Alex Lifeson, OC (born Aleksandar Živojinović on August 27, 1953 in Fernie, British Columbia), is a Canadian musician, best known for his work as the guitarist of the Canadian rock band Rush. Lifeson founded Rush in the summer of 1968, and has been an integral member of the three-piece band ever since. For Rush, Lifeson plays electric and acoustic guitars as well as other stringed instruments such as mandola, mandolin and bouzouki. He also performs backing vocals in live performances, and occasionally plays keyboards and bass pedal synthesizers. During live performances, Lifeson, like the other members of Rush, performs real-time triggering of sampled instruments, concurrently with his guitar playing. The bulk of Lifeson's work in music has been with Rush, although Lifeson has contributed to a body of work outside of the band as well. Aside from music, Lifeson is part owner of the Toronto restaurant The Orbit Room, and is a licensed aircraft pilot, motorcycle rider, and gourmet cook.
Lifeson recalls what inspired him to play guitar in a 2008 interview:
My brother-in-law played flamenco guitar. He lent his guitar to me and I grew to like it. When you're a kid, you don't want to play an accordion because it would be too boring. But your parents might want you to play one, especially if you're from a Yugoslavian family like me.
Lifeson's first girlfriend, Charlene, gave birth to their eldest son, Justin, in October 1970, and they married in 1975. As of September 2008, they are still married, and have a 2nd son, Adrian, who is also involved in music and performed on two tracks from Lifeson's 1996 solo project, Victor.
Lifeson made a guest appearance on the Platinum Blonde album Alien Shores (1985) performing guitar solos on the songs "Crying Over You" and "Holy Water". Later, in 1990, he appeared on Lawrence Gowan's album, Lost Brotherhood to play guitar. In 2006, Lifeson founded The Big Dirty Band, which he created for the purpose of providing original soundtrack material for Trailer Park Boys: The Movie. Lifeson jammed regularly with The Dexters (The Orbit Room house band from 1994-2004). The Dexters' lead guitarist, Bernie LaBarge, nicknamed Alex "Big Al Dexter". Recently, Lifeson made a guest appearance on the 2007 album Fear of a Blank Planet by UK progressive rock band, Porcupine Tree, as well as the 2008 album Fly Paper by Detroit progressive rockers, Tiles. He plays on the track "Sacred and Mundane". Outside of band related endeavors, Lifeson composed the theme for the first season of the science-fiction TV series Andromeda.
In Rush's early career, Lifeson used a Gibson ES-335 for the first single and the first four Rush studio albums. For the 2112 tour, he used a 1974 Gibson Les Paul and Marshall amplification. For the A Farewell to Kings sessions, Lifeson began using a Gibson EDS-1275 for songs like Xanadu and his main guitar became a cream-colored Gibson ES-355. During this period Lifeson used Hiwatt amplifiers. For effects Lifeson used various phaser and flanger pedals, a Cry Baby Wah Wah, along with Marshall 100 watt Super Lead amplifiers and 4x12 cabinets. Beginning in the late 1970s, he increasingly incorporated twelve-string guitar (acoustic and electric) and used a Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble and later, the Boss Dimension C. By 1982 Lifeson's primary guitar was a modified Fender Stratocaster with a Bill Lawrence high-output humbucker L-500 in the bridge position and a Floyd Rose vibrato bridge. Lifeson increasingly relied on a selection of four identically modified Stratocasters from 1980 to 1986, all of them equipped with the Floyd Rose bridge. For the Moving Pictures and Signals albums, and on concurrent tours, Lifeson used up to four rare Marshall 4140 Club & Country 100W combo amps. In the mid 1980s Lifeson switched from passive to active pickups in his guitars, and from vacuum tube to solid-state amplification, all with an increasingly thick layer of digital signal processing. He became an endorser of Gallien-Krueger and Dean Markley solid-state guitar amplifier lines and Dean Markley Blue Steel strings respectively, gauges .009-.046. In the late 1980s he switched to Carvin amplifiers in the studio and his short-lived Signature brand guitars onstage and in the studio. Alex also was using custom Lado guitars built in Toronto Canada.
Lifeson primarily used PRS guitars during the recording of Roll The Bones in 1990/1991. When recording 1993's Counterparts, Lifeson continued to use PRS Guitars and Marshall amplifiers to record the album, and for the subsequent tour. Lifeson continued to use PRS along with Fender and Gibson guitars, Hughes & Kettner Triamp MK II and zenTera amplifiers and cabinets. In 2005, Hughes & Kettner introduced an Alex Lifeson signature series amplifier with $50 from each amplifier sold will be donated to UNICEF.
For the 2007 Snakes & Arrows Tour, Lifeson replaced his PRS Guitars with Gibson Les Pauls. In a 2007 interview for Guitarist magazine, Lifeson states "I hear PRS on everything these days and I wanted a little bit of a change ... I love them [PRS] but they have a smaller sound than the bigger heavier Gibsons ... I just wanted to be more traditional." He has Fishman Aura piezoelectric pickup systems installed into his Les Pauls to model acoustic guitar sounds without changing guitars. As of July 2008, Lifeson uses Floyd Rose tremolos on his main Les Pauls. He has also replaced his Hughes & Kettner zenTera amp heads with Switchblade heads (which, like the zenTeras, include built-in programmable digital effects, such as chorus and delay, but are valve-powered instead of transistor-powered), while retaining his signature series H&K Triamp heads. His effects for the 2007 tour include a TC Electronics G-Force rack multi-FX, a TC Electronics 1210 spatial expander and a Loft 440 Delay Line/Flanger, as well as the effects built into his Switchblade heads.
Lifeson, along with his bandmates, appeared on an episode of The Colbert Report in July 2008, where, at the end of the show, they performed "Tom Sawyer".
According to Justin's file in the Felony section of the Public Records database of Collier County, Florida, the judge determined that, based on the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses, including one of the police officers involved in the incident, that while the potential for violence existed, none was offered by Justin. As part of the plea agreement Lifeson and his son were each sentenced to 12 months of probation with the adjudication of that probation suspended. Upon successful completion of the probation, the matter is to be expunged from their records. In addition, they had to pay all court costs. In the fall of 2005, the court granted early dismissal from probation to both Lifeson and his son.
In his journal-based book Roadshow, Peart relates the band's perspective on the events of that New Years Eve. He also says the incident was and still is a traumatic event for Lifeson and his family.