|Primus plays the Val Air Ballroom on Saturday,
Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 through Ticketmaster.
By Michael Swanger
Memo to alt-rock fans: Dust off those freak
flags and wave them high. Primus is back.
After an 11-year recording hiatus, the inventive
San Francisco-based band that helped shape the
alt-rock landscape of the 1980s and 1990s with
songs like “John the Fisherman,” “Jerry Was
a Race Car Driver,” “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver,”
“Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers,” “My Name
is Mud” and the theme song to “South Park,”
has returned with one of its most irreverent
albums to date — “Green Naugahyde.” But of equal
interest to would-be concertgoers and fans is
the band’s latest lineup, which includes founding
bassist-singer Les Claypool, longtime guitarist
Larry “Ler” LaLonde and original drummer Jay
Lane, who left Primus one month before it recorded
its 1989 debut album, “Suck on This.”
“Old Jayky, he’s always been my go-to-guy,”
said Claypool during a telephone interview.
“He quit the band before it took off, which
I think was always a tender spot for him. So
when the opportunity arose for a drummer position
with the band, he was the first guy I called.
He was real excited, learned the material and
the first song we played was ‘Pudding Time,’
and me and Ler looked at each other and were
grinning like bastards because you could feel
That chemistry, Claypool said, is why “Green
Naugahyde” reminds him of one of the band’s
most influential early records, “Frizzle Fry.”
He attributes its feel to Lane’s drumming.
“It’s because of Jay. He has a signature hop
and does all this intricate hi-hat work. He
has a bounce to the way he plays and it compels
me to play a certain way,” Claypool said.
After having spent the last decade pursuing
a solo career that includes working with the
supergroup Oysterhead (which includes Stewart
Copeland and Trey Anastasio), Colonel Les Claypool’s
Fearless Flying Frog Brigade and other experimental
music projects that featured non-traditional
rock musicians like sitar players, vibraphonists,
cellists and saxophonists, the 48-year-old Claypool
said that he is more open to broadening the
range of what is appropriate for Primus.
“Primus had become stagnate, and it was time
to stop. I feel like you go through cycles of
eight to 10 years with things and people. You
get away and come back and it’s fresh again.
We would of made some really shitty music if
we had not stopped,” Claypool said. “For me,
the last 10 years have been the most creatively
prolific time of my life. I wouldn’t trade them
for anything. It makes me come back to Primus
with a lot more tricks up my sleeve and more
confidence. It’s a good place to be.”
Primus spent about a month recording “Green
Naugahyde” at Claypool’s Northern California
home studio, Rancho Relaxo.
“I have an out building full of vintage gear.
It’s a good spot to make sounds,” he said.
More important than the gear, however, was the
“For me, the creative process has to be a casual,
flowing thing. If it’s forced, I’m not interested.
Fortunately, playing with Jay and Ler, there
were a lot of ideas floating around,” Claypool
said. “Ler brought in a couple of songs, and
Jay brought in some beats, which never happened
With that said, however, Claypool said that
he would not do anything differently this time
around with the band.
“I just want to make sure everything’s genuine,
spontaneous and casual. That’s always been the
premise for Primus. Unfortunately, during the
latter part of the 1990s we started second guessing
ourselves and over-thinking things, and that’s
where it becomes stiff and contrived. When it’s
all said and done, we need to please ourselves
over anybody else,” said Claypool, who admits
that he has not thought about making another
record with Primus yet.
When asked what he wants fans to take away from
the band’s comeback album, Claypool paused,
quietly laughed and said, “A true appreciation
of Naugahyde.” CV