BORN on August 27, 1953 in Fernie, British Columbia, Canada under the name Aleksandar Živojinović to Serbian immigrant parents, Nenad and Melanija Zivojinovich (Serbian: Živojinović), and was raised in Toronto. Alex took the stage name “Lifeson” from the translation of the name “Zivojinovich”, which means ‘son of life’ in Serbian.
He first received formal musical training while playing the viola, which he left to play guitar at the age of 12. His first guitar was a Christmas present from his father, a Kent acoustic guitar which was later upgraded to a Japanese electric model. During his teenage years, he was influenced by the playing styles of Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Steve Hackett and Allan Holdsworth.
Alex’s neighbor John Rutsey began experimenting with a rented drum set. In 1963, Alex and John formed a band called The Projection, which eventually changed its name to Rush in August 1968 after the hiring of original bassist and vocalist Jeff Jones. A friend of Alex’s from high school named Geddy Lee replaced Jeff Jones not long ago. Rush released their debut studio album in 1974. Shortly thereafter John Rutsey was replaced by Neil Peart.
Rush took a few years off from the music scene starting in 1997 as drummer Neil Peart experienced a personal tragedy in his life, and Alex did not play guitar for a year after the incident. However, after working in his home studio with several works, Alex returned to the Studio with Rush to start work on the album Vapor Trails which was released in 2002. Until now, Alex and Rush have produced 20 studio albums. Rush’s latest album, Clockwork Angels, was released in June 2012.
While Rush was on leave Alex was working on his first solo project, Victor, which was released in 1996. The album title and band name were taken from a poem by W.H. Auden, who is also titled “Victor”. Neither his son Adrian nor Alex’s wife Charlene contributed to the album. A follow-up album, also possibly featuring vocals by Sarah McLachlan, was reported for release in the late 1990s, but was not released due to lack of support from Atlantic Records for the first album.
Apart from Rush, Alex is also a guest musician or producer for other artists. He guested on Platinum Blonde’s 1985 album Alien Shores featuring guitar solos on the songs “Crying Over You” and “Holy Water”. Then, in 1990, he appeared on Lawrence Gowan’s album Lost Brotherhood as guitarist. In 1995, he guested on 2 tracks on Tom Cochrane’s album Ragged Ass Road and then in 1996 on I Mother Earth’s song “Like a Girl” from the album Scenery and Fish.
In 1997 Alex appeared on the album Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas. In 2006, Alex founded The Big Dirty Band, which aimed to prepare soundtrack material for Trailer Park Boys: The Movie. Alex was guest guitarist on the album Fear of a Blank Planet by UK progressive rock band Porcupine Tree on the song Anesthesize.
Alex also appears on the Fly Paper album released in 2008 by Detroit-based progressive rock band Tiles on the track “Sacred and Mundane”. Alex composed the theme for the first season of the sci-fi television series Andromeda. He also produced 3 songs from the album Away from the Sun by 3 Doors Down.
Alex’s guitar playing style has influenced guitarists including: Michael Romeo, Brendt Allman, John Petrucci, Marcel Koenen, Jim Matheos, Vinnie Moore, Alex Skolnick, Paul Gilbert, Andreas Kisser, and many more. [sources/photo special]