Les Claypool - Primus / Colnel Les Claypool's Fearless Frog Brigade
On the phone with David Lee Wilson - 2001
It is more than a bit difficult to tune into the exact frequency that Les Claypool is broadcasting on but that doesn't seem to interfere with the overall enjoyment of his show. This time out Claypool is working without his usual Primus cohorts opting instead to enlist a rather fluid lineup of musicians collectively referring to themselves as, Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Frog Brigade.
Frog Brigade is currently out on the Sno-Core tour and will make occasional appearances when time and interest allows but beyond that there isn't a whole lot to say about the collective other than it is a Les Claypool thing and that usually means mass funkiness. Les doesn't go in for the Rock-Star trip much, to be honest, he is kinda like the anti-Rock-Star so an interview with him is usually a simple exchange of the facts, if there be any, there were few in this case, and some classic Claypool witticisms worthy of blowing up in a larger font to draw the reader in. Nothing too different here but why screw with what works? The Colonel has called an assembly best to listen up now soldier!

DAVID LEE: Frog Brigade, eh?
LESS CLAYPOOL: Yep, Frog Brigade.
K2K: Are you currently at the height of your personality distribution with all of these bands that you are in now?
LC: Oh, who the hell knows.
K2K: Since no one has heard Les Claypool's Frog Brigade other than at one of the few shows you have done what can the unexposed expect as far as a sound from the Brigade?
LC: Um, it is sort of a Zappa meets King Crimson meets Pink Floyd, how is that? If it were a movie that is how I would describe it.
K2K: Is this a Les Claypool showcase band or more of a collaborative type of project?
LC: Well, you know, it is my gig but I have got some monstrous support with me. All of these guys are the best at what they do.
K2K: Did the music come after you had the musicians or did you know what you wanted in terms of a sound and picked people who you knew would bring that thought to life?
LC: I still don't know what I want. I mean I did this Oyster Head thing down in New Orleans with Trey and Stuart Copeland (The Police) and from there I have just sort of put together all of these various projects for all of these different festivals so from that sprang the current version of Frog Brigade.
K2K: What inspired the name Frog Brigade?
LC: We played a festival in Calagrass County which is the home of the Mark Twain jumping frog of Calagrass County so it was more a name for the band at that specific gig but I liked it and I liked the potential for the visuals that come with that name so I stuck with it. It was a striking name so I just kept going with it.
K2K: Is this going to involve costumes and props?
LC: Well, you never know.
K2K: It was a little bit surprising to see that you will not be headlining the Sno Core Tour so how long will you get to play?
LC: I don't know, probably about an hour or so.
K2K: Is that hour going to be strictly Frog Brigade music or will some Primus numbers creep into the set?
LC: It is going to be a plethora of whatever, you just never know. I have no idea what we are going to play and it will be all different every night with all kinds of various things to draw from. I don't know. A Primus tune pops in now and again but it is not a Primus show so if you are expecting to see Primus you shouldn't go to this show.
K2K: Have people been showing up at the shows expecting to hear Primus?
LC: I don't know. Frog Brigade has definitely taken on a life of its own. I would imagine that Primus fans are going to enjoy this because it is pretty musical but if they are expecting to see "Wynonna's Big Brown Beaver" then they might be disappointed.
K2K: Are you working on any other instruments other than your usual bass and vocals?
LC: Um, not really.
K2K: You're not bringing out the jug?
LC: Nope, not bringing out the jug.
K2K: Is there a recording tied in with all of this?
LC: There is a live album that should have been released by now but I have been lagging.
K2K: Since you were last on tour with Primus your drummer was pilfered from you by W Axl Rose for his Guns 'N' Roses thing, are you going to rehire your old drummer now, what is happening there?
LC: Actually, he came out and played with Frog Brigade the other night. I have definitely been working with Tim, he was in the original version of Frog Brigade. When we do come back it will more than likely be with him.
K2K: Is everybody happy with that idea?
LC: It is always good to make everybody happy, happiness is a good thing.
K2K: What are your thoughts of your touring partners for this "Sno Core Tour?"
LC: Well, I don't know Lake Trout and there is another band that I don't know but Galactic, they are friends of ours and they are a great band so it is going to be a very enjoyable time. It is going to be a strong evening of music.
K2K: Who approached you to do this "Sno Core Tour" in the first place?
LC: Well, Sno Core is Artist Direct which is our agency and Primus did Sno Core a few years ago and they wanted to put together an event that was more "Jam-band" based I guess and that is what this is.
K2K: Is this a chance to bring some music out of the attic that wouldn't otherwise get a hearing?
LC: Not really, it is just us going out and playing. We are playing a lot of different stuff, you know our repertoire is pretty wide and varied and it changes all the time so you won't ever see the same set twice. It is just, sort of, concentrating on being a musician more than being a rock star.
K2K: Speaking of Rock-stardom, you made a contribution to the Black Sabbath tribute record.
LC: Yes.
K2K: Was Sabbath a band that had a great deal of influence on you?
LC: It definitely was one of those musical pinnacles. I have been very fortunate because I have got to play with and meet a lot of my heroes. You know, like Tom Waits and the RUSH guys and whatnot so this was another milestone. I met Geezer (Butler) when we did the Sabbath tour a few summers ago and yeah, he was a big influence on me. "N.I.B." seemed like an appropriate song to play although the radio version always gets the bass solo cut out of it, unfortunately.
K2K: That has to annoy you to no end? (laughs)
LC: That's just radio man, that is the way that it is.
K2K: I am guessing that Frog Brigade is something that won't see too much radio time either?
LC: I doubt it but it is not really something that we are shooting for.
K2K: You didn't actually get together with Ozzy to do the Sabbath track, did you?
LC: We did not, no. That wasn't so much a mandatory thing it was just that neither of us were available at the same time.
K2K: Did it take much rehearsal to form up the final version of that track? I mean, "N.I.B." has to be the equivalent to "Smoke on the Water" for bass players so I would think that it is pretty well ingrained in every bassist?
LC: No, not really.
K2K: It certainly was the "hit" track from the album so there was some kind of magic there?
LC: Yeah, magic.
K2K: You are playing theaters with this Sno Core tour and you obviously play the same size halls or bigger with Primus, do you have any interest in playing smaller clubs with any of your projects?
LC: We did a couple of weeks with Frog Brigade where we went around and played some small venues. Actually, our live album was recorded in a hall, it's a music hall but it is fairly small.
K2K: Are there any other projects for Les to do once Frog Brigade has been laid to rest?
LC: Um, there are always things on the back burner. I would like to do OysterHead again and there has been some talk about that. I am working with Gov't Mule right now on a project so I am always keeping busy.
K2K: What does the Gov't Mule thing sound like?
LC: Actually, it sounds pretty awesome. We have only been working on it for the past few days but it is kinda, "swamp-funk."
K2K: You once auditioned for Metallica, seems like they are shopping for another bassist now, any interest there?
LC: Never heard of them.
K2K: Oh, I see how you could miss them, they weren't very popular. (laughs) Do you ever think about how different life would have been had you gotten that gig?
LC: Yeah, every time I look at my bank account!
K2K: What about artistically, there would have never been a "Frizzlefry" or "Brown" albums had you cashed in on that?
LC: Well, I mean, there are always points in life where you go, "What would have happened if. . .?" There was a reason why it didn't happen, I wasn't right for the part and they had the foresight to know that. I have known Kirk forever, I have known him since High School and those guys just looked at me like I was just some sort of freak which was correct. (laughs) I mean, I wouldn't have fit in very well. I don't even think that I was in the running. I think that it was just more of an interesting afterthought that my band became popular. "Hey, the guy from Primus once auditioned for Metallica."
K2K: You also managed to avoid ever having all the Metal cliches used when reviewing your albums so that was probably a bonus? I mean, I don't think that I have ever seen the word "onslaught" used to describe Primus music? (laughs)
LC: Well, yeah, but you never know, I have been around the horn a couple of times but nothing is leaping to mind.
K2K: What is the rest of Primus doing while you are out with Frog Brigade?
LC: That is a good question, I don't know. Everybody is kind of doing their own thing.
K2K: This tour is scheduled through February?
LC: Yeah.
K2K: If the interest is there is there room for more touring or does everyone have to get on with other things?
LC: I have stuff that I am doing but we will probably go back out in the Summer, Spring or Fall maybe. I mean, there is not a huge amount of pressure to go out and stomp around the country it is just more of taking a good tour when they come up. This one was a good tour so we did it. There has been talk about us going out with various bands and if something looks interesting then we will do it.
K2K: I know that you are a Geddy Lee fan, what do you think of his solo record?
LC: Well, I have only heard the one song, the one that is on the radio, but it sounds pretty monstrous. I haven't heard the whole record yet, I tend to be pretty lame when it comes to going out and keeping up on what is happening. Usually people have to stuff it in my CD player for me.
K2K: What is the last disc you actually felt compelled to go and get?
LC: I always draw a blank when somebody says that. Um, well, the last one I got was the Gov't Mule one which I was very happy that it was as good as it was! (laughs) Basically because I was going to work with them! (laughs) Those guys are monstrous.
K2K: Are they kind of laying down their guns and changing their name or finding a new bass player, what is going on with them?
LC: I don't know what they are doing in that respect but they are doing this album with a bunch of different bass players as a tribute to their late bass player.
Written by David Lee Wilson / Photo © 2000 Phil Anderson
See photos of this band and many more at Philip Anderson Photography online

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