In a less-than-subtle approach to the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, Primus frontman Les Claypool has joined forces with Ukrainian singer Eugene Hütz to pay homage to Volodymyr Zelensky… or as they refer to him “the man with the iron balls.”
The recent track, aptly entitled Zelensky: The Man With the Iron Balls sees other famous faces come together in celebration of the Ukrainian President and his courage to stand in defiance against the “prowling big bear” of Russia.
A self-proclaimed song of “unity”, Claypool made it clear that the track, despite its blatant criticism of Russian leadership, is “not intended to be a song of condemnation” when speaking with Rolling Stone.
Instead, the track is said to have been conceived following the bassist’s discovery of the Russian invasion, which he learned of whilst sharing a meal with Polish friends.
Implying that the courage shown by Zelensky inspired the track, Claypool said to Rolling Stone: “In that vodka-laced dialogue, we started mutually praising Zelensky for his surprisingly epic display of courage… ‘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.”
Featuring The Police’s Stewart Copeland on drums, Sean Lennon on backing guitar and vocals, and bluegrass musician Billy Strings on acoustic guitar, the entire proceeds made from Zelensky: The Man With the Iron Balls are set to benefit Nova Ukraine, a non-profit organisation created to provide humanitarian relief to the civilians of Ukraine.
“As soon as Russian aggression broke out, Les and I connected to address the catastrophe ASAP,” Hütz states. “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.”
He continues: “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”.
With irreverent lyrics including “An unlikely man grabbed the microphone […] To go beyond what duty calls/The world now knows Zelensky/As the man with the iron balls.” the track also draws reference to the “revolution of dignity,” a nod towards the invasion of Crimea and the Donbas War.
The song comes following Zelensky’s recent appearance at this month’s Grammys in which he called upon musicians and fans alike to unite and help “defend our freedom to live”. He urged musicians to help spread the truth of the situation in Ukraine, insisting that those within the music industry “fill the silence with your music. Fill it today. To tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks on TV.”
Describing the intent behind the explicit track, Claypool compares the resilience of Zelensky to the Biblical tale of David versus Goliath, insisting that Ukraine has become a victim of tyranny as a result of Russia’s actions.
“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.”
Watch the full music video for Zelensky: The Man With the Iron Balls below.
Find the full interview with Les Claypool and Eugene Hütz at Rolling Stone.