Primus' Les Claypool Juggles New EP, Touring And Family

 Band wraps up studio sessions for spring release that includes live
 tracks and covers.

    Addicted To Noise Contributing Editor Beth Winegarner reports : Primus' Les Claypool, the court jester of the music world, has all his balls in the air at the moment.

    Currently in the studio with bandmates Larry LaLonde and Brian "Brain" Mantia, Claypool is wrapping up a new Primus EP due out this spring that includes covers and live tracks. In early February, the band returns to the road in support of 1997's The Brown Album, following on the tail of Claypool's recent collaboration with Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell for Cantrell's upcoming solo debut.

    At the same time, Primus' unique brand of rock fusion has found its way to the hottest new animated television show, Comedy Central's "South Park." As if all this weren't enough to deal with for one bass player, Claypool and his wife, Chaney, have been busy raising their second daughter, Lena, born last September.

    While his kids have taken a priority in his life, Claypool and Primus have found time to get back into the studio after finishing the first leg of the Brown tour, the 34-year-old Claypool said. "We're laying down a bunch of tracks, very similar to what we did with Miscellaneous Debris a few years ago," he explained from the studio, referring to an EP of covers released in 1992. "We've recorded about seven songs, and we're probably going to throw on some live stuff."

    Possible tracks include some unexpected covers, such as Peter Gabriel's "The Family and the Fishing Net," Metallica's "The Thing That Should Not Be," XTC's "Scissorman," the Police's "Behind My Camel" and
 Stanley Clark's "Silly Putty." The live tracks would come from Primus' 1997 New Year's Eve show in San Francisco. "All this is theoretical. You never know. We might hate all of it and throw it in the garbage," he said,
 laughing. Scheduled to finish recording by early February, Claypool and the band are looking at an April release for the EP, he added.

    One reason for putting time into the studio, Claypool said, is so he and guitarist LaLonde can continue to get a feel for Primus' new drummer, "Brain" Mantia, who joined the group in 1996. "We were having so much fun in the studio, just kind-of checking each other out," Claypool said of the Brown sessions. "So this is another way for us to continue to check each other out and evolve." Much to the band's enjoyment, Mantia turned out to be quite the powerhouse during his first tour with the band, he added. "The guy's pretty much on fire 24 hours a day," Claypool explained.

    Primus' energy seems to have spilled over to other projects, such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone's strangely popular cartoon "South Park," for which the band recorded a theme song. Primus was approached by Parker and Stone when the duo were working on the pilot of the bizarre and often hilariously vile animated bit of social commentary for Comedy Central. "We get asked to do a lot of different things, and it was just one of those things that we ended up having time for," Claypool said. "We didn't really expect much out of it, and all of a sudden 'South Park' has become this huge, gigantic thing."

    Primus has also worked with the Dust Brothers, Stone and Parker on a new track for another movie, "Orgazmo." "It's called 'Cookies and Cake,' I believe," Claypool explained. "Trey wrote the lyrics for it. I embellished them a bit. I did some vocals and played the bass. It's pretty much a '70s disco song."

    Also keeping him busy, Claypool recently lent his bass skills to Jerry Cantrell's debut album, Boggy Depot, due out March 24. Claypool plays on "Between" and "Cold Piece." "When I listen to the record, it appears to me that they're the more abstract songs on the record, but they're not abstract in comparison to Primus," he said, adding that he did not contribute vocals. "Cantrell's not that foolhardy."