Prairie Prince on “She’s a Beauty” and what sets the Tubes apart from the rest of the bands



By Steve Newton

The Tubes will be opening for Peter Gabriel and David Bowie at this Tuesday’s big concert in The Dome. I reached the band’s drummer Prairie Prince over the phone in Toronto recently and asked him about their new album, current stage show, and proposed “theme park”.

How have the Tubes changed over the years that they’ve been together?

We’ve changed radically, this way and that, over the last ten years, but we’ve always tried to keep the show business alive–Vaudeville, Broadway, what have you. Rock and roll. Everything you’ve ever wanted to see in one two-hour show.

Do you have any special theatrical tricks for big stadiums? You’ll be playing in Vancouver here with David Bowie at the big new dome.

We’ve got a few things up our sleeves. We’ll probably pare it down rather than doing our normal show, because our normal show is about two hours. We have to have a long time to set up our stage and stuff, and we probably won’t be able to do that. But Fee will be doing his costume changes and his characters.

Does he still do Quay Lewd?

Quay Lewd now is Quay Louis the 14th. After him, destruction. So he’ll probably be making an appearance, yeah.

Could you ever see the Tubes performing without all the theatrics?

Well we’ve done it plenty of times with just the raw band, and people get off just as much. But we don’t. We enjoy doing the theatrics and putting on the big Broadway show–it sets us apart from the rest of the bands.

About the new album, Outside Inside: are the Tubes becoming more commercial with songs like “She’s a Beauty”?

Well I guess you could say more commercial. I mean it’s not something that we never wanted to do in the past–it’s just something that never really happened for us before.

David Foster we owe a lot to, because he’s got that ear for a hit. He wrote the music for “She’s a Beauty” and Fee wrote the lyrics. Fee got the idea for it from the Canadian slogan, like Bob and Doug McKenzie say. And before we ever heard them do it, when we toured Canada years ago, people were always saying “she’s a beauty, eh”. So we figured, “god–talk to ya later”, which is like the American equivalent. Everybody and their mother says “talk to ya later”.

I don’t know what the next slogan’s going to be; we’re gonna have to start working on it.

What about the song “Out of the Business” on Outside Inside? What’s the message behind that tune?

Well we just got sick of the music business, basically, and the people that run it. I’m not gonna name names, but…

We just took the concept from our last album, The Completion Backwards Principle, and took it one step further. Our image for that last tour and album was corporate business managers in the music business, and we had to write a tune so the kids wouldn’t think we had gone completely berserk. Because we’d gotten so many ridiculous questons about “why have you guys gone with grey suits?” And it was fun to kind of pull their leg about it. So this time we said, “Well, we’ve got to write a tune called ‘out of the business and back into rock and roll’.” When you see the show you’ll understand.

How did you come to get Martha Davis of the Motels and Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire to sing on Outside Inside?

Basically it was David’s idea. He just said, “Boy, I bet you we could really get some great help from Maurice White on this.” He had been working with Maurice on an album and said he could get him to come and give us some ideas. So he ended up singing on some of the songs, which was great.

And Fee wanted to do a duet, an old cover tune, so we picked Curtis Mayfield’s “Monkey Time” and went through a list of female counterparts and came up with Martha, who just happened to be recording in the next studio.

The song came out real good; it kind of goes along with that whole monkey thing that’s so big this year–shockin’ the monkeys, dancin’ with the monkeys, lookin’ like monkeys. Jungles rhythms and stuff.

There’s quite an R&B flavour to the album.

Right. That’s Mr. Foster there. And we’ve always been into R&B. [Synth player] Michael Cotten is Mister R&B. That’s the only music he listens to, really. Funk.

On the back cover of Outside Inside it says Special Edmonton Oilers and then it’s got the names of Gretzky, Messier, and Lowe. What’s that all about?

Yeah, they came and saw our show up in Edmonton when we played there back in ’81. So we went and saw their game and Fee went backstage, back to the locker room, and bullshitted with them and stuff. Gretzky is a good friend of Foster’s.

How long have you been drumming for?

I’ve been drumming since I could walk. My father had a lot of rhythm, and he bought me a snare drum and taught me how to dance. I just kept on from there–never laid down the old rhythm.

Who are your favourite drummer these days?

One of the cats I really like is named Simon Phillips–he’s worked with Jeff Beck and Stanley Clarke. and of course I like Elvin Jones and a lot of jazz drummers. Tony Williams.

Whatever happened to the proposed Tubes Theme Park?

Well nothing really has formulated yet–we’re still waiting for Arab backing or Japanese backing, whichever comes first.

What actually is the theme park idea?

Basically we were doing some gigs around Anaheim where all those theme parks are located: Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, House of Arab Stallions. There’s a theme park on every corner. I don’t know if they have many of them up in Canada, but they’re just coming up all over the United States.

And we figured, why tour when you can build your own amusement park–which is pretty much what our show is anyways–and have a pavilion for each song, and put it on Alcatraz in San Francisco.

Are you serious about it?

Sure. As soon as we can come up with the funds: Tubes World!

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