by B. Love
Taken from University Reporter September 1994 (Washington D.C. edition).
Once upon a time, in a strange land known as San Francisco, there was a group of friends who had a rocking band called Primus. These young lads (bassist Les Claypool, guitarist Todd Huth, and drummer Jay Lane) began to grow popular with the local youth, and so they recorded a tape (titled Sausage) to sell at their shows. Lo and behold, the band's popularity began to grow to monumental proportions, and touring soon became a necessity.
Unfortunately, Jay was in another band that got signed to a major label, so he had to leave Primus. Around the same time, Todd's wife gave birth and he decided to drop out and dedicate himself to raising a family.
Six years later, in 1994, the three friends decided to get together and jam once again. Les had formed a new label, Prawn Song, and had built a ramshackle studio in his basement. The trio adopted the name of their first demo and recorded an album of killer ditties titled Riddles are Abound Tonight. Instead of headlining shows, the band went on a tour opening for The Rollins Band and Helmet. It was on this tour that I caught up with the wacky trio of jokesters...
UR: Les, I wanted to tell you that I'm a huge fan---I'm actually quite nervous...
LES: Well, I'll be sure to tell you down.
UR: Please do. I wanted to ask you about Lollapalooza; last year, I saw you being interviewed backstage by an MTV schmoozehead and you didn't exactly seem thrilled. Do you have any negative feelings about MTV or interviews in general?
LES: Nah, I don't mind talking to people; to me the key to a good interview is just having a pleasant conversation. But I'm generally pretty positive. You must've read it wrong.
UR: Probably. I'm just a cynical bastard at heart.
LES: (Laughs) Well, cheer up, you'll get ulcers that way.
UR: Yeah, I almost had an ulcer in traffic on the way down here. Um, what question do you get asked a lot that you hate the most?
LES: There's quite a few that are pretty lame. The worst is when people ask questions where it's obvious that they haven't read the press info they've been sent; that's kind of a bummer (In cheezy reporter voice) "So, where'd the band originate?", or "What kind of music do you play?"... er, I don't know... uh, rock 'n' roll? I'd say those are the worst.
UR: Okay, so what's the most interesting question that you've been asked?
LES: I have no idea.
JAY: "How long is it?"
UR: I won't follow up on that one. So what made you guys want to get together and play after all this time?
LES: It was purely sexual. We all wanted to be with the biggest, hairiest man...
TODD: ...on the face of the earth...
LES: ...and there he is...
TODD: Jay Lane!
UR: Is that naturally curly hair, Jay?
JAY: Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.
UR: I wanted to find out how your Prawn Song label is going.
LES: It's going good; it's costing me loads of money, but it's going good.
UR: Obviously you've got The Charlie Hunter Trio (jazz/rock group in which Jay is also the drummer) doing well, getting on Lollapalooza's second stage, and you guys have this tour. What else can we expect from the label in 1994?
LES: Well, Todd's other band, Porch, has an album due out in the fall. Alphabet Soup (jazz/hip-hop) will have a record coming out---Jay plays on that one too. He's in The Charlie Hunter Trio, and Sausage, and The Bay City Rollers...
UR: (Laughing) Alright! You planning a comeback like all the other old fogies?
LES: Call it a scumback (much laughter).
UR: I wanted to ask you about your bass playing style. Are you at all clasically trained, or did you teach yourself to play and develop this style of playing on your own?
LES: Well, I've never really had any lessons. I'd been in the jazz bands at school and all that stuff....
(At this point in the conversation, a rather odd, somewhat unkempt young man boldly interrupts to speak with Les; the moment included here for your amusement.)
FREAKY GUY: I saw you in Indiana a long time ago opening up for Fishbone, and I said "In Eagle Creek, they have catfish that are so big they can swallow a baby", and you said "Really"?
LES: Again, I will say; Really?
FREAK GUY: I haven't heard your new sound yet, man; what's it like?
LES: Oh, you know, some old boring crap.
JAY: We're bringing back the 80's.
LES: We're gonna go for the Flock of Seagulls hairdo, maybe a little Men at Work (still more laughter).
UR: Some friends of mine wanted me to ask about "The Corn"...
LES: That's basically just what I call a basement full of recording equipment.
UR: ...and you guys did all the recording there, huh? Do you feel you got a more laid-back recording atmosphere that way?
LES: Pretty much, yeah.
UR: I wanted to find out about some of your musical influences. Of course, I've read that you were influenced by Rush and The Residents, but what else do you guys like to listen to?
LES: People tend to tap in on Rush because we toured with them, and that was a huge part of my life when I was sixteen, but I've never personally been one to hone in on just one thing. There's tons of things I like to listen to...
JAY: I listen to a lot of Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg...
UR: Are you serious or are you joking? (With these guys it's sometimes hard to tell!)
JAY: No, I like rap music and jazz and stuff...
LES: He's a total jazz guy. Todd and I will start jamming on a Zeppelin tune and he'll play along with us, and afterwards he'll go "What was that?"
UR: So obviously, being in The Charlie Hunter Trio, you're pretty into jazz, but is that something you really pursue outside of that---something you listen to a lot?
JAY: Not really. I listen to a lot of everything. I mean, it's fun to play; I just happened to hook up with a jazz group...
LES: You've gotta admit you don't listen to much rock!
JAY: No, I don't; I don't really listen to any rock. I listen to a lot of funk, rap, and reggae and stuff. I don't really even listen to that much jazz. I just came into The Charlie Hunter Trio playing funk beats along with jazz; we weren't trying to recreate the jazz of the 50s or anything like that like a lot jazz traditionalists today seem to just because it's popular or whatever.
UR: It seems like you guys, byt sort of stretching the boundaries of what is typically conceived of as jazz, are sort of a kick in the ass to the stale contemporary jazz that seems so prevalent nowadays... Les, I wanted to ask you if you watched a lot of cartoons when you were growing up, because there seems to be a good bit of that sort of imagery in your lyrics, videos, and album covers.
LES: Ya know, I pretty much just watched a lot of everything. I was a TV junkie in the 70's like most suburban kids. I definitely watched a lot of cartoons, and I still have a pretty good collection of them now, as well as a lot of films.
UR: So what's a typical night at home like for you guys?
LES: When we're at home? Well, Jay's always gigging, so I never see him.
JAY: Yeah, I'm gigging every night and when I'm not, I'm changing diapers...
UR: ... hanging out at home, huh? Is the wife pretty gool with the constant gigging and touring?
JAY: Yeah, she's wonderful.
UR: What about you, Les?
LES: I don't have any diapers.
UR: (Laughing) No Depends Undergarments?
LES: No, but if there are any diapers to be worn, I'll probably be wearing 'em soon as the ol' bladder control leaves me.
UR: So how old are you now?
LES: I'm like 74 yearss old (mucho laughter). Sometimes I forget; I'm thimking about cutting off one of my fingers and counting the rings.
UR: Oh my God, you're killing me! I was just wondering because both your bandmades here are married; I wondered when you were gonna take the big plunge.
JAY: Probably as soon as his girlfriend reads this interview.
UR: So what are you guys doing the rest of this year?
LES: We're doing this tour, and half way through, Primus is gonna do Woodstock. Then, when we get home, it's into the studio for a Primus album.
UR: Do you have any other projects you'll be working on?
LES: I've been talking about doing a film for a while, but my priority has to be the Primus record.
LES: More of a conceptual, directing sort of thing.
UR: I must tell you, your performance in the "My Name is Mud" video was most inspiring!
LES: Yeah? Makes you wanna go chew a little tobaccy, eh?
UR: Oh yeah! Um, how would each of you say that Sausage is different from Primus?
LES: Well, I think that the guys in Sausage are much more attractive physically than the guys in Primus.
UR: Don't let (Primus drummer) Herb hear you say that!
LES: No, he knows it's true. You take one look at Todd, and he's like The Golden Boy. He looks like Jim Morrison with his head shaved or something. He's a good looking man!
UR: I know. In fact, I almost got a boner looking at him.
LES: I'm like the pig of the bandl I'm like the goofiest looking one. I'm like Ichabod Crane. Look at him, he's like a poster boy.
(Todd comes over, bumming about the heavy rain and the resulting small crowd. Jay asks about the widely reported mass flooding. I tell him that it's been worst down in the south part of Georgia.)
LES: (sings) Down in the south part of Georgia...
UR: So Jay, what do you feel is the main difference between Sausage and Primus?
JAY: Well, it's not as heavy metal-ish, I don't think. (Looks to see Les' reaction) Stop me if I'm wrong, but that's just my opinion.
LES: No, I don't care... There's not as much polka going on in the Sausage record.
JAY: It's totally different, if you ask me. It's not just that Todd and I are playing guitar and drums instead of Herb and Larry, it's that Les plays differently I think with Sausage than he does with Primus as well.
UR: What about you, Todd? What do you think the difference is?
TODD: I think they're exactly the same. No difference whatsoever (uproarious laughter).
LES: Ya know, the bottom line is that people that aren't in Primus are gonna listen to Sausage, hear my voice nad bass playing, see three up there, and go "what's the difference?" But people who are into Primus are gonna notice the difference immediately.
UR: My sentiments exactly. One last question that's been plaguing me for months now; what's the deal with you and pork? You've had Pork Soda, the pigs in the video, and now Sausage. What's the pork connection?
LES: Well, Sausage doesn't necessarily have to be pork.
JAY: There's turkey sausage..
UR: Turkey sausage? I've never heard of such a thing!
LES: I've had fish sausage...
JAY: Chicken sausage...
LES: Sausage is just sort of an amalgamation of things, you know?
Well, I guess I do now...