During an appearance on Full in Bloom, engineer Paul Northfield looked back on working with Rush on 1980’s “Permanent Waves” and 1981’s “Moving Pictures.”
When the interviewer said, “They did quite a bit of preproduction, right?”, Paul replied (transcribed by UG):
“They didn’t write in the studio at that time, they didn’t write in the studio, they always came super-prepared.
“They used to go onto the specific like writing for three weeks or a month, and that’s the way they put together their albums at that time.
“That was how the start of ‘Moving Pictures’ happened. It was 10 weeks from the moment they walked in the door, to when they left with the mixes, and we worked 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week.
What time would you guys start?
“Probably midday, somewhere between 11 and 1 probably, and Morin-Heights [studio] had a guest house, so we’d always go together, even though I lived nearby, in order to stay on the same schedule, we all just kind of were together for the whole time.
“And when we got back to the guest house, which was on the other end of the lake, there was a private lake, the studio… Not a big lake, but it’d take you like five minutes to paddle across it.
“It was like basically about a mile up the road, if you took the road, so that was the easiest way, we’d go there, food was already prepared, so we’d go there, have dinner, come back.
“An hour and a half dinner would be sort of congenial, and we stayed in the zone, and that progressed until the end of the sessions.
“We used to play volleyball at night, which over the years became kind of the standard, where everybody, the band, the crew, Terry [Brown, producer], myself, and Robbie Whelan [assistant engineer] and my studio assistant would all get together, and we’d have two teams, and we’d play volleyball, sometimes until 5 o’clock in the morning.
“And then we would come back to the studio at 11 o’clock. There was something special about the album from day one since it started to come together, like, ‘Wow, this is really an extraordinary record.’
“And everybody was at their peak, and the band had been playing extensively.
“‘Permanent Waves’ is the first album where they decided to try and consolidate their 25-minute recordings into five minutes, and make shorter-form progressive-rock tracks that said a lot in the short amount of time rather than like previously…
“I think ‘Hemishperes’ was the previous one, which was extremely long, like the sides of it were long-sided long-form tracks and stuff, and so ‘Permanent Waves’ is the first they wanted to consolidate, apart from a few tracks there were still long tracks on there.
“And then ‘Moving Pictures’ even more so. There weren’t any really long songs on ‘Moving Pictures.’ There were some seven- or eight-minute tracks, but there wasn’t one with double figures.
“The longest one would’ve probably been ‘Camera Eye,’ or ‘Witch Hunt,’ or something like that, so I think most of the tracks on that album are about four- or five-minute songs.
“Anyway, that meant that the tracks themselves are very focused, and sort of spaced out, not like when you do long-form tracks unfocused, because it’s a different way of approaching writing.”