Primus leader and bass guitar legend Les Claypool has joined forces with Eugene Hütz – the Ukrainian-born frontman of American punk rock outfit Gogol Bordello – for a new tribute single dedicated to Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Dubbed Zelensky: The Man With the Iron Balls, the track also features The Police drummer Stewart Copeland, John Lennon's son Sean on guitar and vocals, Billy Strings on acoustic guitar and Hütz’s bandmate Sergey Ryabtsev on violin.
Stylistically, the song draws equal influence from the avant-garde sounds of both Primus and Gogol Bordello, with an abundance of winding bass and electric guitar lines weaving among acoustic guitar strums and Ryabtsev's masterful violin work. Check it out below.
“As soon as Russian aggression broke out, Les and I connected to address the catastrophe ASAP,” Hütz tells Rolling Stone (opens in new tab). “We jumped on creating affirmative music that calls for unity and pays respect to the real doers in Ukrainian defence, such as President Zelensky, who demonstrated previously unheard of stamina and heroism.”
“In that vodka-laced dialogue, we started mutually praising Zelensky for his surprisingly epic display of courage,” Claypool adds. “‘Zelensky has balls of steel!’ we agreed. It was then that we decided that some freaky ‘East meets West’ art needed to be thrown that way.”
Claypool adds that the track “is not intended to be a song of condemnation," but one of unity. “We now have a recording to help rally support for a bullied country, and a David versus Goliath-type man who stood up for their liberty, freedom, and homeland,” he says.
“[We're] giving praise to a man who stepped up for his people beyond anything I've seen in my tenure on this planet. This unlikely fellow has grabbed the reins of leadership and held fast in such a way that the world is now galvanized in support.”
100 percent of the proceeds from the track will go to Nova Ukraine, a non-profit organization that provides humanitarian relief and support to the people of Ukraine.
“It is our way to show that heavyweights like Les, Stewart, Billy and Sean stand with the people of Ukraine and the country's sovereignty from the very start of Russian-led terror,” Hütz adds.
Since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the music community has been united in its condemnation of the war.
Pedal builders across the industry have initiated projects to help those affected by the conflict, including Caroline Guitar Company, whose FCK PTN fuzz pedal raised $9,500 within 10 minutes of its launch; Death By Audio, which released a limited-edition Fuck War version of its Fuzz War pedal; and Z.Vex, which launched a Ukrainian flag-adorned Fuzz Factory 7, all proceeds of which went to World Central Kitchen.
More recently, Reverb announced it was teaming up with a wealth of pedal brands, including Gamechanger Audio, Eventide and Fender to host a Turn Up For Ukraine fundraiser.
Since the invasion began, a raft of artists have also shown their support for Ukraine with one-off musical numbers, including Rammstein and Faith No More – who teamed up for a rendition of the Beatles' Come Together in partnership with UNICEF – and Pink Floyd, who reunited for a new single – Hey Hey Rise Up – with Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Ukrainian band BoomBox.
The Man With the Iron Balls is the second of two recently-released tracks from Les Claypool, following Primus's recent 11-minute epic, Conspiranoia, which leads the band's upcoming three-track EP, Conspiranoid.