Les Claypool of Primus on the Benefits of Folk Music

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Primus retained a loyal fan base that has bridged to and from Claypool's various other musical projects, including Oysterhead, the Flying Frog Brigade and his country and folk band Duo De Twang.

The new oral history includes interviews with the band's friends and collaborators over the years including Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Stewart Copeland of The Police and Tom Waits. The book includes stories extending from the band's earliest days through the current era with rare photographs and an easily readable layout. We recently spoke with Claypool about working with Zach Hill, how he got into the Residents, the benefits of being a cult band and the importance of humor in his life in and out of Primus.

Westword: You covered The Residents on the Miscellaneous Debris EP. How did you come to be familiar with that band?

Les Claypool: I was first exposed to The Residents in 1981, I believe. A friend of mine's mother was into all this experimental music and had an interesting record collection. She played the Residents for me and I thought it was music from hell. It was the most frightening music I'd heard in my life. Then I became drawn into it. I became a huge fan and have seen them a handful of times over the years. I got to perform with them once years ago. We each had interactive projects we were pushing and we had this industry bill and we ended up sitting in together playing "Hello Skinny."

You played with Zach Hill on Astrological Straits? How did you come to work with him?

I met Zach years ago. He actually auditioned for Frog Brigade but was so totally insane I knew he would not be able to play my songs in any other way except for Zach Hill style. So we just became friends and we kept talking about doing a project together and we still talk about doing a project together. He said, "Come play on my record." So I showed up and basically tried to play as fast as I could trying to keep up with him.

How did you find playing with him compared to some other drummers with whom you've worked?

Playing with him is like a whole different ball game. He follows his own rules. He is very avant, like beyond avant. He has a different sense of everything -- sense of time, sense dynamics, everything. I call him Tourette's Drummer. He's like the guy that can't not play all the time.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.