Catching Up With…
by Bob Girouard
In the mid-’70s, the San Francisco–based band the Tubes came roaring out of the gate with over-the-top live shows, blistering musicality, and an outrageously satirical take on modern culture. Toning down their outrageousness a bit helped them crack MTV and the charts in the early ’80s, with hits like “Talk to Ya Later” and “She’s a Beauty,” but label honchos, producers, and the public largely continued to scratch their head at the group’s unflagging weirdness. Longtime fans remain staunchly loyal, though, and, four decades on, the Tubes are still hitting the stage. Bringing it hard and heavy from behind a new Yamaha Club Custom kit is the man who’s been there from the beginning, Charles Lempriere “Prairie” Prince.
Prince’s thunderous sound is reminiscent of heavy hitters like Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, and Ginger Baker, but the ease with which he plays the top end of his kit comes from the heart and hands of a jazz player. “Yeah, you definitely homed in on my ensemble of influences,” Prairie tells MD. “My dad was a big band enthusiast and introduced me to guys like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, and Louie Bellson, while my older sisters’ records were my entrance into early rock ’n’ roll.”
Prince long ago established a reputation for his confident swagger and prodigious chops, which have allowed him to back a diverse list of artists, from Brian Eno, Jefferson Airplane, and George Harrison to Todd Rundgren, whom the drummer accompanied on a national tour this past November. Prince informs us that their relationship goes back to even before the musical iconoclast produced the Tubes’ 1979 album, Remote Control, and that beyond the songs, he’s particularly happy with the way Rundgren is approaching that other crucial aspect of life in the music biz—travel. “The great thing about this tour is that Todd actually has a bus, which nowadays is an anomaly,” Prince says, calling the three-and-a-half-week cross-country trek “a welcome change from all the one-offs, with pickup vans, cars, airports—and jet lag!”
Photo by Chuck Madden