Neil Peart – A Day in the Life

SKF NOTE: My Neil Peart interview transcripts bring back fond memories. Neil was always fun to interview, due in large measure, I believe, to the interviews always feeling like two guys having casual conversation. The interviews felt that way because they were that way.

I spotted a few favorite Neil remarks last night while reading transcripts. Here’s one of my favorite exchanges circa 1989 or 1990.

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Scott K Fish: What’s a typical day-in-the-life of Neil Peart?

Neil Peart: There’s an on-the-road me, a songwriting me, recording me, and an at home me. They all have different paces of life.

When I’m on the road I work late, sleep late. Often I’ll bicycle ride in the afternoon — maybe the whole day.

I go to mid-afternoon soundcheck for a couple of hours — often by bicycle.

Have dinner. Then read or work on my current writing project. Do the show. Get on the bus. Proofread the writing I did, and read, or do what everyone else is.

I sleep usually until we get to the next destination at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.; scramble off the bus into the hotel room. Catch another few hours sleep.

It’s the most routine, although the most unrooted, the most difficult in which to establish a routine. Over the years we’ve worked hard to get our routines.

Geddy and Alex play tennis every afternoon. I do something solitary. So our time is worth something. You waste less time traveling by bus.

When the drums are recorded I’m in the studio early, checking, tuning, and everything. Electronics get sorted out. We’ll do one song or two a day. I’m always setting up for another song. When the engineer gets there, I’m ready to start. I like to get it done quickly. If you slog through it a thousand times it starts to lose its life.

I take about two hours to get a drum track — which is pretty good. That includes getting all the sounds happening: playing the song enough to make sure all the parts are happening, and then playing it perfect!

After that, the bass track gets voiced in. I’ll go outside with the Walkman and listen to the demo several times. Demos are often a very good reflection, in every sense, of what I want on the record.

Recording Presto, we finished eleven bass and drum tracks in nine days. That was terrific. We first put down a guide track pf guitar. bass. keyboards, and vocals. I played to that. Once we finished recording the drums we replaced the bass and guitar.

So it was done as a band, initially, and then, as individuals.

SKF: Are all of you in the studio at the same time?

NP: In the premises. But not recording at the same time. I like the freedom from pressure, knowing I’m not wasting anyone else’s time. If I want to stop halfway through and start again — or anything — I never feel it’s infringing on anyone else.

SKF: Now, a day in the life when you’re at home?

NP: I’ll be at the YMCA three times a week, weight training, and swimming a mile. If I’m at the cottage I’ll bicycle my usual 40 miles three times a week. Alternate mornings I get up early to get in some writing while the family’s still asleep.

SKF: Were you always so organized? Was there a time when you were Mr. Party?

NP: Never. I was always introverted. I was never physical as a kid or as a beginning musician. Drumming was the only sport I could ever do. Frustratingly, I’d try out for teams and never make them. I was too weak. But, I used to hike and take bike rides with my brother. As a teenager, I didn’t even do that. Just drumming. Through drumming I gradually built up stamina.

As a band, as individuals, we never wanted to become just a band. Not just musicians. My interests became like an hour glass. As a kid, my interests were wide. I was a voracious reader. Drums took over when I was thirteen. I was well into my twenties before my life opened up with other interests. I became interested again in reading, for instance. I never read as a teenager. Just drums, drums, drums.

At school I played on the desk. I got home from school and went on to the drums. I’d think about drum beats [while] lying in bed. It was like an addiction.

I have the discipline that brings the will that makes you want to do it. You’re not saying you should practice your drums. I’d say, “Oh, great. Time to practice.” I don’t remember ever feeling forced to practice. My parents were great. I could usually play two or three hours a day between school and supper. And longer on weekends. The neighbors were really understanding too.

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