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

Sebastopol, CA

          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.
          The interview 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 Question

Addicted To Noise: We really only have one question for you. Does Primus really suck?

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 aesthetic.

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 really?"

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 a personal observation?

Claypool: It's partially based upon a true story but it's been doctored up a bit too.

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. Things I've 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, actually.

ATN: Why?

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 Who did?

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 execs when 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 little off-center.
          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 clubs.

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 sang?

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 that would 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 fringe groups--Mothers of Invention, Capt. Beefheart, the Residents--been on Primus and in what way?

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 life.

LaLonde: That's probably one of the biggest answers to: What are your influences.

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 some influences.

LaLonde: Plus, if you can get somebody to go buy a Residents album, it's worth it.

ATN: Do you care at this point whether Primus is popular or not? I mean, obviously, when 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 away from 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.

Claypool: Theoretically.

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 musicians onto 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 Primus songs, 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?

Claypool: 31.

ATN: What's your birthday?

Claypool: 9-29-63.

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 something, that 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 Collar Tweakers." 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 then he's 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 for them. I like kids, I like little kids, I like my pups. When I go away, I miss my pups. I'll miss them next week.

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 kid.

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 boy.

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 that's all.

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.

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Brian Savage /