Primus bassist Les Claypool and multi-instrumentalist Sean Lennon have united for their second collaborative album as the Claypool Lennon Delirium. The self-produced South of Reality – out February 22nd, 2019 via ATO Records and available for pre-order now – follows their 2016 debut, Monolith of Phobos, and proggy 2017 covers EP, Lime and Limpid Green.
The experimental psych-rock duo previewed the LP with the six-and-a-half-minute “Blood and Rockets,” a sprawling epic that finds Lennon and Claypool crooning and snarling, respectively, over spacey synths and chiming guitars. “How high does your rocket fly?” Lennon sings on the chorus, his voice elevated to a blissful falsetto. “Better be careful ’cause you just might set the world on fire.”
As Lennon tells Rolling Stone, the song’s dark lyrics document “the lascivious exploits of famed JPL rocket scientist Jack Parsons, the man who not only helped America get to the moon with liquid fuel technology, but was also a Magister Templi in Aleister Crowley’s cult, the Ordo Templi Orientis.” He added that Parsons “sadly passed away in a violent explosion during a secretive alchemical experiment at his house in Pasadena.”
The Lennon Claypool Delirium will promote the record on a headlining U.S. tour. Pre-sale tickets for three California dates – December 28th in San Diego, the 29th in Santa Ana, the 31st in San Francisco – are now available, and a general on-sale begins Friday, October 26th at noon local time.
Lennon and Claypool co-produced South of Reality themselves, with the Primus frontman engineering and mixing at his own Rancho Relaxo studio in Sonoma County, California. They wrote and recorded the album over roughly two months, prompted by what Claypool describes as “the desire to sit in a room and make space sounds again.”
“Basically it was the same setup in the same place,” the bassist says of their process. “I am a creature of habit and have all my old vintage gear dialed in the way I like it, so I like to helm from the same spot.” The South of Reality announcement arrives just barely a year after Primus issued their ninth LP, The Desaturating Seven, but Claypool emphasizes that he started with a clean slate on the latest Delirium set, with zero “cross-pollination between the two projects.”
Lennon, who was admittedly a bit intimidated years ago before his first jam session with Claypool, felt more at ease during their most recent sessions. However, he still describes Claypool as a disciplined “ship captain” who expects his musicians to be prepared on day one of any rehearsal.
“We are great friends indeed, and I guess I’m not nervous in quite the same way as I was in the beginning, but I still make sure to do as much preparation as possible,” he says. “Ideas always come quick for us, and I think that’s why we like working together. But playing with Les is like knowing you’re gonna be playing tennis with Rafael Nadal – it makes you wanna brush up on a few things before you get on the court.”
The pair wrote in every possible permutation: jamming, bringing in seeds of musical ideas, fleshing out tracks from scratch. Their resulting material feels like an organic extension of Monolith of Phobos, blending the wildly surreal and psychedelic with satirical social commentary.
The paranoid, Eastern-tinged “Cricket Chronicles Revisited” – a continuation of “The Cricket and the Genie” from their first LP – is a critique on what Lennon calls “our modern tendency to over-medicate both children and adults alike.” He elaborates: “Most people just need to eat better and exercise, but we’re told to believe the only answer is some drug that sounds like it comes from another galaxy. The [song’s] spoken word outro is just an extension of that Big Pharma advertisement language; the side effects are so unbelievably insane it’s hard to imagine taking any drug that can give you octopus tentacles, or make you spontaneously combust. Honestly the real ones are worse than that I just can’t mention them here.”
Claypool developed the bouncy, heady “Easily Charmed By Fools” from a line in a Charles Bukowski story that he swiped and let linger for years in his note book. “When it came time to flesh it out, there were no lack of examples to support that notion,” he says. “Who is the bigger fool; the fool or those that follow the fool? It may be the guy that tries to write a song about such things in an environment where rational thought is being vilified on a daily basis.”