will be numbered and signed by all 3 members of Rush & Hugh Syme.
  • The book will come in a hand-crafted road case designed by Anvil approx. 15" x 15" x 3" in size and will be enclosed in a custom slipcase.
  • A signed and numbered limited edition lithograph of Hugh Syme's detailed drawing of Caress of Steel, the first cover he worked on for Rush, will be inside the case,.
  • The case will have a metal plate affixed to the outside with the limited edition number and the limited edition lithograph of the Caress of Steel lithograph will match.
  • $995
Limited Edition, with Anvil roadcase

Limited Special Edition 1/250

  • Limited to 250 copies, the hardcover book will be numbered and signed by all 3 members of the band and artist Hugh Syme, enclosed in a custom slipcase.
  • $495
Limited Edition, with custom slipcase

Classic Edition

  • The 272 page hardcover book
  • $99

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Steven Wilson interview

Photo: Lasse Hoile

I'm occasionally asked what my worst interviewee was. Without hesitation, my response is "Coldplay." When I interviewed the band's guitarist, Johnny Buckland circa the release of the band's debut album, his reponses were mostly monosyllabic and he couldn't have been less effusive or articulate. After he hung up, I had to figure out how to write my Coldplay article with hardly any great quotes or insights from the musician. Not a fun day.

By contrast, I can tell you exactly who my best interviewee is: Steven Wilson. I've interviewed the British musician many, many, times since 2002 and he always offers thoughtful, intelligent, articulate responses to my questions. That's certainly the case with my latest interview with Steven Wilson about his new album, Hand.Cannot.Erase., for Under the Radar magazine. For example, read what he has to say about Facebook's impact upon human relationships or his philosophical musings about how to get the best things out of life by remaining proactive in all areas of life.

Never heard of Wilson? Here's how I introduce him in my piece:

He's almost never played on the radio despite the fact that his previous album, The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories), sold well over 100,000 copies worldwide. He's seldom mentioned in the press even though he plays for crowds of over 2,000 per night and can sell out London's Royal Albert Hall. And Wilson has yet to be regularly compared to musical polymaths such as Trent Reznor and Damon Albarn even though his wide-ranging side projects include No-Man (art rock), Bass Communion (ambient electronica), Blackfield (indie pop), Storm Corrosion (psychedelic folk), and Porcupine Tree (progressive rock).
Steven's fourth solo album is his best work to date and I'd be surprised if I hear a better album in 2015. (Here's a taste of what it sounds like.)

Now on Newsstands

American Way magazine recently asked if I'd interview Joshua Radin for them. I was only casually familiar with the songwriter's work but happily took on the assignment. It was a pleasure chatting with the friendly and chatty songwriter, who only picked up a guitar for the first time at age 28. He scored his first hit a mere two years later!

Radin’s sixth album, Onward and Sideways. chronicles his love affair with a Swedish woman he befriended after a chance meeting in the lobby of a New York hotel. Read the piece here for Joshua's account of how he went to extraordinary lengths to woo her.

When it comes to romance, Joshua Radin makes the rest of us men look like chumps!