Kyros is an increasingly well respected pop-rock quartet whose wide palette of influences ranging from eighties synth-pop akin to Depeche Mode and Kate Bush through to modern post-progressive and alternative rock music such as Muse and Porcupine Tree.
They celebrate the release of their third studio album, Celexa Dreams, on 19th June 2020 and we were massively excited when Kyros drummer, Robin Johnson took some time to write for us about why he loves Rush.
I’ve always been drawn to music that pushes boundaries in some way. And I’ve always been drawn to music that people can easily relate to and connect with. For me, Rush land right in the sweet spot where those two elements are both fully present. That’s why they are absolutely one of my favourites, if not my favourite band of all time. They had an incredible level of musicianship, yet they had a greater appeal than just to fellow musicians and hardcore music lovers. They broke down barriers and combined different styles, yet it never felt jarring and was never indulgent to the point where their music became difficult to follow (ok maybe with the exception of some of the Caress Of Steel album!).
As a drummer, I’d pretty much always been aware of the legendary status that Neil Peart had acquired. But I remember my first step towards becoming a Rush fan was when I was 14 years old and a friend of mine showed me a video of the band playing live. It was the ‘A Show of Hands’ version of ‘YYZ’ which included a drum solo. Naturally as a 14 year old kid, my ears immediately pricked up and straight away I wanted to be able to play like that. Neil Peart always had a natural flair for making drum solos work extremely well in a rock context. His solos were bombastic and exciting but also with a ton of musicality and compositional prowess. They felt like musical compositions in their own right and were capable of emotionally moving people to the same degree that a well written song could.
There’s the cliche of the drum solo being the opportunity for an audience member to go to the bar but I could never imagine that happening at a Rush concert. I fully embrace the idea of a compositional drum solo and as a drummer, that is possibly the most important thing listening to Neil Peart taught me – that with a combination of creativity and musical charisma, it is possible to make a drum solo be one of the major highlights of a gig. There is no doubt that Peart’s compositional prowess forever changed me as a musician and it all started with my friend showing me that video back in 2007.
Though Peart’s drumming is far from the only aspect of the band that has inspired me. Rush have had a profound inspiration on my life, both in musical and non-musical ways. From Alex Lifeson’s incredible guitar soloing and thick chordal playing to Geddy Lee’s wonderful sense of melody, whether it be on bass guitar, vocals, or keyboards. To me they were living proof that it was possible to be incredibly true to oneself as an artist and yet also connect with a large number of people. They created a musical language that was unique to them and the very notion that a rock band could do that was very inspiring to me as a young musician.
Of course, their sound changed hugely over the years, moving from hard rock, to progressive rock, to pop-rock, to alternative rock with a splattering of reggae, electronic music, jazz and numerous other styles along the way.
Despite all of these changes, they somehow always sounded like themselves and I believe the secret to that was them simply writing whatever they wanted to write and not worrying about whether the music sounded “Rush” enough. One of my all time favourite quotes from any musician came from Peart when he said “there is no such thing as ‘that doesn’t suit Rush’, those words have never been uttered”. My band ‘Kyros’ likes to apply the same principle and we have found that it opened so many doors for us creatively.
On top of the creative agility that Rush had, I also have to mention Peart’s lyrics as being a key inspiration to myself and my general outlook on life. The lyrics (particularly from Permanent Waves onwards) always had a real warmth and heartfeltness to them.
Just like the music, the lyrics were intelligent and extremely thoughtful, yet never out of reach of being understood by most people. The line “I want to look at life in the available light” (from the song ‘Available Light’) is like an anthem to me, especially in the troubling times we all live in right now. For me, that lyric sums up Peart’s (and indeed Rush’s) stance on life and music in a nutshell – the willingness to accept that we are all limited in various ways but at the same time having enough enthusiasm to make as much out of what we have as possible.
I have many favourite songs and albums by the band – probably too many to mention! If I had to name a favourite song by the band, it would probably be ‘Marathon’ from the ‘Power Windows’ album. The song in my opinion is very representative of everything that’s great about Rush and it takes this listener on a musical journey that is also concise enough to (possibly) be called pop music!
As for favourite albums, I think I would have to choose two – an objective choice and a subjective choice. My objective choice would be 1980’s ‘Permanent Waves’. It’s an album that I think is hard to fault and is possibly the most consistent album they have ever made. However, my subjective choice would be 1987’s ‘Hold Your Fire’. I am prepared to accept that it’s not a perfect album with a few little inconsistencies here and there. And yet without a doubt, it’s my personal favourite as it connected with me on a higher emotional level than any of their other works. For me this album is a reminder of the importance of emotional connection in music, which is something that is completely unique to everyone. Hold Your Fire certainly did it for me!
I was lucky enough to see the band three times – in 2007, 2011 and 2013 which were their last three tours that came to the UK. They were easily three of the best concerts I have ever seen and I feel blessed to have had the chance to witness this powerhouse of a band live. Even at the end of their career, they were still as popular as ever and still selling out arenas. The way their music has lasted the test of time is testimony to the quality of the writing, production and performances that Rush were capable of. I’m sure that they will be enjoyed by music fans for decades and possibly even centuries to come.
There is no other band in the world like Rush and there never will be. That isn’t to say that their artistic spirit won’t carry on in some form though. I am sure many artists will be able to draw both inspiration and influence from them and use it in an array of different ways, even if it is just the daringness to push the boundaries of popular music that Rush had in spades. To quote Rush’s ‘Tom Sawyer’ “changes aren’t permanent, but change is.“
Many thanks to Robin from Kyros for sharing his thoughts on a truly iconic band.
Listen to Kyros’ Rumour which is from their Celexa Dreams album – read the ATB review here
You can read more from the Why I Love archive here.