Primus spikes its 'Punchbowl'
Band makes music to please themselves only
J.D. Considine
©Baltimore Sun Friday June 16, 1995

          There's an ad for the new Primus ablum "Tales From The Punchbowl," that sums up the band's appeal perfectly. "If you didn't like Primus before," it reads, "you probably still won't."
          Not the most optimistic of ad campaigns, is it? But as Les Claypool, Primus' bass-playing frontman, puts it, "the gereral reaction to Primus is usually pretty mixed. We're not an easy pill to swallow by any means. It's been that way since 1984, when we started."
          How so? The band is less interested in catchy tunes than it is in good energy and interesting instrumnetal interplay. Althoughtthere are pop elements within the band's sound, they take a backseat to the realtonship between Claypool's thumping, percussive bass, Tim "Herb" Alexander's swirling , insistent drums and Larry LaLonde's angular, edgy guitar.
          As Claypool admits, it's not exactly mainstream rock 'n' roll. But that's part of the appeal.
          "You can't really nail it on the head as to what a Primus fan is like," he says, over the phone from his California home. "I can really only relate it to my tastes. I've always been attracted to things that other people weren't attracted to, whether it was fashion or films or music or whatever. I think we appeal to people wh are looking for something that's different from the mainstream."
          Claypool's wide range of taste is reflected in Primus' music, wich moves easily from lithe, reggae-inflected grooves to semi-industrial, to a funky rock, to a sort of demented bluegrass.
          It does't stem from a conscious effort to be diferent, Claypool says. "Primus has always been Primus, and we just kind of do what comes naturally," he says. "Or we try to do what comes naturally. We never force things upon each other, or whatever."
          That's particularly true of the new album, in which most of the material developed out of jams between Claypool and Alexander.
          "When we went to do this record, we didn't really have andy material written," Claypool says. "We got together and rehearsed a couple of times and let a DAT tape play. spit out a bunch of ideas that I had, and Herb hada a couple ideas, and we just jammed on things. There'd be these tapes of 20-mintue jams on a couple of different ideas, or different moods, or whatever.
          "We listened to them for a while and then said, 'ok, we've got enough stuff. Let's go into the studio.' We just refined the ideas in the studio. Which basically meant me and Herb sitting there jamming on them, me coming up with a sort of vocal structure, and then laying them down."
          Some ofthe resultant tunes, such as "Space Farm" are fairly abstract, but other, such as "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver," are subversively tuneful. "That's the tune that everybody wants to push as the single," Claypool says of "Wynona."
          "It's the sort of thing that we're doing a video for."
          Isn't he worried, though, that some people might take the title the wrong way?
          "It's a perfectly innocent song. I'm really surprised at how many people have come to me and said, 'Well, what's Winona Ryder going to think of this?' And I was really surprised, because I really didn't think about Winona Ryder. If anything I thought people would draw a parallel with Wynonna Judd."
          Well, it is Wynonna with a "y."
          "But the tune itself is bout a girl and her pet beaver, and the video is going to emphasize just that."

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