Primus (band)

Primus (band)

Infobox musical artist
Name = Primus

Img_capt = Primus in Copenhagen, Denmark in the summer of 1998. From left to right: Les Claypool, Bryan Mantia, Larry LaLonde.
Img_size = 250
Landscape = Yes
Background = group_or_band
Origin = El Sobrante, California, United States
Instruments =
Genre = Alternative metal, alternative rock, funk rock, heavy metal
Years_active = 1984–2000 2003–present
Label = Interscope, Prawn Song
URL = []
Current_members = Les Claypool
Larry LaLonde
Tim Alexander
Past_members = Todd Huth
Jay Lane
Bryan Mantia
Robbie Bean
Tim Wright
Rick Munt

Primus is an American rock band currently composed of singer and bassist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde, and drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander.

Their music is difficult to define, and while usually considered by critics to be funk metal or alternative metal, Primus has been called everything from "thrash-funk meets Don Knotts, Jr." [cite web | title= New Rage: The Funky | work=Guitar Player via | month = August | year=1991 | url= | accessdate=2006-09-23 ] to "alternative rock" to "the Freak Brothers set to music." [cite web | title=High Fryers | work=Metal Forces #54 via | url= | accessdate=2006-09-23 ] Les Claypool himself once described their music as "psychedelic polka." [cite web | title= Say "Cheese"! | work=Kerrang! #343 via | date = June 1, 1991 | url= | accessdate=2006-09-23 ] Primus is the only band with its own ID3v1 genre tag, as extended by Winamp. [ [ id3v2-00 - ] ]

The diversity of their sound has allowed Primus to gain a modest segment of fans from many different rock sub-genres. They are characterized by their irreverent approach to music. Primus release their records on Claypool's "Prawn Song Records" label, a parody of Led Zeppelin's Swan Song.

Band history

The early years (1984–1990)

Primus began as Primate in El Sobrante, California during the mid-1980s with singer and bassist Les Claypool and guitarist Todd Huth. Claypool rounded out the band with a drum machine but drummer Perm Parker was added for the recording of Primus's demo tape.cite web | title=Les Claypool gets a Taste of the Big Time | work=Bass Player Magazine via | author = Karl Coryat | url= | accessdate=2006-09-23 ] The band would go through many drummers throughout their early history, eventually settling on Jay Lane.

Although not a thrash metal band, Primus was heavily associated with the Bay Area thrash scene in their early years. Opening for bands such as Testament and Exodus, whom Claypool almost joined, they picked up a following of fans from the scene as a result.

After rising to local music scene stardom with their brand of funk metal fusion, Huth and Lane left in 1989 to pursue other projects. Claypool then recruited former Blind Illusion bandmate and one time Joe Satriani student Larry "Ler" LaLonde, and eclectic drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander. In fact, Claypool & LaLonde recorded & toured with the early thrash band Blind Illusion whose only album "The Sane Asylum" was released on Music For Nations. Larry LaLonde was previously a member of the seminal Death/Thrash Metal band Possessed, a fact which he likes to keep quiet today. Primus received praise from Testament's Alex Skolnick very early into their career. [cite web | title=Interview with Alex Skolnick of Testament when they played Vancouver with Judas Priest and Megadeth on Halloween night. | url= | accessdate=2006-09-24 ] Tim Alexander is originally from Jerome, Arizona and was the drummer in Major Lingo.

Primus continued to gain popularity and in 1989 released their first album, "Suck on This", a live recording culled from two of their Berkeley concerts. The album was financed by Les' father.

In 1990 the band released their first studio album, "Frizzle Fry", and released singles for "John The Fisherman" and "Too Many Puppies". With a music video featuring Kirk Hammett, a studio album and a tour with Jane's Addiction, Primus' popularity grew to the point where they attracted attention from Interscope Records, who signed them in 1990.

It was during these early years that the catch phrase "Primus Sucks" was started. It began with people constantly stating to the band just how good they were. One day when someone told the band they were good, Claypool turned around and said "No, we suck" and from then on it stuck. The band's catchphrase is no longer "Primus Sucks!" because the band thought it became tiresome, although it was a tradition that dated back to their first album, and many fans still chant it at concerts.

Cheese, Soda and Punch (1991–1996)

Primus' major label debut was the album "Sailing the Seas of Cheese" supported by singles "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver," and "Tommy the Cat (featuring Tom Waits)," both of which appeared on MTV. A third single, "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers," was also released but did not feature a video. The band appeared as contestants for the Battle of the Bands in "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" and made music for a Beavis & Butthead tribute album with a song entitled Poetry and Prose. With a major label behind them, "Sailing the Seas of Cheese" went gold. The band then toured in support of Rush, U2, Anthrax, and Public Enemy.

After the release of "Sailing the Seas of Cheese", in 1992 Primus released a cover song EP "Miscellaneous Debris", with their version of XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel" receiving enough airplay to reach #30 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Primus Chart History, Singles
work =
publisher = Billboard
date =
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-04-01

In 1993, Primus released "Pork Soda", which managed to debut at #7 on the Billboard Top 10. The album was darker than previous Primus efforts, dealing with murder, suicide, and alienation. The band has commented that prior to recording, they had been touring for nearly two solid years and were thus in a sombre mood. "My Name Is Mud", "DMV", and "Mr. Krinkle" were hits,Fact|date=April 2007 the latter made into a video featuring Claypool in a pig suit and tuxedo playing upright bass in an abandoned warehouse as a carnival of oddities parades behind him, including Claypool's wife and her twin sister. Claypool said he put his "heart and soul into" the video, but it received next to no airtime on MTV (In an interview with Guitar World magazine, Claypool disparaged the channel's unwillingness to air the video, saying "it got played like six times.")

"Pork Soda" was the first full length album recorded at Claypool's house. The band would subsequently record all of their albums in his home studio.

In 1993 Primus headlined the alternative rock festival Lollapalooza. They also made an appearance at the Woodstock '94 Music Festival. They were pelted with mud while they performed "My Name is Mud" (Claypool claims to still have mud in his speakers). About a minute into the song the band stopped playing, and Claypool said "Well I opened a big-ass can of worms with that one, didn't I? The song is called "My Name Is Mud", but keep the mud to yourselves you son-of-a-bitch" and after a short break "You know, when you throw things onstage, its a sign of small and insignificant genitalia."

The band was producing material frequently. In the previous four years they had released three albums, an EP, six music videos, and a home video. To top that all off, they toured with Rush, who they consider to be one of their biggest influences.

During a lull in 1994, the original Primus lineup consisting of Claypool, Huth, and Lane reunited to record "Riddles Are Abound Tonight" under the band name Sausage. Among the pre-Primus songs they recorded were "Temporary Phase", "Prelude to Fear", and "Shattering Song." The video to "Riddles Are Abound Tonight" featured the band in blue leotards performing on stationary bicycles.

In 1995 Primus released their fourth album, "Tales from the Punchbowl". It contained Primus's most successful single to date, the Grammy-nominated "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver". The song was accompanied by a video with the band members dressed up in cartoonish plastic cowboy costumes (similar to the suits worn in the then current Duracell battery commercials). The band was invited to perform on David Letterman and Conan O'Brien's shows. On the David Letterman show Primus appeared dressed in penguin tuxedos. Two other less successful singles, "Mrs. Blaileen" and "Southbound Pachyderm" (the latter of which featured a claymation video that received only minimal airplay on MTV) were also released.

In 1996 Claypool self-produced his first solo album entitled "Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel Presents Highball with the Devil". On this album many of the songs are done solely by Claypool himself. Claypool also employs the help of a number of other musicians. Experimental Bay Area guitarist M.I.R.V. joined Claypool and others. Performances include a spoken word piece from Henry Rollins on the song "Delicate Tendrils". This album was recorded at Claypool's home recording studio, Rancho Relaxo.

The Mantia era — Brown Album, Rhinoplasty, Antipop & hiatus (1997–2002)

Disturbed by their sudden fame, Primus gradually began to disown "Wynona." It would not be long before Claypool stated that they would stop playing it altogether. Nonetheless, Alexander left the band in 1996. Rumored replacements for Alexander included Mike Bordin of Faith No More, but in the end he was replaced by Bryan "Brain" Mantia of Limbomaniacs and Praxis. Mantia was one of the many drummers Claypool auditioned for the original line-up of Primus before settling with Alexander — Mantia bowed out beforehand because of a foot injury.

With Mantia aboard, Primus was asked in 1996 to compose the theme song to "South Park" after the show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone confessed to being big fans. (Les Claypool was an early supporter of their Spirit of Christmas video postcard/demo.) Primus also contributed to the South Park "Chef Aid" album with the song "Mephisto and Kevin", telling the story of Gopherboy. By this time, bands that were influenced by Primus's bottom-heavy rock — such as KoЯn and Limp Bizkit — were starting to gain a growing audience in the alternative metal genre which Primus had helped to promote.

"Brown Album" was released in 1997 with singles "Shake Hands With Beef" and "Over The Falls". The Brown Album was a departure from previous Primus work.

In 1998, the band headlined the inaugural Sno-Core tour with The Aquabats, Long Beach Dub Allstars and Blink 182. Claypool broke his foot on this tour.

In 1998 Primus released a filler EP called Rhinoplasty. This featured covers of XTC, The Police, Peter Gabriel, and more. There is also a bonus "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" if you put the CD in your computer, and type in the passcode "VIOLIN." In a similar reference to "Herb the Ginsing Drummer" on Suck on This, Les refers to Mantia as The Man... The Myth... The Pseudo-Mexican on a Live Version of Tommy the Cat.

"Antipop" was released in 1999, and was the first album to feature heavy input from outside musicians and producers such as Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit. The album was seen as a 'return to form' by most long term Primus fans, featuring harder edge song-writing fans had been craving as well as greatly improved production over the previous album. The band toured with Ozzfest, Family Values Tour, and released a video for "Lacquer Head" that was banned from MTV because of its drug content, even though it was an anti-drug song.

In 2000 Primus performed a cover of the Black Sabbath classic "N.I.B." with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. This track appeared originally on the album "". The single hit number 2 on the Billboard Modern Rock tracks, the band's highest charting single in nearly a decade. The track was also released on Ozzy's Prince of Darkness box-set in 2005.

After touring to promote "Antipop" throughout 2000, citing studio mismanagement and general dissatisfaction, Primus went on indefinite hiatus in 2001.

During the hiatus, Alexander released two albums with the band Laundry and performed with Blue Man Group, A Perfect Circle, and Born Naked, among others. Claypool explored the jam band scene with Oysterhead (featuring his friend Trey Anastasio of Phish as well as Stewart Copeland of The Police) and his own Frog Brigade. He also collaborated with Mantia in the group Bucket of Bernie Brains. LaLonde joined Mantia to produce two experimental No Forcefield records, and tried unsuccessfully to start a recording studio.

Reformation (2003–Present)

In late 2003 Claypool reunited with LaLonde and, in a surprise move, Tim Alexander to record a DVD/EP called "Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People", which Claypool described as the first DVD with supplementary music, as opposed to the contrary. The band staged a two month tour in which they performed two sets per show, the second consisting of their 1991 release "Sailing the Seas of Cheese" in its entirety. 2004 saw them continue touring, and even performing their 1990 release "Frizzle Fry" in its entirety. For these two tours, the band sold recordings directly recorded from the sound-board online, following an example of other bands such as Phish. The performance in Chicago was video taped as well, and was released on the 'Hallucino-Genetics' Live DVD. The band's style as of their last EP was based on the jam band style with extended soloing from band members and generally more focused on musicianship. This follows the musical evolution of Les Claypool's work during the Primus hiatus, it is unknown whether this style was simply temporary or if the band has permanently switched over to it.

In 2005 the band performed at Lollapalooza and Vegoose. Between Primus shows, Claypool created a new solo project called the Fancy band which, like his other projects only occasionally played Primus songs.

An April 26, 2006 story reported that Alexander will be the drummer in a reunited Meat Puppets lineup. The band will feature original members Cris Kirkwood and Curt Kirkwood. Alexander would have taken the place of original drummer Derrick Bostrom who declined an invitation to rejoin the band. However this was later proven false, as the Meat Puppets announced that their new drummer was Ted Marcus.

A May 10, 2006 article in IGN [] revealed that Primus had signed on with RedOctane to allow the master recording of John the Fisherman to be used in Guitar Hero 2, a game for the Playstation 2 and Xbox 360.

Primus performed on July 29th at the 1st Annual Hedgpeth Festival in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. No new tracks were performed, and no word was given by any of the members regarding the new album.

In November 2006 commenced , which concluded the following month. During the tour, Primus began performing "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" for the first time in 7 years. [ [ YouTube - #11 - Primus 2006-11-29 Vancouver @ the Orpheum ] ]

It was announced that Primus would be performing at the 2008 Rothbury Festival in Rothbury, MI [cite web | title=Rothbury Festival Artist List| url= | accessdate=2008-02-17] , and the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, CA. [cite web | title=Beck, Primus, Ben Harper join Outlands lineup| url= | accessdate=2008-03-24]

New releases

In Mid-August 2006, a DVD release entitled "Blame It On The Fish" was added to the listings of Amazon and other online shops. Shortly thereafter, the website "The PRP" reported that a rumor had surfaced implying that the band was quietly planning a North American tour for November/December 2006. [cite web | title=Those Damn Blue Collared Tours | url= | accessdate=2006-09-23]

On October 17, 2006, Primus released both their first greatest hits CD "They Can't All Be Zingers" and their third DVD "Blame It on The Fish," subtitled "An Abstract Look at the 2003 Primus Tour De Fromage."

"They Can't All Be Zingers: The Best of Primus" includes 16 digitally remastered songs that span their entire career, including a previously unreleased and extended version of "Shake Hands With Beef", the Tom Waits collaboration "Coattails Of A Deadman", and "Mary The Ice Cube" from the 2003 DVD and EP "Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People."

"Blame It On The Fish: An Abstract Look at the 2003 Primus Tour De Fromage" contains live footage from the band's 2003 reunion tour, interview segments and behind the scenes footage. The DVD includes a 70 minute feature film and 90 minutes of bonus material, including a 30 minute mockumentary about the band in 2065. "Blame It On The Fish" is directed by Matthew J. Powers, who directed "Never Been Done", a documentary about Jon Comer.


Primus was originally called "Primate" until another group called "Primate" threatened legal action. Claypool selected Primus instead after looking up the word directly next to "Primate" in a dictionary. The word is Latin, meaning "chief" or "first"

Band members

Current members

*Les Claypool - bass, lead vocals (1984-2000, 2003-present)
*Larry "Ler" LaLonde - guitar, background vocals (1989-2000, 2003-present)
*Tim "Herb" Alexander - drums (1989-1996, 2003-present)

Former members

*Bryan "Brain" Mantia - drums (1989, 1996-2000)
*Todd Huth - guitar (1984-1989)
*Jay Lane - drums (1988)

ide projects

:"To see a more detailed description of each band members' side projects, please refer to their respective articles."
*Les Claypool contributed bass for Jerry Cantrell's first solo album, "Boggy Depot". Cantrell joined the band on stage most notably at Woodstock 1994.
*Claypool, LaLonde and Brain provided bass, guitar and drums respectively for the first track ("Big in Japan") on Tom Waits' album Mule Variations.
*Les Claypool contributed bass as well as received writing credits on Stick Pit, The Ballad of Buckethead (vocals as well), Revenge of the Double Man, Stun Operator, and Nun Chuka Kata on the 1999 Buckethead album Monsters and Robots
*Bryan "Brain" Mantia played drums and received writing credits for Stick Pit, The Ballad of Buckethead, Revenge of the Double Man, Jowls, Stun Operator, Scapula, and Nun Chuka Kata on the 1999 Buckethead album Monsters and Robots


tudio albums

*"Frizzle Fry" - February, 1990
*"Sailing the Seas of Cheese" - May 14, 1991
*"Pork Soda" - April 20, 1993
*"Tales from the Punchbowl" - May 23, 1995
*"Brown Album" - July 8, 1997
*"Antipop" - October 19, 1999


*"Miscellaneous Debris" - March 12, 1992
*"Rhinoplasty" - August 11, 1998
*"Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People" - October 7, 2003

Other releases

*"Suck on This" (live) - November, 1989
*"Gone Fishing" (live) - March, 1992
*"They Can't All Be Zingers" (compilation) - October 17, 2006

Music videos

Primus hired many of their friends from the Bay Area to be in the stage crew, and many of them appear in Primus's videos and home videos.

Radio singles for which no official music videos were made include: "Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers," "Mrs. Blaileen," "Mr. Knowitall," "To Defy The Laws of Tradition," "Over The Electric Grapevine," and "Coattails of a Dead Man."



In 1999 Primus' "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver" appeared on the soundtrack for "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" and in 2001, in the racing title ATV Offroad Fury. In 2006 the Primus song "American Life" appeared on the soundtrack for "Tony Hawk's Project 8" video game

Primus also made a subtle tribute to Jesus Christ Superstar in the song "The Carpenter and the Dainty Bride." Near the end of the song, Claypool plays a guitar riff almost identical to that of the melody in the overture of Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as the track "39 Lashes" near the end of the soundtrack.

Pop Punk band Chixdiggit reference Primus in their song "Angriest Young Men" from the 2007 album Chixdiggit II.

Seamus from Family Guy reveals in the episode Stewie Loves Lois that he carries a poster of the members of Primus in his wooden arm.

Appeared in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey at the battle of the bands playing "Tommy the Cat" []

In 2008, Fox played "Jerry Was a Racecar Driver" during a race at Martinsville.

Primus performs the theme song for the show "South Park."


External links

* [ Official website]
* [ Official live concert downloads]
* [ The Cheesy Primus Page]
*musicbrainz artist|id=84dc4f23-c0b8-4fe1-bbca-a3993ddc8fc2|name=Primus

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