Les Claypool of Primus talks Metallica, electronica, and hybrid cars
When we first hear that low stiff clang of flesh across four heavy strings, immediately we know - it's slap bass. And once our ears have recognized that distinctive sound, our mind promptly tells us, it must be Primus.
Les Claypool, the legendary bassist and lead participant in Primus, is at this point a household alternative rock name. Surfacing in California prior to the surge of the grunge revolution, Primus had its feet wet with that whole era prior to even stepping out of the '80s. Longevity and mass appeal have kept us all listening, and their established fan bases have led Primus to continue touring and recording albums to this day.
We should all suspect that when they come around Minneapolis on their current tour, The Oddity Faire, we'll hear the same ole' Primus that had us hooked back in the '80s and '90s. And certainly we'll be jolted with nostalgia when he indeed should, and most likely will, play "My Name is Mud".
Gimme Noise had a chance to speak with Les Claypool of Primus prior to his Oddity Faire appearance tonight at the Orpheum.
Let's start with your legendary Metallica audition so many years ago. The rumor is they said "You're too good, you need your own band." Is there a story behind that?
Well, I'd say, that's an untrue story... I mean James said on VH1 Behind the Music that I was just too good, but ah, he and I were hanging out quite a bit during that time when they did the VH1 interview. And I said, 'What the hell are you guys talking about, you didn't want me, you thought I was a freak!' And he just laughed. Ya know, I showed up with a bleach blonde mohawk and wearing baggy skater pants, and two different colored tennis shoes. They were all in black with tight pants and the whole bit... But they have a great guy now; they've got Robert Trujillo, who's one of the nicest guys in the business.
What are your thoughts on electronica?
I have personally never dabbled in electronica, in fact in the opposite direction, I use a lot of old analog gear and everything's organic. I don't use drum machines, or even metronomes for that matter. We use plenty of distortions; when I think of electronic, not that I don't like it, but I think of loops and canned beats and what-not. That's sort of the foundation of a lot of that, and it's never been our thing, never been my thing. If anything it's more opposite, we're more primitive, more organic and analog.
What's the story with the Question Mark on the new album?
Well there's no question mark, there's lots of talk and we're assembling material now. We haven't started recording yet, but we plan on recording later this fall, once we're done with this tour. We're supposed to do some South American dates, so somewhere in between this tour and Christmas we should be in the studio.
What can audiences expect from your new record and tour?
Well we just had a tour, and now we're doing the Oddity Faire, which is sort of a traveling freak show. And then we'll make an album and we'll be back out next spring and summer, so we're in the midst of it all right now. The Oddity Faire, which is, I am not sure who's on the Minneapolis bill because it changes from territory to territory, but the Oddity Faire is sort of a collection of obscure and unique musical performers as well; just artistic performers. Each show is different, each show is unique. There is an extraordinary amount of eye and oral candy to behold.
Where do you draw inspiration from, and are those inspirations the same today as they were in the early '90s?
We draw from everyday experiences, and as you move on the path of life and you move down the path of least resistance, as we all tend to try and do; you try and rely on what comes most natural. So everyday experience tends to be the easiest thing for me to draw from. And I would assume that's been similar for many years, but when you're younger you tend to over think things. But, 20/20 hindsight, it always shines a different perspective on things. It gives you a more subjective perspective.
I mean look at your old high school haircut, and you go 'geez, what the heck was I thinking'. And then it comes back around, and all of a sudden you're wearing your high school haircut again.
What is your take on your the current State of the Union, post oil spill?
Well I am very grateful they didn't start drilling in Northern California like they were planning on doing. Being that I spend a lot of time on the ocean in Northern California. That's sort of the one little nugget we can take away from this BP experience is that it should tighten regulations and slow down this desire to go and be reckless off of our coastlines.
I am just waiting for them to design the vehicle that runs on tortillas so we don't have to rely on any of this stuff.
Do you drive a hybrid?
I drove one yesterday, it was a rental vehicle. And I didn't realize that when you pull the key out of it, it doesn't shut off. So I came out of a store yesterday, and it was still running [chuckles].
Are you aware there is a whole sub-culture that refers to you as Uncle Les?
I didn't know that. I hope that's a good thing. I enjoy being Uncle.
PRIMUS play tonight, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1, at the ORPHEUM THEATRE. All ages. $35. 7:30 p.m.
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