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9/20/07

Alex Lifeson


Alex Lifeson (born Alexander Zivojinovich on August 27, 1953, in Fernie, British Columbia, Canada), is a Canadian musician, best known as the guitarist for the rock group Rush.

Lifeson founded Rush in the summer of 1968, and has been an integral member of the three-piece band ever since. For Rush, Lifeson plays electric and acoustic guitars as well as other stringed instruments. He also performs backing vocals in live performances, and occasionally plays keyboards. During live performances, Lifeson, like the other members of Rush, performs real-time triggering of sampled instruments, concurrently with his guitar playing. The bulk of Lifeson's work in music has been with Rush, although Lifeson has contributed to a body of work outside of the band as well. Aside from music, Lifeson is part owner of the Toronto restaurant The Orbit Room, and is a licensed aircraft pilot and motorcycle rider.

Along with his bandmates Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, Lifeson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on May 9, 1996. The trio was the first rock band to be so honored, as a group.

On May 1, 2007, Rush released Snakes & Arrows, their eighteenth full-length studio album. Lifeson and the band have followed up the album with a concert tour, beginning June 13, 2007.

Guitar equipment

In Rush's early career, Lifeson used a Gibson ES-335 for the first single and the first three albums: Rush, Fly By Night, and Caress Of Steel, and for the 2112 tour he used a Gibson Les Paul and Marshall amplification. Later on in the '70s he started using a Gibson EDS-1275 (similar to Jimmy Page) for songs like Xanadu. By the time of Hemispheres he had switched primarily to a cream-colored Gibson ES-355 guitar, with most of the amplification coming from Hiwatt amplifiers. Pedal wise he used various phaser and flanger pedals a Cry Baby Wah Wah, and a "Plexi" amplifier. Beginning in the late 1970s, he increasingly incorporated twelve-string guitar (acoustic and electric) and chorusing (Using the Boss Chorus Ensemble and later the Roland Dimension C) into his sound. By the time of the 1982 Rush album Signals, Lifeson's primary guitar had become a hot-rodded Stratocaster with a Bill Lawrence high-output humbucker L-500, (a type later made famous by Dimebag Darrell) in the bridge position and a Floyd Rose bridge,
and as the '80s wore on he switched from passive to active pickups and from vacuum tube to solid-state amplification, all with an increasingly thick layer of digital signal processing. Lifeson used Stratocasters from 1980 to 1986, he used them on newer material from Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures on their respective tours and more predominantly from 1982's Signals up to 1985's Power Windows For the Moving Pictures and Signals albums and on several tours Alex used up to four quite rare brown Marshall 4140 Club & Country 100W combo amps, giving him his perhaps most characteristic guitar tone to date. Lifeson was also later on an endorser of the Gallien-Krueger solid-state guitar amplifier line. In the late 1980s he switched to Carvin amplifiers in the studio and his short-lived Signature brand guitars onstage and in the studio.

Lifeson primarily used PRS guitars during the recording of Roll The Bones in 1990/1991. When recording 1993's Counterparts, Lifeson continued to use PRS Guitars and Marshall amplifiers to record the album, and for the subsequent tour. On one Counterparts song, Stick It Out, Lifeson used a Gibson Les Paul to create a deeper, more resonant tone for the song's signature riff, using a PRS on the guitar solo. Lifeson currently uses PRS, Fender, and Gibson guitars, Hughes and Kettner Triamp MK II and Zentera amplifiers, and cabinets. In 2005, Hughes and Kettner introduced an Alex Lifeson signature series amplifier; $50 from every amplifier sold will be donated to UNICEF.

Other instruments played

During live Rush performances, Lifeson uses a MIDI controller that enables him to use his feet to trigger sounds from digital samplers, without taking his hands off of his guitar. (Prior to this, Lifeson used Moog Taurus Bass Pedals before they were obsolesced and replaced by MIDI pedals in the 1980s.) Lifeson and his bandmates share a desire to accurately depict songs from their albums when playing live performances. Toward this goal, beginning in the late 1980s the band equipped their live performances with a capacious rack of samplers. The band members use these samplers in real-time to recreate the sounds of non-traditional instruments, accompaniments, vocal harmonies, and other sound "events" that are familiarly heard on the studio versions of the songs. In live performances, the band members share duties throughout most songs, with each member triggering certain sounds with his available limbs, while playing his primary instrument(s). It is with this technology that Lifeson and his bandmates are able to

present their arrangements in a live setting with the level of complexity and fidelity that fans have come to expect, and without the need to resort to the use of backing tracks or employing an additional band member.

Lifeson's (and his bandmates') use of foot-pedal keyboards to trigger sampled instruments and audio events is visible on R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour concert DVD (2005).

Lifeson has also played mandola, mandolin and bouzouki on recent Rush albums.

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Photo from Wikipedia

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