Neil Peart – I Was Just Trying to Play in the Big Leagues (1986)

POV shot from behind the kit. Photo: Neil Peart

SKF NOTE: Here’s Neil Peart in 1986 answering my questions about his influence on drummers. Here’s the back story to our interview which appeared, in part, in Modern Drummer’s 10th Anniversary Issue.

Scott K Fish: Ten years ago you’d been with Rush for one year. Did you ever believe or feel that you’d be such a drumming influence today?

Neil Peart: Certainly not. I was just trying to be good, really. I think it’s common to alot of people, probably, that I had a very humble opinion of my own abilities. As far as I was concerned I was just trying to play in the big leagues. I certainly didn’t have that high an opinion of myself, especially then.

The aim for me was to try to get good, and to try to get as good as the people who I admired, and who I learned from.

So it was a process of just learning, really, and, as I said, the only standard I was working towards was a good professional standard. I certainly wasn’t trying to prove myself to be Mister Bigshot in the world or anything.

SKF: Do you remember when you first realized that alot of people were listening to you?

NP: Yeah. It was the first time I was ever mentioned in a Modern Drummer Readers Poll. When I first heard about that it spun me around. I just hadn’t expected that kind of respect of my peers. It came totally unexpectedly and totally out-of-the-blue. It unbalanced me. I think I wrote about it in the magazine in a subsequent letter; that instead of boosting my confidence in myself, it actually undermined it.

We happened to be in England on tour at the time when I heard that I was in the poll. The next gig we did I remember was in Glasgow, and I was onstage the whole night feeling like such a fraud. And every tiny little inaccuracy that I committed, or any small error, suddenly seemed gigantic in my mind.

I felt like I was cheating everyone; that any drummers sitting out there who had voted for me — they would think I was a fraud.

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