Inquirer: Les Claypool

Originally published in Guitar World, July 2010

The Primus bassist chats with Guitar World about his early days.

What first inspired you to pick up a bass?

I opted not to pick up the guitar because, when I was in junior high, there was a talent show. Two guitarists and a drummer had a band, and they played “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers. The lead guitarist, who went on to become the first guitarist for Primus—Todd Huth—was soloing, and it sounded so horrible through the tiny little amps they were using. I didn’t know the difference between the bass and the guitar; I just knew that one had four strings and one had six strings. I thought, I want to play whatever is the opposite of that.

What was your first bass?

It was a Memphis P-Bass copy. I pulled lots of weeds and mowed lawns. Shoveled dog shit and raked leaves.

What was the first song you learned?

Because nobody wanted to play bass, I was instantly in a band. We played only original tunes, so the first music I learned was the music of our guitarist. It was sorta like Rush–meets–Judas Priest–meets–Jethro Tull.

What do you recall about your first gig?

It was in the cafeteria at school. I was so petrified that I stood sideways to the audience the whole time.

Ever had a nightmare gig?

Nothing too terrible. I’ve had dreams that were worse, where I get onstage and nothing’s working and I’m trying to play a song I can’t remember. I remember once in Holland, [guitarist] Larry Lalonde almost got electrocuted every time he touched the mic. We just thought he was doin’ some fancy stage tricks because he was floppin’ around on the ground.

What is your favorite piece of gear?

I enjoy my John Deere tractor quite a lot. It’s a tool that I must use to keep Mother Nature at bay. I have all kinds of things encroaching on my property.

Do you have any advice for young players?

Play as much as you can as often as you can with as many people as you can. That’s how you learn and grow.

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