Simon Fraser-Clark (guitars)
Paul "Tufty" Handley (drums)
Paul Hands (bass)
Gary Hopkins (vocals & keyboards)
Simon Bradley of Guitarist Magazine recently interviewed David Seaman??
Band members are:
Are you look-alikes, soundalikes or both?
Are you yourselves or do you become the person?
Do you adopt the names on stage?
Have you ever pretended to be them offstage?
Ever considered plastic surgery?
Have any of the original band seen you perform?
Who'd win a punch up, you or the real band?
Are you fans of the music?
Do you use the same equipment and what is it?
Do you play 100 per cent live?
Biggest ever audience?
Do you make a living at it?
Do you have a CD out?
Do you write your own songs in the style of the band?
Where can we see you live?
Thank youuuuuuuu very much!
In the beginning......
In 1993 I picked up the phone and spoke to Paul the bass player and asked "Fancy getting together and forming a band?"
Paul's reaction was a definite "Yes".
Then I dropped the bombshell and said "A tribute to Rush".
Paul's reply to this was "You're joking aren't you?"
"No way" was my answer.
After a while I managed to talk Paul round to the idea. Paul and I go back a long way playing in bands together and in one band particularly called Ossirus which played our own music, but was heavily influenced by Rush. I knew a keyboard player, vocalist and guitarist and they were all up for it so, in the immortal words of Dave Lee Roth, we split a peanut butter sandwich and formed a band.
We all got together and chose "Freewill" as the first song to work on, followed by "The Spirit of Radio", "Red Barchetta", "Tom Sawyer" and a few others. These few songs went extremely well.
It took us a year to get a 1½ hour set ready and chose to gig in August 1994. Paul and I remember this very well. The venue was packed and for the first time, after seeing drummers in the audience with Zildjian T-Shirts on, I thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew. We were in the dressing room - to say that nerves had set in for all of us was a major understatement.
We got through the gig to great applause from the audience and decided we had cracked it. As a band we've had our ups and downs, especially with members leaving. First was the vocalist, then the keyboard player, and finally the guitarist. These were very low times for Paul & myself, who were the remaining founder members of the band.
It has taken hard work and determination, but we now feel we have got the right members in the band with Gary (Hopkins) on vocals and keyboards, Simon (Fraser-Clark) on guitar, and Paul (Hands) and Myself (Paul Handley).
In July of '99 saw us play our very first Spirit of Rush Convention in front of 250/300 mad Rush fans who gave us an amazing reception. We now feel that we will go from strength to strength. We don't feel like we've jumped on any tribute band bandwagons, as we were one of the first to do a tribute to any group. We also believe that we are a tribute to without a doubt one of the finest bands and musicians that there has ever been.
An Interview with YYZ (by David Egan)
I like listening to Rush, I love listening to Rush, I listen to them all the time, I do listen to a lot of other stuff too, like my sons play station music for one! The thing is, I can listen to Rush whenever I like, I can listen to live Rush whenever I like, but hearing it played live is not so easy, Rush haven't toured here since 1992 (things could be looking up though, with a new album just over the horizon).
Most cover bands, and I've seen a few in 20 odd years of gig going, won't go near a Rush track. Usually because of the sheer difficulty in getting a good performance. However there is one band who have travelled along that road and have proved themselves more than worthy. They are YYZ, a Midlands based four-piece and the sound they produce is something else. The whole bands ethos revolves round the most authentic reproduction of Rush's' music possible. I have seen them five times now and have nothing but sheer admiration for their dedication and attention to detail.
Their repertoire extends to over three hours and covers every album. The last time I saw them, in my local pub, they played for 2¾ hours. I have seen BIG, BIG stadium bands do only 1½ hours! Not only do you get quality you also get quantity.
I have put a couple of gig reviews on their website and was delighted, not to mention a bit daunted, to be asked to interview them.
I met up with the band at the Limelight Club in Crewe before their gig on Nov 8 2000 in a very noisy, very crowded bar and spoke to Paul Hands [Bass], Paul 'Tufty' Handley [Drums] and Simon Fraser-Clark [Guitar] Unfortunately I did not get chance to speak to Gary Hopkins [Keyboards & Vocals] largely because of the 'adverse interview conditions' however, they are a friendly bunch who like a laugh - usually at the drummers expense!
DE: "Where did it all start?"
Tufty: "It was about '92, Me and Paul used to play in a band heavily influenced by Rush and I phoned him up and I said 'how about a Rush tribute?'. There was only one tribute at the time, a Led Zeppelin tribute call Graf Zeppelin, and I thought 'jump on the bandwagon here a bit' so I phoned him up [Paul] and I said do you fancy the knock and he said "err.. no." [laughs] but I talked him into it. Then I got Gary and just sort a got the band together. We were in the rehearsal studio for a year and then we went live and basically cacked myself! [much laughter from all]
DE: "You would wouldn't you!"
Tufty: "I would Yeah!"
DE: "How long have you been in the present lineup then?"
Tufty: "The present Lineup? The Simon Fraser-Clark Lineup?
Simon: "Two years, Course I'm the new kid on the block."
DE: "I heard that at the convention last year Tom Sawyer were supposed to be playing and YYZ and that you [Simon] as the guitarist for Tom Sawyer had left and joined YYZ and they weren't happy about it.
Simon: "Yeah it wasn't a weird scenario, it just panned out to be a bit weird."
Tufty: "Can I just say we auditioned loads of guitarist and we put him in the last chapter, he was the last player so we had to have him."
DE: "Apart from Rush do you have any other shared interests?"
Simon: "Van Halen"
Tufty: "You don't want to know about that!!!"
DE: "How many Rush song have you got in your repertoire now?
Simon: "About 3+ hours I'd hate to sit down and count them."
Tufty: "Which is probably about half an album!"
Simon: [Laughs] "Yeah"
DE: "That's not bad That's not bad! Given that you songs are mainly from the late seventies and early eighties is there any reason for this?"
Simon: "Err . . . no. I don't think so. We have a song emphasis from Moving Pictures, Exit Stage Left and Signals that sort of era mainly because that's the material lineup that we favour. Although lately we've started to bring more and more of the newer material into the set. The level of technology we use on stage has increased, which we're happier with as it has allowed us the freedom to included some of the material that is more sequenced than we have been able to do in the past. Whether we pull it off or not... is another thing!
DE: "So how do you decide on your choice of material? Whether it is technically possible or. . . . .
Simon: "No not at all. We sit down, Paul comes with two and just says 'I don't know what I wanna do' Gaz gives us a big list and we all sit down and go 'yeah, yeah. . . yeah. . . yeah yeah'.
DE: "How long does it take you to get a song together?
Simon: "It depends. Some come together very quickly. We've just done the convention [9/9/2000] and we have four new ones since then."
Tufty: "Forgotten all the others now! [much laughter] It really depends on whether Paul can follow my slowing the drums down!" [more laughter]
Simon: "No! Seriously some come together really quickly others don't. Its usually the really easy songs that take the effort."
DE: "Any plans to do 2112 all the way through?"
Simon: "We have rehearsed it but not at the moment."
DE: "And how often do you practice?"
Simon: "Every week"
DE: "You don't all live close by so it must be a bit hard getting together"
Simon: "No, we all live within thirty miles of each other"
DE: "That's not what I call close!"
Simon: "No I know! We rehearse in central Birmingham so we're all going to the same place - to our custom built studio"
Tufty: "That Paul's kindly donated - He knows it cost us nothing!"
DE: "Which song gives you the biggest kick to play?"
Simon: "Anything we can get right!" [much laughter]
Paul: "I personally enjoy playing Freewill as one of the best songs"
DE: "I read in a Bass Guitarist mag. that YYZ said that Freewill was the hardest song they've ever had to learn."
Paul: "It was the first number that we ever did. So if everyone gets that one sorted then the rest would come easy. Even the simplest ones are difficult."
Simon: "Anything that has a wide and open arrangement that are only pulled into the beat. Dead difficult. Because he's gotta count." [nod towards Tufty]
Tufty: "But I can't count!"
DE: "As you get more experienced at playing Rush music do you get into the feel of how they play their stuff?"
Simon: "Yeah, it does become easier as you get more familiar with the material. Some nights you forget the notes that are the easiest to play and other nights we can go there thinkin' 'Jesus Christ!' you know! What if we don't pull this off, and it works fine. And you survive."
DE: "Hoping to get a bit of the automatic pilot?"
Simon: "It can do, and every now and then you think - 'Where are we?!' And then usually, if we've gone wrong we all look at Tufty and. . . . ."
Tufty: ". . . .I put my head down. . . . . . ."
DE: "Any plans to record any Rush songs?"
Simon: "We definitely need to get some recorded material for the website but as for going into the studio to reproduce it - why bother?
Tufty: "There are some Rush bands in America that have gone on the Internet, and have sounded like Bontempi!" (No disrespect meant by this comment to other Rush tribute bands, but some do leave a lot to be desired)
DE: "Does the gear keep growing to keep up with the expanding repertoire?"
Simon: "No it just keeps growing! There's no physical need to have the amount of gear that we have. Its down to: 'have gear will travel'".
DE: "How much of the day does the gig take up?"
Tufty: "I normally get there earlier and get set up myself."
Simon: "It depends where we are going. On Friday night we're in Worthing and that's a two and a half, three hour trip so you've got to set off two and a half three hours before you need to be there and that can be hard work.
DE: "Which leads onto the next question very good. Do you have to tout for work or does it all come to come to you?"
Simon: "A bit of both really. We've had a couple today where people have called up or contacted the website and said 'Listen are you available to do gigs?' But ultimately it's about promotion."
DE: "Yeah. If people don't know you're there they don't ask for your number."
Simon: "No. There is no point in being the best band in the world if no one knows about you, so literally, it's all about promotion. The gigs where we promote the heaviest are the best attended."
DE: "I read an interview with Alex Lifeson during the Counterparts tour and he said that the company supposed to be promoting them didn't even know they were on their books!"
Simon "Yeah its very, very bad. Very, very bad. There's no getting away from the fact that we are promoting an old band. You know if we wanted to be really successful then we wouldn't play Rush. It's got a limited appeal with a limited fan base, hopefully we're gonna get some new material soon - no new material for five years. It's very, very difficult, but ultimately, we don't do it for financial gain. We do it for love.
DE: "Yeah well that's it! I heard people slagging you off when you played at the Moses Gate. Now for me the fact that you are out there even doing it and your doing it very, very, very well but if it wasn't that good, it wouldn't matter."
Tufty: "We're keeping the spirit alive!"
Simon: "One of the things that I find is people will come up and say or email us after the gig or phone us up and say 'Halfway through the gig I closed my eyes and I was back in Bingley Hall, Stafford in 1982'. Ultimately I can find this really difficult to accept because I stand on stage and I play, and I think 'There's no way we sound like Rush.' but people come up to us afterwards and say 'That was spot on'. I suppose it just goes to show I'm not really that objective!"
DE: "That's what I put in the review of the Rush Convention about 'Strangiato', if you put' Exit Stage Left' on it's the same bloody piece of music! It's identical!"
Simon: "And that's really cool! - I mean as far as I'm concerned that's really cool. Buts that's us and what we're really trying to do. But then again - you should never believe your own press particularly the good bits!!"
Paul: "The thing is we've never tried to mimic the looks or the presentation of Rush. When we first started we had so many people that actually turned up to see whether or not we could actually do it they'd be queuing up to piss take. But then again no-one had even attempted to try and do it. And a lot of people were surprised that we'd learnt quite a lot. There has never ever been a cross word between the four of use. The tail end before Simon came there was a little bit of a niggle factor getting into the band. But now we're getting the pleasure out of the four of us playing together and we get a hell of a kick from the feedback we get from the audience."
DE: "You play Rush and also the material you play could be classed as the older material and the people coming to see you are coming to watch you play the older material they grew up with and that's where they remember it."
Simon: "Most of the audience tend to be the same age. We all lived through the new British wave of Heavy Metal, and so when you purchased 'Permanent Waves' it had much more of an impact for you because A: It was the musical trend of the time and B: You listened to it at the age of twelve or fourteen or fifteen years of age when you were in a very impressionable stage of your life. And C: Rush were at their most successful at this point - so their exposure was greater. That's not to say that the music released around this time is any more important than lets say 'Counterparts' or 'Roll The Bones' etc. Anyone who was listening to these later albums at the same stage in their life (12-15) as I was listening to 'Permanent Waves' will hopefully attach just as much importance to these later albums as our audience does to the earlier material. It is easier to get into Rush these days as they have a much wider repertoire of music now than was when I was a kid. When talking to people after our gigs I often hear the line 'Rush aren't a good as they used to be', 'why don't Rush go and write a conceptual album again' - why would they when they've already done it? Also back to my previous point - the fact that you thought a conceptual album was good was because you heard it at a point in your life where you were a kid and everything was exciting and you were really getting into it.
"Without a shadow of a doubt if Rush were to be launched today they would not be commercially successful, they wouldn't be given the freedom to produce four or five different albums without recouping and they would be dropped. Hence the procession of 'one hit wonders' throughout modern music. You have to go back to the early eighties to find a band that has more than four singles. OK you get rid of manufactured pop and if you think about when I was fifteen or sixteen you had Culture Club, Duran Duran, musically they had a single out every two weeks and a new album out every year Nowadays you're just not afforded the capability of having two or three small albums, you've got to have a one hit wonder straight away because it cost so much in marketing expense to get it some serious airplay.
"Bear in mind that when Rush wrote 'Hemispheres' and 'Permanent Waves' they were 25-26 years old. Now they are middle-aged men so they are bound to have different nuances, different expressions and different experience, which is bound to affect the way the music comes out. Your best material is always your newest material because it reflects where you are at that time."
It was at this time that the interview had to finish as the band were due to go on stage I did ask one final question about favourite Spice Girls and Tufty chose to answer. I chose not to publish his answer!