Primus: Sailing The Seas Of Chocolate

Like an Everlasting Gobstopper, Bay Area bastardos Primus keep supplying the ear candy. Primus & The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble is a re-imagining of songs from the 1971 Willy Wonka film that starred Gene Wilder

“We’re combining Primus and some elements of my band – vibes, marimba, various junkyard percussion and cello – hence the Fungi Ensemble,” says leader and bassist, Les Claypool. “People are either gonna love it or hate it. You read Roald Dahl’s books and they’re pretty dark and sinister. We took it into that darker realm. We’ve taken on a sacred cow and I’m sure there’s gonna be people out there who think, ‘What the hell are these guys doing with my Wonka?’.”

Les’s Wonka is deeply ingrained in his childhood memories. “I recall sitting in the theatre, watching all the sweets go by, and the music. I got sucked in,” he says. “You could get little plastic moulds and you melt down chocolate chips and make your own Wonka Bars. I made Wonka Bars for the class!”

The project, complete with Primus-branded chocolate (Mr Krinkle, Professor Nutbutter and Bastard Bars), has its roots in the band’s annual New Year’s Eve hometown show. “It sorta snowballed into a big production and the next thing you know we have candy bars!” declares a delighted Les. “The planets aligned so we decided to carry it on to a record and subsequent tours.”

Meanwhile, drummer Tim ‘Herb’ Alexander makes his first album appearance since 1995’s Tales From The Punchbowl. “He just did a spectacular job. He doesn’t play a traditional drumkit – it’s this crazy mishmash of things to bang on and we encircled him in this damn thing. He had to have a little doorway to get in and out!”

Unrelated, we presume, but Tim suffered a heart attack in July…

“We were surprised because he’s such a big athletic guy. Genetics are a bitch and they kicked him in the balls,” Les sighs. “They cracked him open and patched him up and he’s doing incredibly well. They say he’s got the heart of a marathon runner, so as long as we keep the hoses that go to that heart intact, I think he’s gonna do great.”

After some US festival appearances with Tool’s Danny Carey filing in, Les, Herb, guitarist Larry LaLonde and the Fungi Ensemble take their crazy new show on the road. What can those audiences lucky enough to catch them expect? “We plan on pounding out old tunes… stripped-down, bare bones 1990-era Primus!” enthuses Les. “Then the curtain opens and all of a sudden you’re in The Chocolate Factory and we do the whole project from start to finish. There may be an Oompa-Loompa or two appearing every now and again.”



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