The ATN Q&A: Primus' Les Claypool
The ATN Q&A:
Primus' Les Claypool
In a freewheeling conversation, the Primus mastermind talks about the new
album, Tales From The Punch Bowl and more
by Michael Goldberg
© Addicted to Noise
Issue 1.05 June
They are laughing.
They have sinister smirks on their faces. They are rising from the
ocean. They are not human. They are not Devo. They are strange, computer-generated
representations of the three members of Primus. They are on the screen of a monitor in Primus
leader Les Claypool's cozy Northern California studio, which he calls "The Corn."
Might be the
cover," muses Claypool as much to himself as to his partner, Primus guitarist
Larry "Ler" Lalonde. "Might not be."
Time is running out
for Claypool. He already trashed one cover for the group's
about-to-be-released album, Tales From the Punch Bowl. The group heads off to Australia in a
week. Before they leave, a cover must be turned in.
So today Claypool
combines work with talking to ATN, proceeding with the creation of
album art even as he hangs with myself and IUMA kingpin Jeff Patterson, who is shooting video,
some of which will be used with the Primus cover story we are here to report.
Three hours after
we arrive, Claypool and Lalonde turn away from the computer screens
(they're using three powerful Power Macintosh 8100s) for a highly focused interview session.
Claypool does most of the talking, with Lalonde adding one-liners at appropriate moments. The
Primus leader laughs a lot, and in reading the interview, it's important to keep in mind that both
guys have a healthy sense of humor, and that Claypool's laugh is a crazed-sounding cackle, used
to underline the absurdity of some of the things Primus has experienced.
session ultimately lasts for nearly three hours. As Claypool himself tells us
at its conclusion, "You've pretty much got my entire life story. I've never done a more extensive
interview than this."
Hey Les, we take
that as a compliment.
To Suck Or Not To Suck, That Is The
Addicted To Noise: We really only have one question for you. Does Primus really
Les Claypool: Sure. Yeah, we all do to an extent in somebody's mind.
ATN: It seems like that phrase has come to represent a kind of Primus
Claypool: Well, it started out as just a way of dealing with compliments.
You do a show in a little
club. Someone says, "You guys are pretty good." "Eh, we suck!" It's embarrassing sometimes
[when people offer compliments]. So it became a thing on stage. Yeah, we're Primus, we suck.
And then over the years that we've been around it became sort of a Primus high sign, I guess.
You're in the know. I'll be walking down the street and hear someone go, "Hey, dude, you suck."
It's like that person's in the know, to an extent. I mean, I know what the hell they're talking about.
I could be walking with my grandmother or something and have her go, "What the hell is he
talking about?" But that was how it started out and it's sort of become this tag for us.
Larry Lalonde: Plus it's fun to go, "You suck," at bands.
Claypool: Sure. And we haven't set any high expectations for people to
have us live up to, you
know. We come right out and just lay it on the line. We can only go uphill from there.
LaLonde: We can pretend like it's a joke.
Claypool: Yeah, people don't know if we're serious or not. "No, you really
do suck." "Cool. Oh
ATN: Let's talk about your new album, Tales From the Punch Bowl. What
is the punch bowl
and what are these tales?
Claypool: Well, the punch bowl is sort of the all encompassing place where
we exist, I guess.
That's the deep, profound meaning and Primus being the turd in the punch bowl. That's my
perception. And I keep trying to convince the other guys. Larry?
LaLonde: I agree with everything he says.
Claypool: He's my yes man.
ATN: We've been listening to an advance tape of the album, and really
flipping out over
"Southbound Pachyderm." What inspired that song?
Claypool: Well, actually "Southbound Pachyderm" was something I thought
of a long time ago as
a name for a band. Then I wrote the riff and when I wrote the lyrics to go with the tune that we
eventually laid down on tape, it became a sort of a look at the extinction of pachyderms which
are elephants. Well, pachyderms are thick-skinned creatures, which would be rhinoceri and
hippos and elephants. The tune implies they're going south, so to speak. And that could mean a
few different things. Sometimes going south means going bad or going sour or rotting. Something
gone south is gone off. And the imagery of the song--we actually have Lance making a sculpture
right now of this elephant, his version of an elephant with these B-52 wings attached to it. Lance
is the guy that did the clay figures for Pork Soda and the other albums. The song is about how
these pachyderm are filling the sky and heading southward. There you go. I just had the imagery
of these flying pachyderms, elephants and rhinos, these big large animals that are disappearing.
That has nothing to do with marijuana whatsoever. [Turning to Lalonde] Now Larry, get off that
computer and do the interview.
ATN: To get serious for a second, is that a concern of yours, what's
happening to the
environment. The fact that animals and birds and other living things are going extinct and
that man, for the most part, doesn't seem to care?
Claypool: Well, we're sort of the parasites on the planet. We're devouring
every little bit and
piece and pretty soon we'll be back in the Ice Age and it'll start all over again. But it's not
something that keeps me awake at night and I'm not a big save-the-elephant guy or activist in any
arena. But it's something that crosses my mind from time to time. So it ended up in a song.
ATN: Another of the songs we like a lot is "Mrs. Blaileen." Is that based on
Claypool: It's partially based upon a true story but it's been doctored up a
ATN: What really happened?
Claypool: Basically, the story's of this guy who's been sort of picked on all
his life and one day
he gets confronted by two bully characters and he sort of snaps and lunges forward with his
fishing knife and kills one of the guys. And it is actually a true story. It happened to somebody
that I knew a long time ago. But I'm avoiding--the names have been changed to protect the
innocent. Let's just put it that way. [laughs] To protect me from attorneys. [laughs] And it
probably still won't work.
ATN: How much of what you write about comes from real events?
Claypool: I think to an extent a lot of the things are a bit autobiographical.
experienced or have experienced through someone else's tales or what have you. And sometimes
the tunes are just purely fantasy.
ATN: Get me examples of the two extremes.
Claypool: Well, like on the last album [Pork Soda] we had a song called
"Bob" which was
about a friend of mine that hung himself in his apartment and it was basically a true story. I told
the story. Nothing over dramatized or anything about it. That was just the story. And then there's
something like "Tommy the Cat" which is about an alley cat, a cartoonish cat.
500,000 Units Sold
ATN: Pork Soda entered the charts at number seven.
Claypool: And it abruptly--
LaLonde: Spiraled down the charts.
Claypool: Spiraled down. [laughs]
ATN: I think a lot of people were very surprised.
Claypool: We were probably the most surprised. It was quite hilarious,
LaLonde: It was weird to see the name Primus that close to Janet Jackson.
Claypool: It was kind of funny.
ATN: How did having a Top 10 album affect you?
Claypool: You go, "Woo, woo ha." But most of the bands I've been big fans
of or have been my
favorite very rarely made it into that position of being in the top 10. So it just seemed weird for us
to be there for the brief moment that we were there. The greatest thing about it is it just made me
think, well, there's this blob of Primus fans out there that just went out the first week or the first
day or whatever and bought the thing and put it on the charts. Our fans were waiting for it and
went out and got it. It was kind of cool.
LaLonde: And then the next week they all had it.
ATN: Still, to sell half a million copies of an album in the United States is
not a small
thing. That's a lot of fans.
Claypool: That's true. I'll take it.
ATN: How has it affected you?
Claypool: Well I bought this house in the country. [laughs] There's always
the paranoia that
they're all going to go away before you put out your next project or when you put out your next
project they'll go "Hmm." How has it affected us? As far as like creating or anything, it hasn't
really affected us. If anything, we're just trying to keep being Primus as opposed to adding horn
sections and keyboards. Trying to be true to what we've made so far and not altering it for Pepsi
commercials or whatever.
ATN: What if Bud comes along and goes, guys, we want to have you do a
Bud ad like the
Claypool: If they come along maybe when I'm hurting for some cash and
I've got a kid I'm trying
to put through college or something, I don't know. It's hard to say what will happen in 20 years.
But stranger things have happened. Right now, none of that interests me. What would I endorse?
I would endorse Grady White boats, because I love my boat, you know. If I felt very strongly
about something, I would endorse it for whatever amount of money but I don't really drink Pepsi.
ATN: I don't think Michael Jackson does either.
Claypool: I just don't see that happening so I'm not really worried about it.
Primus is not the type
of band that Nike or any of those companies are going to come knock on the door and say, hey,
come do a TV commercial for us 'cause we really think you guys are a great fashion statement.
'Cause we're not. And not that we're the big rebels... It's just not appealing to me. I see people in
that position doing the commercials or whatever and it's not a flattering light to be in. So I
wouldn't really want to do it. I wouldn't be comfortable. I don't think it's so much a political thing
or moral issue. It just seems cheesy to me.
LaLonde: Sum it up in three words.
Claypool: Yep, cheese can sum up many things.
ATN: Speaking of which, you called your third album Sailing the Seas of
Cheese. Was that
related to the fact that you were now doing an album for a major label?
Claypool: That was exactly what it was all about. It was the space we were
in. We were signing
to this major label. We were going to be thrust into the arena with the money or the power to be
in, I hate to say competition, but to be pushed as all these other bands [on major labels] are. We
were going to have the ads come out in different magazines and we were going to be sent to the
radio stations along with Gerardo or whoever else they were working. You know we were part
of the same game. So we're sailing the seas of cheese which just seemed like the perfect way of
explaining it. We're either going to sink or swim.
LaLonde: It meant we could have an orange album cover too.
Claypool: That always has a lot to do with what we do too, what the color
schemes are going to
be on the record. [laughs]
ATN: Did you have some absurd experiences in terms of dealing with label
they were trying to sign you?
Claypool: It was funny talking to some of the labels. You know, they're like,
"Hey, OK, hey
Les, you're a big fisherman, we'll take you fishin', wanna go fishing, we're gonna go fishing, OK
pal, we're gonna rent a boat, we're gonna go fish and we'll get you a producer, we'll work
together on this thing, we're gonna work together." Talking to some of the marketing people and
they're all, "oh, yeah, I worked on Michael Bolton records" and we're just going, whoa. And it's
fine. That's fine and dandy but it would have never worked for a band like us because we're a
But it seems to me
that things are starting to... I mean in '84 we were pretty weird. We
really weren't any different than we are now but we were considered pretty weird. We didn't have
anybody really to open for or play with around the Bay Area. But with bands becoming more
popular like the Chili Peppers and the whole scene that's sprung up with Bungle and bands that
are a little stranger than what was going on in the late '80s which was Bon Jovi, has made a
difference. Now, Primus isn't quite so bizarre. It's not because we've changed or anything, it's just
the acceptance of things like us are a little more common. And you know, I'd like to think we
helped some of that.
LaLonde: But probably not.
Claypool: You got some pretty interesting stuff out there now.
ATN: Like what?
Claypool: I'm a big Nine Inch Nails fan, not that we're anything like that.
And Ministry. And like
Rage Against The Machine or even Ween, bands that in the late '80s really wouldn't have been
able to find a niche for themselves. The face of the industry just keeps changing and changing and
changing. When we first hit the scene with our record we were an alternative band, you know.
An alternative band meant it was an alternative. It wasn't the catch word as it became because all
the alternative bands became popular so the term became popular. And now there's the punk
pop thing which is, you know, those two words sort of contradict themselves. In a big way. If
you hammer at it long enough, something's going to become popular. I mean, Green Day, they've
been out there for quite awhile, actually. We were playing with those guys years ago in little, tiny
LaLonde: Green Day was around when I first got in Primus. Five years ago.
No, six years ago.
Wow, I'm old.
Claypool: Yep, you're greazy. Greazy old guy.
ATN: Does money change everything, as a group called the Brains once
Claypool: It changes a lot of things. [laughs]
LaLonde: Then again, you might want to ask somebody who's actually
made a lot of money.
Claypool: We've acquired a lot of debt. I like the Evil Knievel theory. You
make three million
and you spend six million. Not that I've made three million, but I remember him saying that when
was a kid.
ATN: You sold like half a million copies of two albums and that seems like
generate some dough.
Claypool: Yeah, it's some dough. But we need to sell some more records to
pay for this place.
Or I'm moving back to El Sobrante.
You know I loved
the fact that Nirvana put out that second album [after selling millions of
copies of Nevermind] and had all that imagery that was not very comfortable for pop society and
here they were, one of the biggest things in pop society at the time. And they make a video with
embryos hanging in the trees and I just thought that was the greatest thing. They could have come
out and just rode that comfortable wave and made some bucks and hung out until they were old
guys and did whatever. But they got ugly on everybody, which I thought was pretty cool. And I'm
not like a huge Nirvana fan or anything but I thought it was pretty cool. Good way to handle what
they had become.
ATN: How influential have some of what would be considered the more
groups--Mothers of Invention, Capt. Beefheart, the Residents--been on Primus and in what
Claypool: Well, the Residents have been a huge influence on me. I know
when I first heard
them, I heard them in like '80 or '81. So I wasn't there from the beginning or anything and I went,
this shit's weird. I don't know if I like this. First thing I heard was "Constantinople" and I was like,
what the hell? It reminded me of what music would be like in hell or something. But I was still
drawn to it and I'd listen to it again and I had a friend, she was actually my best friend's mother,
she was this big Residents fan, she would play this stuff. And she took me to one of the shows
and I was like, that band is amazing. And actually people are always saying we sound like
Beefheart . I never really listened to any Beefheart. So I bought Trout Mask Replica. But I'm not
like a huge Beefheart fan. I'm a big Tom Waits fan and I guess he's a big Beefheart fan. Ler's a
big Zappa guy.
LaLonde: I'm a big Zappa guy.
ATN: I can hear obvious Residents influences in things that you do. But I'd
like to hear you
talk about how you feel the influence shows up in your work and then have Larry talk a
little bit about the Zappa influence.
Claypool: I think the Residents, to me, just opened a lot of doors as far as
stretching. I always
like looking for new boundaries to move beyond and the Residents was another corridor to go
down in. It's not like you listen to Primus, you go, oh Residents. There's many different things
because we've all been into so many different things and the way we do things is very
non-constrictive upon each other. We all do our thing and so, whatever Herb's into or been into
for all these years (and he's been into so many different things), they're going to come out in his
playing in Primus. It's not like I say, you gotta do a drum beat that sounds like John Bonham or
something. We guide each other a little bit but it's all pretty much our influences oozing out all
over the place. And since we all have so many different influences it becomes this big potpourri
jambalaya whatever the hell you want to call it. And the Residents, to me, when I stumbled
across them, was at a stage where it was another thing to make music exciting for me again.
ATN: So what you're saying is that the Residents just opened you up to
these other things
you can do with music or in the sphere of music.
Claypool: Definitely. I mean, to an extent. It's one of those bands that
affected me like Tom
Waits affected me. I went, whoa, that's an interesting perspective and there've been many
occasions like that in the early days. The first thing as a bass player was Geddy Lee in Rush and
Chris Squier and Larry Graham and Sly and the Family Stone. That was when I was strictly
focused on the bass aspect. It was like, bass, bass, bass. Anything that was interesting on the
bass was just like a magnet and then it expanded into other things. Once I started singing, I was
really big into John Lydon and what he was doing with Public Image in the early days.
ATN: Second Edition or the first album?
Claypool: I liked the first album and Flowers of Romance and This Is What
You Want, This Is
What You Get and Happy I thought was a great record. And the Generic album was a great
record. I just always liked his approach. If I've gotten anything from a vocalist, it's probably been
him. More than anybody. Hopefully I've been able to evolve a little in my own direction.
ATN: What about the Sex Pistols?
Claypool: I love the Sex Pistols. They're great. But I wasn't like one of the
guys that was like,
Sex Pistols! when they first came out and went and bought it and changed my life. I wasn't like
the big early punk guy. I actually got into Sex Pistols after I got into the PIL stuff. It was always
there. It was one of those things you just always heard, you didn't have to own the record. You
know, your friends had it. So I didn't see any cause to go out and indulge myself but the PIL stuff
I thought was amazing.
I saw PIL at this
really bizarre performance art thing in Fort Mason [in San Francisco] and
Rhythm & Noise opened up for them. It was just this big industrial noise party. I mean like the
whole event, not just Rhythm & Noise. Like you walked in the door, it was unbelievable, you
walked in the door and the whole big airplane hanger or whatever the hell that thing is, it's on the
pier, some big warehouse, was filled with smoke and you could smell, they had a barbecue going
at one end, they were cooking ribs so you could smell the smell in the air and you walk in the
door and one of the pieces, this big sculpture, was this auto accident with this, I think it was a
Pinto and a big station wagon like smashed together and glass was all over the place and there
were real people sitting in the cars pretending to be dead. Blood all over the place and there's a
guy going around squirting them down with blood and there was more smoke and they were
flashing the CHP photos on the walls intermixed with like close-up shots of like extreme
hard-core porn. You're like getting this weird contrasting image and there was some bondage
thing going on on the side where this big fat bald guy was scooping coal and iron and just making
these scooping noises and banging chains against metal while they're raising this guy up, hanging
him by his heels and he's fully bound in leather and chained up and the whole building was full of
things like that.
And at the far end,
Rhythm & Noise did their thing which was basically a guy showing
weird black and white slides and having all these bizarre sounds going on which back then was all
this analog synthesizer stuff. Tapes loops. And then PIL played after that. It was unreal. This
whole building was filled with smoke and you could smell the burning flesh or you could smell the
ribs cooking, you know, and there's all this crazy shit going on. It was just an unbelievable show.
You don't see stuff like that anymore, I don't think. It was crazy. That was a very interesting
night. I saw Foetus at the Oasis [a San Francisco club]. That was pretty amazing too.
LaLonde: Did they have meat cooking?
Claypool: No. This is what Foetus did. It was at the Oasis, which was this
little skinny room.
We were all waiting for Foetus. Now I didn't know what to expect. You know, I didn't know if it
was a band or a guy with a DAT machine.
All of a sudden,
"OK, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Foetus" and it
was like this smattering of claps, you know, and this guy comes up on stage and he stuck out his
guitar and it's just going bzzzz and there's a tall barstool sitting next to him and he's standing there
and he's going strum, strum, strum. He walks to the mike, he goes, "It won't work, it won't
work." He's fooling with the amp and you hear this guy going, "Fuck you, man, you suck, fuck
you." And he's all, "It won't work." He keeps saying it into the mike and screwing with the amp.
Some guy in the audience keeps heckling him, "Get the hell out of here." So he goes up to the
mike and he goes, "Oh, yeah, you think you can do better, come on up here." And this guy comes
running up on stage, sticks his hand on the barstool, takes a big meat cleaver and chops his hand
off. There's blood shooting all over the place. And meantime, this guy runs off and the music
starts and Foetus starts doing their thing. It was amazing. It was just like total, like, I've got your
attention now. It was so cool. I liked that quite a bit. These are the things that influence me in my
LaLonde: That's probably one of the biggest answers to: What are your
Claypool: Just go, yeah, Beatles.
ATN: It's almost like you've been promoting the Residents. You've made
reference to them
in songs and then you covered a number of their songs on a CD.
Claypool: There are times when I think we have some things that sound
very, very much like the
Residents and I think they should be acknowledged for that. It's not because we just decided to
sound like that one day. It's because we listen to the Residents. And we're not trying to copy
them but you play something that's bizarre and you go oh, that's kind of like the Residents. I think
they deserve some props, a little zip. Same with Tom Waits, you know. Just acknowledging
LaLonde: Plus, if you can get somebody to go buy a Residents album, it's
ATN: Do you care at this point whether Primus is popular or not? I mean,
you started, that wasn't the goal, I would think, because you were making music that no
one would have expected would have been popular.
Claypool: Well, you want to be popular. It just depends on the scale of
popularity. I didn't
create the band to go play in front of nobody. You always want people to come see you and
appreciate you and like the same things you like. It makes you feel like you maybe have some
taste. Or that there are just people out there that are on the same wavelength, to an extent. It's
nice to know. I just don't see mass popularity for Primus ever. I just don't. When we put out a
record, we always hope it'll do a little better than the last record. That's all we hope. I don't want
us to start going downhill. That would be a real drag. But it's gonna happen someday, you know.
It's just inevitable but hopefully it won't be for a little while.
Mystery Of Primus Fish Stories Revealed
ATN: What about fishing? It's one of the mysteries of Primus.
Claypool: It's just one of those things that have been there all my life. My
dad had a boat. Both
my uncles had boats. My grandfather had a boat. It just seemed like every weekend we were
fishing. So I have a lot of fish stories. I'm not like a super fisherman guy. In fact, I tend to get
skunked a lot. But I go a lot and I enjoy it and I fly fish and I got a pond down here. I was out
there yesterday, caught a pretty nice sized bass, actually. I let him go. It's salmon season, the
weather was nice and if I didn't have to sit at this computer, I'd be out chasing salmon in my boat.
Bodega Bay is pretty close to here.
ATN: There's a sort of romanticism about fishing, you're fishing, you're
everyday concerns, you're off at a pond, you're out on the ocean, you're away from all the
hassles of normal day-to-day life.
ATN: Do you think that's some of the appeal of fishing?
Claypool: I don't know what it is. I think it's funny because I've turned some
fishing and just some friends as well. A couple friends of mine just became completely totally
obsessed and I remember a point in my life where I was obsessed. I'm not really obsessed now. I
have a pond and it's convenient. I just go down there and it's a good way to release a little tension
at the end of the day or whatever. It's like everybody has a hobby. Some people bowl, some
people play tennis, shoot pool, whatever, you know. You gotta have something that's non-work
related to do. And because most of the stuff I do that is work-related is what a lot of people do
as a hobby, I think people think it's a little bit peculiar. Like how can doing this stuff be work, but
it's work. Playing on the computer is work when you gotta do it and you have deadlines. That's
the fishing story.
ATN: It seems like this is some core element. Because in so many of the
you're telling these tales. There's that idea of fishing stories.
Claypool: Yeah, I love that stuff. I love like "Old Man in the Sea" and Mark
Twainish type tales.
You ever read any Gene Shepherd at all? I love Gene Shepherd. I'm not really sure what his
background is. I think he wrote for Playboy or something for awhile. He has a couple of books.
He has these stories of just when he was a kid growing up back in wherever the hell it was, some
mining town, just a regular old middle town U.S.A. They're just good, honest stories. I like them.
That's the type of stuff I've always liked. I've always been attracted to Disneyesque Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang stuff and musicals. I just like that stuff. I don't know why. Ever since I was a
kid that's what I've always liked. Me and Ler make our trek to Disneyland every year. I've been
to all the Disneylands on the planet except for the one in Tokyo.
ATN: How old are you?
ATN: What's your birthday?
ATN: I was reading through some of your older press and I found this
quote from Mark
Mothersbaugh and he was asked about Devo influencing Primus and he was joking
around, but he says, as a matter of fact, Primus was an early influence on Devo. He says,
"We went to some of their concerts in the late '60s when they were the house band at the
House of Cheese."
Claypool: I read that actually and he said something about we sounded like
a band that doesn't
take art or what they do too seriously. I'm definitely a Devo fan. So it's good to know that he
doesn't think we're a big bag of shit. He could have easily said that.
ATN: So now there's Primus lore, this sort of secret history of Primus or
there was a Primus back in the early days....
Claypool: He's just making it all up. He just sounds like a pretty clever guy.
Primus Fueled By Crank And Other Drugs?
ATN: What's the deal with on "On the Tweak Again?"
Claypool: I had a song on one of our past albums called "Those Damn Blue
Most people don't really know what the hell that means but if you're a tweaker you know what it
means and a tweaker is someone basically who does a lot of crank. Snorts a lot of crank. Now
they smoke it which is crazy. In the area we grew up in, speed has been like the suburban blue
collar white guy's drug of choice for a good number of years and I worked in the trades for a
long time, carpentry, and that's how some of the old guys try to keep up with the young guys.
They just snort a bunch of crank and start pounding in nails and putting in sheetrock, whatever. I
had a friend with a family who was a sheetrock guy who I knew since I was a kid, he was a
union sheetrocker and that's how he kept up with the younger kids. Snorting a bunch of speed
and going to work. So that's what the "Blue Collar Tweaker" song was about, so "On the Tweak
Again" is just sort of a continuation of that. I have friends and even relatives who are in and out of
prison for selling and cooking and doing. It's just been a part of the environment that I've been in.
ATN: It sounds like drugs are occasionally used to inspire you?
Claypool: Sometimes. It's not like a glorified thing. Most of the time I don't
generally like to talk
about or explain any of my lyrics or anything. But I'm not that uncomfortable anymore with doing
that so I don't mind. Before, like on past albums, if somebody asked me what a song was about,
I'd just kind of clam up and make some smart ass remark. I like having people give their own
interpretations of the song so I always just kind of kept my mouth shut. But sometimes people
just have no clue as to what the hell I'm talking about so it's nice to at least shed some light on it.
ATN: Now, "Glass Sandwich" is about a guy who goes to a strip club and
looking through the glass at the girls and one of them is his old girlfriend?
Claypool: There you go. See, that one was nice and easy and laid out.
ATN: Is that based on a true event?
Claypool: Offhandedly. Offhandedly a true event.
ATN: Can you elaborate a little bit?
Claypool: I saw a friend of mine dancing at one of those places that I didn't
expect. It was one
of those booth things where you drop in a quarter and the thing opens up, just like the song says.
And it was someone I went out with at one point. It wasn't like a devastating thing but it made me
think that god, wow. I just thought it'd make a good song. I was desperate for lyrics at that point.
That was one of the last songs I finished on the record, actually, lyrically.
ATN: When did that actually happen to you?
Claypool: That was a while ago. It's been a couple of years. I know all kinds
of strippers now. I
went into one place with some friends, actually some famous friends that I won't mention. Went
into Mitchell Brothers and I'd never been there before. And of course, me being the excited
young buck that I was or am, I thought it was pretty fun. I was having a good old time. But the
instant I walk in the door, and I'm standing there, we'd all had a few drinks and I'm all woo hoo,
excited to be there and this girl comes up to me, "Hey, I know you." And I turn around and it's
an old friend of mine. She's like, "You know a lot of people here. Such and such works here"
and I'm like, "Really?" It's good money. And I had an old girlfriend that used to dance at one of
those places. It's unrelated stories but it just seemed like it would be an interesting story and it's
somewhat true and I'm sure it's happened to many people.
ATN: Do you ever foresee a time when you'll settle down, have a family?
Claypool: I've got pups. I got my dogs.
ATN: That's a little different.
Claypool: Yeah, eventually it'd be nice. I don't want to be touring if I'm
gonna have kids. I don't
think I could deal with it. It would make me too homesick. If I did, I would wanna have kids and
stay home for like until they're big enough for me to take off for a little while and not be aching
them. I like kids, I like little kids, I like my pups. When I go away, I miss my pups. I'll miss them
ATN: It doesn't sound like in the immediate future...
Claypool: I'm 31 now so I should probably do something at some point. My
dad was 19 when I
was born. My mom was 16. By those standards, I'm behind the game. But I wanna be able to be
comfortable and spend time and not have to worry that if I buy an expensive car I can't feed the
ATN: You like to buy things?
Claypool: I like to buy toys. I bought that boat. I got a hotrod in the garage
and if I had kids, I'd
have to stop buying my toys. I'd buy them toys. I don't know. That's not the reason but I'm just
kind of having fun being a young guy. And no matter how old you are, I think when you have a
kid, it's a big responsibility and it settles you down a bit. I mean, I'm looking at some of my
friends. It's mellowed them a little bit.
ATN: You're doing a couple of CD-ROM projects now.
Claypool: Well, we kept hearing about CD-ROMs. You guys gotta make a
CD-ROM. And I
didn't know anything about computers and I said, Ler, you're Mr. Computerhead, you take
charge of this CD-ROM thing. Because, of course, there's always things that need to be done
with Primus or whatever and I just didn't have time doing it and I didn't know anything about it,
so I said, "Ler, just do it" so he started working with some friends of ours on this sort of a
retrospective CD-ROM thing. And then, at this MacWorld party, I met I started talking to Ty
Roberts and he was really pushing me on this CD-ROM idea.
ATN: Ty Roberts from Ion, right?
Claypool: Right. Larry's working on this CD-ROM, but for this record, I'd
really like to do
something that just shows visuals for all the stories. And we got to talking and I started getting
excited about it and we had some meetings and we decided to do this thing with Ion and I was
going to try to come up with some designs, just pencil drawings or whatever and then I finally
ended up getting a computer so now I'm in the hacking world making weird things like this guy.
[Points to a computer image of a character rising from the ocean.] I like that guy.
ATN: Who is he?
Claypool: He's been called Rod boy. That's the working title right now. Rod
ATN: Does he represent an aspect of your personality?
Claypool: I don't know. I drew him. You saw the flat art for him, right?
Scanned him in, then
painted him in there. A lot of it was experimentation. I wanted to see what it would look like to
scan one of my cartoons because I'm always drawing cartoons.
ATN: He appears to be this inquisitive but maybe a little perplexed guy with
a banjo. He's
a musician. And he's out in the water where fishing occurs, you know.
Claypool: And he's got a big nose like me.
ATN: Kind of a big nose.
Claypool: I don't know. It's all purely by accident. I just put stuff together
that looks interesting
ATN: He looks like he's sort of waiting for something.
Claypool: That's one of the first things I drew that we scanned in was that
guy there. That's
good. I'm glad you're reading all that stuff into it because, to me, that's what all this is about. The
songs, the artwork. It's not necessarily about anything in particular. It's just supposed to be
thought provoking. That's what I've always enjoyed, is songs that if they do tell a story it doesn't
necessarily just lay it right out for you. You gotta kind of read into it. What really did happen to
Billy Jo when he jumped off the Tallahassee Bridge?
ATN: Is there going to be a Primus in 10 years and what would it be like?
Claypool: I've always said Primus will keep going as long as it's fun. If it
gets to the point where
it's not enjoyable anymore, I won't do it. But you never know. If I need to put food on the table
and Primus is the only way to do it, I might do it. Who's to say what's going to happen in five to
ten years? Maybe that's why some of these guys that you never thought would be in Budweiser
commercials are in Budweiser commercials. I would like to think that I will never do that. But I
guess we'll see what happens.
ATN: To somebody who had never heard Primus, who is not familiar with
any of the
artwork or anything, how would you describe Primus?
Claypool: They always ask me that if I'm at the hardware store or
something. "You're in a band?
What kind of band is it?" We're a rock band. That's it. What else can I say?
ATN: But that doesn't really do justice to it.
Claypool: I know, but what am I going to do? Sit there and explain what
the color purple looks
like to somebody who can't see the color purple? I don't know how to explain it. Believe me,
I've had plenty of experience over the years. I don't explain it anymore because if somebody has
no idea at all what you're doing, there are not enough adjectives that I can come up with to
describe what we're doing.
I remember that
one of the classic things was years ago when I was in this other band, the
Tommy Crank Band. I was sitting with a woman in some bar and she said, "Why are you quitting
the band?" I said, "Well, I got my own band that I've started." She was in her 30s and I was like
19. I said, "I've got my own band I've started." She goes, "Oh, what's it like? Like this?" I go,
"No, it's nothing like this. It's pretty out there." She goes, "Oh, you mean like Lynyrd Skynyrd?" I
go, "No, it's a little more out there than that." She goes, "Oh, you mean like Kiss." Just depends
on who you're talking to.
Any Questions or Comment
Brian Savage /