An oral history of the legendary band Primus, with a star-studded cast of interviewees (Tom Waits, Phish front man Trey Anastasio, etc.)
“Tommy the Cat.” “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” “My Name Is Mud.” Yessiree, PRIMUS is responsible for some of the most cutting edge and original rock music of the 1990s. Although originally formed in 1984, it was not until shortly before the end of the decade that the classic Primus lineup featuring Les Claypool (bass/vocals), Larry LaLonde (guitar), and Tim Alexander (drums) was solidified. With most hard rock/heavy metal acts at the time either neatly falling into either “thrash” or “glam” categories, Primus joined a variety of underground bands that refused to be pigeonholed (and by the early ’90s, had fully infiltrated the mainstream)—merging metal, funk, alternative, punk, country, roots rock, and experimental music, along with Claypool’s penchant for witty and often humorous storytelling lyrics. Building a large and loyal following first in and around San Francisco (before eventually, going global), Primus kicked things off with a string of releases that are now considered classic alt-rock titles: Suck on This, Frizzle Fry, Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Pork Soda, and Tales from the Punchbowl. Along the way, Primus toured with some of rock’s biggest names (Jane’s Addiction, Public Enemy, Rush, U2, etc.), headlined the third Lollapalooza Festival, and issued a variety of crafty music videos, which stood out in sharp contrast to the ultra-seriousness of most other video clips at the time. Primus, with Greg Prato, is the coauthor of Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool.