“Lars said, ‘You’re not really used to this kind of music, are you?’” Les Claypool on his failed Metallica audition

Les Claypool backstage on August 4, 1995 in New York City, New York. Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs at Royal Arena on February 3, 2017 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If Jaco Pastorius was the greatest bass player who ever lived, then Les Claypool – bassist, banjoist, sometime Metallica wannabe, producer, novelist and low-end guest to the stars – is surely the most likely contender to his throne. Frontman with the perennially remarkable funk-rock band Primus and a whole string of side-projects including Sausage and Oysterhead, Claypool is best known for his stunning slap-and-pop technique which, combined with near-impossible speed and eccentricity on a host of fretted, fretless, whammy-barred and multi-stringed instruments, leaves all but the world's best bass players in the shade.

But Claypool is no mindless shredder. Technique is only an adjunct to feel in his philosophy, with the butt-shaking groove of his playing the mainstay of his approach. In 1986 Claypool got the chance to audition for Metallica following the death of bassist Cliff Burton following a horrific bus accident. Although the perfect replacement eventually came in the form of Jason Newsted.

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Joel McIver

Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.