Les Claypool on New Primus Album: ‘Goblin Rock Has Definitely Been Missing for a While’
Primus mastermind Les Claypool was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio program. The vocalist / bassist spoke about the return of “goblin rock” with the band’s forthcoming new album, The Desaturating Seven, where Primus’ unique, eclectic sound fits in alongside metal and alternative festivals, his SeaPop soda for motion sickness and more. Check out the chat below.
How are you?
I know there’s a new Primus record in the works, but let’s talk about the last Primus, Primus and the Chocolate Factory. It was a reinterpretation of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Where do you go from there with this next album?
We are now in goblin land. We’ve opted to try and bring goblin rock back to the masses or the mini masses that we represent.
I think goblin rock has been missing for a while. The new Primus album is called The Desaturating Seven and it’s coming out Sept. 29.
Goblin rock has definitely been missing for a while.
Les, your taste in music seems to be pretty broad, regardless of genre. What does a song or album have to have to get your attention?
Wow, that is one of those deep philosophical — what does it have to have? I don’t know. It has to make me… it has to tickle the old intrigue bone, the one that makes me wonder how it was done. I like hearing stuff, I like hearing perspectives of individuals that obviously think a bit differently.
Primus are a band with an audience that’s fiercely dedicated, much like fans like Phish or the Grateful Dead. What kind of musical freedom does that give you that maybe other bands don’t have?
I’ve never heard of our fans being compared to the fans of Phish or the Grateful Dead.
I’m talking about the dedication!
You know, I think it’s because we sort of throw pasta at the walls and see what sticks; I think that’s why these folks show up. I could be wrong, but we’ve been throwing this pasta for quite a while and they still keep coming to see it. I think once we stop doing that and stop… I would say challenging ourselves, because it sounds sophisticated, but I think just being self-indulgent might be more [laughs] the word.
Or fending off boredom. I think that’s why they come. But I could be wrong. It could be the sexiness of Mr. Ler LaLonde that draws them in though. That’s always a big carrot on a stick for a lot of people, Full Metal Jackie.
Les, auditioning for Metallica became a well noted footnote in your career. What kind of misconception has that created for people not familiar with your music?
I think a lot of people think I’m actually in the band. And it’s just not true.
Les Claypool is definitely not in Metallica for anyone that’s wondering.
Yes. And my bank account reflects that.
Do you ever wonder what would be different in your life if you ended up in Metallica?
Oh there would be nothing different because they would have booted me out after about, I would have given it five weeks, they probably would have booted me after five weeks. There is a reason why I didn’t get the gig. I didn’t fit the part. But they have [Robert] Trujillo now. He’s a spectacular bass player but he’s also just one of the nicest fellows in the music world, if not the world in general. He’s just a great guy. Have you ever met [him]? So they win: it’s a win, win, win.
You seem like a nice guy.
I seem like a nice guy? All right, there you go. I think he’s nicer than I am.
You’re touring with Clutch this summer. What makes Clutch, or any other band, a good match for a Primus audience?
You know, Primus are one of those bands that in the early days nobody knew who to put us with. Now we’re the band that’s — we were playing — we’re in Europe playing metal fests, well I call them testicle festivals. We were playing these testical fests and then we were playing these more alternative fests and then — I think we’ve played every festival except for Lilith Fair. We’ve never played Coachella, but I think we may never get that gig. We’re that band that sort of fits in here, but doesn’t really fit in anywhere.
So someone like Clutch, they have a little twist to them so I think it works out well for us. We did some shows with them last year or the year before and it worked really well. So, as far as bands playing with us? I tend to like to put folks on with us that I would want our audience to enjoy as opposed to just putting asses in the seats as I’ve heard opening bands described as. “Oh this band will put asses in the seats.” It’s like, well, I want our fans to get turned onto something cool. Of course, most people already know who Clutch is, but as far as most of the openers we bring it’s usually got some unique element that we personally find interesting.
It’s nice to look at it that way because I think that it’s unfortunately – the business, obviously, that’s how a lot of people end up looking at who their opener is and who is going to draw. But I feel like you guys are at this point where you’re like, “I want to put a band that I think our fans are going to dig.”
We’ve been tromping around for quite a while, so at this point, for a while there we were the leapfrog band. You open for Primus and you become huge, but we’ve put on some pretty eclectic bands over the years.
I think Clutch is a great fit.
I think Clutch is a great fit.
By design musically, it doesn’t seem like there are too many things that you can’t do. Musically, what is something that you’ve never done that you would like to do?
I can’t even touch my toes, to be honest with you.
That’s not musical.
It can be musical. I’m just more following the path of things I can’t do. I’ve never been able to touch my toes, even when I was a kid. I just can’t touch my toes without bending my knees.
That’s something to aspire to.
Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I’ve been on the planet for a while now, I don’t think it’s gonna happen.
Have you given up trying?
Are there any collaborations that you’d like to do or something that you’d like to do with the band or outside the band that you’ve never done?
I’m a bit of a musical whore. I just love playing with all kinds of folks. There’s been some great, for me, collaborations like Danny Carey had a thing with Adrian Belew a handful of years ago that was amazing. I’d love to revisit that, that was a lot of fun. Sean Lennon and I have this project called The Delirium that we did all last year that was spectacularly enjoyable for us and we’re going to do that again at the end of this year. Beyond that, we’ll see what comes down the ol’ pike.
Can we talk about Seapop for a sec? I heard about Seapop, which is basically — it sounds like it’s a drink for motion sickness.
It’s to keep you from barfing.
As someone who gets sea sick, I saw that, and said, “Wow, that is brilliant.” Can you tell me about what the reasoning behind it?
I made it purely for myself as a guy — I spend a lot of time on the ocean. That’s just my thing, but I ruptured my inner ear scuba diving about 25 years ago so it can be a calm day, or a crappy day and I — every now and again I just feel awful and I don’t like taking the drugs. Nothing works after the fact, once you’re sick, you’re just sick. So I came up with this beverage. [I] worked with some herbalists, did a lot of research and it’s this ginger herb-based soda, Seapop.
It’s soothing soda. It works for any type of nausea or motion sickness or even just sour stomach. We’ve been selling it in northern California. We just got picked up in Hawaii. It’s actually doing really well in Hawaii, I just found out yesterday. It might be coming around. Amazon is going to pick it up real soon.
Oh great, I was going to ask if it’s going to be available in Southern California. With us people down here, we get sea sick and motion sickness too.
Well I wanted one in the car ride over here. It’s in bottles right now, so Amazon won’t deal with bottles but it’s going to be in cans. Tall slender cans here this next month.
Look it up because Les actually made an awesome jingle for it, which is pretty hilarious.
Good ol’ jangle.
Thanks to Les Claypool for the interview. Primus’ ‘The Desturating Seven’ will be out Sept. 29 and can be pre-ordered in various physical options and across a multitude of digital platforms here. For a list of all upcoming tour dates and to keep up with everything the band is doing, follow Primus on Facebook. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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