We all would agree on the fact that Rush's Geddy Lee knows a thing or two about capturing musical magic. But even after over four decades of electrifying performances and chart-topping albums, there's one part of the creative process that still leaves him feeling blue: post-production.
In a recent interview with NPR's World Café, Lee compared the mixing stage of album creation to the famous Woody Allen line: "Marriage is the death of hope." He explained, "I always took that expression and applied it to music where I always felt mixing is the death of hope.
"Because when you're making a record, it's full of possibility — I mean, it really is a wondrous process; it's like magic. And so when you come to the mixing part, which is the final, you have to review everything that's on the tracks and make some very hard decisions about how they need to be placed. And some of the things, maybe the nuances you've fallen in love with, maybe there's no room for them anymore. And I find that very painful process."
It's a bittersweet sentiment that likely many artists can relate to. The initial spark of inspiration, the joy of collaboration, the thrill of laying down raw tracks – all of that gets funneled into a single, final version. And sometimes, the magic gets a little… muddled.
Lee describes this feeling as somewhat puzzling: "In the end, it's a compromise between your dream and the reality of what actually ended up on the tracks. And I find that very disheartening. And so when we finish a record, I'm left with what we didn't accomplish more than celebrating what we did accomplish. And I will get there. It takes me a bit. Some weeks later, when I've been away from it and I hear it fresh, I go, 'Okay, that's not bad.'"
This isn't just theoretical musings. Lee even revealed that Rush nearly abandoned their biggest hit, "Tom Sawyer," due to mixing woes: "There were all these technical problems because we were using one of the first computerized mixing consoles in North America at the time," he adds. "Nothing was working and, at one point, I thought, 'Maybe we just forget this song and move on'."
He added: “It just goes to show you, I wouldn't know a hit single if I tripped over it. There I was, on the verge and even accepting the idea that maybe our most popular song ever would end up in the trash can."
Even the greatest works of art can be born out of a messy, sometimes heartbreaking, creative process. Next time that iconic "Tom Sawyer" intro comes blaring out of my speakers, I'll remember the invisible struggle behind such polished perfection. Probably you will too.