When Sean Lennon and his band the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger embarked on a summer tour opening for Primus last year, he was excited to spend time with Les Claypool, one of his musical heroes. "In my circle of oddball musicians, he's a legend," says Lennon. "He's like the Tim Burton of alternative music." The two hit it off. "We both love Claymation and weird cartoons and have kind of a dark, pervy sense of humor." They also played a lot of music on Primus' bus. "He has this amazing voice," says Claypool. "He adds elements of beauty to the barnacle-covered hull that is my world."
After the tour, Claypool invited Lennon further into his world, to make music at his Sonoma County, California, home. Called "Rancho Relaxo," it's packed with antiques, including a prized bust of singer Jimmy Durante. "Some would call it crap; I call it knick-knackery," says Claypool. "Tom Waits once called me a 'pawn-shop weasel.'" Between sessions, Lennon and Claypool drank a lot of pinot noir from Claypool's nearby vineyard, and went fishing and mushroom-hunting (the bassist lives near a rare patch of porcinis). "We hunt them every fall, 21 days after the first big rain," says Claypool. "Sean was fascinated by the ones that would kill you."
The result of the trip is a new band, the Claypool Lennon Delirium, and a deeply psychedelic LP, Monolith of Phobos. The title track is about one of Lennon's favorite YouTube clips, in which Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin discusses "a very unusual structure" on a Mars moon. "It's one of the most important moments in TV history," says Lennon. Several other conversations resulted in songs; "Oxycontin Girl" is a twisted diary of the country's pharmaceutical epidemic, and "Bubbles Burst" is a Beatles-y tune about Michael Jackson's pet chimp, Bubbles, whom Lennon got to know at Jackson's house while acting in 1988's Moonwalker. "We were tight as can be," Lennon says of Bubbles, laughing. "He was always dressed up in these little outfits, and if you tickled him he would laugh in a cute way. It was like being in an alternate dimension."
The Claypool Lennon Delirium recently hit the road for an American tour, ongoing through September 4th. "He's like a thoroughbred and I'm like a quarter horse," says Lennon. "It's good for me. It will force me to rise to the occasion."