Les Claypool

It’s 1991/2 and I’m playing drums in the school orchestra, after roughly a year of weekly half hour group lessons with another 5 students.  That puts me at 15 or 16 years old.  Listening to all the new Seattle music, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains – all about the drums and the drummers.

Everything I am playing in school orchestra sounds like I’m trying to be John Bonham, because all the drummers from these bands that I’m listening to were all so heavily influenced by him…. Bonham’s from my town incidentally so it’s fitting that I’m channeling second generation Bonzo – even if the conductor wishes I weren’t .. Then one day the first chair violin hands me a grotty tape of a tape of a tape – it’s Primus.  Frizzle Fry on one side – Sailing the Seas of Cheese on the other.  Thanks Austin Poll.

It was so distorted and cool sounding (I was later to hear them on cd and realise that was the number of generations the tape had been copied – handed from musician to musician through school and regional orchestra’s and rock bands) – this wild band from San Fransisco, veritably the other side of the planet – with a sound I had never heard before. My favourite three cuts…

John the Fisherman (Frizzle Fry) Drum groove followed by …. Les hitting all the strings with distortion and whammy bar…. YES!!! And it’s a great song with an amusing home-made vibe video.  Still seeing new things on each view, most of them a bit wrong.

Tommy the Cat features Tom Waits as the Cat.  Great video and story, lovely recording, slamming drums, amazing thump and pluck bass line, insane guitar lines – I was in heaven.

The bass fill (at 1:58) had me rolling on the floor – tears in my eyes.

The bass solo at 3:06 is still one of the greatest moments on the instrument.  In tune it most definitely isn’t, inspired it definitely is.

Jerry was a Racecar Driver

“Nachos? Steamy…”

So after seeing Mark King and hearing  Les Claypool I kidnapped the schools bass guitar ( a CAT bass with P/J pickups) and ‘amp’ for the summer holiday and set about learning  all the songs from these two albums.  That’s how I thought bass was, and should be played and with the little I knew about guitar and drums already I went for it.

Many of my attempts made it onto the first few albums by Touch Bellini, my second ever band (same members as the first – Electric Russell).  These exist only on tapes with homemade sleeves in various parts of the UK.  Thanks to Simon Bellini for tea, inspiration and pressing the play and record buttons on the hifi simultaneously.

Primus Suck.  Especially these first few albums. Check it out.

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