“We’re very excited to be back in a room together,” says Primus bassist/vocalist/mainman Les Claypool. The band’s new album, Primus And The Chocolate Factory, is their first for nearly 20 years to feature the ‘classic’ line-up of Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander. Their ‘reimagining’ of the timeless 1971 Willy Wonka film for the album sees them showing off their trademark quirky and deft style which, as Claypool reveals, is inspired as much by Rik Mayall as by The Residents.
The new album really captures Willy Wonka’s fairytale mix of fun and darkness.
The movie has its sinister elements, and the Roald Dahl books were_ really_ dark, and I felt we should reflect a bit of that. It’s based on my perception of Wonka back when I was young and saw it in the movie theatre. When you’re young some element of pop culture sucks you in, and that film was my entire world, until Jaws came along.
When did the album take shape?
Every New Year’s Eve I play a show with a theme, and last year we did Chocolate Factory. We ended up performing the entire soundtrack. To me it’s like early Peter Gabriel meets The Residents.
The live show looks fun.
It’s a pretty elaborate stage show. And there’s definitely a conscious effort to get this over to Europe. There seems to be extra excitement in Britain because it was a popular film there.
**How come Tim Alexander’s back in the band? He’d pretty much retired from drumming. **
Jay [Lane, Primus’s latter-day drummer] opted to focus on his band with Bob Weir, and Tim was just ready to pick up his sticks again. He’d grown disillusioned with the industry and weary of his instrument, but now he’s in a different headspace and very excited to be playing. It really shows on this record. He blew my mind.
Does band’s ironic humour distract from the high-calibre musicianship that underpins it?
It started off not concerning me, then it got to a point where our integrity was being questioned because of the goofiness of what we do. But I’ve come back around. Larry’s a funny guy, and we do try to one-up each other, like Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, who were huge for us. That comes out in the music, to suppress it would be ridiculous.
Please say you get paid every time South Park is on TV!
It’s funny, we did the theme many years ago, and had no clue it’d even get on television, let alone be an international sensation. We got paid, like, twelve dollars. But we do get a hunk from time to time. It’s a spectacular feather in the cap.
The biography Primus, Over The Electric Grapevine has just been published. Did it offer you any new insights?
It reinvigorated my fondness for what we’ve done, and the people involved rekindled some old brain cells dulled by years of marijuana abuse, and made me remember the fun times we had making this stuff. It’s hammered into me the notion that this is an enjoyable thing – let’s do more of it.
Primus And The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble is out now on ATO