Blowing out birthday candles today is Primus frontman Les Claypool, born 34
years ago today in Richmond, Calif. Primus are best known for single
handedly bringing prog-rock back from the dead in the early '90s, with
Claypool's frantic bass thwacking marking their signature sound. Claypool's
parents split when he was four and he ended up living with his mother,
who's continual listening to AM radio had a great influence on his eclectic
musical tastes. When Claypool entered junior high he tried his hand at
numerous instruments, including trumpet, clarinet and bass. Discovering
that he loved the rumbling sound of the bass inspired Claypool to stick
with it. Claypool met future Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett in high
school, a band he would fail to join years later after requesting at his
tryout that they jam on a few Isley Brothers tunes. Claypool also met Mark Biedermann in high school, a guitarist with whom he formed the
progressive-metal band Blind Illusion. It was during his stint in Blind
Illusion that Claypool became obsessed with Rush, frantically studying Geddy
Lee's fingering on the bass. Claypool also educated himself by learning to
read music and play upright bass when he joined the school jazz band.
Near the end of high school, Claypool began to gravitate more towards funk,
using Stanley Clarke's I Want To Play For Ya as an inspiration.
By 1984, Claypool joined together with guitarist and old friend Todd Huth
to form Primate. The band later changed its name to Primus because there
was already a band by that name. It was during the embryonic stage that die-hard fans would tell the group how great they were, to which Claypool would
reply "Nah, we suck." It soon caught on and fans started yelling "Primus
Sucks!" at concerts as a sign of affection. In late 1988, Todd Huth left
Primus and Claypool re-joined Blind Illusion, which now included future
Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde. Blind Illusion went on to cut a CD
entitled The Sane Asylum on Combat Records. Claypool convinced Larry LaLonde to fill the void left by Todd Huth and together they recruited
Primus' sixth drummer, Tim "Herb" Alexander. 1989's Suck on This was
recorded a mere month after LaLonde and Alexander became members and it
became a college radio hit thanks to the tireless promotional work of
Claypool and LaLonde. The trio used the profits from Suck On This
to record 1990's Fizzle Fry.
In 1991 the band signed with Interscope and released Sailing the Seas of Cheese, an album Primus promoted by touring with such acts as Anthrax, Public Enemy and U2. 1993's Pork Soda, the band's fourth release, hit #7 on Billboard in its first week of release. Later that year, Primus headlined the
Lollapalooza festival and Claypool lost hearing in his left ear due to a
diving accident . In 1994 he joined Huth and drummer Jay Lane for a side
project called Sausage. 1995 found Claypool restarting Primus and
releasing Tales From The Punchbowl. May of 1996 brought Claypool
and his wife Chaney the birth of their first son, Cage Oliver Claypool.
Later that year, Alexander and Primus parted ways due to creative
differences. Mere weeks after Alexander's departure, Les released his first
"solo" project, Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel's Presents: Highball
with the Devil. Earlier this year, Primus released The Brown
Album, featuring new drummer Brian "Brain" Mantia, and joined such
artists as Neil Young and Ben Folds Five on the H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons Of
Rock Developing Everywhere) Tour.
Other birthdays: Jerry Lee Lewis, 62; Jen Luc Ponty, 55; Tommy Boyce, 53;
Nick Taylor (Bloodrock), 51; Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad), 49; Mike
Pinera (Blues Image/Iron Butterfly), 49 and Matt & Luke Goss (Bros), 29.