Peart grew up in Port Dalhousie, Ontario (now part of St. Catharines) working miscellaneous jobs. His true ambition, however, was to become a professional drummer. During adolescence, he floated from regional band to regional band in pursuit of a career as a full-time drummer. After a discouraging stint in England to concentrate on his music, Peart returned home, where he joined a local Toronto band, Rush, in the summer of 1974.
Early in his career, Peart's performance style was deeply rooted in hard rock. He drew most of his inspiration from drummers such as Keith Moon and John Bonham, players who were at the forefront of the British hard rock scene. As time progressed, however, he began to emulate jazz and big band musicians Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. In 1994, Peart became a friend and pupil of jazz instructor Freddie Gruber. It was during this time that Peart decided to revamp his playing style by incorporating jazz and swing components. Gruber was also responsible for introducing him to the products of Drum Workshop, the company whose products Peart currently endorses.
Peart has received numerous awards for his musical performances, and is known for his technical proficiency and stamina.
In addition to being a musician, Peart is also a prolific writer, having published several memoirs about his travels. Peart is also Rush's primary lyricist. In writing lyrics for Rush, Peart addresses universal themes and diverse subject matter including science fiction, fantasy, and philosophy, as well as secular, humanitarian and libertarian themes. All four of his books are travel-based non-fiction, though they diverge into his life and these subjects as well.
Peart currently resides in Santa Monica, California with his wife, photographer Carrie Nuttall, and daughter, Olivia Louise. He also has a home in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, and spends time in Toronto for recording purposes.
Peart was born on his family's farm in Hagersville, on the outskirts of Hamilton. The first child of four, his brother Danny and sisters Judy and Nancy were born after the family moved to St. Catharines when Peart was two. At this time, his father became parts manager for Dalziel Equipment, a farm machinery supplier. In 1956 the family moved to the Port Dalhousie area of the town. Peart attended Gracefield School, and describes his childhood as happy and says he experienced a warm family life. By early adolescence he became interested in music and acquired a transistor radio, which he would use to tune into pop music stations broadcasting from Toronto, Hamilton and Welland, Ontario and Buffalo, USA.
His first exposure to musical training came in the form of piano lessons, which he later said in his instructional video A Work in Progress did not have much impact on him. He had a penchant for drumming on various objects around the house with a pair of chopsticks, so for his 13th birthday, his parents bought him a pair of drum sticks, a practice pad and some lessons, with the promise that if he stuck with it for a year, they would buy him a kit.
His parents bought him a drum kit for his 14th birthday and he began taking lessons from Don George at the Peninsula Conservatory of Music. His stage debut took place that year at the school's Christmas pageant in St. Johns Anglican Church Hall in Port Dalhousie. His next appearance was at Lakeport High School with his first group, The Eternal Triangle. This performance contained an original number entitled "LSD Forever". At this show he performed his first solo.
Peart got a job in Lakeside Park, a fairground on the shores of Lake Ontario, which later inspired a song of the same name on the Rush album Caress of Steel. He worked on the Bubble Game and Ball Toss, but his tendency to take it easy when business was slack resulted in his termination. By his late teens, Peart had played in local bands such as Mumblin’ Sumpthin’, the Majority, and JR Flood. These bands practiced in basement recreation rooms and garages and played church halls, high schools and roller rinks in towns across Southern Ontario such as Mitchell, Seaforth, and Elmira. They also played in the northern Ontario city of Timmins. Tuesday nights were filled with jam sessions at the Niagara Theatre Centre.
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Drum Dungeon Bio - NEIL PEART
Neil Ellwood Peart (pronounced /ˈpɪərt/) OC, (born September 12, 1952) is a Canadian musician and author. He is the drummer and primary lyricist for the rock band Rush.
Neil Peart is one of those rare technical anomolies, that has seen him not only explore his instrument through complicated fills and timings, on to further experiment with a variety of styles as his music even more so developed, but to also [quite remarkably] stay highly entertaining to mass audiences of ordinary 'non-musician' rock fans.
So many times we see the authors of such great performance being thrown to the side because mainstream music lovers can just not comprehend or busy themselves listening to fusion influenced timings or music that cannot be danced to.
Neil's life-long band "Rush" has accomplished something that they and only they truly own; the right to be hailed as the sole prog-rock band in history to actually acheive major mainstream success - while at the same time consistently blowing away their peers and scores of musician admirers around the world - no small feat for sure!
For bio additions and interview requests with The Drum Dungeon, send your inquiries and requests to email@example.com
Peart is world renowned for his amazing drum solos. Over the years he has consistently pushed the envelope [and himself], not only to illustrate his growth as a musician, but to ensure fans get something unique to witness at each "Rush" experience. Never has an audience, musicians and non-musicians alike, shown appreciation so emphatically as can be witnessed while watching "The Professor On the Drumkit".
In the following biography pieced together from the internet you will notice the watering down of specific personal information regarding Neil - it is intentionally diminished out of pure respect for this living legend who deserves, like any single person, a decent right to their privacy. This is The Drum Dungeon website and we are here to pay tribute, not be TMZ or some other tabloid related drivel horse shit.
Neil performing "Xanadu" with Rush in the eighties.
An amazing mastery and complete utilization of his kit
Neil talks about certain pieces used in drum solos, how they can be applied in various ways, and then eventually into your music.
At eighteen years of age, after struggling to achieve success as a drummer in Canada, Peart traveled to London, England hoping to further his career as a professional musician. Despite playing in several bands and picking up occasional session work, he was forced to support himself by selling trinkets to tourists in a souvenir shop called The Great Frog on Carnaby Street.
While in London he came across the writings of novelist and objectivist Ayn Rand. Rand's writings became a significant philosophical influence on Peart, as he found many of her treatises to individualism and Objectivism inspiring. References to Rand's philosophy can be found in his lyrics, most notably "Anthem" from 1975's Fly By Night and "2112" from 1976's 2112.
After eighteen months of dead-end musical gigs, and disillusioned by his lack of progress in the music business, Peart placed his aspiration of becoming a professional musician on hold and returned to Canada. Upon returning to St. Catharines, he worked for his father selling tractor parts at Dalziel Equipment.
After returning to Canada, Peart was recruited to play drums for the St. Catharines band Hush, who played on the South Ontario bar circuit. Soon after, a mutual acquaintance convinced Peart to audition for the Toronto-based band Rush, which needed a replacement for its original drummer John Rutsey. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson oversaw the audition. His future band mates describe his arrival that day as somewhat humorous, as he arrived in shorts, driving a battered old car with his drums stored in trashcans. Peart felt the entire audition was a complete disaster. While Lee and Peart hit it off on a personal level (both sharing similar tastes in books and music), Lifeson had a favorable impression of Peart. After some discussion, Lee and Lifeson accepted Peart's maniacal British style of drumming, reminiscent of The Who's Keith Moon.
Peart officially joined the band on July 29, 1974, two weeks before the group's first US tour. Peart procured a silver Slingerland kit which he played at his first gig with the band, opening for Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann in front of over 11,000 people at the Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 14, 1974.
Peart soon settled into his new position, also becoming the band's primary lyricist. Before joining Rush, he had written few songs, but, with the other members largely uninterested in writing lyrics, Peart's previously underutilized writing became as noticed as his musicianship. The band was still finding its feet as a recording act, and Peart, along with the rest of the band, now had to learn to live from a suitcase.
His first recording with the band, 1975's Fly by Night, was fairly successful, winning the Juno Award for most promising new act, but, the follow up, Caress of Steel, for which the band had high hopes, was greeted with hostility by both fans and critics. In response to this negative reception, most of which was aimed at the B side spanning epic "The Fountain of Lamneth", Peart responded by penning "2112" on their next album of the same name in 1976. The album, despite record company indifference, became their breakthrough and gained a following in the United States. The supporting tour culminated in a three-night stand at Massey Hall in Toronto, a venue Peart had dreamed of playing in his days on the Southern Ontario bar circuit and where he was now introduced as "The Professor on the drum kit" by Lee.
Peart returned to England for Rush's Northern European Tour and the band stayed in the United Kingdom to record the next album, 1977's A Farewell to Kings in Rockfield Studios in Wales. They returned to Rockfield to record the follow up, Hemispheres, in 1978, which they wrote entirely in the studio. The recording of five studio albums in four years, coupled with as many as 300 gigs a year, convinced the band to take a different approach thereafter. Peart has described his time in the band up to this point as "a dark tunnel." From this point on, Peart's career was near exclusively with Rush.
In 1992, Peart was invited by Buddy Rich's daughter, Cathy Rich, to play at the Buddy Rich Memorial Scholarship Concert in New York City. Though initially intimidated by the request, Peart accepted the offer and performed for the first time with the Buddy Rich Big Band. Feeling that his performance left much to be desired, Peart decided to produce and play on two Buddy Rich tribute albums titled Burning for Buddy: A Tribute to the Music of Buddy Rich in 1994 and 1997 in order to regain his aplomb.
Peart wrote on his personal website that "And yet...I still had a nagging feeling that when I played in that style, I was just imitating it, not really feeling it properly. As the old Duke Ellington standard goes, 'It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing', and I didn’t think I did."
In the late nineties, Neil suffered severe family loss, and opted to semi-retire for a few years where he took up travel and writing to aid in his healing process.
In early 2001, Peart announced to his bandmates that he was ready to return to recording and performing. The product of the band's return was the 2002 album Vapor Trails. At the start of the ensuing tour in support of the album, it was decided amongst the band members that Peart would not take part in the daily grind of press interviews and "Meet and Greet" sessions upon their arrival in a new city that typically monopolize a touring band's daily schedule. While Peart has always shied away from these types of in-person encounters, it was decided that having to needlessly expose him to an endless stream of questions about the tragic events of his life was quite unnecessary.
Since the release of Vapor Trails and reuniting with his fellow band mates, Peart has returned to work as a full-time musician. Rush has since released a cover EP, Feedback in June 2004 and their 18th studio album Snakes & Arrows in May 2007, which were supported by three additional tours in 2004, 2007, and 2008.
In early 2007, Peart and Cathy Rich again began discussing yet another Buddy tribute concert. In response, Peart decided to once again augment his swing style with formal drum lessons, this time under the tutelage of another pupil of Freddie Gruber, Peter Erskine, himself an instructor of drummer Steve Gadd. On October 18, 2008, Peart once again performed at the Buddy Rich Memorial Concert at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom.
In the June 2009 edition of Peart's News, Weather, and Sports, entitled "Under the Marine Layer", he announced that he and Nuttall were expecting their first child. Peart and Nuttall's first child, Olivia Louise Peart, was born on August 12, 2009.
Peart and the rest of the band recently finished touring North and South America on the Time Machine Tour, which finished October 17, 2010, in Santiago, Chile.
Peart is consistently ranked as one of the greatest rock drummers by fans, fellow musicians, and magazines. His influences are eclectic, ranging from Jon Thomas, John Bonham, Michael Giles, Phil Collins, Steve Gadd, and Keith Moon, to fusion and jazz drummers Billy Cobham, Buddy Rich, Bill Bruford and Gene Krupa. The Who was the first group that inspired him to write songs and play the drums. Peart is distinguished for playing "butt-end out", reversing stick orientation for greater impact and increased rimshot capacity. "When I was starting out", Peart later said, "if I broke the tips off my sticks I couldn't afford to buy new ones, so I would just turn them around and use the other end. I got used to it, and continue to use the heavy end of lighter sticks - it gives me a solid impact, but with less 'dead weight' to sling around."
Peart had long played just matched grip; however, he decided to shift to traditional as part of his style reinvention in the mid-1990s under the tutelage of jazz coach Freddie Gruber. Shortly after the filming of his first instructional DVD A Work in Progress, Peart went back to using primarily matched, though he does switch back to traditional when playing songs from Test for Echo and during moments when he feels traditional grip is more appropriate, such as the rudimentary snare drum section of his drum solo. He discusses the details of these switches in the DVD Anatomy of a Drum Solo.
With Rush, Peart has played Slingerland, Tama, Ludwig, and Drum Workshop drums, in that order.
Historically he has played Zildjian A-series cymbals along with Wuhan china cymbals. In the early 2000s, Peart moved away from Zildjian and Wuhan and began exclusively using Paragon, a line created for him by Sabian. In concert, Peart uses an elaborate 360-degree drum kit, with a large acoustic set in front and electronic drums to the rear.
During the late 1970s, Peart augmented his acoustic setup with diverse percussion instruments including orchestra bells, tubular bells, wind chimes, crotales, timbales, timpani, gong, temple blocks, bell tree, triangle, and melodic cowbells. Since the mid-1980s, Peart has replaced several of these pieces with MIDI trigger pads. This was done in order to trigger sounds sampled from various pieces of acoustic percussion that would otherwise consume far too much stage area. Some purely electronic non-instrumental sounds are also used. One classic MIDI pad used is the Malletkat Express which is a two-octave electronic MIDI device that resembles a xylophone or piano. The Malletkat Express is composed of rubber pads for the "keys" so that any stick can be used. Beginning with 1984's Grace Under Pressure, he used Simmons electronic drums in conjunction with Akai digital samplers. Peart has performed several songs primarily using the electronic portion of his drum kit. (e.g. "Red Sector A", "Closer to the Heart" on A Show of Hands (video) and "Mystic Rhythms" on R30.) Peart's drum solos also feature sections performed primarily on the electronic portion of his kit.
Neil Peart speaks about playing drums and his life influences
Neil playing along with the Hockey theme - got to love the Rush Jersey with the Bubba logo on the front
Shortly after making the choice to include electronic drums and triggers, Peart added what has become another trademark of his kit: his rotating drum riser. During live Rush shows, the automated rotating riser allows Peart to swap dynamically the prominent portions of the kit (traditional in front, electronic in back) and still face front as he plays. A staple of Peart's live drum solos has been the in-performance rotation-and-swap of the front and back kits as part of the solo itself. This special effect simultaneously provides a symbolic transition of drum styles within the solo and provides a visual treat for the audience.
In the early 2000s, Peart began taking full advantage of the advances in electronic drum technology; primarily incorporating Roland V-Drums and continued use of samplers with his existing set of acoustic percussion. Peart's digitally sampled library of both traditional and exotic sounds has grown over the years with his music.
In April 2006, Neil took delivery of his third DW set, configured similarly to the R30 set, in a Tobacco Sunburst finish over curly maple exterior ply, with chrome hardware. He refers to this set as the "West Coast kit", as he uses it when in Los Angeles. Besides using it on recent recordings with Vertical Horizon, he played it while composing parts for Rush's latest studio album, Snakes & Arrows. It features a custom 23" bass drum; all other sizes remain the same as the R30 kit.
On March 20, 2007 Peart revealed that Drum Workshop prepared a new set of red-painted DW maple shells with black hardware and gold "Snakes & Arrows" logos for Neil to play on the Snakes & Arrows Tour.
During the 2010 Time Machine Tour Peart used a new DW kit which was outfitted with brass hardware and time machine designs to match the tour's Steampunk theming. Matching Paragon cymbals with clock imagery were also used.
Peart is often regarded as one of the finest practitioners of the in-concert drum solo. He is known for extensive, intricate drum solos containing odd time signatures, complex arrangements (sometimes total separation between upper and lower limb patterns: e.g. an ostinato dubbed "The Waltz"), and exotic percussion instruments. These solos have been featured on every live album released by the band. On the early live albums (All the World's a Stage & Exit...Stage Left), the drum solo was included as part of a song. On all subsequent live albums, the drum solo has been included on a separate track. His most recent instructional DVD, Anatomy of a Drum Solo, is an in-depth examination of how he constructs a solo. He uses his solo from the 2004 R30 30th anniversary tour as the basis for examination, along with other lectures and demonstrations on how to construct a drum solo that is musical instead of indulgent.
Peart is also the main lyricist for Rush. Literature has always heavily influenced his writings and, as such, he has tackled a wide range of subjects. In his early days with Rush, much of his lyrical output was influenced by fantasy, science fiction, mythology and philosophy. However, nearly as much would deal with real world or personal issues such as life on the road and parts of his adolescence.
Peart is the author of four non-fiction books, the latest released in September 2006. His growth as an author predates the published work by several years (not including his work as Rush's primary lyricist), through private letters and short travelogues sent out to a small circle of friends and family. His books chronicle his travels and experiences physically, spiritually, and mentally on various journey's and pilgrimages spanning continents.