Les Claypool: bassist/fisherman extraordinaire

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click to enlarge Primus
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It’s hot in Albuquerque, N.M. The a/c is blasting in Les Claypool’s hotel room; Deadliest Catch is on TV. The bassist extraordinaire loves reality television—about fishing, at least.

However, he has his own fishing disaster story. When Primus broke big in the early ’90s, the Northern California three-piece was touring with Rush. During a San Francisco stop, Claypool offered to take Rush’s bassist, Geddy Lee, out ocean fishing. Lee agreed.

Claypool’s fixer-upper Sea Ray blew a fan belt halfway across San Pablo Bay. So, there he was, leopard-shark fishing but stranded with his childhood hero for seven hours until they got a tug out.

“I think about all that I’ve done on the ocean over the years, and I’m surprised I’m still around. We’ve done some pretty stupid shit,” says the avid fisherman. “You don’t realize it when you’re young. You’re invincible.”

It was the same musically. “There’s this sort of don’t-give-a-shit attitude that comes with youth. We never thought we’d be on MTV or the radio, so we didn’t even try. We just did our thing,” Claypool says. Once fame struck, he adds, the desire grew for more.

However, it’s come full circle. “I think we’re at the point in our careers now that we just don’t think about or expect [fame and notoriety]. There’s a certain liberating element to that,” he says.

Looking back on nearly 30 years, Primus’ music has certainly evolved, but their latest, Green Naugahyde (2011) hearkens back to those early days, circa Frizzle Fry. It comes 12 years after Antipop (1999), a time when Primus lost their musical drive, aspirations and confidence, Claypool says. “We were reaching the end of our creative rope. The well was just dry, so we just started sucking mud,” he says with a laugh.

So they went on hiatus, a break Claypool says led to a personal musical renaissance. “I’ve gotten to play with incredible musicians, and I’ve stretched myself more than I have ever have,” Claypool says. “To come back to Primus, it’s been extraordinarily refreshing. We’ve been reinvigorated.”

It shows with the 12 gems on Green Naugahyde, written with drummer Jay Lane, who played with them before their 1989 debut album. Lane “gives the new material a lot of bounce” like the first albums, and that has kept both the band and fans excited for this tour.

“It is nice to be able to go out, do what you love and come home with your tanks full of crab—to use a Deadliest Catch metaphor,” Claypool says with a laugh.

Rail Event Center
235 N. 500 West
Tuesday, June 19, 7:30 p.m.

Twitter: @AustenDiamond

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