Rush fans know the band’s prolificacy – churning out nearly an album a year since the mid-70s. How do you find fresh inspiration after decades of relentless productivity? Geddy Lee and Rush discovered their answer by stepping back for five years before reconvening in 2001 to produce Vapor Trails, their 17th studio album.

This hiatus proved to be a turning point for Lee‘s bass playing. He wasn’t idle though – producing local Toronto artists and even releasing his 2000 solo album, My Favorite Headache. This time away fostered a significant evolution in his approach to the bass.

“My bass playing has gone into such a weird zone,” Lee himself admitted to Bass Player“I’ve carried that on to a ridiculous degree.”

Lee‘s technique developed into a rhythmic and often chordal style that fit well with a layered musical approach. “I’m strumming a lot, and sometimes I end up with two or three bass tracks on each song. Rather than wait for a guitar part to fill in a melody, I’ll just go up the neck, fuzz out my bass, and have it perform that function.”

A departure from traditional root-heavy basslines became a hallmark of Lee‘s work on Vapor Trails:  “I think that’s from the way I use bass chords: The roots are implied without necessarily having to be emphasized. Sometimes we miss that, though, so I’ll go back in and add a lower bassline that grounds the part. But if it’s not necessary, we live without it.”

Rush embraced the digital age with Vapor Trails, which was recorded with Emagic Logic Audio software. Many of the songs stemmed from jam sessions captured directly onto the software, often staying intact through the final mix.

“People say digital is this sterile medium, but they don’t understand what it can do for you,” Lee reflected. “You can get a very recordable sound and just jam into the computer, and then manipulate it afterward.”

The album also marked a first moment for Lee, specifically during the recording of “Ceiling Unlimited”: “It features the first kind of ‘bass solo’ I’ve been allowed to throw on a Rush song. I wanted to trade off with Alex, but he’s very anti-guitar solo at the moment, so he didn’t want to get into that.”

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