Interview | Rush drummer Neil Peart legacy
`Drumbeats' translations by Ronald van Dalfsen
On a sunny Friday afternoon, we meet at a venue in Helmond [NL]. Dutch Rush cover band Rushians will be making their appearance this evening and they brought friend and guest Ronald van Dalfsen to introduce his translations of Neil Peart’s `Ghost Rider’ and the brand new `Drumbeats’ to the audience of devoted Rush-fans. Ronald, accompanied by his agent Bas ‘Sjerruf’ Aldenzee, has quite the story to tell. About the creation, translation and a range of upcoming surprises. About music in general and foremost about his love for Rush!
With the sun shining, we soon switch our freshly brewed cappuccinos for sunny I.P.A. craftbeers, bouncing off the rays of sunlight in our glasses. It sparkles, as does our conversation.
Ronald is overly excited, but also pushes to bring a flaw to our attention. With the hardcover Dutch edition in our hands, he urges to say these first 500 copies are all misprints. Browsing the book, we are surprised as much as challenged to find out the ‘mis’ in this print.
,,It’s not the cover”, he instantly assures us, to continue; ,,…the first 500 reached us and we noticed the pages all printed in black and white. Shouldn’t have happened…” and he sighs.
,,All artwork and pictures in our Dutch edition were supposed to be featured full color”, pointing out some of Steve Otis’ original featured artwork and Bert Treep’s pictures of Peart performing during his last Dutch Rush gig. ,,300 copies at our distribution partner have been recalled to be destroyed, the 200 remaining copies are in my possession, also obsolete. It’s painful…”
It brightens his day when Bas mentions the remaining 200 tell a story and there will be a host of fans interested in obtaining a pre-release copy (original release date is set for September 12, 2022), especially since it is a misprint of only 200 copies. It is scarce and collectible. Ronald needs little convincing to indeed sell off these copies to gain momentum and please fans of the band.
,,It is all a grassroots operation really. I hardly make money off of it.” He continues; ,,… it all started out with me as a Rush fan being introduced to Neil’s daunting story told in ‘Ghost Rider’, with him traveling on his motorbike to cleanse his soul and heart after the loss of his daughter and wife within the span of only a year(!). I started reading and the book was a real page turner. Not the typical book. Neil’s wordplay and sensible way of telling the gripping story triggered me. Lots of words, being a good reader in English and German, I looked up in the dictionary.
The deeper meaning of some of the words and sentences build was striking. It deepened the story and was overwhelmingly meaningful at times. I soon found myself with 90 pages of translated words and sentences. Stacks of paper staring back at me to be explore over and over again.”
A COMPELLING STORY
Ronald continues: ,,Eventually things took shape and I handed down my translation to friends and family, as I still believe more people should read Peart’s compelling story. Strengthened by reviews from Rush fans I decided to step up. I reached out to people and it all started to progress. Ahvô Braiths, is a nearby located publisher with nationwide distribution. You know, one that is very connected with the writers as well as distributors. Small, grassroots again, in direct contact with Jeroen Bakker, the companies’ founder. The interaction was great, and with ‘Ghost Rider – Over Helende Wegen’ (`Travels on the Healing Road’) finished we needed to make a gameplan.
The result was me carrying the project and contacting those involved. ECW Press Canada, the initial publisher of Neil’s work, granted me freedom to publish. Of course, I needed to take care of the high expectations towards the execution of art and set up.”
Just how far this would stretch Ronald explains after my question to specify: ,,Really, everything tied to Neil and Rush is very thought over. Like his stories go deep, Neil’s involvement also was deep. He literally thought of everything and didn’t leave any stones unturned. With the artwork for the book provided by long-term Rush affiliated artist Hugh Syme, it became obvious I had to reach out to him for the front cover and some guidance…” Ronald smiles.
,,Syme has produced all of the iconic artwork of the band over time, as well as the cover art of Neil’s books… and many more! Everyone should check out the huge coffee-table book ‘The Art of Rush – serving a life sentence’, in which he and the band deep dive into the art and creation of iconic album covers and related artwork.”
WORDPLAY AND LYRICS
,,Interestingly we grew into pretty close contact since. Can you imagine? There I was, holding my cellphone and waiting for Hugh to pick up… He pointed out the other translators of Neil’s work. It set off things rapidly and I grew acquainted with Candice Soldatelli who translated the many Neil and Rush books for the South American market. It all lead to more enterprises coming soon.”
We branch out touching the delicacy of Neil’s wordplay and his lyrics, as well as the music empowering his lyrical content, before moving back to the interview. We more than once have situations like this and it is inspiring to hear how we all, as fans, seek redemption in Rush and Neil’s music in different ways. How we all also interpret the different eras of their musical thrive.
,,Rush goes deep. Man, I met this collector who lives in a five-bedroom house, with every single room stacked with Rush memorabilia! That’s insane! 22 different version of ‘Clockwork Angels’ on vinyl. Various releases. It baffles me…”
Before admitting he, himself receiving his vinyl collection from a customer walking into the shop he works at. ,,…There’s this older gentleman approaching me at work, asking if I was Ronald. He read about my translation in the local newspaper and offered me his Rush collection on vinyl. He didn’t play it anymore, and insisted I had it. Such a touching moment.”
THE WORK OF NEIL PEART NEEDS TO BE NOTICED
Commencing in the story of his maiden voyage with ‘Ghost Rider’ again, Ronald mentions it all slowly took shape, inexperienced as he was. ,,Eventually we sold around 1.000 copies of my translation. No big numbers, but it gave me the support to maintain my drive to translate Neil’s work. Indeed, it is not rewarding and I can’t make a living off of it. I’m not in this for the money. I want to have people read the stories Neil has to tell, you know. His work needs to be noticed, not only by fans and musicians. His books and stories are so rich and layered, there’s a lot more to it.”
I admit Peart, more than once, stuns me with his intricate stories and wonderful cinematic craftsmanship. The layers, the detail, the rich texture, and his tendency to paint scenic pictures that come to life while reading his stories. It is all there. Literature in fine form. I devour his books and acknowledge `Drumbeats’ being the oddity of his legacy. One I didn’t review yet as the plot is to intriguing to expose. Something that’s lurking summarizing the book for our readers.
,,I get what you mean. It is a short-story indeed. Different on all accounts. A story that spent long in the making with Neil sending it to his friend (author) Kevin J. Anderson, who also co-wrote the ‘Clockwork Angels’ with Neil. The original transcripts and ideas were swapped around during the long relationship. Thus, it seasoned, with the story finalized upon Neil’s passing.”
Just how closely connected Van Dalfsen had to get he explains when he exposes the trajectory of his ‘Drumbeats’ translation: ,,I experienced a rare situation with almost everyone responding to my e-mails. Whether it was ECW or Syme, people followed up. Out of 10 e-mails 8 got answered. Kevin Anderson also responded and we got really connected. He took the time to answer my questions in concern to the deeper meanings of the story. Though the idea was pitched by Neil, following his bicycle trip through the African continent, it was Anderson who drew up the storyline. Neil’s journals where used to paint the picture and set the scene. The chilling story and dark plot are from Kevin’s pen, and he went through great lengths to take me on this trip.
Indeed, ‘The Masked Rider’ served as reference point for the story. Peart’s memoirs and thoughts captured in the essence, and it is no coincidence ‘Drumbeats’ tells the story of a rock drummer travelling Africa by bike.”
Making hardly money from his first book-translation, Ronald found himself challenged, starting a crowdfunding campaign to ensure the book living up to the high expectations and standards of presentation. His creativity orbited his campaign, with Anderson adding to the funding with signed promo’s and comic books. Many joined to fund van Dalfsen’s effort.
,,It cost me a lot of effort, really. I’m not the guy who wants to beg people for money. Funding however lifted off rapidly. Within a matter of weeks, we saw the project financed. There’re quite some costs involved. Rights have to be paid as well as third party editing, formatting, and eventually printing and promotion.”
And here we are…
,,Yes. I’m allowed to use Rushians’ gigs to promote the books. One on one with buyers and enthusiasts, preferably. Yesterday I found myself at a charity event with a host of Dutch celebrities’ present. Networking, indeed. Not directly my cup of tea, but I have to get the word out, and the organizer is a big Rush fan.”
Meandering off about music and personal stories of our love for Rush and music, Ronald hints at the future and projects just behind the horizon…. Daunting projects!
,,With Ahvô Braiths’ limited resources I have to find a bigger publishing house. I want to accelerate, appeal to a broader audience. Ahvô Braiths did a great job getting me to where I am, but Jeroen found himself challenged as much as I did. He understands me making a next step, find more momentum. It is tough though, finding the right company over here in The Netherlands.
Mentioning he is backed by his generated sales of ‘Ghost Rider’ and (soon) the new ‘Drumbeats’, Ronald lays out the course of his future translations.
,,I really want to do translations of Neil’s catalogue. ‘Roadshow’ and the ‘Clockwork’ trilogy. Very challenging material, but these are the books a wide audience should be introduced to. Neil’s work is so appealing, but it is often missed because it falls in the music-category. It doesn’t do justice to his style and subliminal word choice. Just check out Candice Soldatelli’s work. She has translated his entire catalogue and is currently working on exciting new stories. Another autobiography which I will not reveal. That’s a dream come true to me. I’m an amateur in the field combining my fulltime job with my hobby. It would be a victory to partially live from my translations.”
Just how established Soldatelli is, comes by in another collaboration soon to take place.
,,With Hugh we set out to do an online interview, together with all 3 translators. Zooming in on Syme’s unique work and accomplishments as an artist and creator of many iconic artworks for numerous bands around the globe. On the 11th of September, 9/11 coincidentally, we will go live online through Facebook. Group created we find ourselves challenged by the technique of going live and streaming onto our group-page. Initially it set out as an interview with the four of us, and a live stream opted, until Candice mentioned not to be surprised if 200.000 Brazilian viewers log in. Can you believe that?!
At least all of the attendees of the Rush gigs will logon, she assured us. Rush is an iconic band in South America as you can see and hear on ‘Rush in Rio’. It makes the challenge bigger in finding the right solution for the online streaming. If we don’t find it, we will later edit the interview into various chapters. Syme’s work with Rush, his other work, etc.”
Right after the interview was compiled and edited, Ronald reaches out to inform the interview will proceed, but it will not be a live event, because of the technical challenges. The decision was made to record it in its entire and edit as previously mentioned. Van Dalfsen urges to mention the 200.000 Brazilians will likely be present when the interview airs on their Facebook and YouTube channels. It emphasizes the way Ronald comes across; humor and devotion as key ingredients.
Back on the subject Syme, Ronald is called out by the artist himself.
,,When we discussed the interview, Hugh mentioned he would love to have an exhibit of his work in The Netherlands, preferably Amsterdam. It is a dream he has. Following the successes worldwide with exhibits in Japan and all over the US, it surprises me so many art galleries over here aren’t familiar with the artist. I reached out to some galleries and either they don’t respond, or aren’t familiar with Hugh’s work. Unbelievable really! Indeed, Groningen museum came back interested, but is currently booked solid for the next 6 years. The conservator loved Syme’s work and was amazed by its variety. I’m still mailing back and forth about it. I hope I’m able to connect with the right people for this.”
This close collaboration with the artist also lead to a remarkable situation, Ronald explains: ,,I mapped out my plans and ran them by Hugh. Touching ‘Geddy Big Book of Bass’ and ‘The Art of Rush’ book, I mentioned it would be wonderful to participate in the new ‘Silver Surfer’ book from Neil. This remark silenced the conversation with Hugh asking me how I knew of this new book. Mentioning it was announced on the Rush website he stood amazed. He wasn’t aware the news already broke.
The book will be a side table book like the previous mentioned two. Much like Geddy’s book, but about Peart’s love for cars and his collection of sports cars. Stories and photos.”
Concluding he conversation we have Sjerruf picking up the tab. We stick around a little longer to deepen the story and exchange memories before we say goodbye.
With the confirmation of the interview as subject to its initial change, Ronald promised to update us on the go-live of the streams at a later date. We will, of course, make sure we run point with HBLS.