Think Les Claypool and you think Primus. But that's not the case anymore; Primus has been on hiatus since 1999, and Claypool has been playing with seemingly as many musicians as he can humanly align himself with.
"This is just my revitalization — being revitalized and just enjoying playing and experimenting with really good musicians," says the bassist, adding that he pulled Primus to the side of the road because he became "bored. A lot of the scene we were falling into didn't excite me. The whole testosterone, angst-for-no-real-reason thing, just kind of bores me. I can't watch MTV, I can't listen to radio. It's boring. It's not really where I'm at right now. I love playing Primus music, but we needed some time off."
Claypool, however, isn't taking any time off. He's been working with Sausage, an ongoing version of the original Primus lineup; Holy Mackerel, which included Henry Rollins and jazzman Charlie Hunter; and Rat Brigade, which features members of Bob Weir's Rat Dog band. Claypool also guests on an upcoming Gov't Mule album, on a track called "Greasy Granny's Gopher Gravy," and he launched a project called Oysterhead with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland; the supergroup played at last year's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and Claypool says there's talk of more work together this year.
But mostly we're hearing from Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, the outfit Claypool has taken on the road for this year's SnoCore Icicle Ball tour. The group features two Rat Dog members — drummer Jay Lane (one of the former Primus members now in Sausage) and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti — along with original Primus guitarist Todd Huth, San Francisco guitarist Eenor, and Seattle saxophonist Skerik, whose credits include Galactic and Tuatara.
The group is releasing Set 1, the first of two live albums, on Claypool's own Prawn Song label on Feb. 5 via the Internet (clubbastardo.com) and then on March 5 through ARTISTdirect.com. The album features Frog Brigade's covers of King Crimson's "Thela Hun Ginjeet" and Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," while Set 2, due out later in the spring, will feature the group's rendition of the entire Pink Floyd Animals album.
"I wanted to put together the best band I could possibly put together, with the most amazing musicians I can find," Claypool explains. "I like being introduced to an audience that really wants to see musicians play as opposed to jumping around and screaming and smashing things. To me, that's invigorating."