Few bands in music history have a story quite like The Tubes. They made their name by being one of the first bands to combine theatrics with rock in stage shows that are still talked about to this day. The Tubes are about to hit the road again, performing their classic album The Completion Backward Principle and other hits. In addition, vocalist Fee Waybill also released his first solo record in over 20 years, Fee Waybill Rides Again. He recently took some time to talk about all of it in a totally entertaining new conversation.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Fee Waybill:
On continuing their pre-pandemic tour celebrating The Completion Backward Principle – We’re continuing with that. Almost all of the dates, I think that there was only one date in all of these dates we have coming up in October that where we had done it before, so all the other days are brand new dates where we’ve never done it. So we just stuck with doing it and it was a lot easier, believe me, it was a lot easier to go back to rehearsal with something that we had been playing for six or eight months, pre-pandemic, and rather than come up with a whole new concept. It was easier, but then again, it’s a great show. I really enjoyed doing it and it’s really fun. Usually, we opened the show with “Talk To You Later”, which is the first song on the album, and in the past, that was always the closer and people love to sing along, and so we open up with it, and we did it a few times, and then at the end of the show, people were looking around going “Where’s “Talk To You Later”?” So we do a reprise at the end of the show again, because that’s one of the ones they love to sing along with, I love people to sing along with me, it’s great. 1:00
On whether his famous characters will make an appearance – I think I’m doing what, maybe eight costume changes or 10 per show. Yeah, we’re still doing that. We don’t have 35 people on the stage anymore like we used to, but yeah, I’m doing Quay Lewd with the big shoes and I’m “(Mondo) Bondage”, and I’m doing, “What Do You Want From Life?”, “White Punks on Dope”, then there are a number of other characters kind of involved in The Completion Backward Principle, kind of twisted businessman characters. That’s kind of my thing. It’s very difficult to just stand there. Although the focus has changed for us, which I like, the focus used to be massive theatrical with dancing and props and sets, and I think when the focus was there, a lot of times the music was the songs had become secondary, and now we’ve kind of realized, gosh, like you said, almost 50 years later, these songs really stand up. Now the focus is more on the music, and there are a few songs where I don’t actually do any characters, I just stand there and sing the song, which is great. So I’d like to transition that way because I’m so proud to be playing with these guys, they’re such good musicians. Everybody is so good. Roger’s (Steen) solo on “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore”, it’s just blitzkrieg, it’s amazing. Whereas before, it was rush backstage and change it to another costume, and now it’s not rushed where we kind of interspersed costume with the music performance and so it’s a lot more fun for me. 2:55
On whether he thinks The Tube’s music was overlooked because of their stage show – Yeah, absolutely, I do. I think we’re getting it now though because they still stand up, the songs stand up, and we’re still out there and doing this and a lot of bands aren’t. A lot of bands can’t say their songs held up for 40 years, and everybody wants to still come and see them. So I think finally, we’re getting the due that was maybe overshadowed by a dog and pony show. 5:51
On most of the original band still touring – That’s the way it’s always been. We’re really fortunate to have four out of five original members. Originally it was a seven-man band and broke up for a while, we just got burned out on just traveling and the Bus, eight months a year, nine months a year on a bus, and I just couldn’t take it. Then when we got back together, a couple of guys had dropped out, Mike Cotton moved to New York and he’s become a graphic set designer, and Bill (Spooner) got remarried and his second wife doesn’t want him to go on the road, happy wife, happy life. So he’s actually teaching up in Northern California. We’re lucky, we’re lucky to still be healthy and have hair. 7:02
On recording his first solo record since 1996 with Richard Marx – Well, in terms of me and Richard, we started this project, Fee Waybill Rides Again, back in 2015 or 2014. It was kind of a fluke, the way it started even. Richard has three sons, Brandon, Lucas, and Jesse, and I’m the godfather to the three sons. When the boys were young, every year, we used to take a boys trip, I would fly back to Chicago, and he lived north of Chicago, Highland Park area, and we would take the boys and we would go to Minocqua, Wisconsin, which is way up in the northern edge of Wisconsin. His dad had a cabin there, they had a little cabin and two-bedroom, tiny little cabin on a lake, and so we would go up to the lake and we would do boys’ stuff for a week. We would go fishing, and we would go go-cart driving and horseback-riding and just have a good time. We did this for years and years. We must have done it for 10 or 12 years every summer. Then in the summer of 2013, 2012, maybe, I can’t remember, but I went out to do our boys trip, and the boys kind of went, “We’d rather go see our girlfriend and go to the movies, kicking around, and we don’t really wanna go on the trip”, and they could have bailed out on us. So Richard had a little studio at his house, and he said, “Well, let’s go to the studio and write some songs”, and that’s when it started. We didn’t go to Minocqua, we went to the studio and we spent a week writing and recording, and four of the songs on my record came from that era, “Faker”, “How Dare You”, “Promised Land” and “Woulda Coulda Shoulda”. We started writing those four songs and recording there in the studio. Richard’s kids played on some tracks, and Richard played obviously and I did vocals and then on and off over the next six years, we did little snippets. We would have some time and we go in and we do another track where we would go in and do an overdub, or we go in and do more vocals or something. So it took like seven years. During that time, we were touring and he was touring. There were just so many other things happening until the summer of 2019. We just had pieces here and there in the can, and Richard moved to California, and that’s what changed everything he came to California. He said, “Okay, well, let’s finish this. Set aside three or four weeks and finish it. And that’s what we did. We finished a couple of songs, a couple of songs like “Say Goodbye”, I had written for him, to put on one of his records. He had so many damn ballads that he didn’t need another ballad and it kept getting pushed back to the next record. I always loved the song and Elizabeth, my wife, I would play the song on my computer and she would come in crying, “Oh, that’s such a beautiful song”, “Yeah, I love that song. Okay, Richard, you’re not doing it, so I wanna do it”. We included that. Then there was another song, “Still You On the Inside”, was a song that Richard had written that I didn’t write. All the other songs I wrote the lyrics, Richard growth of music. And that song he had written with Chad Kroger from Nickelback, but they had written to submit to a Daughtry album and Daughtry didn’t wanna do it. He always sends me whatever he’s writing, whether it is for us or for him or for somebody else, he always sends me the track and I loved that song. I said I wanted to do that, “I wanna add “Still You On The Inside”, I don’t care if it’s not my song, I love the song”, and Richard said, “That’s a tough song. Chat, great singer. Do you think you can beat his vocal?” I said, “No, I’m not really a great singer but I wanna do it. I’ll do my version of this”. We did that and we added that song. There was another track, Richard sent me a track and he goes, “This track is really great and I really like it, and I don’t remember what it was called. I don’t remember it. I don’t know if you have ever lyrics for it or whatever, it was years ago”. So I didn’t remember it either, and so on my computor I have a folder with all my lyrics, and so I have the audio track on the computer and I start trying to match the audio with the lyric phrasing. I bring up A and then I play the track and I’d read the lyric and see if the phrasing fit in the space or in the melody line. I got all the way to M when I found it. When I got to M, I saw a “Man of the World”, that’s the song. So I matched it up and then we went. So anyway, years and years it took to put in all the pieces together, and finally, as I said, in the summer of 2019, we said, “Let’s just do it”. So we did it, we finished all the locals here in LA and Richard saying a lot of background vocals. He has been using this young kid in Chicago, Mat Prock, he’s an engineer, and we had master the record after we got it all done. Then we’re coming up, ready to be done and released in January February of 2020. And then I don’t need to say it. We went, “Oh God, now what?” I thought, “No, let’s wait”, and then we thought, “No, this could be a long time”. We had no information, so finally we just said, “Okay, let’s just do it anyway, people quarantined. People are sitting around listening to records and they want something new”, so we released. It’s been great and has gotten great critical acclaim.
The same kind of thing as far as The Tubes going on, making a new record. It’s years and years, we get together and we write a song and record a song. We’ve got maybe five songs, that are partially done, that have tracks and instruments, and lyrics and vocals. The problem is, I live in LA and everybody else lives in Northern California, either in San Fransisco or in the East Bay or some place. So it’s just like a logistical problem to gather and have everybody’s schedule coincide. But it is gonna happen. 8:50
On the possibility ot touring with Richard Marx and acting – We’re planning on doing a show in January, I’m planning on doing a solo show here in Los Angeles, at least to start. We’ve got some offers in and he’s got a huge schedule plan for 2022, he’s got, I think, more than 100 shows lined up, but January is wide open. So in January, we’re gonna get some friends together and put a band together, and I’m gonna do a Fee Waybill solo show with Richard on guitar and vocals with me, I’ve never done or solo show after all these years, I have never done anything outside The Tubes. Only acting gigs. I do the summer stock theater in Michigan, the Barton Theater, which I’ve been working at, acting only. Well, that we do musicals, one done “Rocky Horror Show” for about 100 times playing Frank N. Furter. I’ve done “Spamalot”, the Eric Idle/Monty Python musical, which is great. That probably my favorite of all time. My favorite play to do, it’s so great. I played King Arthur in it, and it’s just so much fun. It’s weird because King Arthur doesn’t really have any of the funny lines. It’s all his reaction. That’s how you get the laugh is the reaction. Whereas with “Rocky Horror”, Frank N. Furter has all the funny lines and then so you get immediate response from your line from audience. It’s funny, but that’s more difficult, I think, because especially “Rocky Horror”, there’s a whole script for the audience, they’ve got all these lines, all these retorts to Frank N. Furter’s lines, Brad Majors, “Asshole”, the audience that comes to see it, they know all these lines. So the problem becomes, when I say the funny line, there’s so many people in the audience that wanna be first, and they blurt out their line before I’m even finished. Step on me agian, and again, and again. 18:00
On if his love of theater as a kid led to his characters in The Tubes – When I was in high school, I was in a singing group and at Scottsdale High in the 60s, we had a gigantic Theater Arts department, a lot of that’s gone by the wayside. We had a3000-seat auditorium, and we had a full-size 60 x 40 stage, it was amazing. We had a theater arts room, and we had a speech room, and we had a room where they taught you to build sets, like a carpentry room. Tirector of the Theater Arts department was a guy named Joe Esly, and the guy was just brilliant, he was brilliant, and he took me under his wing. Well, the way it started was my mother was a singer in Omaha, Nebraska, she was a singer, and she used to sing with big bands that would come to town on tour. Sometimes they didn’t carry a singer along. I’m actually reading this book right now about Frank Sinatra and he started as a singer in a big band, like Tommy Dorsey. Bands like that would come to Omaha and they would hire my mom to sing, and then she got married and she had kids, and we ended up moving from Omaha to Scottsdale, Arizona, when I was about five or six. But the love of singing was still there. She loved Broadway musical sound tracks. So we had a ton. We had “Carousel”, and “Oklahoma”, “Sound of Music”, all of them. My favorite one was “West Side Story”. When I was a freshman in high school, they had a group called the Scottsdale Singers, and it was a really famous choral group of about 40 people, 40 men and women. They would go to all these state competitions for choruses, and they would win every year. They were like the big time singing group on Phoenix. It was a varsity group, there was usually only juniors and seniors in the group, and they did material Handle’s “Messiah” every year and baroque to Bach and all these really complicated pieces. So I wanted to be in the group. You had to audition to get into the group, and the summer before my freshman year at Scottsdale High, I auditioned for this cast. There was Joe Esly, and then there was the guy that ran the freshman version, Debs Valentine was his name, and so I auditioned and I sang “Maria” from “West Side Story” because I had it at home and we had listened to it a billion times and used to walk around the house singing all the time, my mother and I. It never really kinda rubbed off on my brother or sister. We sang so much that my dad had to invoke a rule, “No singing at the dinner table”. I sang “Maria” as an audition for my freshman year, and they put me straight into the varsity Chorus, straight into the Scottsdale Singers, and I was the first person, man or woman that ever, as a freshman, got put into the Scottsdale Singers.This guy, Joe Esly, said, “Man, you’re really omething else, and you’ve got a great voice”. He would give me solos. The rest of them didn’t like me a whole lot because I was getting the good parts, but he also directed all these plays, so every year we would do like three Broadway musicals every year. We did “Sound of Music”, we did “Music Man”. We usually did two musicals and one drama, and I “Cyrano de Bergerac”, pretty weird and a bunch of different plays all through high school. Then I went to Arizona State University, I decided, “Oh well, I don’t wanna be a musical comedy kind of actor, I wanna be serious. I want to do Shakespeare and I wanna do Ibsen and Chekhov, and these really heavy dramas. So that background, that kind of spawned the whole theatrical aspect of the band. Prairie (Prince) was an artist and so Prairie and Mike created all of our album covers and photographs and sets and everything that we did, we pretty much did ourselves. It was all part of our history….Imagination is the completion backwards principle, imagination creates reality. 22:16