Primus Front-Load New Disc With Star Power

Tom Waits and ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland among heavy hitters enlisted to produce trio's next album.

Not ones to let their off-kilter, bass-heavy, prog-funk sound go unaltered, Bay

Area trio Primus are trying a new tack for their upcoming album, a record that

leader Les Claypool describes as "acid rock for the new millennium."

To ensure sonic variety, bassist Claypool and his bandmates are

aiming to have tracks produced by such musical heavy

hitters as ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland, ambient

innovator Brian Eno, punk-metal rocker Rob Zombie and left-field

singer/songwriter Tom Waits.

"Tom [Waits] expresses himself with visuals," Claypool said of the revered

bohemian rhapsodeer. "He'll listen to something and go, 'Ah, it sounds like the

transaxle was blown out on old Willy's four-by-four.' He has this way of

visualizing a song, and it just makes for interesting collaboration."

The new album, due in August, will be the band's eighth and the group's first

full-length effort since last year's Brown Album, which included the track

"Bob's Party Time

Lounge" (RealAudio excerpt). In the interim they released

Rhinoplasty, an EP that included revamped versions of songs by such

other rockers as Metallica, Peter Gabriel and XTC.

For their follow-up to the self-produced Brown Album, Primus wanted to

find the ultimate producer -- a modern-day George Martin (Beatles) -- but no

names came to mind. Instead, they chose to seek input from a handful of fellow

artists whose work they respect. Along with Waits, Copeland and the others,

Primus have approached ex-Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, Claypool said.

In the meantime, Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Brian "Brain"

Mantia have been working with producers Oz Fritz and Fred Durst. They've

already laid down basic tracks for eight or nine songs and nearly completed

three other tunes, he said.

Primus' typically quirky subject matter will show up in such tracks as the funk-

heavy "Bodacious" -- about a championship rodeo bull who was retired at age 7

after nearly killing some cowboys -- and in such titles as "The Antipop."

"We're doing an interesting version of David Bowie's 'Fame,' " Claypool said. "If

it comes out well, people will get a chance to hear it. If it doesn't, it will be buried

in the ground. ... And of course we have our eight-minute epic saga, which at

this point is called 'Eclectic Electric.' "

"It's sort of a mixed bag of tricks, as most Primus records are," Claypool added.

"There's definitely sort of an acid-rock heaviness to it, but with that eclectic

perspective. ... I listen to it and I go, 'Now wait a minute, this isn't really heavy

metal and it's not really like Korn and it's not really funk, but it's got all these

elements to it, and then there's this eerie, psychedelic perspective to it. ... It's

like acid rock for the new millennium.' "

"It's kind of like heavy Floyd in some areas," Claypool said.

The trio are slated to play this summer's Ozzfest tour with the iconic heavy metal

band Black Sabbath -- a prospect that intrigues Claypool.

"Sabbath is always there, lurking in the back of your mind," he said. "I don't

know how many copies of [Sabbath's] Paranoid I've owned over the

years. There are certain records that you buy and they disappear or they get

worn out or stolen, and you buy them again ... like Paranoid, [Led

Zeppelin's] Physical Graffiti, Yes' Fragile."

Claypool said he hopes to enlist the mysterious, masked guitarist Buckethead to

play on the new album -- and on Ozzfest, "just to rattle people's cages a bit."

The Ozzfest dates, rescheduled to begin in late May instead of July, may wind

up pushing back the album's release.

But when the album comes out it will likely be accompanied by a full-blown, big,

bad, nationwide Primus tour, Claypool said. "I gotta start thinking of what the

hell kind of freaky thing we're gonna do for production," he said, "because we

gotta do something."