Primed for More

Veteran alt-rockers Primus regroup for tour, anticipated new album

Les Claypool is a man who doesn’t stay idle for long, and is constantly moving forward. After fronting Primus for more than a decade, he has spent most of the last 10 years tending to a variety of musical, literary and cinematic projects. So when weighing his options following his most recent solo tour, he surprised even himself when a rekindling with Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde began to develop into something more.

“I wasn’t really that interested in Primus, to tell you the truth,” Claypool says. “It was just a nostalgic thing for me. But when the notion of [original drummer] Jay Lane coming back entered into the picture, it became very exciting.”

That excitement spurred the band to schedule three months’ worth of tour dates—including a midnight show at the Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel on Aug. 14—for the band’s longest stint on the road since 2004. This will be their first local appearance since performing at the Vegoose music festival in 2005.

About a dozen shows into this tour, Primus has been filling their set lists with old favorites such as “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” and “Harold of the Rocks,” while also dipping deeply into the Brown Album and sprinkling in the occasional cover tune, most notably the Police’s “Behind My Camel.”

“We’re just oozing with goodies,” Claypool says. “We’re playing a lot of old stuff that nobody’s heard before. There’s some songs that haven’t seen the light of day ever.”

While Primus largely attracted a metal and alternative crowd in its heyday, Claypool’s work in his Fearless Flying Frog Brigade and Oysterhead in the early 2000s endeared him to the hippie scene. And that experience now has opened up Primus to more experimentation and improvisation.

“As we got to the end of Primus in the latter ’90s, I felt very stagnant as a player, as a musician, as a writer. It was a stalemate,” he says. “And personally none of us were getting along; it just was time to stop. Then doing Oysterhead, it just opened my eyes to the notion of taking more chances musically.”

It is that sense of adventure that has fueled the band’s renewed enthusiasm, and has even led to early plans for a new album, the first full-length Primus release since 1999’s Antipop, which Claypool hopes to have out by spring.

“I’m not big on deadlines,” he says. “I think it needs to come as naturally as it should come, but we’re excited, which is the main thing. That’s what’s going to get us in the studio.”

In the meantime, Primus will take a look back as it moves forward, diving into its rich, eclectic catalog of songs on this tour. And since Primus plans to attend the Rush concert at the MGM Grand earlier in the evening, Claypool and his bandmates will be primed by the time they take the stage.

“We’re all going to go over and see the Rush guys, so we’ll probably be all fired up,” Claypool says. “I’ve done a few late-night shows in Vegas over the years, and they’re always pretty damn fun. We’ve got a lot of friends in that region, so we’ll see who sneaks out that night. You never know who’s going to pop up in Vegas.”

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