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Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight Into Primus and the World of Les Claypool (Paperback Edition)

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An oral history of the legendary band Primus, with a star-studded cast of interviewees (Tom Waits, Phish front man Trey Anastasio, etc.)

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What people are saying…

“It’s a wild ride that’s vividly captured in Greg Prato’s excellent oral history . . .”
Bass Player Magazine

“A book about the highly strange San Franciscans Primus has been overdue for years, so Greg Prato’s excellent oral history of the band is welcome—doubly so, given that the key band members, Les Claypool, Larry Lalonde and Tim Alexander, are involved. . . . Great stuff.”
Record Collector Magazine

“They were real musicians’ musicians . . . Primus had their own thing, for sure. Nobody really does that Primus thing—they have their own personality, which is something difficult to do.”
—Chad Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Primitive, animated, dinosaur, Halloween, trailerfunk. I felt Les was a kindred spirit. Someone I could learn from and collaborate with. Quick, schooled, humble, with an amazing musical lexicon and down home as hell, with a bent sense of humor.”
—Tom Waits

“There’s an unbelievable batting average there in songs . . . There are so many songs that I like and so many different feels and so much different sh*t in there. It’s a huge body of work.”
—Matt Stone, South Park

“I was very enthralled by their whole enthusiasm at what they did. That was infectious.”
—Chuck D, Public Enemy

“I think [Les] is one of the greatest lyricists in America right now. He has a turn of phrase that always just evokes a kind of hidden world. It’s like Grapes of Wrath kind of stuff. It’s really the mettle of America.”
—Stewart Copeland, the Police

“Definitely one of the greatest live bands, and I think that is always a sign of music that holds up . . . It’s very timeless . . . Primus was very influential in the formation of [Muse] and what our priorities were.”
—Matthew Bellamy, Muse

“It was ’89 or ’90 that I heard about them . . . I was fascinated by the band, but more so intrigued and mesmerized by Les, because he was such a cartoon character. And his bass playing was obviously phenomenal.”
—Linda Perry, 4 Non Blondes

“At Phish practice, we used to listen to Sailing the Seas of Cheese . . . [Les] is the most unique bass player.”
—Trey Anastasio, Phish

“I just remember listening to some of those clips over and over again, just the bass solo, over and over again, sitting there trying to figure it out. Those records were a huge part of me growing up.”
—Tom Blankenship, My Morning Jacket

“They have a body of work that I’m always impressed with. Really, that’s a band that never failed to deliver the goods on why you enjoy them . . . It actually gave me the feeling that there was some kind of justice in the world—watching them ascend. It’s kind of like one of those moments, like sometimes those things happen, and it makes you think there’s a possibility that the universe can have balance.”
—Norwood Fisher, Fishbone


Usually when the “alternative rock revolution” of the early 1990s is discussed, Nirvana’s Nevermind is credited as the recording that led the charge. Yet there were several earlier albums that helped pave the way, including the Pixies’s Doolittle, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’s Mother’s Milk, Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking, and especially Primus’s 1991 album Sailing the Seas of Cheese.

This fascinating and beautifully curated oral history tells the tale of this truly one-of-a-kind band. Compiled from nearly fifty all-original interviews—including Primus members past and present and many more fellow musicians—conducted by journalist/author Greg Prato. This book is sure to appeal to longtime fans of the band, as well as admirers of the musicians interviewed for the book.

Interviewees include: Tim Alexander, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Matthew Bellamy (Muse), Les Claypool, Stewart Copeland (The Police), Chuck D (Public Enemy), Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Larry LaLonde, Geddy Lee (Rush), Mickey Melchiondo (Ween), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Matt Stone (South Park), Tom Waits, and many more.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Published: 12/6/22
  • IBSN: 9781636140681
  • e-IBSN: 9781617753305


“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.

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GREG PRATO is a Long Island–based music journalist, whose writing has appeared in Rolling Stone. He is the author of numerous books, including A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, and MTV Ruled the World: The Early Years of Music Video. He is the coauthor, with Primus, of Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool.

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