Geddy Lee learned from Primus’ groove

Bassist Geddy LeeGeddy Lee learned from Primus’ groove

Rush bassist says Claypool funked him up 

By David Sands
September 22, 2015

Eccentric bass master Les Claypool has never been coy about his musical debt to Geddy Lee.

Lee, however, has been hammering out riffs with Rush since the Primus frontman was first learning to read, so it might come as a bit of a surprise that he also considers Claypool to be an important bass influence. In a recent video on his picking technique produced by Fender, Lee talks about the impact Primus’ bassist has had on him.

“In the early 2000s, we were touring a lot with Primus, and I have huge respect for Les Claypool as a bass player, and as a fisherman, and as a wine maker,” Lee says. “He’s a super cool guy. So, I really got off on watching how he approached the instrument.”

Rush’s bassist goes on to say that he’s always been a little incredulous about his own influence on Claypool’s music.

“I didn’t really hear that in his playing, because he’s got his own style, and it’s a very rhythmic style of playing,” he continues. “I found my playing [to be] a very white Canadian style of playing. He has a sort of funk and sense of rhythm that I found very appealing.”

Although Lee has never been a fan of slap or pop bass playing styles, hearing Claypool play inspired him to get more rhythmic. As a result, he began talking with Rush drummer Neil Peart about how to make the rhythm sections of their songs funkier. This led to Lee experimenting with new ways of playing and adding a flamenco-style approach to his bass work.

“I don’t play with a pick, and I never have, but I play with my nails quite a bit, so I can get a lot of twang when I need to—I use the edge of my nail,” he says. “I just started varying that style and adding some funk to it. That’s how it developed, and then I got kinda carried away with it.”

Rush wrapped up its 40th anniversary tour in August. Guitarist Alex Lifeson has stated it’s likely to be their last major tour, as he suffers from psoriatic arthritis and Peart has developed chronic tendonitis.

You can learn more about Lee’s picking technique and watch him demonstrate it in the video below.

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