PRAIRIE PRINCE INTERVIEW
By Nelson Jiménez of La Habana, Cuba
Nelson: Prairie Prince is part of the history of one of the pioneer groups in the mix of music and performance with advanced ability: The Tubes. But your trajectory began when you were part of two bands who later would be part of the nucleus of Journey. We are talking about Frumious Bandersnatch and Golden Gate Rhythm. Was it with those bands that you debuted as a drummer? Do any recordings exist from those bands during the period of 1972 to 1974?
Prairie: The first recordings from Wally Heider’s Studio of SF of GGR are available. They were the demos for the first Journey record. As far as FB recordings they may be available thru David Denny’s or Ross Vallory’s sources.
Nelson: You were playing in Journey only a few days, and your substitute was Aynsley Dunbar (ex-Mother of Invention and Retaliation). A lot of people here in Cuba were speculating about this step in your career and we have the opportunity to answer some questions. Why did you leave Journey to join The Tubes? Did you consider the music of The Tubes more interesting, or it was musical differences with the rest of the musicians in Journey?
Prairie: The Tubes were and still are my first band, and I was playing with them long before the Journey opportunity came up. I decided that they were my brothers in music and the artistic side lead me to stay with them and not join Journey permanently.
Nelson: In 1975, the very well known musician Al Kooper, ex-Blood Sweat and Tears, was the produced of The Tubes album. He came to produce another debut of another big band, the masters of southern rock Lynyrd Skynyrd. How did The Tubes contact Al Kooper? It was a determination of the band to choose him, or it was idea of the label bosses?
Prairie: Al was suggested by the A&R men at A&M records. We met and hit it off with Mr. Kooper immediately. We had similar senses of humor.
Nelson: There can be no doubt that the first six years of The Tubes career included the best and most intense moments. The first two album were very experimental, looking for a different style, but according to my point of view, the highlight of creativity was the best album of the band, the fabulous Now (1977 A&M). I would like to know your opinion about this album and it’s meaning to the critics and the followers of the band?
Prairie: I think that one was our most experimental recording in many ways. We were left to our own judgement for the most part with little direction from our producer and record company, with the exception of our ally Bud Scoppa from A&M with his insight in the business and musical expertise.
Nelson: In 1992, you were part of another rock legend of all the times, the new generation of Jefferson Starship. Apparently, you were playing at the same time with The Tubes and The Steve Kimock Band. How did you share the time to attend all these bands, and all the collaborations where you were involved? How was your experience playing with Jefferson Starship all that time?
Prairie: I have a complicated schedule that needs constant revision and juggling. I just make it work somehow. The JS are a grand band to perform with and I have always loved their timeless music.
Nelson: You were collaborating with a lot of real personalities, some of them are rock icons, as David Byrne, XTC, Brian Eno, Tom Waits, George Harrison, etc., but there is a special collaboration to me: the one with Tommy Bolin. How did you come to play with that legendary guitar player, unfortunately passed away in 1976? Could you tell me you opinion about this man as a musician and in personal terms two?
Prairie: Tommy was an extraordinary person and player. We met in Phoenix, Arizona when we were teenagers and jammed together in the desert with generators and instruments set up on boulders under a starry sky until dawn. Eight years later he called me to play on his first solo LP Teaser. He was a very beautiful man and a good friend. I miss him today.
Nelson: In 2006, we saw a new reunion of The Cars, with your ex-partner and The Tubes producer, Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, original Cars members Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes, and you. It was a mixture between The Cars, The Tubes and Utopia. How the critics and audience react when they saw this new band without the presence of Rik Ocasek?
Prairie: Most people really loved this band. A few were disappointed wit out Rick at first, but when they heard us play many changed their minds. Unfortunately Rick and the first manager made it most difficult for us to continue with the New Cars. It may return someday.
Nelson: The Tubes was very well known in Cuba since their participation in the Xanadu movie in 1980, and a year later with the hit single “Talk to Ya Later.” A lot of friends and acquaintances remember other hits like “White Punks on Dope” or “She’s a Beauty,” but the images that we remember most in Cuba when we talk about The Tubes are the images of Fee Waybill, the silver face man or the porno man. Did you know here in Cuba the music of The Tubes was listened to for several years?
Prairie: I was unaware that we had so many fans in Cuba. I’m a big fan of music from Cuba and hope to be able to visit your country someday soon.
Nelson: In June, 2006 Vince Welnick passed away. He was the original pianist of The Tubes. In 1990 he joined the legendary band Grateful Dead, seems to form a part of a list of pianist, all of them passed away: Ron “Pig Pen” McKernan, Keith Godcheaux, Brent Mydland and Vince. He was part of an incomplete project called Missing Manformation. I would like to know if this project did really exist. Did Vince plays with The Tubes again after his first departure?
Prairie: Missing Man formation was a short-lived band but a vital one with members Steve Kimock and Bobby Vega from Zero, Vince and myself. It was formed after Jerry Garcia died and carried on for several years in several formations. There are lots of recordings of this history and can be found thru Vince’s memorial site. We all miss this man. Rest in peace Vince.
Prairie Prince is a founding member of The Tubes. He played drums on “Savannah Woman” and “Wild Dogs” on Tommy Bolin’s Teaser album.