Receiving its world premiere at the festival, Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen’s profile goes deep into the boyhoods of the prog-rock trio’s famously headstrong members. Along the way, it shows the band doubling down against its management’s wishes—and coming up with the classic LP 2112. Lifeson, 56, called TONY from Nashville, where Rush is partly recording its 19th studio album.
Some of this footage is insane. Whose idea was it to film a teenage Alex Lifeson arguing with his parents?
Oh, wow. You saw that? There was this Canadian filmmaker, Allan King—he just recently passed away. He was known for his cinema vérité documentaries. I auditioned for a film he wanted to do about ten kids from different parts of Toronto moving onto a farm for three months.
So originally you wanted to be a reality-TV star.
Basically! [Laughs] We went and did the film and it was terrible. Nothing developed between us. The project was shelved. Anyway, it was a chance to get out of school for three months.
You kids got along too well. Sounds familiar.
I know. And I’m married to the girl that I fell in love with when I was 15 years old. To Geddy and Neil and me, the thought of doing a documentary about Rush just didn’t seem so great of an idea. We’re just a band. We’re middle-class Canadian kids who grew up.
Yes. And then wrote “Subdivisions.”
Seriously, though. We made ourselves available to Sam and Scot, the filmmakers, who were really dedicated, but I wouldn’t say we felt comfortable being involved with it. And we’re not, honestly. Like this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing, this constant talk about us not being inducted. We couldn’t care less, really. That’s never been important to us.
So what is important to you, rock star?
Ha. Obviously, we take the music seriously and we try to play the best that we can. But we’ve always been very lighthearted about the band itself. I laughed at I Love You, Man with the rest of the crowd.
It’s clear in this new documentary that the band is very supportive of each other, almost self-therapized.
We’re mature in our approach. We might be immature in other ways.
Dysfunctional rock groups will want to know how you do it.
We spend 80 percent of our time together laughing.
We really enjoy each other’s company. It’s a combination of things. We love playing together. We love writing together. Why it turned out that way, I don’t know. It’s a meeting of different currents.
You’re about to go on the road playing the entirety of 1981’s Moving Pictures, including the 11-minute-long “The Camera Eye.” How do you keep it fresh?
“Tom Sawyer” could have been written eight months ago, with the kind of response it still gets. We’re bringing a bunch of other old stuff back, “Jacob’s Ladder,” too. We’re rearranging it slightly, as with “The Camera Eye,” changing a couple of things, having another crack at it. It’s going to be a lot of fun for us.
Don’t change too much. I intend to air-drum.
On the last tour, we saw so many children playing air drums and air guitar. That’s got to be from Rock Band.
This time, though, you’ll be a screaming documentary sensation.
Thanks. We really don’t feel that different from anybody else. We’re family guys.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage plays Sat 24 at 9:30pm and Sun 25 at 1:30pm, SVA Theater; Mon 26 at 3pm, Clearview Chelsea; Apr 30 at 11:59pm, Village East.