Les Claypool has always been a rather colorful character. He named the Pinot Noir he makes at his Claypool Cellars Purple Pachyderm (after Primus song "Southbound Pachyderm"), he unleashed the Brown Album in 1997 and then who among us will ever forget 1995 "Winona's Big Brown Beaver," least of all Wynona Ryder? On September 13, eleven years after Anti-Pop the last Primus studio album, Claypool, along with long time guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane will release Green Naugahyde in a co-venture between ATO and Claypool's Prawn Songs.
Produced by and engineered by Les Claypool at his home studio Rancho Relaxo, it marks the first time Lane, an early member of the band and also a member of Sausage (a 1994 reunion of the 1988 Primus line up) will appear on one of their albums. Partly that had to do with the fact Lane left to join the Bay Area auteurs, the Freaky Executives, before Primus had recorded their first album, something that was further complicated because Claypool had put the band on ice in 2000, reuniting them in 2003 for a brief tour.
"I didn't really miss Primus so much in the 2000s," explains Claypool "In '03, it was really fun to get everybody back together, it was this nostalgic thing. But after five weeks, once the nostalgia was over, it was like, 'OK, where's the new doors to open?' We just didn't really have that feeling of new doors with [then-Primus drummer] Tim ["Herb" Alexander], unfortunately. Tim's a great guy, but we just have never really clicked. I think the clicking that we had in the '90s; we kind of clicked it all out. I think we would have been just going through the motions if we tried to do it with Tim again."
"So when it came time to do Primus again, we all discussed it and realized that it just wasn't going to work with Tim, so we called old Jaysky," explains Claypool, meaning Jay Lane, demonstrating not for the first time his propensity to give everyone in his circle a nickname. "Primus was always the boat that Jay missed because he left Primus before we released our first album."
The trouble was, Lane was playing in Phil Lesh's Furthur.
"Jay Lane is one of my two favorite drummers on the planet to listen to and to play with. Anybody that knows me knows when someone asks me: 'Who do you want to play with?' I always say I want to play with Stewart Copeland and I want to play with Jay. Whenever I could get him on my records, I'd would. I tried to get him on tours, but I felt bad pulling him away from Bob Weir when he was with him because Bob is a good guy. If Bob was a dick, I would have pulled him out of there as quickly as I could, but he's not."
What made it easy for Claypool to poach him from Lesh was Lane wasn't playing drums with Furthur; he was relegated to playing egg shaker.
"For Jay Lane, one of the greatest drummers that I think exists, to not be playing drums -- to be playing an egg shaker -- that's unthinkable," Claypool huffs.
"Jay should be playing drums not an egg shaker," Claypool repeats, refusing to let it go. "And he should be playing drums to the extent of his capabilities, so I didn't feel awkward asking him to come and rejoin Primus. I haven't talked to Phil, but I'd hope Phil doesn't feel bad. When Jaysky came and played with it was just amazing. It was like the missing link."
"This is definitely Primus," assure Claypool. "But we're Primus guys that are older guys now, too. It's surprisingly the same. The new stuff sounds to me more like Primus than I thought it was going to, to be honest with you. I thought, 'Oh, it's going to be different,' but it's really not, it's almost like kind of Frizzle Fry-era Primus. But we also go off into some dark, moody stuff, and there's a lot of textures to it. I think everybody's pushing themselves, which is great."
You can catch the new reinvigorated Primus at Bonnaroo on at Red Rocks with their artistic soulmates the Flaming Lips, then will take to the road for a major tour in support of Green Naugahyde.
Why Green Naugahyde? "They pulled it from a line from one of the songs. They just liked it." And no, Les doesn't have a green naugahyde chair where he cooks up his wild schemes.