Q&A: Les Claypool on Primus' Future and His TV Show With Dean Ween

He also has an Oysterhead itch

Les Claypool
Chris McKay/WireImage
Les Claypool performs in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Primus has not released a full-length studio set with drummer Tim Alexander since their 1995 classic, Tales From the Punchbowl (which spawned their biggest hit, "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver"). But it looks like that could change, as singer/bassist Les Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde are reuniting with Alexander for live dates (including a performance on New Year's Eve at the Fox Theatre in Oakland, and Australia festivals early next year), and if all goes according to plan, a new studio recording.

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Claypool's calendar is quickly filling up, too. He has an October tour with his two-man project, Duo de Twang (as well as a forthcoming debut album), he'll perform with Tom Waits at the Bridge School Benefit on October 27th  and he's shopping a fishing television show with ex-Ween member Mickey "Dean Ween" Melchiondo. There's also a book that tells the complete history of Primus in the works. Claypool spoke with Rolling Stone this week about reuniting with Alexander, the likelihood of an Oysterhead reunion with Phish's Trey Anastasio and the Police's Stewart Copeland, what we can expect from a fishing series starring himself and Dean Ween, and more.

Sounds like a lot is going on in the Primus camp.
I really don't know what you're talking about. Whatever could that be? Yeah, a series of events has made the ever-elusive Viking known as Tim "Herb" Alexander come out of the forest, and he's going to start beating drums again for us - starting next week. It should be an interesting experience.

What happened with Jay Lane and how did Tim come back?
It's kind of odd - we love Jayski, he's my buddy, and we very much enjoyed playing with him. But he has a relationship with Bob Weir that is very tight, and of course, they started RatDog together many years ago, and RatDog's getting back together this next year. It was conflicting with some stuff that we were doing, and so he opted to go with Bob and RatDog over the Primus stuff. Just coincidentally, Herb had been peeking out of the woods and wanting to play again, so we thought, "Well, let's talk to Tim about it." So we've been talking, and it seems like he's in a much better space now than he had been in the past. He's got a little girl now and it just seems like he's excited about playing drums again, which I hadn't seen that from him in many years.

I think Primus with Tim is the quintessential Primus line-up.
There's a lot of people that feel that way. We're excited. It will be interesting to see what happens next week, when we get in a room together and start making racket. But you can feel the excitement from him and the enthusiasm, which is great, 'cause you just didn't feel that before. And for me as well, reading through the [yet-to-be titled] book as I have been, you become a little nostalgic for what we were in the "heyday," so to speak. And then I had dinner with Geddy [Lee] and Alex [Lifeson] a couple of months ago, and they're big Primus fans, but they're bigger fans of the Primus with Tim Alexander. I assume they'll be excited about this. [Laughs]

Did Geddy or Alex give any advice during dinner?
Not really. We were just drinking. [Laughs]

Will this lead to a full-length Primus album with Tim and tour?
We're talking about going into the studio in November. But it's all a little premature - we'll see what happens next week. If we get together and things are just flowing like crazy, then I'm sure we're going to hop right in the studio. If not, then … we'll be calling Alex Van Halen. [Laughs]

What can you tell us about your Duo de Twang project?
I'm just finishing up the Duo de Twang record. I think I'm going to call it Four Foot Shack. It's come out pretty good - I'm pretty stoked on it. It's very much like our show - interpretations of other people's stuff, as well as my stuff. Twang-stylee. There's no newly written material as of yet, but I did have an idea this morning. There's interesting renditions of "The Beaver," of course, and "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver," as well as "D's Diner" and "Rumble of the Diesel," and there's some Johnny Horton on there, there's some Stompin' Tom Connors. We've been toying with a Bee Gees tune, which is coming out sweet. You can Twang-ify anything.

And you're playing with Tom Waits at this year's Bridge School Benefit. Have you ever played live with Tom before?
You know, I don't believe I have, actually. He asked me to do a Conan O'Brien Show a handful of years ago, and I was busy - I couldn't do it. I've done a lot of studio stuff with him, but I don't think I've played live with him.

Are there any all-time favorite Tom Waits songs you're hoping to perform with him?
There's so many. My head is swimming as you even say that, because there's so many and there's so many that I played on. They're all pretty sweet.

Will Oysterhead ever get back together?
Well, that's happening next week as well! Ah … I don't know what the hell is going on with Oysterhead. We always talk about it. There's a lot of talk. I think it's an itch we should start scratching here pretty soon. It's been long overdue. But there's a lot of exciting things going on, on all of our horizons - Phish is making a record right now, I'm about to start to play with Tim Alexander again and make a Primus record, I tried to buy a winery yesterday and that fell through, trying to get this damn fishing show going with Mickey.

Let's talk about that fishing show.
Well, we got some financing from some friends, and went down to Florida and shot a bunch of footage. Unfortunately, didn't catch a lot of fish, but got a lot of good footage of us attempting to catch fish. Men on the hunt. So then we shot some more footage in New Hope Pa., where we did catch a bunch of fish, which is near his house. Then he was at my place a couple of months ago, and we got incredibly drunk the night before and he actually continued on and got even more drunk with our cameraman. So we went out to fish the next day, and pretty much everybody just slept on the boat, while one guy was vomiting. So, no fish on that one either. We started off with this 30-minute episode, and we whittled it down to a five-minute piece. We're talking to production houses, and we're starting to take meetings, so we'll see what happens.

Does the show have a title?
Right now we're calling it Musishermen. And we have a great theme song - it's exactly what you would think a hybrid of Primus and Ween would be.