Primus adapted an obscure children's book into a wild musical opus with their ninth LP, The Desaturating Seven, out September 29th via ATO Records. The trio will promote the album, their first since 2014's Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, with a U.S. tour launching October 20th in San Antonio and concluding November 13th in New Orleans.
The experimental rock trio tease the record's carnivalesque atmosphere with lead single "The Seven," an ever-mutating epic filled with marching rhythms, jarring tempo shifts and a prog-funk groove (cleverly set in 7/8) that recalls early Eighties King Crimson.
"It definitely has that Discipline feel," bassist-singer Les Claypool tells Rolling Stone, referencing King Crimson's 1981 LP. "But it's also very reminiscent of [Primus' 1991 track] 'Jerry Was a Racecar Driver,' that tapping and the syncopated bit with me and [guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde]. But all that probably comes from the Crimson influence as well because Crimson was definitely a big influence on the three of us."
The Desaturating Seven is the band's first studio album of original material since 2011's Green Naugahyde – and their first with LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander since 1995's Tales From the Punchbowl. The LP is based on Italian writer and illustrator Ul de Rico's trippy 1978 book, The Rainbow Goblins, which Claypool's wife introduced him to "many, many years ago." The couple, struck by de Rico's "vibrant and intense and eerie and somewhat creepy" artwork, used to read the book to their children – and Claypool earmarked the title for a potential musical project.
"I remember being incredibly impressed with the artwork and the storyline and the content and the message, and I thought, 'Wow, this would make a great piece of music,'" he says. "As I'm getting older, I'm realizing I need to start knocking some of these things off my list. So we did the Willy Wonka soundtrack a couple years back, and this was a project I wanted to do."
Claypool considered starting the project with Sean Lennon for his other band, the Claypool Lennon Delirium. Instead, he recruited his Primus bandmates, who – despite having never heard of the bizarre children's book – were immediately receptive to its visuals and themes. "I think with the way the world is right now, it's very relevant," Claypool says. "The notion of gluttony and those that have taking more than their share from those that don't."
The bassist faced an unusual challenge in structuring music around his source material, but he found an initial spark by crafting the miniature "prog-rock opus" "The Storm" and "building backwards" from there. He picked the story apart into a play-like structure, framing individual lyrics like a dream sequence and the titular goblins' journey toward a valley.
"I would look at the artwork and read the lyrics, and it's very difficult to sing about goblins and rainbows and not have it come off being a little cornball," he says, laughing. "So I was tiptoeing the line of not necessarily being literal, but referring to elements of the story and using it more as a metaphor, when I could."
Primus will utilize the book's rainbow imagery for the stage setup on their upcoming tour, which is structured into two sets: one featuring songs from throughout their catalog, another featuring The Desaturating Seven in its entirety. Meanwhile, the album's vinyl edition will be issued in seven-color "rainbow splatter" format.
"These days," Claypool admits, "you gotta go the extra mile because otherwise people just take it off the internet."
Primus – The Desaturating Seven Track List
1. "The Valley"
2. "The Seven"
3. "The Trek"
4. "The Scheme"
5. "The Dream"
6. "The Storm"
7. "The Ends?"
Primus 2017 Tour Dates
October 20 – San Antonio, TX @ Sunken Gardens
October 21 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Lawn
October 22 – Austin, TX @ ACL Live
October 24 – Nashville, TN @ War Memorial
October 25 – Richmond, VA @ The National
October 27 – Albany, NY @ Palace Theater
October 28 – Washington D.C. @ The Anthem
October 29 – Port Chester, NY @ Capitol Theater
October 31 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
November 2 – Akron, OH @ Goodyear Theater
November 3 – Cincinnati, OH @ The Taft Theater
November 4 – Louisville, KY @ Palace Theater
November 5 – St. Louis, MO @ Peabody Theater
November 7 – Knoxville, TN @ Tennessee Theater
November 9 – Atlanta, GA @ Tabernacle
November 10 – Orlando, FL @ Hard Rock Hotel
November 11 – Clearwater, FL @ Ruth Eckerd Hall
November 13 – New Orleans, LA @ Civic Theatre
December 29, 30 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
Additional reporting by Kory Grow