Roll the hi-res bones! The ever-virtuosic Canadian trio known as Rush has just released R40 Live, which was mixed in 5.1 for its Blu-ray release by Dave Botrill (Tool, Muse) and was shot with 14 HD cameras at the Air Canada Centre in the band’s hometown of Toronto this past June. R40 Live fully encapsulates the core values of the band’s triumphant, 35-date 40th anniversary North American tour, and its always adventurous set list saw Rush literally go backwards in time step by step, from the all-cylinders steampunk roar of “Headlong Flight” to the philosophical rhythmic drive of “Roll the Bones” to the relentless mean, mean pride of “Tom Sawyer” to the ultimate cosmic headbanging of “2112.”
I recently spoke with Rush bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee while he was in New York to discuss R40 Live for Digital Trends, and we also spent a good bit of time talking about hi-res audio and surround sound, including whom he’d like to see remix the remainder of the Rush catalog in 5.1.
Mike Mettler: We now have a high-resolution 96-kHz/24-bit surround-sound mix of [1982’s] Signals that was released on the High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray format a few months ago. So, naturally, I’m wondering what you feel about surround sound these days.
Geddy Lee: I think it’s really a way of enlivening some of the material that people think they know. It gives it another dimension. And for audiophiles in particular, it takes them on an interesting journey. That’s really the motivation behind it.
Mettler: Is that something that will continue? Right now, we have six Rush studio albums remixed in surround sound [1974’s Fly by Night, 1976’s 2112, 1977’s A Farewell to Kings, 1981’s Moving Pictures, 1982’s Signals, and 2007’s Snakes and Arrows], most of the them masterfully done by Richard Chycki, and it seems like you could keep working through the catalog.
Lee: Oh yeah, I think we’ll keep doing it.
Lee: It’s allowed.
Mettler: Good! I think “Manhattan Project” would really be something special to hear in surround.
Lee: That would be great, yes.
Mettler: Steven Wilson has expressed interest to me personally about wanting to remix Rush albums in 5.1 himself.
Lee: That’s fantastic! Yeah, we’d love to get him to do that for us.
Mettler: OK, I’m going to pass that idea along to Steven’s manager, because I think that would be great too. Is high-resolution the best way to hear Rush music?
Lee: It depends on the fan. Some fans are not audiophiles; they just love the songs. They just want to rock out to them or listen to them in their car, or wherever they are.
Different fans are more into it and are more technical, so it’s nice to have those options. We live in that world where you like to have the option to decide how you want your music delivered to you.
Lee: It’s inevitable. It’s what’s out there. I mean, some of them are better deliverers of music than others. All of those companies treat the musician rather poorly. I don’t particularly like how the writing and the production of a record has become trivialized. They become devalued, and that’s a shame. It might come back to bite you, but there’s nothing you can do about it. People want convenience.
Musicians aren’t making the money they once were. As a result, recording budgets are drastically reduced, and so people have to be cleverer about making good-sounding records.
Mettler: How can people do that nowadays? What would your advice be for them?
Lee: I think most of your prep work has to be done at home. You have to try and build a home system that has high-quality aspirations, sonically speaking. You can record analog in your garage, and transfer to digital later. There are a lot of ways to go, but you have to be more prepared, and more resourceful.