Buckethead’s Brains On Hold During GN’R Tour, Claypool Says

Band may release live album if guitarist and drummer Brain are tied up through 2003.

The short-term fate of Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains may lie in the hands of Axl Rose.

That’s because the band, which was formed by ex-Primus singer/bassist Les Claypool, features guitarist Buckethead and drummer Brain, both of whom are on the road in Guns N’ Roses.

Claypool hopes to enter the studio in January with Brain, Bucket and Parliament/Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell to record the group’s debut album, but if the Guns tour is extended the project will have to be put on hold and the quirky jam-rocker will begin work on his second studio solo album instead.

“If Bucket and Brain weren’t committed to another project, I probably would devote much more time to it,” Claypool said. “But I’m just not interested in being in a situation where my tour schedule or my release schedule is dictated by someone else.”

If Claypool sounds a little bitter maybe it’s because he played a major role in forwarding the careers of both Brain (a.k.a. Brian Mantia) and Buckethead (a.k.a. Brian Carroll). Brain replaced Tim “Herb” Alexander in Primus in 1996, and Buckethead first received mainstream exposure opening for Primus in 1999. In addition, Claypool was a major collaborator on Buckethead’s Monsters & Robots (1999).

Even if Axl keeps Buckethead and Brain on the road through 2003, Claypool will probably still release a Bucket of Bernie Brains CD next year, only it’ll have to be a live album. The band, which played together for the first time at the second stage of this year’s Bonnaroo Festival, recorded its three off-the-cuff San Francisco dates.

“We just showed up and start playing,” Claypool said. “They were completely improvised. We didn’t even know what key we were going to be in from moment to moment. We went in there and starting throwing pasta at the walls, and it turned out great.”

Considering the spontaneous nature of the project, you might expect endless walls of freeform noise, but Claypool said Bucket of Bernie Brains is surprisingly musical.

“Brain, Bernie and myself are very structured players, so everything is very groove-oriented. It’s like this thing that starts in one place and just morphs itself into other places. There’s not definitive changes between the jams so much as this constant morphing flow of audio.”

Although he loves improvising, Claypool said a Bucket of Bernie Brains studio record would feature complete, structured songs, somewhat like The Grand Pecking Order, the 2001 album by his Oysterhead side project with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and Police drummer Stewart Copeland.

“That was a lot of fun, and those guys are now good friends,” Claypool said. “That’s one thing I love about all this. You get to make all these songs with incredible musicians, and you wind up being friends with a lot of them. I’m doing exactly what I want to do. Life’s too short to do anything else.”