Les Claypool: unless you were a diehard Primus geek, I doubt you can remember the names of the other two guys who were in that band. Claypool is another thing entirely. As Sting was to the Police, Claypool likewise launched a solo career from the ashes of Primus, which was a mid-1990s funk-thrash trio. Call him a front man, singer, songwriter, producer, and an actor — all true. What gets left out of most biographical laundry lists is that Claypool is matchlessly hilarious. Enough so that one could easily overlook his funk-bass instrumental virtuosity. Claypool’s bass playing drove Primus, and it carved out that trio’s musical shape. But you went to Primus more for Claypool’s sarcastic adenoidal madness: “The act of perspiration is far beyond control / if the heat compels to aspirate please try not to miss the bowl / if sweatiness makes you horny, well darlin’ I think you’re in luck / ‘cause all this clever banter gives me the urge to fk.”
Claypool’s backstory is that he was born in Richmond, an East Bay suburb. Somehow, he landed on the electric bass guitar and went after funk sounds that were rich and rhythmic and that demanded a percussive approach called slapping. Claypool says he chanced to hear the Residents during his formative years as a musician, and that he grafted their peculiar and irreverent vocal stylings onto his own.
A workaholic? Possibly. Since 1988, he has released an album almost every year, not including collaborations. Claypool guested, for example, on one of my favorite albums — Tom Waits’ Bone Machine. Claypool’s second album with Sean (son of John) Lennon as the Claypool Lennon Delirium is due out in February of next year. By the way, if you are ever in Cincinnati on June 12, that is Les Claypool day, so declared by the mayor earlier this year.