A Brush with Rush
Walk the Walk Documentary with Neil Peart and Rush Now Available, scroll down to bottom of page for link! (Unfortunately Global has removed access for us all), you now have to go through a service provider, and mine is not even on the list.
I am going to tell you a wonderful story of what can happen when you do something for others without expecting anything in return. Some call this altruism mixed with karma.
In 2004, I performed a 60 hour drum a thon to raise money and awareness for persons with disabilities. The event was held at the Thames Valley Children’s Centre in London, Ontario, where I lived. After the event the CEO John Laporta approached me with a proposition. He asked me if I would like to set up and run a music program for the disabled. As a Shriner I was acutely aware of the need to work with children especially those with disabilities and I jumped at the opportunity.
The program began with a pilot course in March (spring-break) 2005. This course was to find out if it were even technically possible to make a system that would work with the disabled. Very quickly and with some ingenuity we found out yes we could indeed make this work. During the early years of my teaching my disabled “crew” they learned of my reverence of Rush and how I used the band as role models for how I wanted Trainwreck to conduct themselves both musically and personally. I often used video interviews of Neil from his DVD Anatomy of a Drum Solo to teach them the virtues of perseverance and determination. We would often joke that we should learn the song Tom Sawyer and the band members heads would explode when they had to play the quadruplet section in the middle of the song! (just a note with technology advancing we may be able to do it in the near future as they are designing head triggers that work on the brainwaves not physical motion) so if anyone wants to help us acquire a couple of units, we would be indebted to you!
8 years later and lots of struggles and joy later in 2012, I received a phone call from a company in Toronto that was making a documentary called Walk-the-Walk. The idea of the program was to highlight “heroes” in communities that do things for others without receiving recognition for their efforts. While researching for the documentaries one of the researchers came across my name on Google. The phone call I had received was someone inquiring whether I was “for real”. I told them yes, and that I still ran the program. They made arrangements to come and see me, to confirm that the program was still in existence and that I was the designer/person in charge.
When the producers of the documentary arrived I took them to the various studios I was involved with and also to meet with the students in the Adaptive Music Program. Convinced that I was the real thing production of the documentary commenced and finished in Jan of 2013. This would of course seem to be where the story ends. During the filming an amazing event took place and here is the story…
While filming Walk-the-Walk, one of the producers noticed that I was a tremendous Rush fan which is a huge understatement (for those reading who do not know, Rush is the third largest selling band in history). I was a Rush fan even when it was not cool to be a Rush Fan! They asked me a number of questions about the band and I droned on for quite sometime about the band and their impact on me as a musician and a person. I could not express in normal terms what impact Rush had had on my life and it has been beyond anything that most people could comprehend. The band has affected me both musically and in my personal life. They are the soundtrack of my life! Unbeknownst to me the producers were working on a plan. As filming continued multiple recordings of people talking about my work along with a video of the band Trainwreck (the band from the Adaptive Music Program) performing live were created.
However unbeknownst to me, Graehme and the producers had a a secret that they were planning with the band Rush. After a couple of weeks Graehme received the following video informing him of some special events that were to take place.
Graehme informed me that the producers of the documentary were going to fly both of us to Cleveland Ohio for a meeting with Lorne Wheaton (Neil Peart’s Drum Tech) and that it would happen on 27 October 2012. This caused a bit of administrative turmoil, because Graehme and I were suppose to be at The Percussive Arts Society International Conference (PASIC) in Austin Texas for the release of my book The Coordination Code. However, the producers simply said, “okay we will fly you up from Texas”.
On 25 October Graehme and I along with my partner (Kristine Schenk) and one of my students (Zack Lawless) drove from London, Ontario to San Antonio Texas. 36 hours in the car, Graehme and I then caught a flight from San Antonio at 5:00am back to Cleveland. Arriving in Cleveland after 50 hours of travel we were take to a 5 star hotel (Marriott) where we were treated like kings. Interviews and filming were conducted and then we were off to bed for the big day when I would meet Lorne. My mind was racing and I could not sleep. What would I say to him, would I sound intelligent enough, would I ramble (as I am prone to do), would I hog the conversation, would I come across as sincere, a thousand questions raced through my head?
That evening prior to going to bed Graehme and I went out for dinner. After eating we walked back to our hotel but on the way I saw a young lady (in her early 20s) with a Rush T-Shirt on (A Farewell to Kings), I commented to Graehme that it was cool to see a young person with a Rush Shirt on. The following morning Graehme and I got up and went out for lunch. While at the bar where we were eating I noticed a poster on the wall and saw that Rush had played the evening before, this explained why I had seen the girl with the shirt on. I exclaimed “damn if I had known I would have gone and purchased tickets from a scalper!” I had not seen Rush since 2004 and I had wanted Graehme to see them live, as he and I play in a Rush Cover band together.
At 3:00 in the afternoon on 28 October 2012 Graehme and I were picked up by a van. There was video recording equipment set up to film us as we traveled to see Lorne. The director Sergio asked all kinds of questions during our trip and instructed us to talk about what we were seeing. He also asked us about what we knew about the Cleveland area, which was not a lot as it was my first time in the city. As we drove around Sergio said “Karl do you know where you are”, I told him I did not. I was starting to grow suspicious (in a positive sense) of the whole event. Right at that point we turned and went down a concrete ramp into an underground parking lot. Sergio turned and handed Graehme and I two VIP Rush entrance stickers to the venue. We passed through a large bay door and there it was, Rush’s tour bus, along with Neil Peart’s BMW Motorcycle! We were taken inside and interviews given and after about an hour I was told that I would be meeting Lorne. Graehme and I were instructed to sit on some chairs in a hallway back stage. Around us was Rush Road cases, and I said to Graehme “this must have been from the show last night”, Graehme remaining cool as he always does, and just nodded.
After about 20 minutes Sergio came out and said to Graehme and I, “follow me guys”. We did so and as we turned the corner I could see we were at Stage Left in a music stadium, we walked up the stairs and found ourselves standing in the middle of Rush’s stage, I was dumbfounded and in awe of the sight around me. My mind racing, I was thinking, but the show was last night why is all the equipment still set up. Little did I realize I had read the poster wrong and the event was happening on 28 October…. That was TODAY!
No time to think, we were led to centre stage where Lorne was waiting. There was Neil’s drum set, gleaming with lights reflecting of its perfect finish, the gold hardware glinting and distorting our reflections like the mirrors in an old fashioned fun house at a county fall fair. It was dark in the stadium except for the lighting on the stage. Cameras were located all around with members of the documentary staff looking on. Lorne came and shook my hand and welcomed us. He then began a tour of Neil’s set informing me of everything in detail. As we traveled around the side of the set, I looked up and noticed a small fan for Neil’s hands, I inquired about it and as I did, I noticed someone had walked up immediately to my left. It was none other than Neil Peart!
At that point you could have easily knocked me over with a feather. My drum hero was there, someone I had listened to for over 30 years. Someone I had studied: his playing note for note, the music I had learned down to the smallest nuance. Someone who’s pictures had adorned my walls since I was 13 and a man who had truly inspired me in so many ways, and here he was in person! As he approached me he said “so here is the man of the hour, Karl I am very impressed with what you are doing”, I almost cried, again all I could think is why would someone do this for me, why was I being treated so specially? Neil Peart is arguably (not in my mind there is no doubt) the most influential and talented drummer in rock history and he complimented me!
I cannot remember what I said to Neil as my mind was racing, again, I was trying to sound reasonably intelligent and not do anything that would be seen as dumb. Fortunately Graehme gave me some cues and I presented Neil with a Trainwreck T-Shirt and told him about the work I was doing. Neil instructed Lorne to provide me with a pair of his drumsticks which he did. We talked a little more and Neil left, I thanked him for his time and said “this is the most remarkable day of my life” and turned back to Lorne. Lorne said to me, “why don’t you get up and sit behind the kit?” He did not have to ask twice and as I sat behind Neil’s drums the director of the documentary asked, “so Karl tell us, what is it like?” I told him it was amazing, because even though I was not playing, I knew what everything sounded like in my head. Later I was told by the road manager that in her 14 years on the road with Rush she had never seen anyone, other than Lorne allowed behind Neil’s drums. Lorne then continued his discussion of the electronic portion of the drum set and he shook my hand and Graehme and I were escorted off the stage.
At this point I thought we were done, and I was so excited by my experience. I felt like I had just experienced the best day of my life, I was so excited I thought I would going to be sick! Graehme and I were then lead off stage and told to wait backstage. Another 20 minutes went by and we were lead through the audience area which was now beginning to fill with fans. We were lead through a set of curtains and as I went through I saw Alex and Geddy, they both said “here he is, welcome”. As we approached all I could think of saying was “Geddy I met you in Welland in 2000 for a signing of you’re My Favorite Headache CD.” He and Alex smiled and shook my hand. Alex and Geddy both said, I was doing a great job and that they had seen video of Trainwreck performing. I was of course flattered and pictures were taken of Alex, Geddy, Graehme and I. At which point Alex said “Hey Geddy look what I found”, as he pulled out two tickets for the evenings show. He handed them to me but Geddy reached out and grabbed them, then the handed them to me and said, “maybe I should take them and sell them”. I told Alex it was important for Graehme and I to be there because after the show we would tell him “what he did wrong”. I thanked them both profusely for their time and they left to prepare for the show. We were then presented with two Rush totes full of Rush clothing and paraphernalia.
When I looked at the tickets I took a deep breath. Front row centre stage! I had not even noticed that Alex had already announced that they were front row seats, it is amazing what happens when your adrenaline is flowing! In addition, I was informed that there would be a video camera filming Graehme and I for the entire first song, which turned out to be Subdivisions. When you see the video I am actually drumming to Subdivisions but Caravan is the song in the video! LOL
Just prior to the performance one of the stage hands came over to Graheme and I and rhetorically asked “would you guys like a copy of the set list?” Moments later Graehme and I were in possession of the music that would be played for the night!
During the performance Alex and Geddy would come over to our side of the stage and smile. As I went totally insane! The first set included many of their great songs and as usual the guys performed them flawlessly which we Rush fans have come to expect. The sound and lights were simply amazing along with video highlights and story telling throughout.
One of the best parts of the show for me was the fact that my friend Graehme shared the experience. It was his first time seeing the band and of course he was right up close. I know his impressions were the same as everyone else’s in the stadium: you would be hard pressed to find a more talented and professional group anywhere in the world.
As we came to the end of the show, Graehme and I were whisked away and an interview was held with us in front of the Intuit Stadium. Initially the crowd watching the interview was very rowdy and kept making off colour comments and interrupting the questions. At one point I turned to one of the instigators and said “look, could you guys keep it down we are actually trying to make a documentary here”, everything went quiet and I think the peer pressure of the other fans kept them in check. The calm then gave us chance to finish the interview. People listening then realized what had happened and you could hear people comment in amazement of what I was describing to the cameras. When filming stopped people applauded and then came up and slapped me on the back and told how cool it was what I had done. The whole situation was sublime!
After we left the venue and had time to digest what had happened I realized a few things. When we do things for others it really does make a difference. If we do things with altruism at heart the rewards can come back in ways you would never expect. Finally the whole experience confirmed to me why I was and am still such a Rush fan. Here you have three amazing musicians who themselves have reached the pinnacle of success and are also philanthropists. They have not lost their human side due to fame (a very Canadian trait). They treated me like no other band has treated me and Rush will remain my favorite band for the remainder of the time that I am alive.
In 2013 the documentary was released for the world to see. It was aired on 12 October 2013 on Global TV. Here is the trailer for the program.
The experience of meeting Rush is something that will be a highlight in my life. When I think of the experience I cannot help but well-up and get emotional. Here is a band that is the third largest selling band in history with countless fans and I was singled out to meet with them and treated with VIP status. It turned out that Graehme knew about the plan all the time, but he did not say anything to me. Graehme told me after the experience that it was one of the hardest things that he had ever had to do, not telling me what was going to happen. Also he was so worried I would sort out what was going on when I saw the poster with their performance date written on it. In addition, it was the Band that had made the decision to have me at the performance after having seen the raw video for the documentary.
The following link will take you to Trainwreck performing Danni California.