Balancing Act | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Balancing Act

Les Claypool: still funky, still a badass on the bass

Flanked by two giant astronaut statues with creepy eyes peering out into the crowd, Primus front man Les Claypool slaps his guitar into a disjointed, yet sublimely coherent, bass line. Swirls of color emerge from the 3D graphics broadcast behind him and float over the crowd at this year's SASQUATCH! Music Festival.

"When it's all said and done, I'm a bass player," explained Claypool during an interview with the Source. "I've written a novel, made a film; we're even making wine now. But I play the bass. I excel at it." (He is also an avid fisherman.)

In Primus—despite a nearly ever-changing lineup—Claypool found an outlet not only to excel at the bass guitar, but almost invent a new breed of sounds by mashing together funk and rock. His playing is quirky yet thick. Primus' music is like the soundtrack to a rock circus.

During Primus' 30 years, the band has released only seven albums—the result of taking a few hiatuses—which has allowed Claypool to put varying faces on his explosive creativity. The aforementioned 2006 novel—South of the Pumphouse—used blue-collar language to bring to life two very different brothers and an ill-fated fishing trip. That same year, Claypool released a film he wrote and directed titled Electric Apricot, a mockumentary about a filmmaker documenting the tour of a fictitious jam band bearing the same name. Primus also penned the theme song for Comedy Central's animated series "South Park."

"You know, I'm juggling a lot of balls in the air," said Claypool. "Plus I'm raising teenagers. For me if I'm not moving forward doing things it brings me down. So I tend to overextend myself."

Right now that overextension is taking the shape of a rock and roll fishing show with alt-rock fixture Deen Ween.

In addition, for the past couple of years, Claypool has been back in the swing of playing the bass guitar. After a decadelong leave of absence from the studio, Primus released the politically charged album Green Naugahyde in 2011 and started a heart-pounding psychedelic 3D tour.

"Some people, when they go through stress," explained Claypool, "they go jogging or play tennis; some people smoke crack. For me, I just pick up my bass."

Les Claypool's Duo de Twang

6 p.m. Saturday, August 24

The Century Courtyard

70 S.W. Century Dr.

Tickets $28 at or Ranch Records

About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...
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