Rush's guitarist Alex Lifeson has been interviewed by the Canadian Press just ahead of the band receiving the Humanitarian Award from the JunoAwards.
CP: You guys didn't grow up wealthy, but was charity always instilled in you?
Lifeson: We're all middle, or lower-middle class, suburban kids. First of all, it's the right thing to do. We are very, very fortunate. We've had an amazing career as a band. I think we were raised with those sorts of traits. It just seems right to give back. Move it forward.
CP: Rush performed a benefit for AIDS research in the early '90s and you've been a huge supporter of Casey House. Has AIDS long been an important cause for the band?
Lifeson: It was. We all knew people who passed away, who died from AIDS. You couldn't stick your head in the ground and just ignore it. I think that particular (concert) in San Francisco was a foundation that was set up by Elizabeth Taylor.
Casey House does an amazing job. They're so compassionate and they're so caring. It's really your last place to find a friend in a lot of ways, especially in the homeless community or the drug-addicted community, where they have nowhere to go.
CP: You've personally done a lot of work for the Kidney Foundation, painting to raise money.
Lifeson: My dad had kidney failure before he died so it hit close to home. I'm not a painter by any stretch of imagination. I have a lot of fun with it and it's an experiment and I'm always learning something. It's nice to be able to raise 10 grand for some blobs of paint on a canvas.
The Rush community buys up a lot that stuff. We've raised a quarter of a million dollars in seven or eight years.
CP: Is that something you've seen a lot, Rush fans taking on the band's causes?
Lifeson: I do recall reading some things on some fan postings. And that's a wonderful thing. I think our fans are aware of what we do, and if it inspires them to help out in some way, it's a fantastic thing. That's a great legacy to leave.
CP: You first won a Juno for most promising group way back in 1975. You were on tour with Aerosmith so you couldn't accept it, but do you remember how you felt?
Lifeson: I remember being really, very, very excited about it. You know, it was tough for us in the early days. We couldn't get a record deal here even with the smallest distribution label. Nobody wanted to touch us. Nobody was interested.
It felt good to get that kind of recognition.
CP: You won again in '78 for best group, and when you accepted you said: "We'd like to thank Dan Hill for not being a group."
Lifeson: (laughs) That was the year he won everything.
It was a few years later that I met Dan. We laughed about that. He remembered it.
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