Leslie Edward "Les" Claypool (born September 29, 1963) is an American musician and writer, best known as the lead vocalist and bassist in the band Primus. Claypool's playing style on the electric bass mixes tapping, flamenco-like strumming, whammy bar bends and slapping.
Claypool has also self produced and engineered his solo releases from his own studio "Rancho Relaxo". 2006 saw the release of a full-length feature film Electric Apricot written and directed by Claypool as well as a debut novel South of the Pumphouse.
Claypool was born September 29, 1963 1 in Richmond, California, but was raised in El Sobrante, California in a working class family with a history of working as auto mechanics. A close family friend, Rhys Hickman, taught him the basics of the slap bass technique, which he mastered throughout his educational period. His early education included Collins Elementary School and De Anza High School, where he was a personal friend of Kirk Hammett.
In 1986, after the death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, school friend Kirk Hammett encouraged Claypool to audition for Metallica as Burton's successor. In Metallica's Behind the Music, Claypool said that he jokingly asked the others if they wanted to "jam on some Isley Brothers tunes" during the audition, a reference to his little experience of the thrash metal scene. James Hetfield remarked that Claypool was not awarded the job because "he was too good" and "should do his own thing." Claypool would later admit that he wouldn't have fit in with the band and "would've looked like a freak". The bass slot was instead given to Jason Newsted, who played with Metallica until his departure in 2001. For several years before forming Primus, Claypool worked as a carpenter in El Sobrante. Claypool has cited Larry Graham, Chris Squire, Tony Levin, Geddy Lee, Paul McCartney, Geezer Butler, Bootsy Collins, Stanley Clarke, John Paul Jones, and Sting as his musical influences 2.
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primus_(band)
Primus began as Primate with Les Claypool, guitarist Todd Huth and various drummers, most notably Jay Lane, in the mid-1980s, though Huth and Lane left shortly thereafter to pursue other projects. Claypool replaced them with guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander in 1989 (Tim "Herb" Alexander left the band in 1996 and was replaced by Brian "Brain" Mantia).
From 1989 to 2000, Primus steadily became one of the most bizarre bands to gain significant mainstream airplay, headlining Lollapalooza in 1993, appearing on Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 1995, and even making an appearance at Woodstock '94 where they performed their Pork Soda hit "My Name Is Mud" and were pelted with mud (Claypool claims to still have mud in his speakers). In 1991, the band was featured in the cult classic movie Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, performing, "Tommy the Cat" live. Also, in 1997, they were asked to play, and record, the theme song for the animated television show South Park. Claypool and Tom Waits have recorded on each other's records since 1991 and have continued to do so. In 1999, he let Activision use the song "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" on the hit video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. In 2000, Primus went on indefinite hiatus.
In mid 2003, Claypool reunited with former Primus drummer Tim Alexander and guitarist Larry LaLonde to record a DVD/EP called Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People, which Claypool described as the first DVD with supplementary music, as opposed to the contrary. In October of that year, the band staged a two month tour in which they performed two sets per show, the second consisting of their 1991 release Sailing the Seas of Cheese in its entirety. They continued touring into 2004, now performing their 1990 release Frizzle Fry as the second set, as documented on the DVD Hallucino-Genetics: Live 2004.
In Mid-August 2006, a DVD release entitled Blame It on the Fish was added to the listings of Amazon and other online shops. Shortly thereafter, the website The PRP reported that a rumor had surfaced implying that the band was quietly planning a North American tour for November/December 2006. On October 17, 2006, Primus released both their first greatest hits CD They Can't All Be Zingers and their third DVD Blame It on The Fish, subtitled An Abstract Look at the 2003 Primus Tour De Fromage.
They Can't All Be Zingers includes sixteen digitally remastered songs that span their entire career, including a previously unreleased and extended version of "Shake Hands with Beef", the Tom Waits collaboration "Coattails of a Deadman," and "Mary the Ice Cube" from the 2003 DVD and EP Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People. Blame It on the Fish: An Abstract Look at the 2003 Primus Tour De Fromage contains live footage from the band's 2003 reunion tour, interview segments and behind the scenes footage. The DVD includes a 70 minute feature film and 90 minutes of bonus material, including a 30 minute mockumentary about the band in 2065. Blame It on the Fish is directed by Matthew J. Powers, who directed Never Been Done, a documentary about Jon Comer.
Claypool has let the video game Guitar Hero 2 use the Primus song, "John the Fisherman," one of two songs in the game using the original recording instead of a cover.
Primus: The Beat a Dead Horse Tour 2006 began in November 2006 and was completed the following December.
In 2008 Primus played at a few festivals including; Rothbury (in Michigan), the Ottawa Bluesfest, Quebec City Summer Fest, and Outside Lands Festival (in San Francisco). In March 2009, Primus embarked on a tour named The Oddity Faire: A Mutated Mini Fest, which included bizarre acts by others and unclassifiable bands that fit the genre in which Primus is categorized. In 2010, former Primus drummer Jay Lane rejoined the group, and they released the free June 2010 Rehearsal EP followed by the second annual Oddity Faire Tour. In early 2011, they played a few festival dates in Australia and announced the release of a new album, Green Naugahyde, due on September 13, followed by a number of North American festivals and a two-month tour of Europe to promote the announcement, before returning to America to embark on a "major fall tour" in support of the new album.
In 1994, Claypool teamed up with guitarist Todd Huth and drummer Jay Lane to create an early Primus sound. Songs such as "Riddles Are Abound Tonight" and "Toyz 1988" (now known as "Toys Go Winding Down") gave way to a whole new breed of music.
In 1996 Claypool produced, engineered and released a solo album, "Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel presents" Highball with the Devil. Claypool is credited with bass, drums and vocals on several tracks as well as guitar. Also on the album are Mark "Mirv" Haggard, Adam Gates, Jay Lane, Joe Gore, Charlie Hunter and Henry Rollins. The accompanying tour included Haggard and Gates on guitars with Bryan "Brain" Mantia on drums. It was announced during the Holy Mackerel tour that Mantia had been chosen to become the next Primus drummer.
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oysterhead
In April 2000, Claypool collaborated with Trey Anastasio (of Phish) and Stewart Copeland (of The Police) as Oysterhead. Claypool and Anastasio had been looking for an opportunity to collaborate. Each had a mutual interest in playing with Copeland who had been a rock idol of their teen years. Also, Claypool and Copeland had an established friendship. Oysterhead were originally intended as a one time performance during Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Though timid of the band's sudden and surprising popularity they eventually decided to record and tour. They released one studio album, The Grand Pecking Order, and toured before disbanding in 2001. They re-united in 2006, at the Bonnaroo Music Festival
The Frog Brigade
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonel_Les_Claypool%27s_Fearless_Flying_Frog_Brigade
In May 2000 Claypool formed Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, an experimental rock group. Claypool was asked to put together a band for the Mountain Aire Festival in Angels Camp, California. The band "of the most incredible guys (he) could possibly find" debuted that Memorial Day weekend and played a number of other festivals including moe.down. Originally he was going to call the band "Les Claypool's Thunder Brigade." Claypool states:
I originally was going to do the two drummer thing with Herb and Jack Irons, so I was gonna call it the Les Claypool Thunder Brigade. Michael Bailey from Bill Graham Presents said to me that it may sound a bit too heavy for the Mountain Aire crowd and to perhaps try something a little different that had to do with the event itself. Since it was home of the Calaveras County Frog Jump... hence the Frog Brigade and then it evolved into Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade.
The Primus hiatus allowed him to return to his musical roots, playing songs by bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and The Beatles. Claypool has called the Frog Brigade his "mid-life crisis band." From a set of October shows recorded at The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco Claypool released two Frog Brigade live albums, one being a cover of Pink Floyd's Animals. The line-up included Todd Huth, Eenor, Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Skerik and Claypool.
The Frog Brigade is also noted for Claypool's being accepted into the jam band scene.Live Frogs Set 1 won "Best Live Album" at the second annual Jammys. Jay Lane and Jeff Chimenti are both members of Bob Weir's band Ratdog. Claypool performed with "The Rat Brigade" when opening for Ratdog once in 2000 and again in 2007. The Rat Brigade includes Claypool, drummer Lane and keyboardist Chimenti, with guest appearances by saxophonist Kenny Brooks and Bob Weir. Both years Claypool also guested on the Ratdog set.
In 2002 Claypool released a studio album of the Frog Brigade, Purple Onion. Musicians on multiple tracks for Purple Onion include Eenor, Mike Dillon, Skerik, Jay Lane, Ben Barnes and Sam Bass (Dillon and Skerik were both from Critters Buggin while Barnes and Sam Bass were from Deadweight). This album includes "Whamola" which later appeared as a remix for the theme of South Park Season 10.
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonel_Claypool%27s_Bucket_of_Bernie_Brains
Also in 2002 Claypool collaborated with guitarist Buckethead, Parliament-Funkadelic/Talking Heads keyboardist Bernie Worrell, and former Primus drummer Bryan Mantia under the name Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains ("C2B3" which is to be said "C Squared, B Cubed"). Their concerts pushed the improvisational envelope by preparing no material and not rehearsing beforehand. At one of their shows they prepared sandwiches onstage for the audience to eat.
C2B3 re-united in 2004 to record The Big Eyeball in the Sky, an album with equal parts instrumental and vocal songs. The band began an 18-state tour of the US on September 24, 2004. The album features only one guest, the child-like multi-instrumentalist Gabby La La (noted as Gabby Lang on Les Claypool's Frog Brigade's Purple Onion) on vocals and sitar. She also opened on every show (sometimes to scathingly negative reviews) during the 2004 tour as a solo act with sometimes members of C2B3.
Claypool also produced and performed on Gabby La La's first album, Be Careful What You Wish For.... Gabby La La is the first artist Les has signed to his label since Charlie Hunter in 1993. He has performed select shows with her (including the 2005 Bonnaroo Music Festival) and added her to his then new touring band, Les Claypool & His Fancy Band. The 2005 Fancy Band line-up also included Skerik, Dillon and Lane.
At the end of 2005, Claypool released 5 Gallons Of Diesel, a video retrospective of all of his work away from Primus.
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Apricot:_Quest_For_Festeroo
Claypool's first attempt at a feature length film, Electric Apricot: Quest For Festeroo, was shown on various film festivals in the late spring of 2006. The movie is a spoof of the jam band scene centered on the fake band, Electric Apricot, in the mockumentary tradition of This Is Spinal Tap. The group performed low-key shows in the California area (most recently High Sierra Music Festival) for the filming of the movie. The members of the band are characterized as Steve Hampton "Aiwass" Trouzdale (Adam Gates) on bass and vocals, Steve "Gordo" Gordon (Brian Kehoe) on guitar and vocals, Herschal Tambor Brillstien (Jonathan Korty) on keyboards and vocals, and of course Lapland "Lapdog" Miclovik (Les Claypool) on drums and vocals. The film debuted on March 15. During a question and answer session at the Tiburon Film Festival where the film debuted Claypool said that the yet unreleased DVD would have an accompanying soundtrack CD. The film has won other awards as well including Best Feature (audience choice) at the Malibu Film Festival. Claypool also said that the band would possibly perform a few select shows, but a tour is unlikely as Adam Gates has a job at Pixar which makes touring difficult. Other cameos in the film include Arj Barker, Dian Bachar, Seth Green, Warren Haynes, Mike Gordon, Matt Stone and Sam Maccarone.
Of Whales and Woe and the Fancy Band
On May 30, 2006 Claypool released a solo album, Of Whales and Woe, with guest appearances by Skerik, Mike Dillon and Gabby La La. This album includes the song "Robot Chicken," which is the theme song of the popular Adult Swim show. His son Cage and his daughter Lena even make a special appearance on the song "Back Off Turkey." The release was followed by a tour of the U.S. with the following lineup: Les Claypool - bass, vocals; Skerik - sax; Mike Dillon - vibraphone, percussion; Gabby La La - sitar, theremin; Paulo Baldi - drums. This lineup is called Les Claypool's Fancy Band and did national tours in both 2006 and 2007. A live DVD, Fancy, recorded from the 2006 tour was released in 2007. The audio track includes a mix of both soundboard and taper recordings. A song from the album, "One Better", was used in National Lampoon's TV: The Movie in a fight scene between Preston Lacy and Lee Majors.
South of the Pumphouse
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_of_the_Pumphouse
Claypool's first book, South of the Pumphouse, was released on July 1, 2006 by Akashic Books. Copies of the book were sold during Claypool's 2006 tour of U.S.A. following the release of Of Whales and Woe. The book is a dark, clever tale of brothers, murder, drugs, and fishing, and it has been likened to the work of Hunter S. Thompson. Claypool gave his first interview about the book to The Book Standard, on May 11, 2006. South of the Pumphouse is currently in its seventh printing.
Besides touring in the Summer of 2007 nationally with the Fancy Band, Claypool performed that October with a version of the band, dubbed the Fancy Trio. The trio consisted of Les, Skerik on saxophone, and Mike Dillon on drums, vibraphone and percussion. They played at The Echo Project, an inaugural ecologically minded 3-day festival in Fairburn, Georgia on The Boukeart family farm. The set was similar to that of The Fancy Band's tours, culling from Les' solo and Frog Brigade albums, as well containing a cover of "One Step Beyond" by Madness and teases of other songs, including several Primus tunes, throughout their improvisational jams.
For many years Claypool has done a New Year's Eve show at The Fillmore in San Francisco, California. More recently the New Year's Eve show has been an Annual New Year's Eve Hatter's Ball featuring a hat contest. December 31, 2007 was the 3rd such annual event.
In 2008 a United States tour spanned from February 29 to April 5. It kicked off at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina and ended at The Warfield in San Francisco, California. The 2008 tour was a quartet featuring Claypool, Dillon, Skerik and Baldi.
During the year Claypool also performed several shows with Primus at festivals across America and Canada.
Pig Hunt is a film directed by James Isaac released in 2008. Claypool contributes previously unreleased material and plays the role of "The Preacher".
Les composed several songs for the Wii game Mushroom Men, released in December 2008.
On December 31, 2008, Les rang in the New Year with his annual New Year's Eve show. It was at the San Francisco Opera House with Zappa Plays Zappa sharing the bill and playing first.
Les was also a judge for the 7th annual Independent Music Awards. His contributions helped assist upcoming independent artists' careers.
Les' second solo album, Of Fungi and Foe, was released on March 17, 2009. The album consists of expanded material of the music from the Mushroom Men game, as well as the Pig Hunt motion picture, and features a guest appearance by Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz.
In 2009, Les is toured with Matisyahu, performing as a 'double-feature' set, as well as appearing together on stage.
In March 2010 Les went to tour in Europe with English trio HOT HEAD SHOW for the first time in his solo career and played a few concerts in Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.
On March 28, 2010, Les performed a rendition of Rush's "The Spirit of Radio" for their induction into the Canadian Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Claypool is currently touring with Primus, alongside Larry LaLonde, and the return of former Primus drummer, Jay Lane.
He lives near the town of Occidental in Sonoma County, California with his wife, Chaney Claypool, his son, Cage Oliver Claypool, and his daughter Lena Tallulah Claypool. His home is called "Rancho Relaxo", after a Simpsons episode where Marge gets sent to a spa of the same name. He records most of his music at his home. He is famous for his wacky sense of humor and overall very eccentric personality. He has recently been very open about his liberal political views and his dissatisfaction with former president George W. Bush. He is also known for his cannabis use, and is quoted as saying "Please don't throw your shit at me... unless that shit resembles a bag of marijuana."
Claypool is an avid fly fisher, and even appeared as a special guest on a 2004 taping of Fly Fishing the World filmed in Idaho and a 2005 taping in Quebec, Canada. Both episodes are available on the extras section of 5 Gallons Of Diesel. He stated in an interview that he loves the sea but hates surfing as he has heard stories from friends of many dangerous incidents that have happened to surfers.
Starting in 2007, Claypool began a wine-making project (for personal use) that turned into a boutique wine business. Claypool Cellars makes wines from grapes grown in the Russian River Valley. The wines have names based on his music like 'Purple Pachyderm' and 'Pink Platypus'.