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Fee Waybill of The Tubes has something to share

By Nick McCabe

In advance of The Tubes show, coming to The Alpine on Oct. 27 in Reno, I talked with Fee Waybill about the show, the band, his solo album, their experience working on their first album with rock ‘n’ roll’s “Forrest Gump,” Al Kooper, and a couple other things that might be of interest.

I thought I would break the ice by telling him of the previous time he and I talked. 

It was 2004 and I was going to see The Tubes at a small dive club outside of Sacramento in Orangevale, called The Boardwalk. I got there early. Nobody was there yet so I sat down at the bar and got a beer. 

As I was watching the World Series, they locked the doors behind. Sipping my beer, this guy leaned on the bar next to me and asked about the score. It was Fee. We watched the game and talked for about 10 minutes, then he excused himself to go get ready for the show. He remembered!

“The Tubes,” their self-titled first album, was produced by Al Kooper in 1975. In Kooper’s autobiography he shares the experience of working on this with them, so I asked Fee what they thought of Kooper.

“We loved him. He was fun and he had a lot of good ideas, some wacky,” Fee said. 

He shared an interesting fact about “White Punks on Dope.” When they were recording the breakdown and build up near the end of it, where the chorus of “ahhhhh’s” is, there was another band (they didn’t know who) recording down the hall, so they went down and asked if they would come sing that part for them. The band said sure, and came down and sang what you hear on the album. Due to contractual restrictions they could not give them a credit on the album, but it turned out to be The Eagles.

Not being sure if I was remembering correctly about my first time seeing The Tubes, I asked Fee if they ever opened for David Bowie in Oakland. He said they did, and that Peter Gabriel opened the show. I did not remember that. Shame on me! 

The Tubes, circa 2008. Image: Nick McCabe

Fee had much praise for David Bowie as a professional and a gracious gentleman. He said that it was typical that an opener for a stadium show would only have the front 10 feet or so to set up and perform, but considering The Tubes huge stage show Bowie would have his band’s gear moved back every night to allow enough room for The Tubes to use their full setup with dancers and everything. 

Bowie even had his own sushi chef on tour with him, who would go out and buy fresh fish every night and make a huge meal for all three bands to enjoy.

Fee said that this current tour is in part a 40th anniversary celebration of the release of their sixth album, “Outside Inside,” and also the 50th anniversary of the band itself. For the show at The Alpine they will be playing the album in order from beginning to end, along with many of the other crowd pleasers that we all want to hear. 

Fee could not say enough kind words about producer David Foster’s work on the album. Fee described him as an amazing arranger and perfectionist. 

“He worked us to the bone,” he said. “The first vocal track I did for him took a week to get right. There was no autotune or quantizing back then. It was all analog, and you just had to do it right.”

As always, the band will be out front with the crowd after the show for a meet and greet, taking pictures and signing autographs. 

The tour began in June and will continue until the end of November. 

The Tubes, circa 2008. Image: Nick McCabe

Fee also has three solo albums available. The most recent was released on the cusp of the COVID shutdown in 2020. “Fee Waybill Rides Again” was produced by his good friend, Richard Marx. They debated whether or not to release it when planned, or wait out the COVID lockdown.

 “We figured this would all be over in a month or two,” Fee said. “Thankfully we didn’t wait since it went on for much longer than anyone thought.” 

People needed something new to listen to while in lockdown. It received great write-ups when released, and is still doing well.

“One song on there was not mine. It was written by Chad Kroeger of Nickelback and offered to Daughtry, but he didn’t want to do it,” Fee said. “ But I really liked it, so I did it.”

I asked him his thoughts on marketing music these days, versus the past. 

“Yeah, it’s all word of mouth, it’s all online. I have no record company. I produced this myself, I made it myself, I released it myself, manufactured it myself. It’s received glowing reviews. Ya know, it’s not…it’s not ah… you have to look for it. I’ve made up CDs out of it, which is an outmoded medium also, but we sell them at the gigs. We also have a Tubes record that you can only get at the gigs. It’s a live CD recorded in German in 2016.”

“I’m looking forward to Reno. We haven’t been there in a long time. The last time was in a casino I think,” he said. “The next day we will start a three-night run in San Francisco opening for The B-52’s at The Masonic on their farewell tour.” 

The following week The Tubes head to the east coast for several dates, and wrap up the tour in November. 

In December he will have some solo shows with Marx in Los Angeles playing the “Fee Waybill Rides Again” album. Next July, he said, The Tubes will be supporting The Hollywood Vampires (Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and Joe Perry, along with some of Alice’s band) in the UK. “Johnny Depp has 28 million Instagram followers. England loves this kind of tabloid stuff,” Fee said.  “It’s going to be a freak show.”

Since I had been asked, I asked him, “Will you be wearing the shoes?” He assured me that Quay Lewd would be there, in the shoes. He added that there will be many costume changes. 

The shoes. Waybill appears during The Tubes shows as Quay Lewd wearing these wild shoes. Image: Nick McCabe

“We’re not going to just stand there playing the tunes. There will be the visual element too.”

“After not touring for a while, I had to practice and wear them around the house.”Fee Waybill

The only way to fully experience a show like this is live. Come on out and support live music.

Tickets available here.

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