Primus Front-Load New Disc With Star Power

                 Tom Waits and ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland
                 among heavy hitters enlisted to produce trio's next album.

                 Correspondent Richard B. Simon reports:

  
Not ones to let their off-kilter, bass-heavy, prog-funk sound go unaltered, Bay Area trio Primus are trying a new tack for their upcoming album, a record that leader Les Claypool describes as "acid rock for the new millennium."

   To ensure sonic variety, bassist Claypool and his bandmates are aiming to have tracks produced by such musical heavy hitters as ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland, ambient innovator Brian Eno, punk-metal rocker Rob Zombie and left-field singer/songwriter Tom Waits.

   "Tom [Waits] expresses himself with visuals," Claypool said of the revered bohemian rhapsodeer. "He'll listen to something and go, 'Ah, it sounds like the transaxle was blown out on old Willy's four-by-four.' He has this way of visualizing a song, and it just makes for interesting collaboration."

    The new album, due in August, will be the band's eighth and the group's first full-length effort since last year's Brown Album, which included the track "Bob's Party Time Lounge" . In the interim they released Rhinoplasty, an EP that included revamped versions of songs by such other rockers as Metallica, Peter Gabriel and XTC.

   For their follow-up to the self-produced Brown Album, Primus wanted to find the ultimate producer -- a modern-day George Martin (Beatles) -- but no names came to mind. Instead, they chose to seek input from a handful of fellow artists whose work they respect. Along with Waits, Copeland and the others, Primus have approached ex-Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, Claypool said.

   In the meantime, Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Brian "Brain" Mantia have been working with producers Oz Fritz and Fred Durst. They've already laid down basic tracks for eight or nine songs and nearly completed three other tunes, he said.

   Primus' typically quirky subject matter will show up in such tracks as the funk- heavy "Bodacious" --
about a championship rodeo bull who was retired at age 7 after nearly killing some cowboys -- and in
such titles as "The Antipop."

   "We're doing an interesting version of David Bowie's 'Fame,' " Claypool said. "If it comes out well, people will get a chance to hear it. If it doesn't, it will be buried in the ground. ... And of course we have our eight-minute epic saga, which at this point is called 'Eclectic Electric.' "

   "It's sort of a mixed bag of tricks, as most Primus records are," Claypool added. "There's definitely sort of an acid-rock heaviness to it, but with that eclectic perspective. ... I listen to it and I go, 'Now wait a minute, this isn't really heavy metal and it's not really like Korn and it's not really funk, but it's got all
these elements to it, and then there's this eerie, psychedelic perspective to it. ... It's like acid rock for the new millennium.' "

   "It's kind of like heavy Floyd in some areas," Claypool said.

   The trio are slated to play this summer's Ozzfest tour with the iconic heavy metal band Black Sabbath -- a prospect that intrigues Claypool.

   "Sabbath is always there, lurking in the back of your mind," he said. "I don't know how many copies of
[Sabbath's] Paranoid I've owned over the years. There are certain records that you buy and they disappear or they get worn out or stolen, and you buy them again ... like Paranoid, [Led Zeppelin's] Physical Graffiti, Yes' Fragile." Claypool said he hopes to enlist the mysterious, masked guitarist Buckethead to play on the new album -- and on Ozzfest, "just to rattle people's cages a bit."

   The Ozzfest dates, rescheduled to begin in late May instead of July, may wind up pushing back the
album's release.

   But when the album comes out it will likely be accompanied by a full-blown, big, bad, nationwide Primus
tour, Claypool said. "I gotta start thinking of what the hell kind of freaky thing we're gonna do for
production," he said, "because we gotta do something."