INTERVIEW: Les Claypool of Primus (Boulder Weekly 8/4/2022)

Just A Wink of the Eye
Les Claypool on “South Park” and Almost 40 Years of Primus
by Adam Perry for Boulder Weekly 8/4/2022

When you call up Primus bassist and singer-songwriter Les Claypool, it’s tough to know where to start the conversation. His work with Oysterhead, the Frog Brigade, Duo De Twang and Sean Lennon just scrapes the tip of the Bay Area-native’s gigantic career in music, and he’s also a filmmaker and father. Some folks remember Claypool only for a hit 1995 single in which he sang, “Wynona loved her big, brown beaver and she stroked him all the time,” but in reality, he and his Primus bandmates followed in the footsteps of Rush as a rock trio that could play truly challenging, creative, awe-inspiring music while churning out unforgettably eccentric lyrics.

The 58-year-old frontman, currently on tour with Primus covering Rush’s daunting 1977 album A Farewell to Kings, got into Rush in junior high, and I got into Primus in the sixth grade, so adolescent fandom seemed like as good an entryway as any.

Boulder Weekly: Somebody gave me a copy of Sailing the Seas of Cheese at my 12th birthday party, and it changed my life. Primus became my first real “favorite band” and kids really did say “Primus sucks!” to me all the time, and then a couple years later you were suddenly a household name with two straight top-10 albums. What was it like to be really weird and unique yet popular, and who holds that mantle today?

Les Claypool: Well, we had our toes in the mainstream. We were definitely not in heavy rotation on MTV. Even when the “Wynona” video came out, they would only play it after midnight. We’ve always been those guys that sort of existed under the radar, you know? And we have since the get-go. We had a few little splashes with MTV and radio, but for the most part we’ve been this cultish band.

Who do I think is like that now? You’ve got people like St. Vincent—she’s got a very interesting, unique perspective on things and she does pretty well. I think there’s always that element of people that have a little different take on things on the planet, and look at the world a little differently. Every now and again one of them pushes a button that people can identify with. We pushed kind of a small button, but we’ve been able to consistently hold this button down. We have a pretty loyal fanbase, which is pretty amazing. It’s gotten my son through college [laughs].


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