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Primus is probably best known for blending funk-based slap bass riffs and interesting and usually humorous characters and situations into long and often psychedelic songs.
Vocalist and bassist Les Claypool tells tales of fisherman, controlled substances and downright ridiculous antics with a twang in his voice and (usually) a Carl Thompson bass in his hands.
Although Claypool has a number of other musical projects such as Oysterhead, Frog Brigade and a number of albums under his own name, he is reuniting with Primus bandmates Larry “Ler” LaLonde (guitar) and Jay Lane (drums) for a full-blown Primus tour across the states.
In regards to the North American Oddity Faire tour, Claypool’s website claims: “Primus will take to the road this fall as part of the 2nd Annual Oddity Faire. The Oddity Faire is a freak show like no other and this year the tour starts off with a stop in Sacramento, and promises to get really strange with a special two night stand at the Club Nokia in downtown LA. The Oddity Faire will head up through the Northwest and come to Canada for the first time before returning to the states for some dates into October. Primus will be joined by some great bands such as Mariachi el Bronx, Portugal. The Man and Split Lip Rayfield.”
Even though there have been no new Primus albums released for this tour, Primus does have a free download of four songs available through its website.
The EP is from the June 2010 rehearsal and includes four songs – “Pudding Time,” “American Life,” “Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread” and “Harold of the Rocks.”
The first stop on the tour is in Sacramento at the Memorial Auditorium, and what that performance holds in store for fans is unclear, but set lists for shows back in August have songs from older albums ranging from “Frizzle Fry” to “Pork Soda.”
One thing is for certain – Primus is playing two nights at the Club Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, and the first night the band has scheduled the entire evening to perform the album “Frizzle Fry” in its entirety.
According to the Primus Facebook page: “As part of our special two night run in LA, the band has decided to play Frizzle Fry in its entirety on Thursday (Sept. 16) and do a completely different show on Friday night (Sept. 17). It's going to be great.”
Primus’ first official album, “Suck on This,” came out in 1989, and to date the band has released six more albums with complicated and tough-to-duplicate bass riffs remaining the star of each.
The band’s latest release, “Antipop” (1999), features song titles such as “Lacquer Head” and “The Ballad of Bodacious.”
“Lacquer Head” is about a boy who uses inhalants such as paint and gasoline, while “The Ballad of Bodacious” tells the story of Bodacious the bull, who famously injured a rider, Tuff Hedeman, so badly that he had to have facial reconstruction surgery.
Claypool is not the only talent behind Primus, however, his name is well-recognized because of the degree of difficulty behind the bass riffs he writes. Not only does he invent wild slap solos like in “Tommy the Cat,” he also uses a custom six-string fretless bass for a sound that is distinctly “Claypool.” His visionary bass playing makes the bass guitar the focal point of the music, even though bass as an instrument is usually relegated to the task of keeping rhythm with drums.
One of Primus’ most recognizable songs can be heard on older seasons of the show “South Park” on Comedy Central. The theme song was written for the show by Primus, and it’s not really surprising considering the affinity for cartoonish humor the band possesses. One need only glance at the clay artwork from any of the earlier album covers to get a feeling for what the music holds in store for listeners.
Claypool also wrote the theme song for another popular cartoon series on Adult Swim called “Robot Chicken,” which can be found on Claypool’s album “Of Whales and Woe.”
The song fits so well with the opening credits of the series that it’s hard to tell whether the song was written for the credits or the credits for the song.
Primus has even had a song, “John the Fisherman,” featured on the popular video game series Guitar Hero, and the band makes an appearance in the film “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” during the battle of the bands scene.
Although Claypool is most famous for his bass skills, he is not a one-trick pony. He has ventured out into the world of winemaking and has also written a book.
“As I tiptoe through the entertainment industry, dabbling in mediums beyond the microphone and my four-stringed piece of electric furniture, I once again find myself venturing into a new foray,” Claypool claims on his wine’s website. “What started as an attempt to fill our own personal wine cache has turned into a ‘boutique’ wine venture. Having forsaken some of my past ‘indulgences,’ I found myself becoming an avid consumer of wines from my neighborhood. After kicking the notion around for a year or two with some pals, it eventually came time to dive in and make some ‘fancy booze’ of our own.”
Claypool has developed two lines of wine, titled “Purple Pachyderm” and “Pink Platypus.”
“Purple Pachyderm” is described by the website as possessing “aromatics ... of supple black cherry, ripe red berry, and ginger spice along with hints of spearmint and almond.”
“Pink Platypus” is a less-expensive rose pinot noir. The wines are currently being served in Claypool’s choice wineries and restaurants that he “personally endorses” (http://claypoolcellars.com/index.php?page=Happenings&item=2), several of which can be found in Northern California.
Claypool’s book, “South of the Pumphouse,” takes place in El Sobrante and tells a tale of methamphetamines, fishing and murder.
Like his song lyrics, the book is very verbose, and the dialogue between characters exists perfectly in the “Claypoolian” world of offbeat and colorful characters.
The book is very much an extension of Claypool’s talent for storytelling, and his literary voice is as strong as the bass solos in his songs.
To find out more about Primus, Les Claypool, and the Oddity Faire tour, visit Primus’ website.