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‘Hi kids! Do you like Primus?’
Wanna see me stick Nine Inch Nails
Through each one of my eyelids?”
What did Eminem mean in his Slim Shady LP debut track “My name is”, what is this Primus he raps about?
What is a Primus?
Primus is one of the most underrated, quirky, bands to come out of the SF Bay Area. Saying that their sound is original is an understatement. As of today, Primus is composed of bassist/vocalist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde and drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander.
Originally the band was called Primate, but because there was already another band Primates they changed their names to something phonetically similar. Primus meaning “the primary one”, also carrying the same name as a Russian stove, and a Belgian beer.
Primus developed a cult following in the 1990’s, with their catchy riffs, trippy music videos, and Claypool’s energy.
Music Journalist Robert Christgau once remarked:
“Primus is quite possibly the strangest top-10 band ever, and good for them.”
Primus rise to fame and glory, came with their 1993 album Park Soda, with the album’s hit single “My name is Mud” becoming an MTV hit. The follow-up album Tales from the Punchbowl spawned another big hit for Primus, “Wyona’s Big Brown Beaver”. You know that ‘South Park’ intro we all love, well they recorded that as well. Even though Primus musical influences can be to attributed to Rock n Roll greats like Frank Zappa, the Residents, and King Crimson, Primus has a unique sound that can’t be imitated.
Les is More
Primus claim to fame is their unique unicorn, bassist/lead vocals Les Claypool. Raised in the sunny blue-collar suburbs of El Sobrante, CA to a family of auto-mechanics, Les’s family had high hopes for Les to be the first to attend college. He quickly disappointed them choosing to slap his base instead. Knowing that the path to rock and roll stardom required gas money, Les worked odd jobs: auto body paint, shipping and receiving, carpenter, to make ends meet.
Fun Fact – Les went to high school with Kirk Hammet, and auditioned for Metallica in 1986, but was turned down on account of being ‘Too damn good”.
One of the main reasons Primus gained traction so quickly, was Claypool’s phenomenal bass skills.
Les Claypool is one of the all-time best slap bass players. His bases base playing style is notable for incorporating several effects: distortion, tapping, as well as a Spanish inspired strumming. Claypool’s skills on the bass helped bring Primus’s original and funk-filled sounds to the masses.
“What I do best and what most people want to see me do is play on my four string piece of furniture (guitar). With all the ups and downs, and all the jobs I ever had, it’s still the greatest job.”
With all his musical talent, Claypool didn’t bask in the rock n roll spotlight.
“We’d just get up there and say, ‘We’re Primus, and we suck.’ And it kind of caught on.” The band helped it along with PRIMUS SUCKS T-shirts adorned with various things that suck, such as a vacuum cleaner or a baby with a bottle. “I think it’s the greatest thing, myself,” says Claypool. “I mean, somebody can come right up to me and say, ‘You guys really suck.‘ And I would just take it as a compliment.”
Primus Memorabilia Currently available on OddToes.com
Les Claypool Memorabilia Currently available on OddToes.com