Primus Through The Years
Les Claypool reflects on his past
by Michael Goldberg
Last issue we journeyed North to Les Claypool's wooded retreat, somewhere near Sebastopol. There, in Claypool's home studio--known as The Corn--which just happens to be where the group recorded their stunning new album, Tales From the Punch Bowl, we sat, mesmerized, as the leader of Primus talked, and talked, and talked.... (Just kidding Les.) Actually, we brought along some handcuffs and whips to ensure that Claypool did our bidding. You're going to answer every last one of these questions, you Primus dog!! Anyway, we have our ways, and the result was then 7000 words that we ran last issue, plus another 5000 or so that follow. Sitting in on, and contributing to the conversation at times was Larry Lalonde, the rather brilliant Primus guitarist who also happens to be a major Frank Zappa freak. If you're new to the Primus experience, we suggest you start with our May (issue 1.05) cover story on the group, then proceed to this interview, in which Les talks about his youth, his pre-Primus career moves, as well as Primus' early years leading up to the success they experienced with their debut album, Suck On This, which led to a recording deal with Caroline Records. We also think you'll dig the separate interview with Primus drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander that is also included in this issue.
FROM OUT OF THE SEA CAME....LITTLE LES
Addicted To Noise: Les, let's talk a little bit about your youth. Where were you born?
Les Claypool: I was born in Richmond, California in Richmond Hospital which is now some sort of psychiatric hospital or something.
What did your dad do?
Claypool: I come from a long line of auto mechanics. My uncles are both mechanics. My stepfather's a mechanic. He works on fire engines, actually. My father's a mechanic. In fact, he has a transmission shop that he owns with my uncle. My grandfather was a mechanic.
Did your mom work?
Claypool: She was a receptionist for a pediatrician for a good many years. Then she was a receptionist for some other doctor and now she works with some sort of emotionally disturbed crisis organization. I'm not really sure what she does now as far as her exact job description.
Did you grow up in Richmond?
Claypool: Richmond, Pinole, El Sobrante. My parents split when I was very young, when I was four, so I essentially had two sets of parents because they instantly remarried. And I had a step brother and a step sister and a real brother and real, well, half brother and half sister. I was the eldest of both sets of siblings so I was the ground breaker. My youngest siblings got away with murder which I think is just the case with any group of kids.
Was that a pretty traumatic thing, at age four?
Claypool: I don't think it was. It was just part of the thing. Divorce is such a common thing, we just go, ahh, OK. I think it would have affected me more if I was older maybe. But my parents would fight and so when they broke up, it just seemed logical to me. I don't remember being bothered by it or devastated or anything. If anything, it meant more presents at Christmas. Two sets of families. No, obviously, there's a lot of little traumas and problems that go along with divorce and parents not liking each other and you being caught in the middle most of the time. I can go way into it, but I won't. It's such a common thing.
What was the first musical thing where you related to?
Claypool: Well, you know, nobody in my family is even slightly musical. Not even the tiniest bit. The only music my mom listened to, she'd listen to AM radio in the car all the time and so I was exposed to that in the '70s because she was a compulsive shopper and we were always going to some mall or some antique store or something. So we were in the car a lot. But she had some records and I remember she had the Beatles' Abbey Road and I just used to listen to that all the time. All the time I'd listen to that thing. This was when I was little. And they had some Elvis records and she liked Three Dog Night for
a little while but I liked to listen to the Elvis records. And my step dad liked the Stones so he had one Stones record.
Claypool: He had Aftermath. Other than that, he just listened to the country station all the time. And my dad, he didn't own any records, he bought this fancy stereo for the time. It was a Zenith, had a built-in 8-track deck and he had some Nat King Cole or something like that. That's when I started bootlegging Zeppelin tapes onto 8-tracks. And they'd go click, click in the middle of the song. But I think my earliest experience with music had to be the Beatles. They had that Beatles cartoon and the
Monkeys of course. When you were a kid growing up in the '60s. My cousin had all the Monkeys records. So we all had our favorite Monkey and all that crap.
Who was yours?
Claypool: I don't remember. I think Mickey was my favorite. You would always change. One week it was...but nobody ever liked Peter. He was boring. Actually, looking at the show now, he's the funniest one. I think he's pretty good. I remember my aunt who was two years older than me, we used to pal around a lot when I was a kid. And she had records, you know. She was into Bobby Sherman. I didn't like Bobby Sherman but she had a single of John Lennon, "Power to the People," and I just thought that was the greatest song ever. That was a good one. I'd save money and buy a 45 every now and then. If I'd saved up a dollar, I could go buy a 45. And I think my first 45 I ever bought was "Amos Moses" by Jerry Reed. Then I bought "Love Rollercoaster," you know. And then I got some records for Christmas, like a Beatles record and an Elton John record and I think a Carpenters record which didn't get much play. And then my first album I bought was this Led Zeppelin album 'cause I liked them. Actually, the first album I ever bought, I should say, is Cheech and Chong. The one where they're sitting there and the pot leaves are in the door of the car. And I used to listen to it all the time.
Then my dad heard it one day and asked my mom if she realized what I had bought and so they took it away from me. 'Cause it was too racy. But I had friends that were way into music. I guess maybe that's how I started really liking music. We used to go shoot pool at my friend Jeff Webster's house every day in the summer 'cause he had a swimming pool and a pool table so his place was the hot spot to be. And he had a stereo. I didn't have any of that. And his brother's the one who would crank on the Zepo and I'd go wow! that's cool. Otherwise, we'd listen to lots of Elton John, Captain Fantastic and he liked Bob Seeger. I didn't like Bob Seeger but he had all the George Carlin records too. Those were lots of fun. George Carlin and Cheech and Chong.
When did you start learning how to play music?
Claypool: I always thought I was too old. I thought, oh, I've blown it, I would like to play something but I'm too old. I got into high school, ah, I'm too old. And I wanted to play trumpet when I was a kid but I had buck teeth so they wanted me to play clarinet and I said I ain't playing no clarinet. They didn't have sax for some reason. They didn't have sax and they didn't have drums and they didn't have guitar. You could play cello or violin or clarinet or trumpet or flute. And if you were a guy, you wanted to play... trumpet was really the only one the guys wanted to play. Maybe clarinet. But you didn't want to play flute and you didn't want to play violin. Cello wasn't bad. And so I didn't do that. So when I got into high school, I actually had algebra class with Kirk Hammett and he was just getting his first guitar right around then. His Strat. He was this old burned out guy. He used to sell pot to everybody. He'd just come in and be all stoned. He showed me a G-chord and I was like wow, really, cool. I was always singing songs 'cause I was always into some song, Ted Nugent or somebody. So he wanted me to come join his band and be the singer. I was like, nahh. I was too embarrassed to sing in front of people.
So I met this other guy and he needed a bass player and I knew a guy that had a bass and actually I knew one guy who had a bass for sale and another guy who had a snare drum for sale and I thought, wow, should I buy the bass or the snare drum? Then I met this other guy who needed a bass player. I said, I'm going to buy a bass. And my dad said, don't buy that bass. We're going to take you down to the music store. He went down, he had a friend that had a music store and he sold us this bass, like a new bass but he sold it to us at cost or something. He probably ripped us...anyway, I had to get jobs pulling weeds for doctors and stuff to pay for my bass. And I was instantly in a band because I had a bass. I couldn't play it but nobody wanted to play bass back then. Everybody wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. So I had a bass and I was in a band. And I just started learning how to play it.
What was the band called?
Claypool: Blind Illusion. They're still around. They've had like 30 incarnations of that band. It's basically just one guy that just gets different people.
That was a metal band?
Claypool: Back then metal wasn't really what it is now. It was an all original band. We didn't play any covers. We played two covers. One was "Jumping Jack Flash" and the other was "Iron Man." And this guy just did not want to play covers. He wanted to play his music and so we'd play his music. So here I was, this bass player, and all I knew how to play was this guy's songs, you know. I didn't have an amp so I would listen to records and play along with him but I couldn't hear what I was playing. So I was just kind of fingering along with Rush albums and stuff like that but I never really learned how to play any of
those songs. I just could play the rhythms. So anyway, that's how I got into music.
Would you characterize that band as more of a traditional rock band?
Claypool: No, this guy, he was like the hotshot guitarist of the school. We just all thought, this guy is gonna be huge, he's going to be the most famous guy, he's amazing. He was like the prodigy guy. So it was an honor to be in this particular band and so we played all these original tunes and because we played original tunes, that made us different. Most of the original tunes sounded very much like Rush. 'Cause we were so into Rush. All the guys in the band were very good players. We had like the best drummer and the best guitarist, you know, and I eventually got to where I was one of the better bass players in the school. I could play fast, which back then, fast meant good. It doesn't really mean good now. As you get older, you realize you don't have to play a million miles an hour to be good. But back then, the faster you could play, the better you were. And I think that's everybody's mentality when you're a young player.
Next up, the Primates?
Claypool: No. I was in Blind Illusion three different times. I was in Blind Illusion in the very beginning and I quit and I started playing a lot of well, what was fusion back then. But it was jazz, fusion type stuff. Lot of funk. 'Cause I saw all these great bass players like Louis Johnson and Larry Graham and Stanley Clark just ripping it up. It opened a whole new series of environments for me to pursue. I had a series of jazz bands and kind of like soulful bands. Then I got asked to join Blind Illusion again and I played with them for like a year and I quit again.
This was when you were in high school?
Claypool: This was high school and right after high school. I quit Blind Illusion like right after high school. I started playing with this band called the Tommy Crank Band. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me in my life was to play in the Tommy Crank Band.
Claypool: '81, '82, somewhere around in there.
You were just out of high school?
Claypool: Just out of high school. And the Tommy Crank Band was TCB, taking care of business, Tommy Crank Band. Rock, rhythm and blues and we'd play. I was like by ten years, the youngest guy in the band. And we'd play old R&B tunes, James Brown and Wilson Pickett and Sam and Dave but we also played Chuck Berry and Teddy Pendergrass and whatever they thought was a cool tune. Mostly it was oldies and we played for all these Hells Angels bars all over the place, all over Northern California. So here I was, this 19, 20 and finally 21 year old. I think my last gig I ever did with them was on my 21st birthday. And I was playing all these bars that I wasn't even supposed to be in, just drinking and hanging out, with a pompadour, playing four sets a night, three to five nights a week. We even did Skynyrd tunes and Allman Brothers tunes. We opened for Greg Allman at the Keystone Berkeley. We opened for John Lee Hooker at Keystone Berkeley. It was just the best thing in the world for me because I learned how to groove and how to play in a variety of different kinds of very soulful music. I didn't realize it at the time, I was just going, "Ahh, I gotta go play at night, play the same songs." We knew a couple 100 songs that we would rotate through. It was good. We always had people sitting in. It was really cool.
So then when did you form Primus?
Claypool: Well, I was in the Tommy Crank Band and then I quit the Tommy Crank Band because I wanted to be a famous guy. So I started answering all the ads in BAM, like: Need bass player. Want bass player. And I auditioned for everybody.
Claypool: Just bands that never became anything. And I didn't like anything. There was nothing out there. It was just a bunch of crap. I mean I went to some places where it was kind of scary. I went to this guy's house in Antioch. He was this British guy. "I have a record out, I put it out in..." And so when you're however the hell old I was, 19 or 20, I guess I was 19, yeah, I was 19, when you're a 19 year old guy, you're just like, "Wow, you got a record out?" Now you think you know somebody that can put you there. Any little thing you grasp at. It's a huge thing to you. And I got to this guy's house and he's living in this weird apartment. This weird British guy comes to the door and he's all greasy and looked like something out of a movie, like some weird pervy guy and he lived in this house with this little fucked up kitchen table and there was one little chair in the living room. He goes, Here's my abode. Welcome to one man's domicile or something. He like shows me his record and I was just like whoa. He goes, here's the club we play. And it's some shithole somewhere and I was just like: get me out of here. At the time, I just thought, this is weird. But looking back on it, the guy could have been a serial killer. I'm not exaggerating, it was really bad.
Eventually I went back to Tommy Crank Band because I needed to make a living and played with them for awhile and then I just realized this is not going to get me anywhere, I need to start a band. So I had a four-track and I was writing songs and I had a drum machine 'cause I couldn't find any drummers that I liked. Well, I shouldn't say that. I found a lot of drummers I liked but they were all in good bands and they didn't want to play with me. Todd Huth called me one day and he goes, hey, I hear you need a guitar player and I remember Todd 'cause I had played with him years ago in a band some time in-between Blind Illusion and he was an old rock-and-roll guy, you know, Sabbath, Joe Walsh type guy and I thought, there's no way. 'Cause I was way into PiL. That was my whole big PiL phase and listening to the old Adrian Belew albums and I wanted to play with the guitars that played like Adrian Belew or Robert Fripp or something.
So here comes Todd and I said I'm kind of into Fripp and Belew and he goes, oh, I don't even know who that is, so he comes to play and I wasn't expecting anything really that spectacular. I knew he was a good guitar player but I figured he'd be a total rock guy and he plays...have you ever listened to the Sausage record? Todd's one of the most bizarre guitar players in the world. And he has like the most traditional suburban white guy roots. He listened to all this rock-and-roll stuff when he grew up but he just has his own...I call it Todd time. If you say, Todd, play something right now in four, he would have to think about it. Because every rhythm he plays is some odd time signature. And he doesn't think in fours like everybody's grown up thinking, you know, one, two, three, four. Whether you've done square dancing in grammar school or whatever, you know? And somehow he missed that boat. And that's a great thing because he's got his own unique style, his own unique way of picking and he came in and started playing for me. I go, have you ever listened to Adrian Belew or Robert Fripp? And he's like no. And I go, man, you're like in that realm.
So we started the band. I had already made t-shirts actually 'cause I was going to start this band Primate. And we needed a drummer and a friend of mine had just gotten out of the Army who was this guy from high school and he was the only black drummer in our jazz band. He had the best groove of anybody I knew and he and I had had a jazz band, like a jazz/soul band, when I was in high school and I was really bummed when he went in the Army. Well, he got out and I said, come join my band. He didn't even have any drums. He played Todd's drums that Todd inherited from his old drummer who died; he fell off of Half Dome at Yosemite, isn't that the craziest thing? So Vince was playing those, we made our first recording, well, I sold my Cougar, I had a real nice Cougar, sold my Cougar to make the first Primate recording. It was like four or five songs and we sent it out to everybody we could think of.
Big Rick Stewart who's on Live 105 now, he was a DJ at the Quake then, he was just getting started and he was from Richmond. I didn't know him, but he got the tape and liked it. I went out and met him and we just sort of clicked and became friends and he used to play our stuff all the time. And so we kind of got popular for a little while and then when the Quake disappeared, when the Quake went under, so did we. Not that we were real popular but we would play clubs the size of this room [gestures to the cozy studio we're sitting in] and there'd be 30 people there and that was big time.
So it sounds like that band was already getting pretty strange.
Claypool: Doing the Primate at the time, I was just like...What the hell was I into? I was into all this experimental stuff. I liked all the Bill Laswell stuff and Fred Frith and Fetus and old Pill and Adrian Belew stuff and all the old funk. I was always listening to old funk stuff. Of course Todd didn't have a funk bone in his body. He couldn't relate. And we went through so many different drummers. Finally in the end, before Larry and Herb joined the band, we had this drummer, Jay Lane, who was the
drummer on the Sausage album. Jay Lane was my hero. He was the drummer for the Freaky Executives.
I don't know if you remember the Freaky Executives. They were like the king daddy-o's of the Bay Area for a couple of years. Do you remember the whole world beat scene with Big City? I used to roadie for all those bands, so I knew all these people. And Jay Lane was, I was the roadie and he was one of the guys in the most popular band. He was like a star to me. When we were getting rid of our drummer I called him up to see if he knew any drummers. I go, hey Jay, you know any drummers? And Primus was actually getting pretty popular at that point. We were selling out at Berkeley Square.
Claypool: No it was Primus. Primate only lasted about a month because there was another band called the Primates. We were called Primate. There was another band somewhere in the country called the Primates. Their lawyer came down on us when we were starting to get ready to air play. So then it was Primus. So, Jay Lane, says, I'll join the band 'cause the Freaky's were like in record company hell. They were somehow getting dicked around by their record company. He says, I'll join. And I just about shit a tomato. I freaked out. I was like, really, OK, cool. I hung up the phone and went whoa. I called Todd and I go, Todd, Jay Lane wants to be in our band. He's all, really, no shit. And I go, yeah. So we had Jay Lane. He played this drum kit too [points to the drum kit set up in the studio] because he didn't have his own drums. He's got his shit together now but back then he was pretty flaky. So that was exciting. We had old Jay Lane. But it didn't last very long because then the Freaky Executives...Something good happened with their deal and he decided he couldn't take the time for Primus anymore. And Todd, at that point, when we started auditioning drummers, realized that he wanted to spend more time with his family. He just had a son and he was about to have another son. We did some traveling and he was away from his kid for a week and his kid had grown. You know how babies grow and it freaked him out and so he just didn't want to do it anymore. So he quit and there I was, with this band that was one of the more popular local bands and I didn't have anybody in it. I knew Larry Lalonde. And I knew he was a great guy 'cause we toured together a couple of times. He was one of my best friends. I was like, hey, Larry. Todd just quit, you wanna join the band? And he's like, hell yeah. He was all excited. So we were auditioning drummers and actually I had already auditioned Herb with Todd and I knew that he totally ripped. So me and Larry auditioned another handful of drummers that had already called us back and I said, let's just play with this guy Tim, he's totally ripping and we got together with him again and that was it. That became the band. It was funny because Herb was...that was before he was Herb but he took me aside and goes, so what about this Larry guy, is he going to
work out? Because Ler had to try and learn all Todd's parts and when we jammed with Herb, he didn't really know him quite yet, you know, so he was slopping through all this shit. He sounded god awful. It was a whole different world than what Herb had auditioned for the band as. I'm like, he'll get it, he'll learn it. I just made Ler just sit and learn every little thing. Because the band was popular enough that if it didn't come out sounding like what we sounded like then, people wouldn't have liked us anymore. Or we would have lost a lot of our audience. And a month later, we did the album, the first album. We got very lucky. I had many friends, like the Looters and Big City that would change one member and the whole band would just lose the chemistry and I got very lucky finding those two guys. Because it went from a band that was a great group of players to another band that was a great group of players that had a totally different approach to music but still had an energy that was tangible to people, I guess. Or to people I was catering too. So it worked out. I was a very lucky guy.
So a month later you recorded the first album, Suck On This. Originally you released it yourself. How'd you record that?
Claypool: It was a quarter inch reel-to-reel.
It's a live recording.
Claypool: Oh, yeah, it was live. We did two shows and we recorded them both and took the best material from both.
Claypool: Berkeley Square.
Then that got picked up pretty quick by Caroline Records, right?
Claypool: No. The thing that we were doing back in the old days is we'd save up enough money, $1200 or so and once a year we'd go into the studio and record a demo. And none of them really sounded that great. They sounded OK. We played with this band Fungo Mungo and they played us their demo in the car. Check it out, dude. They played it and it sounded amazing. I was like, whoa, this sounds great, where'd you record this? Oh, we did it in our rehearsal space. We got this machine. I'm all, really? It sounded phenomenal. And they're like, we'll record you. And so we went out to this place and it was one of those rent-a-spaces. Just like a little storage space. And there was this guy, it was Matt, he was like 17 or 18 at the time. He had this little reel-to-reel and they had a couple of little Shure 58 microphones. So we were like, OK, this oughta be fun.
It was the most barebones basic hokey setup I'd ever seen. And we recorded it and I still have people say it's one of the best recordings we've ever done. And that was the Sausage tape. It was Primus but it was called Sausage and that was me and Todd and Jay and that's how the band Sausage got their name. It was from that demo tape. It didn't cost us a dime and we thought, well shit, we can make a record. This was after Larry and Herb had joined the band. I go, hey, we made this demo. Didn't cost us a dime. We can get Matt to do it again. We'll record it and all we have to do is pay to have it pressed. My dad, he was able to loan me like $3000, which was a big deal 'cause he really didn't have any money. We were able to press them. We pressed 1000 records and took them around to the stores ourselves and we set aside like 200 records to send out to radio stations around the country, college radio stations. And it sold out like right away locally. We were like selling out at the Omni at that point. Then the college radio picked up on it somehow. It was total flukish thing that they would
pick up on it.
When you say college radio, you're talking about the college station in Berkeley?
Claypool: Stations all around the country. 'Cause they got the record. I think what helped us is the record itself looked really good. We had this artwork done. I had the sculpture made by Lance, who's done all our sculptures and Bosco, who's actually Merv's brother, he's a layout guy for Bass Player magazine. He did the layout of the album and it just looked really professional, I think. The radio stations weren't expecting some independent thing to come to looking that professional.
It was a 12-inch album?
Claypool: Yeah, that was before they were all phased out. So anyway, college radio started playing it around the country and it just caught on and we made another 1000 records and sold those. Me and Larry used to drive, we drove up here to record stores in Sonoma.
The boxes of records in the trunk deal.
Claypool: Yeah. We had bleached blonde hair, total Deadhead looking guys. Driving up to these record stores asking them if they wanted to buy any of our records. And it was a big deal if they wanted five, we'll take five, you want five? Wow! They're gonna buy five! We'd give them five. That's how it all got started. And then after that, the college radio picked up on it. All of a sudden there were record stores around the country that wanted five. We talked to Rough Trade and we signed a deal with them where we'd pay to manufacture them and they would distribute them for us. Then we started talking to a bunch of labels and Caroline just seemed like the coolest one. They would sign us for a one record deal. That was a big deal 'cause we wanted a one record deal. We didn't want to be tied to anybody, you know, which was one of the smarter things we've ever done. And they said they'd do a one record deal but they wanted the first record as well. They wanted that as part of the catalog. So we said, OK, that's cool. And we did that deal with Caroline and it just worked out really well. Janet Billig [who later worked at Gold Mountain, the company that manages Sonic Youth and Beastie Boys, etc.] worked for Caroline at the time and she's fabulous person, one of the best people I've met in the industry. She worked our record. Now she's vice-president of Atlantic which is marvelous. To see someone like Janet in a position like that just makes me feel good about the world, you know. That's a really, really good thing. So it just worked out well for us on Caroline.
Your success with the album you recorded for Caroline, Frizzle Fry, led to a deal with Interscope.
Claypool: The thing about Interscope that was so great was that there was [no bullshit]. It was very much that A&R man Tom Whalley came and saw us at a club and the reason he was at the club is he had just sort of heard about us. And he saw the band, loved the band, came back to say, listen, I want to sign you guys. Because he loved the band. He didn't know that we had sold 80,000 copies of our independent record or whatever. And there were a couple of other majors that we had been actively talking to that had become aware because we had sold all these records and it was obviously a money thing. Whereas, right off the bat, with Interscope, with Tom, it was, I like this band. So that was a big selling point for me and plus, the whole vibe at Interscope was like an independent label and we had some experience with independents so it just seemed like, wow, this is just like another independent but these guys got money. It wasn't like money for us, it was money like if we needed an ad somewhere, we could put an ad somewhere. Or if we needed tour support to go somewhere. We could do those things.
Just a great vibe, a great vibe there.
Can you talk a little bit about a few of the other songs, like "Over the Electric Grapevine?"
Claypool: That song is about a trip that I took to Los Angeles with Adam Gates who actually is the artist who did the picture that we're going to use for the record. He's just an old friend of mine and he had a band called Monkey Rhythm a while ago and they were going to shoot this video down in L.A. Some college students that they knew were going to do it as a project so he and I drove down to Los Angeles one night in his Datsun and we were fried on acid. So there were many very interesting things that happened to us on the way down. It was a full on Hunter S. Thompson experience. So I couldn't really tell the whole story in the song because there was just so much shit that went on but there's little references to different things. But I remember, we're driving along and it would be completely dark and every now and then I would lean up and grab the little map light thing that folds out and aim it at my face and click it on and go--like some crazy face and he'd start freaking out because it was the most hilarious thing in the world to us.
And we pulled into some truck stop to get gas and I bought a pack of cigarettes. I hadn't smoked in years. I bought some cigarettes and I stole a lighter and we bought a bunch of candy and, being idiots, bought a bunch of stuff, got back in the car and I started smoking all these cigarettes just to be a bastard filling the car with smoke. We were just fucking with each other the whole way down. I had this gum that when you bite it, the stuff squirts in your mouth, you know? And I didn't realize it was that kind of gum 'cause I hate that stuff. So I had this gum and I took it and I was squeezing out the juice and I was sitting there just squeezing it onto his shoulder while he was driving, the juice from this gum and I ate it. And he's like, what are you doing? And somehow the whole car seemed like it was full of this sticky stuff. It was everywhere. It was like the most horrible feeling.
So we ended up in L.A. and there's references to us flying over the grapevine through the fog and hearing--Faith No More's new song had just come on the radio, from the Introduce Yourself record, which was my favorite Faith No More record. It came on the radio and it was the total perk me up and we go flying over the grapevine. And we get to L.A. and we had been listening to this radio station, I guess Deep Purple was coming to town or something so that whatever heavy metal station down there was playing Deep Purple all the time. And we were going back and forth from that station and this college station where these people were talking on the radio. It was like Howard Stern type stuff. They were bullshitting.
So we're driving along and it was too early for us to show up at this video shoot, but it was late and we were tired and we didn't have a hotel or nothing, we didn't have any money. So Adam goes, "Well, we played the Roxie before." 'Cause I didn't know L.A. at all. He says, "Well, we played the Roxie before. Let's pull in behind the Roxie." So we pull into the parking lot behind the Roxie and we park and I'm lying there and he takes off. And I'm flipping through the channels and some Deep Purple song comes on so I'm listening to it on that station. I'm just lying there kind of half asleep kind of still frying and
the song ends and I flip the radio back to the college station and I hear Adam's voice on the radio and he's all, "Yeah, when you think of acid, think of Monkey Rhythm." Click. "That was Adam calling from a phone booth. His friend is asleep in the car right now behind the Roxie. And they've driven down here..." and I was like whoa. It was like total mindbender, you know. Pretty soon Adam comes walking back around the corner. I told him, I just heard you on the radio. He goes, "No way, they played that over the air? " So that's what that song is about. It was just one of those crazy weekends. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud, I think, of that weekend.
You headlined Lollapalooza two years ago, two summers ago. Which put you before crowds of like 20,000 or more on many of the days. Was it weird to be playing before that big an audience every night for two months or whatever the length of the tour was?
Claypool: We were used to it. Actually, we've done some pretty big tours. We did that U2 thing which was nuts. That was weirder, by far. Because we were playing in these gigantic monster places.
To like 50,000, 60,000 people.
Claypool: Yeah, we played Yankee Stadium. We were one of the only bands besides Billy Joel and somebody else. We were like, woo hoo. But it sounded like shit. Those places are designed for whacking balls around and eating hot dogs in the sun. They're not conducive to good sound at all. People are sitting there looking at us like we're on TV.
LaLonde: The odds of 60,000 people a night caring about what we're doing is pretty slim too.
Claypool: It was good, it was a good positive thing for us but I think the highlight of the whole U2 thing for us, was going around to all the stadiums. Me and Ler would find the football helmet, you know, the football helmet golf cart thing that they...
LaLonde: When you break your leg they come out in it and get you.
Claypool: When you watch a football game, the helmet will come out and cruise around the field. We'd go find the helmet for whatever city we were in this stadium and take our picture sitting in it. We didn't get as many as I would've liked. I think we got the Giants and a couple of others. But that was great. And another thing that was cool about the U2 stadium thing was you know, you've got however many tens of thousands of people there and maybe there were, I'd like to think there were maybe
1000 people there that were Primus fans but every now and then, you'd hear a "Primus sucks" come from a different part of the audience, you know and I'm sure we're just like freaking out all these U2 fans, some of them young...
LaLonde: Some of them joining in. You're right, they do suck!
Why'd you do Lollapalooza?
Claypool: I like playing outside. It's fun but I don't necessarily think it's the best atmosphere to see a show, but it would depend on the show too. For Primus, that was one reason why we played last at Lollapalooza. We wanted to go do a tour by ourselves and be in a darkened environment so we could do our projections and stuff. So they said, well why don't you guys play last? And we said OK. So we were playing in the dark. And on this next tour, we're planning on some real interesting theatrical things. Lots of pyrotechnics.
LaLonde: Lots of bombs!
Claypool: No bombs. That's the thing that attracts me to the Residents and Laurie Anderson and different performance artists. I love the whole visual thing. So we're trying to get into it And basically, we're getting into it as much as we can afford to get into it. When we did the Lollapalooza thing, that was as much as we could afford. We had to bring the big projector and spray it across the wall. This one we're going to take it a little further and...we can't really afford to do the Floyd thing. But I love that
type of stuff. I think it's great.
LaLonde: Let's get Kiss' old stage set.
Claypool: No pyrotechnics. That's pyrotechnics. Herb's afraid of pyrotechnics.
You auditioned for Metallica at one point? When was that?
LaLonde: What year did Cliff die? Do you know? I don't remember. I think it was 1986.
Claypool: That sounds about right. Kirk was an old buddy of mine from high school and when Cliff died, I got a call from him saying, "Hey, you wanna come audition?" I was like, OK. He said, well, learn these songs. And I didn't really know. I didn't listen to metal at all. My experience with metal was old Sabbath and Rainbow and all that shit. I didn't know Venom or Slayer or any of those bands. So I went and did this audition and didn't really know what I was doing. I definitely did not look the part. But I had a blast. It was fun. It was loud as hell. At the time it seemed loud. It probably wouldn't seem that loud now.
But you didn't get the gig.
Claypool: I did not get the gig
Was that disappointing to you?
Claypool: At the time it was very disappointing because I was a carpenter and I knew they were going to Japan and I was like, wow. Just the idea of not being a carpenter anymore and not have to basically be a 9-to-5 guy was just...that would be like winning the Lotto or something. At the time, it was definitely my shot, what I thought would be my only shot.
Have you thought, what would have happened if you had gotten that gig?
Claypool: It would have been kind of weird. I don't know if they would have wanted me in the band. Obviously they didn't want me in the band. I don't think it would have worked out. I like doing my thing. I'm very forward with my opinions.