I admit it — I like confident, cocky musicians, showmen who present larger-than-life personas on stage and always give memorable performances.
Lee Heir, the frontman for Prime, the Nottingham/Sheffield based rock/pop/funkabilly band, fills the bill well. At the same time, he is a very intelligent and well-spoken songwriter.
I happened upon Prime through their tune “IOU,” with its retro throwback sound — the bass line carries the melody, layered with scratchy guitar licks, cracking drums and smooth vocals. “Teen TV” caught my ear too, with its sing-songy chorus and toe-tapping guitars (ripped right from The Clash … more later).
The new tune “To Be Or Not To Be” heads straight onto the dance floor, a moshing whirling dervish of a tune. The drums drive the punkiness of the song, punctuated by Heir’s snarly vocals. I dare you to sit still.
After listening to more music (“In Summer,” another new song — is great, funky fun!) and reading several other interviews with Heir, I was intrigued. We struck up a conversation and spent no less than 30 minutes talking about professional wrestling greats. Yep, you read that right — we talked of the great Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes and more.
I had to know more about the band, the music and Heir as well — and I knew normal, average questions weren’t going to cut it. This convo needed to be outside the box. So, here it is … meet Heir and learn more about the band that is Prime:
What got you into music to begin with? I mean singing/songwriting?
I kinda hung around with the punkier, alternative crowd as school, especially the sixth form, although I got on with everyone, those were the people who got my sense of humour the most, even though we didn’t see eye to eye all the time. My friends Helen, Oli and Natalie were all into the Sex Pistols and Nirvana, so that kicked me off.
One day a few years before, I nicked a big pile of my dad’s old cassette tapes to tape over and make some spoof comedy tapes and one of those was David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. I had heard “Starman” on TV and the famous Kurt Cobain line “this is a song by David Bowie” as he kicks into “Man Who Sold The World,” so I just kicked on listening to him from there really. Not many Bowie albums strike you the first time, but it grew and grew on me. I even died my hair red to look like him and remember being pissed off that it wasn’t red enough!
People like The Doors then gradually gave me an idea of how cool it must be to sing in a band, I used to play all their albums to death too. Then I met some friends later on that wanted to be in a band or had instruments, so it came together. Nobody could really play or sing.
I remember thinking that musicians were pretty stupid when I was still in college, but then again we were living in a small, suburban, narrow-minded mining area, so many of them liked pretty rubbish music like Green Day.
What was it that eventually made you change your mind?
Just meeting people who didn’t seem suspicious or aloof, and shared my sense of humour. Maybe I was just a little too forward, I thought everyone was my friend but many people I probably didn’t get to know at all. I think it’s a little bit like a light bulb going off, when you seriously get a plan together in your mind, it becomes an obsession. It’s like when you see an attractive person and can’t get them out of your mind!
Or you meet someone and immediately get on like a house on fire … I get it. When did you start to get serious with a band?
I guess around 10 years ago I thought I was serious, but now I realise that I didn’t have the vocal tools quite there or maybe I over-egged lyrics a bit too much. And I didn’t have the savvy or organizational ability to drive a band forward. Still had lots of fun though, and took it seriously, I take everything I’m focused on seriously, it’s the only way to be in life.
I listen back to songs with one of my best friends Steve Walker who was the first proper guitarist I worked with, and I’ll say, “That was a really good song, I let you down a bit there.”
Any of the tunes worth resurrecting? And tell me about the current lineup of the band …
Yes lots of things, it’s like a great present you find on a market, you know it’s great but you’re just waiting on the right person to give it to, so you keep it in the cupboard for a while.
Currently the band is having a break for a month, we’re just waiting on Josh Baggaley to return to the fold on drums as he’s just in training for his new career, David Ochrombel who has been so good for us on guitar this year is working on solo material and hopefully will have his own EP out at the end of the year, and I’ve heard a few of the songs and they are good.
Sadly, and this is a bit of an exclusive for you, Chris Munton, our long time bassist and founder member is leaving. He’s at a different stage in his life now, and I’m not even sure he’s going to continue with music, which would be a shame as he’s got a lot of good songs and bass lines left in him I’m sure.
Oh no! That’s so sad. I hope he doesn’t give music up all together … maybe after a break he would feel differently … Have you been looking for a new bass player?
Yes, I think I’ve already filled the position, but once it’s confirmed and ready to roll, I’ll be announcing it over the next couple of weeks. There’s also a very good chance we’ll be fleshing out the lineup with someone who sings and plays guitar and keyboards. I’ll be back in the studio jamming at some point next week.
Sounds like it’s all coming together. You guys just played Tramlines … How was that? What was a highlight for you?
Tramlines is always one of the best festivals to get on, we were there last year, and it just seems to have a great buzz and vibe, Sheffield truly is a real rock ‘n’ roll city and the people just love watching live music.
We’ve been fortunate to begin with The Royal Standard (RS Bar) which is run by a good band, the Velcro Teddy Bears, and then go on to play The Mulberry Tavern and then Corporation, which is one of the biggest venues in the North. We haven’t had a bad gig at any of them, and the promoters, people like Jo Gray who is about to start booking us for the ComRock company all over the country, Sam Christie at Propeller Management, Damien Dalton at Northern Crossroads and Northern Exposure who recently featured us.
It feels like the promoters in Sheffield actively are on the hunt for good bands, it’s so close-knit and friendly, there’s no egos, and they tend to get shot down pretty quick … which means I’m in big trouble! Ha ha.
So I’m really liking the new songs — “To Be or Not To Be” has a kicky, punky mosh sound — I’d call it funkabilly! Are you planning a video for it? Is that the plan for Barcelona?
Well, you’ve got another exclusive as we’re about to be announcing that we’re bringing out some live footage of “To Be Or Not To Be” from our show a few months ago in Soho, London! And then it’ll be a shoot in Spain for “Bye Bye,” the next single out in November. No flights or anything booked yet, I’m as organized as always!
Funkabilly sounds amazing! Maybe it is! Ha ha.
Haha, I call it as I hear it. All kinds of exclusives today, I feel really special!
Ha ha, you are dear!
I like how your bio calls you “flamboyant bank robbers” and says you are “equally rebellious and entertaining.” I think those descriptions work well for your bit of unruly fun … How does it translate live?
I think we try to entertain when we go on stage, there’s no airs and graces, we’re having a good time and we want to get that back from the audience. If you don’t get that back you can’t operate as a unit. I think we’re an underrated band, there’s been bands that top promoters have put their money on and we’ve gone on stage and blown them off it over the last year or so. We’re working hard to get the recognition that I personally think we deserve.
I think you are underrated too … But then a lot of bands I love often are … which leads me to … in ways I see traces of The Knack here — “Teen TV” makes me think of a certain tune — in a good way — as it is very catchy and hooky too. Any influence from The Knack or is it just me?
Why thank you. I can tell you now that “Teen TV” wasn’t influenced by The Knack as I wrote the whole song … I completely lifted it from “Career Opportunities” by The Clash! Weirdly enough the first Knack album is one of Chris’ favourites, he likes the slicker end of New Wave like The Police and Blondie, whereas I’m more Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Television, that kind of stuff. I also really love Suicide, and really sad to see Alan Vega pass away recently, he was a one-off.
I’m a fan of all of them. Now that you mention it, I hear that too … Your tunes do have a certain 80s New Wave vibe, which is part of why my ear is dream to them. (typo — it should have been “drawn” to them).
“My Ear Is A Dream” now that’s a good song title, can I steal it? Ha ha.
Lol, of course, just give me credit and it’s all yours.
Brilliant … I will!
Haha … Ok, how about some fun questions now that we’ve covered the business end?
They weren’t the fun ones? Ha ha.
Well, these are better! Any cover songs you’d like to do?
Hmm … good question. We started playing a Dr Feelgood song called “Baby Jane” but never tightened enough in rehearsal to get it right. We do MC5 “High School” live though. I’d like to do an epic ballad, I was listening to Procol Harum’s “Salty Dog” album and there was a beautiful one on there called “Too Much Space Between Us,” I think. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to try.
You are finally important enough to get a band rider — what outrageous items are on it?
I answered that question the other day, ham and a nice french baguette was the answer! And a midget with cocaine on his head.
You are a girl for one day — how do you spend your day?
Get up nice and early, stay in bed all morning and afternoon and then go to a gay bar in the evening!
A million dollars falls in your lap — what are you spending it on?
Never do a proper job again, hire Tony Visconti to produce Prime or if he’s busy, Rick Rubin, I’m not fussy. Then make a good low-budget film and maybe buy a cinema venue combo. Maybe pop to Amsterdam via Barbados on the way. Ha ha.
Nice, and have change left over. So what would be a dream holiday, the above mentioned places?
Moscow was always high on my list as a kid. Also wanted to visit Haiti and maybe get cursed or something. Never had one particular place, I’d go anywhere once and if it’s crap I don’t go again!
Five things you cannot live without?
Friends, love, music, artistic things, my family.
One thing you could give up forever?
Jobs that I hate.
Hear no/see no/speak no … Which monkey are you and why?
Evil….? Speak no. Or I try not to anyway… don’t make others feel like shit because it makes you look like the big man.
Nice … What super power or ability would you like to have?
X Ray vision, ha ha! Or heal the sick, or something boring like that.
Assemble your dream band — who are the players?
Well, can I be in it? Ha ha.
Of course! You are building it.
Ok, me on vocals, David Bowie on backing and sax, Jerry Lee Lewis on piano, Tony Thompson and Bernard Edwards from Chic on drums and bass, Keith Richards on rhythm guitar and Robert Quine from Richard Hell and the Voidoids on lead, with Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Gloria Gaynor, Prince and Millie Jackson on backing vocals… Be pretty good wouldn’t it! Elvis would be the support act. Ha ha.
Oh and Eno on synthesizer.
I want a ticket to that show! And an invite to the after party as well.
That’s one hell of a lineup …. Any guilty pleasures?
Na, I’m not guilty about anything I like listening to or watching!
OK, fair enough … I’ll wrap it up with … Aside from taking some time off, do you have any big shows coming up for the fall?
We play the Musicians Against Homelessness Festival, an event started by Alan McGee, on October 1 in Leicester, UK and the Hockley Hustle Festival, Nottingham, UK on October 9. Really looking forward to showcasing the fresh line-up.
Now you’ve got your passport sorted you can come to the shows right? Ha ha.
I would love to! Find me a plane ticket and I’m there.
Okay, I’ll talk to my people in high places!
You can find Prime on Twitter @PrimeUKBand , on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ukprime/home, on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/primeukband on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBnuisv_X_qBlMRSC1yGPWg and on the web at http://www.thepublichousebrand.com/prime.
Banner photo of Prime by Mace Maclean Photography. Shot at (the late) The Running Horse, Nottingham.