TESTAMENT guitarist Alex Skolnick has paid tribute to Neil Peart, who died on January 7 in Santa Monica, California after a three-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. The iconic RUSH drummer was 67 years old.
Speaking to "The Blairing Out With Eric Blair Show" at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California, Skolnick stated about Peart's passing (see video below): "It just came out of nowhere. I never knew him personally. Those who knew him personally knew for a while [that he was sick], so it wasn't that much of a shock, although, I tell you, how could it not be a shock?
"I had just recently started listening to RUSH more and intensely — more focused on the drums," he continued. "It was strange — I had this extra urge to airdrum. And then this happened.
"I'm just grateful for the music. I'm grateful I got to see them on the 'Clockwork Angels' tour. I had seen them only once before — back in high school. When I saw them, they were just in full form. And you would never know.
"I'm just thankful for the music and for him," Skolnick added. "What an amazing person, lyricist, thinker. A big inspiration. For those of us that don't always fit in, he's a huge inspiration — not just to drummers."
RUSH announced Peart's passing on January 10, setting off shockwaves and an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians all over the world.
RUSH's final show took place at the Forum in Los Angeles on August 1, 2015. Peart indicated at the time that he wanted to retire while he was still able to play well, along with a desire to spend more time at home with his young daughter.
Peart joined RUSH in 1974. He was considered one of the best rock drummers of all time, alongside John Bonham of LED ZEPPELIN; Keith Moon of THE WHO; and Ginger Baker of CREAM. Peart was also RUSH's primary lyricist, drawing inspiration from everything from sci-fi to Ayn Rand.