Formed in San Francisco in 1972 by two separate groups of musicians originally from Arizona, The Tubes set out to deliver colourful hard rock fuelled by a punky mind-set, a glam image and a zany, razor-sharp sense of humour, with theatrical live shows featuring props, stunts and choreography.
Below, co-founding lead singer Fee Waybill sets the scene for a six-date arena package tour of The UK with headliners the Hollywood Vampires and the South African alt.rockers Seether.
Let us begin by expressing our condolences over the loss of co-founding bass player Rick Anderson last December, which came just eight months after the band’s former backing vocalist Re Styles passed away.
Thanks. Rick and Re both had profound effects upon the band’s early years, and over the many years Rick continued to refine his bass playing and imbue the band with a quiet yet solid influence.
How did those two losses affect the will to continue pushing The Tubes forward? Was stopping even considered?
Not at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. We continue to honour the memories of Rick and Re by forging ahead. Plus, Prairie [Prince, drums] and Roger [Steen, guitar] are playing better than ever.
In 2016, along with headliners Alice Cooper and The Mission, you were a part of another three-band package tour of the UK. How was that?
We had a great time on that tour. Alice and his team are total pros.
With both you and Alice being born in Phoenix, Arizona, you must know each other well.
Of course we do. We went to see Alice around 1967 in Phoenix when Alice was Vince Furnier, and The Earwigs. We then all met Alice when we played with him in the early seventies and became friends. Alice is the consummate frontman, he never lets you down.
These upcoming UK dates reunite you with Alice in his guise of a Hollywood Vampire.
It’s an interesting concept for a band. I like what the Hollywood Vampires do. With Alice, Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Johnny Depp playing guitar and coming from the world of cinema, if you think about it then it’s a great way to bring together a diverse audience. I’m looking forward to seeing them live.
Later this year The Tubes will be taking part in a US tour titled ‘I Want My 80s’, along with other artists including Rick Springfield, The Hooters and Tommy Tutone. How do you approach something like that: do you just deliver the hits and collect the fee, or do you think nostalgia/ heritage tours like that have value?
Oh, look, every show that we do is because we love the fact that we can still play great music that people want to hear. Eighties classic rock will never die.
Given that The Tubes’ most recent studio album, Genius Of America, was released way back in 1996, do you think there’s likely to be any new music from the band?
Don’t write us off just yet. Prairie, Roger and I continue to make new music on our own, and it’s possible that the spark may coalesce into a brand new Tubes release. But I really can’t say when that might happen.
After all these decades, what’s your relationship like with The Tubes’ first hit, White Punks On Dope, and the costume changes necessary for its character Quay Lewd to bring the song to life?
Quay Lewd is a character I created for the very first album [The Tubes, 1975], and I could never have imagined the iconic, laconic symbol that he became. It’s still a fun song to sing live. Nothing is more fun than seeing the audience respond with such joy and enthusiasm when he totters out from the wings on those heels. And then they see that plastic dick of his… a big twelve-inch sucker that hangs right down to his kneecaps [laughs]. It will always be the big finale of our show.
The Tubes' tour dates with Hollywood Vampires begin in Scarborough on July 5. Tickets are on sale now.