A Conversation with Les Claypool

Photos By Carly Marthis

J-man: Musician, published author, fisherman, wine-maker, actor and potential 2016 presidential candidate, Les Claypool. How are you Les? How's 50 treating you?

Les: ... And father. Being a father of teenagers takes up most of my time.

J-man: I have always been fascinated with your level of interaction and banter with your audience. What triggers some of the show stopping back and forth and how do you feel about the folks who come out to your shows?

Les: I love the folks that come out to see my shows because they are eventually going to help me send my kids to college (laughs)! Bless their little hearts (laughs). You know, I've always enjoyed a little interaction... sometimes more than others. This Duo De Twang project, that's pretty much what it's all about. It's myself and my buddy, Bryan Kehoe, sitting on stools, drinking in front of crowds of people that are also drinking and telling stories, crackin' jokes and every now and again playing a tune. A hillbilly version of either one of my songs or some tune that struck me. So if anything, this thing is an amplified version of that interaction. Like being in my livingroom.

J-man: What style of bass are you utilizing in that project? Is it a resophonic bass?

Les: We've been calling it the "dobro-bass," but it's a resonator bass that I stumbled across years ago and it stuck to me.

J-man: What is it about that bass that you enjoy?

Les: It's got a good twang to it. It's just a twangy, clanky, janky sounding thing and I can make sounds on it that I just can't make on other things. It seems to work well for the twang sound.

J-man: Can you talk about Electric Apricot and what you enjoyed most about the making of the “cult-classic?”

Les: (Laughs) is it a cult classic (laughs)...?

J-man: It is among the circles I run in.

Les: Actually, you know, it was one of the most arduous and painful things I've ever done in my entire life. It's one of those things; I did it and it was a pain in the ass, but I would probably go and do another one if someone gave me the opportunity. It was just a continuous kick to the balls the entire time we were making it and getting it ready for viewing. We sold it to National Lampoon, who subsequently, the president of Lampoon is now in prison for fraud, as is his second in command... for like a long time they're in prison (laughs). We finally got it back and the guy that help us get it back, this attorney, he ended up jumping off of a roof down in L.A. It's just like this non-stop curse. The curse of the Electric Apricot. It's a cursed film. Even though I love the film, it's like Damien. You love the little bastard even though he has sixes burned into the side of his head.

J-man: Wow! I didn't know about any of that... That's insane.

Les: Oh my god! I have to write the book about it because it's completely insane and it's this continuous saga of doom (laughs)! But you know, it makes me laugh when I watch it. But now we've got the rights back. The print the Lampoon put out was actually terrible, it looked horrible.

J-man: (Laughs)

Les: We've got it back and we remastered it. We're releasing it through this other company here in about a month or two.

J-man: I look forward to that!

Les: You opened a big can of worms with the ol' Apricot (laughs)...

J-man: As a fan of the movie, the back story is interesting to me. Lets shift gears to Primus. Was there a conscious effort towards innovation with Primus or was it just a consequence of the times and what you guys had going on musically?

Les: I think in the beginning, especially as a young fellow running around with my shirt off and two different color tennis shoes, you know, there was definitely a vision to it, but... it took Primus maybe five years before we actually started getting some real recognition. So, whatever the original vision was, kind of morphed into what it became on it's own. You know what I am saying?

J-man: I do.

Les: So then, you can throw as much nutrients on some seeds and dirt as you want, but eventually you just gotta kind of let the thing grow and do its thing. And that's sort of what it essentially did. It sort of became a product of whoever was playing in the band... of our multiple drummers we've had in the band over the years as well as beginning with Todd Huth on the guitar and switching to Larry LaLonde and just letting those characters kind of do their thing and it became Primus. And the notion that Larry's guitar style, he's not Yngwie. He's not an aggressive style of player. He's more textural like Andy Summers. So that gave me a lot of space to fill. So I would fill it.

J-man: You've got to be pretty excited about Tim coming back to the project.

Les: Yeah, Tim is back. Tim "Herb the ginseng drummer." We played with him last week, it was actually pretty amazing.

J-man: Great! When can we expect some U.S. dates?

Les: Well, we're doing our big new year's show and then we go to Australia in February. Then we don't really have any plans as of yet, because this is all kind of brand new. You know? This all came about so quickly. We're all still reeling a bit from it. You know, Jay-ski leaving and then Tim being available and excited to come back.

J-man: Interesting times for Primus.

Les: Yeah, we keep going in these full circles. We went full circle coming back to Jay-ski and now we're full circle coming back around to Tim.

J-man: The wine industry, especially in California is very competitive. Did you feel any reservations jumping into the competition or was it a more casual approach in opening Claypool Cellars?

Les: It's always been very casual. Now we're trying to actually get into the black as opposed to having it be a deficit thing, which would be nice. My wife is very involved with it and some good friends of ours are very involved with it. It's still a small boutique label. The main thing we want to do is make a quality bottle of juice that was approachable to people because sometimes it can be a bit intimidating, looking at a wine list and knowing what to order. If you look at it and see that it's mine, you'll know that it has my approach to it, but also it's very high quality. I'm getting the best fruit I can get with the best winemakers. I just wanted to make a good bottle of booze for myself to have access to and drink and I just happen to have a lot now (laughs)...

J-man: (Laughs) When you recorded the South Park theme did you think the show would last as long as it has?

Les: No, we never even thought it was going to get on television. We just thought it was funny.

J-man: I've heard that theme so many times now. Looking back at your musical resume, one would see bands like Sausage, Holy Mackerel, Oysterhead, Flying Frog Brigade, Fancy Band, Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains...

Les: Now we've got the twang...

J-man: Is there pressure to return to some of these projects namely C2B3 & Oysterhead?

Les: There is always a lot of interest in the ol' Oysterhead. People are always clamoring for that. That's one of the things, you've gotta wait for the planets to align and then that'll happen. There's always talk but the planets haven't aligned yet.

J-man: Do you feel like you try to keep moving forward with bands or do you ever intend to return to previous projects?

Les: I'm not a big fan of going backwards, so it's hard for me because it just becomes a nostalgia thing. But I do miss certain elements of certain things. There's always talk and then something will happen and I end up going in that direction. It's like this twang thing, I've always talked about doing a little acoustic solo thing, cause I am always walking around with one of my dobros twangin' away. Everybody is going "hey, you should stand in front of people and do that." So there was always talk of it but then it didn't happen until I got offered this gig at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival last year. So I said "well shit, I can do this." So I did it and it was so fun and successful that I kept doing it. So now I am finishing up a record, actually today! That'll be coming out and we're doing this tour. To be honest with you, we were going to take a little time off from Primus and the whole Tim thing came about and we're like "holy shit, well I guess we're going to get back on that horse." So a lot of times, some of it's calculated and some of it's just where the chips fall.

J-man: Sure. One thing that stands out to me about you is your ability to turn your passions into marketable or business type ventures...

Les: (Laughs)Theoretically.

J-man: (Laughs) Can you talk about that conscious decision or approach to life?

Les: (Laughs) I mean... (sigh) I just get bored. I mean, that's the bottom line to any of this. My daughter gives me shit about it all the time. I'll get into something whether it's some hobby or... I'm a Craigslist junkie, so I am always buying crap off Craigslist and Ebay and I'll get into something, lately it's been archery. It's like "Ok, well this is going to last about two weeks," and she's right. It will last like two weeks to two months and then I'm on to something else and I'm equally as passionate about it and I'm spending just as much money on it, or spending just as much time on it and there it is. Whether it's the wine business, or music, or writing, or whatever the hell it is... If I am sitting around I get bored and somewhat depressed. I gotta keep moving. It's like what Woody Allen said "A relationship is like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or it will die," and I don't want to be a dead shark so... I just keep moving forward.

J-man: I appreciate your time and insight, Les.

Les: Oh yeah, it's my pleasure! Good talking to you!

J-man: We'll see you in Boulder, Denver and Ft. Collins, my friend.

Les: HOLY MACKEREL! Alright, man!


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