RUSH's ALEX LIFESON Says His Arthritis Is 'Slowly Getting Worse': 'I Don't Know If I Can Play Like I Played' 10 Years Ago

January 10, 2024

During an appearance on today's episode of SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk", RUSH guitarist Alex Lifeson opened up about the severity of longtime physical ailments. For the past couple of decades, the now-70-year-old Canadian musician has been suffering from psoriatic arthritis, a chronic, autoimmune form of arthritis that causes joint inflammation and occurs with the skin condition psoriasis.

Lifeson said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I would say that's slowly getting worse, as to be expected. I have psoriatic arthritis, and I've been dealing with it for quite a while — for almost 20 years. I'm on two biologics [biologic drugs for the treatment of arthritis], so sort of like a double whammy in dealing with it. And it's been very, very effective. Despite the side effects and all of that, it's been a really effective regimen for me, and it's really helped my hands. I have times where the inflammation has its own mind, and that's when you'll see me shaking my hands [while I am playing]. But it is what it is, and I can still get by, and I'm so used to it, I don't really even think about it that much anymore. "

Lifeson also talked about the possibility of him returning to the road, either with his RUSH bandmate Geddy Lee or with another project. He said: "[After] 40 years of touring, I'm not interested in touring anymore. I enjoyed it when we did it. There were lots of ups and downs. The gig is great, the show is great, and for the other 21 hours in a day, you're just waiting for those three hours. And it gets tiring, especially when you have a family and you have loved ones at home that you're estranged from for months and months and months at a time. I don't miss that aspect of it. Do I like playing in front of people? Yeah. I still like that — maybe not to the point where I have to do it. But when [Geddy and I] did the Taylor Hawkins benefits and we did the 'South Park' thing in Denver, and I do these Christmas shows with Andy Kim and lots of great musicians that I get to play with, then it's fun. I really enjoy that, and it's controlled, and it's great. To make a big deal and do a tour and get back into that thing, I don't really have an interest in that. I know Ged would like to play again and he would like to spend some time writing. But beyond that, honestly, we haven't talked about anything beyond just getting together and having a coffee and just bashing out a few notes."

Alex continued: "[Geddy] has a lot of stuff in his life. He's a very busy person. He's really enjoying this phase of being [a book] author. He's on the go, go, go, go all the time. And I'm here, and I'm playing on all these different projects. So, in a way, I've continued being that musician, and he's gone off to do other things. So, whenever he's ready, like usual, I only live five minutes away from him, like we have all our lives. I go over and hang out and we'll turn the recorder on and do some stuff, but there's no plan for a tour. There's no plan for anything. And I know rumors get started and people have their desires and lots of people would love to see us get back and play again. Well, I don't know. I don't know. Who knows? Maybe if we're together, we're messing around and we get excited… Certainly after we did those gigs, it was quite heady and very exciting. But I really love my life right now, and I don't know if I'm gonna disrupt it by being away from the things that I'm really enjoying, for any reason."

Lifeson also reflected on RUSH's final tour, which concluded in August 2015 in Los Angeles. According to Rolling Stone, the trek took the novel approach of presenting the band's music in reverse chronological order, meaning Alex and his bandmates — Lee and drummer Neil Peart — began the show with songs from their most recent albums and slowly worked back to their earliest material. As time went backwards, stagehands would swap out the backdrop to match the period they were visiting. That meant by the time they reached the encores, it looked like they were playing in the high school gyms of their youth.

"The last tour I thought was a terrific tour for RUSH," Alex said. "I thought we played really well. I thought the show was really fun. Going back in time to the beginning was a great way to celebrate the end of the band. I don't know if, at 70 years old, 10 years later, if I can play like I played back then. I haven't played that material in nine years. And if I can't play it like I played it nine years ago, then I really have no interest in doing it. I think RUSH has a strong legacy because of the way things ended. We ended on a high note, and that's the way people remember us. And I think that that also is partly the reason why so many people would love to see us back out, because that's the memory they have of us. We were dedicated to what we were doing. We practiced a lot. We were passionate. We played our hearts out. Physically, ten years later, at this stage, [after] these ten years, I don't know if we can do that. I don't know, can Ged sing like he did? Can I play guitar? Can he play bass like he did? I don't know. Unless we did a big rehearsal and tried to do all that stuff, we'll never know. But just thinking intellectually how this would work, I'm not keen on doing it, really."

Peart died on January 7, 2020, after quietly battling brain cancer for three and a half years. RUSH waited three days to announce Peart's passing, setting off shockwaves and an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians all over the world.

In 2022, Geddy revealed that Neil wanted to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret prior to his death.

Lee went on to say that he and Lifeson had to be "dishonest" to fans in order to protect Peart's privacy.

As one of the most successful Canadian music group in history, RUSH has performed before millions of fans around the world.

Lifeson made his mark on the music industry over 50 years ago, redefining the boundaries of progressive rock guitar. His signature riffing, copious use of effects processing and unorthodox chord structures befitted him the title by his RUSH bandmates as "The Musical Scientist." While the bulk of Lifeson's work in music has been with RUSH, he has contributed to a body of work outside of the band as a guitarist, producer and with the release of his 1996 solo album "Victor". Lifeson ranks third overall in the Guitar World readers' poll of "100 Greatest Guitarists" and is also included in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time."

Photo credit: Richard Sibbald (courtesy of Kscope)

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