Primus: A Hallucino-Genetic Evolution
Primus kicked off the 2010 Oddity Faire Tour last night in Sacramento. To mark the occasion, we’re presenting this interview with Les Claypool, drawn from the pages of the September/October issue of Relix.
On July 18, a brand, spanking new Primus debuted at a sold-out “Über Secret Warm Up Show” at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. While this version of the group had yet to perform together live, the faces certainly were familiar. Joining the band’s founder Les Claypool were longtime Primus guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde and (initial) regular drummer Jay Lane. The show was the public debut of the trio because Lane had left the group before LaLonde signed on in 1989. This version of Primus has big plans, with international gigs and a new studio record in the works. Just days before leaving on an extensive summer tour, Claypool shared some Tales from the Punchbowl.
To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in doing Primus. Primus had become one of these things since the break-up in ‘99 that we would do once every few years for a tour, five weeks or so and then put it to bed again because of this nostalgia thing. There really wasn’t a lot of excitement about trying to do something new and there wasn’t a lot of flow toward new material.
The Primus notion came up again at the end of this cycle with my band on the Fungi and Foe record. I had become tight again with Larry LaLonde—we had started rekindling our friendship—and he really wanted to do this thing and really wanted to make another record. But when we talked to Tim [Alexander] about how to approach this, he really wasn’t on the same page. So we all came to the conclusion that while we tried to make it work again, let’s move on and Jay Lane was the first guy I thought of, so here he is.
The return of Jayski
Jay Lane is—for me—one of the most amazing drummers. Beyond say Stewart Copeland, he is the most creative drummer I’ve ever played with. I play drums and whenever I go see a band, the first thing I look at is the drummer—generally not the bass player. As a drummer, I steal all my licks from Jay because I just love his playing.
Jay was the Primus guy when we were playing the clubs around San Francisco and he quit literally a month before we released our first Primus album because he had a major label record deal with another band that he had been playing with for many years (The Freaky Executives). He weighed one against the other and took the other and unfortunately it didn’t pan out for him. Those first couple of [Primus] records, a lot of those drum parts were Tim’s interpretations of Jay’s parts.
The thing that’s phenomenal about “Jayski,” and the reason I keep yanking him back into the studio, is that a lot of players play very well but they don’t necessarily listen to how they interact within the mix of the other instruments. They concentrate on their parts but they rely on whoever’s at the helm, at the console, to mix it within the music. But Jay doesn’t do that. In fact, he’s one of the best that I’ve seen at mixing himself within the music as far as how he attacks each drum within the given dynamic of a tune at that particular time.
A Freak Abides
Larry’s a freak. That’s why when Todd Huth left the band he was the first guy I thought of. We had toured together in this metal band [Blind Illusion]. He was only 19 at the time and he had this metal background but his favorite guitarists in the world were Frank Zappa and Jerry Garcia. So here’s this guy who had been playing in one of the earliest and groundbreaking death metal bands, Possessed, and he was a total Deadhead/Zappahead. Laughs.] He’d sit there and play these Robert Fripp licks all the time and when Todd left I said, “I’m going to go get Larry.”
Ler, he’s always been a freak and he’s still a freak. He’s been working on a lot of video game scoring the past handful of years, so his skills in the studio are pretty damn good as far as being a guy at the helm.
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