For fans of Les Claypool, the last few months have been dizzying. Primus, his heavy-progressive-avant-garde-funk-metal trio (call 'em what you will), have pronounced themselves on indefinite hiatus, but the mad bassist from Mars has recently toured with two different bands, laying down albums with each. Now he's reissuing Primus' first two recordings, Suck on This and Frizzle Fry, on his own label.
"I hate sitting around — it drives me nuts," says Claypool. Not surprising from a man who spends whole songs making his bass go "boogida-boogida-boogida" (his words) at an alarming pace; although it does seem contradictory from a writer of multiple songs about the pleasures of fishing.
Last year, Claypool formed Oysterhead out of inspired jams with Stewart Copeland of the Police and Trey Anastasio of Phish. More recently he gathered a rotating troupe of musicians who can "play anything." He calls them Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, and has documented live performances on two Live Frogs discs, released last year. The first, Set 1, comprises mostly Claypool-original tunes, bracketed by King Crimson and Pink Floyd. Set 2 is Pink Floyd's Animals. The whole thing. The least boogida-boogida-boogida album in rock 'n' roll.
Why Animals? Claypool simply replies: "The release was an afterthought. I had this group of guys, and I wanted to do a tour, and we just started learning this material. I always wanted to play 'Pigs' with Primus — it's one of my all-time favorite songs — but I never had a keyboardist. All of a sudden I had a keyboardist. `Planning the tour`, I said, 'We should go out, no opening band, we'll do two sets; and let's just learn the whole record, we'll do Animals for the second set.' And we did it. As the tour progressed, I thought, this is pretty amazing, and it's never going to happen again. So let's book two shows in San Francisco and record them. So that's all it really was: more of a documentation of a slice of time than a calculated product."
I had aimed to find some method in Claypool's madness, maybe to prove that the Primus reissues and the epic Pink Floyd cover were supposed to frame his own musical development so he could move on to other material. Sheer blather. Claypool made it clear that he doesn't overthink things — "I'm just putting out a record" — but he also admitted that it wasn't always so. "Toward the end of Primus, we were thinking about it, because we had pressure from the record company — `makes a shuddering noise` it just gives me chills thinking about it. That's probably why we're on a break. It created a lot of tension, and made it unnatural for us."
Claypool, incredibly friendly and forthcoming, said he enjoyed the chance to re-fresh Primus', early work. "While I don't really have favorites, I can honestly say that Frizzle Fry is my favorite Primus record. But it always sounded kinda funny. So we got to remaster it. The nice thing about our pre-major label experience is that the licenses on all of that stuff reverted back to us. My producer pumped up the bottom end. It sounds amazing now. I couldn't believe it."
In a final attempt to find something weird about Claypool, I asked what he's reading. "Behind the Glass, a book of interviews with famous record producers — Geoff Emerick, George Martin." Can't get weirder than that.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Suck on This
(both due for reissue April 23)
The Grand Pecking Order
Les Claypool's Frog Brigade
Live Frogs, Sets 1 & 2
(CDs, Prawn Song Records)