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Primus is an American funk metal band currently composed of singer and bassist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde, and drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander.

The diversity of their sound has allowed Primus to gain a modest segment of fans from many different rock sub-genres. They are characterized by their irreverent approach to music. Primus release their records on Claypool's Prawn Song Records label, a parody of Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label.

Band history

The early years (1984–1990)

Primus began as Primate in El Sobrante, Californiamarker during the mid-1980s with singer and bassist Les Claypool and guitarist Todd Huth. Claypool rounded out the band with a drum machine which they named Perm Parker. The band would go through many drummers throughout their early history, eventually settling on Jay Lane. When another band called "Primate" threatened legal action, the group decided to change their name. They settled on the name "Primus." The word is Latin, meaning "chief" or "first".

After rising to local music scene stardom with their brand of funk metal fusion, Huth and Lane left in 1989 to pursue other projects. Claypool then recruited former Blind Illusion bandmate and one time Joe Satriani student Larry "Ler" LaLonde, and eclectic drummer Tim "Herb" Alexander. Claypool and LaLonde recorded and toured with the early thrash band Blind Illusion. Larry LaLonde was previously a member of the seminal Death/Thrash Metal band Possessed. Primus received praise from Testament's Alex Skolnick very early into their career. Tim Alexander is originally from Jerome, Arizona and was the drummer in Major Lingo.

Primus continued to gain popularity and in 1989 released their first album, Suck on This, a live recording culled from two of their Berkeley concerts. The album was financed by Claypool's father.

In 1990 the band released their first studio album, Frizzle Fry, and released singles for "John the Fisherman" and "Too Many Puppies". With a music video featuring Kirk Hammett, a studio album and a tour with Jane's Addiction, Primus' popularity grew to the point where they attracted attention from Interscope Records, who signed them in 1990.

It was during these early years that the catch phrase "Primus Sucks" started. It began with people constantly stating to the band just how good they were. One day when someone told the band they were good, Claypool turned around and said "No, we suck" and from then on it stuck.

The Mantia era — Brown Album, Rhinoplasty, Antipop & hiatus (1997–2002)

Disturbed by their sudden fame, Primus gradually began to disown "Wynona." It would not be long before Claypool stated that they would stop playing it altogether. Nonetheless, Alexander left the band in 1996. Rumored replacements for Alexander included Mike Bordin of Faith No More, but in the end he was replaced by Bryan "Brain" Mantia of Limbomaniacs and Praxis. Mantia was one of the many drummers Claypool auditioned for the original line-up of Primus before settling with Alexander — Mantia bowed out beforehand because of a foot injury.

With Mantia aboard, Primus was asked in 1996 to compose the theme song to South Park after the show's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone confessed to being big fans. (Les Claypool was an early supporter of their Spirit of Christmas video postcard/demo.) Primus also contributed to the South Park "Chef Aid" album with the song "Mephisto and Kevin", telling the story of Gopherboy.

Brown Album was released in 1997 with singles "Shake Hands With Beef" and "Over The Falls". The Brown Album was a departure from previous Primus work. Brain's drumming was much more groove-orientated, reminiscent of John Bonham, as opposed to Herb's very technical style, giving the album an altogether heavier feel.

In 1998, the band headlined the inaugural Sno-Core tour with The Aquabats, Long Beach Dub Allstars and Blink 182. Claypool broke his foot on this tour.

In 1998 Primus released a filler EP called Rhinoplasty. This featured covers of XTC, The Police, Peter Gabriel, and more. There is also a bonus "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" if you put the CD in your computer, and type in the passcode "VIOLIN." In a similar reference to "Herb the Ginsing Drummer" on Suck on This, Les refers to Mantia as The Man... The Myth... The Pseudo-Mexican on a Live Version of Tommy the Cat.

Antipop was released in 1999, and was the first album to feature heavy input from outside musicians and producers such as James Hetfield from Metallica, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit. The album was seen as a 'return to form' by most long term Primus fans, featuring harder edge song-writing fans had been craving as well as greatly improved production over the previous album. The band toured with Ozzfest, Family Values Tour, and released a video for "Lacquer Head" that was banned from MTV because of its drug content, even though it was an anti-drug song.

In 2000 Primus performed a cover of the Black Sabbath classic "N.I.B." with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. This track appeared originally on the album Nativity in Black II: A Tribute to Black Sabbath. The single hit number 2 on the Billboard Modern Rock tracks, the band's highest charting single in nearly a decade. The track was also released on Ozzy's Prince of Darkness box-set in 2005.

After touring to promote Antipop throughout 2000, citing studio mismanagement and general dissatisfaction, Primus went on indefinite hiatus in 2001.

During the hiatus, Alexander released two albums with the band Laundry and performed with Blue Man Group, A Perfect Circle, and Born Naked, among others. Claypool explored the jam band scene with Oysterhead (featuring his friend Trey Anastasio of Phish and Stewart Copeland of The Police) and his own Frog Brigade (featuring both Huth and Lane). He also collaborated with Mantia in the group Bucket of Bernie Brains. LaLonde joined Mantia to produce two experimental No Forcefield records, and tried unsuccessfully to start a recording studio.

Reformation (since 2003)

In late 2003 Claypool reunited with LaLonde and Tim Alexander to record a DVD/EP titled Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People, which Claypool described as the first DVD with supplementary music, as opposed to the contrary. The band staged a two month tour performing two sets per show, the second consisting of their 1991 release Sailing the Seas of Cheese in its entirety. 2004 saw them continue touring and performing their 1990 release Frizzle Fry in its entirety. For these two tours, the band sold recordings directly recorded from the sound-board online. The performance in Chicago was videotaped and released as a DVD titled Hallucino-Genetics: Live 2004.

In 2005 the band performed at Lollapalooza and Vegoose. Between Primus shows, Claypool created a new solo project called the Fancy Band which, like other projects, occasionally used Primus songs.

Primus live in Ottawa, Ontario at the 2008 Bluesfest.

A 10 May, 2006 article in IGN revealed that Primus had signed on with RedOctane to allow the master recording of John the Fisherman to be used in Guitar Hero 2, a game for the Playstation 2 and .

Primus performed on 29 July 2006 at the 1st Annual Hedgpeth Festival in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin.

On 17 October 2006, Primus released both their first greatest hits CD They Can't All Be Zingers, as well as their third DVD Blame it on the Fish: an Abstract Look at the 2003 Primus Tour de Fromage. Containing live footage from the band's 2003 Tour de Fromage, interview segments and behind the scenes footage, the DVD also includes a 70 minute feature film and 90 minutes of bonus material, including a 30 minute mockumentary about the band in 2065. Blame it on the Fish was directed by Matthew J. Powers.

They Can't All Be Zingers: The Best of Primus includes 16 digitally remastered songs that span the band's entire career, including a previously unreleased and extended version of "Shake Hands With Beef", the Tom Waits collaboration "Coattails of a Deadman".

In November 2006 commenced another tour , which concluded the following month. It was announced that Primus would be performing at the 2008 Rothbury Festival in Rothbury, MImarker, and the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, CAmarker.

Musical style and influences

Primus' musical style is difficult to define. Primus has been called everything from "thrash-funk meets Don Knotts, Jr." to "the Freak Brothers set to music", and has been variously termed alternative rock, alternative metal, funk metal, and progressive metal. Les Claypool himself once described their music as "psychedelic polka." Primus is the only band with its own ID3 genre tag, as extended by Winamp. Primus' influences include Rush, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd. Bands that have cited Primus as an influence include Deftones, Korn and Limp Bizkit.

Band members

Current members

Former members




  • Ozzfest (1999)
  • Family Values Tour (1999)
  • Tour de Fromage (2003–2004)
  • Hallucino-Genetics Tour (2004)
  • The Beat a Dead Horse Tour (2006)


Album Year Award
Sailing the Seas of Cheese 1991 Platinum Album
Pork Soda 1993 Platinum Album
Tales from the Punchbowl 1995 Gold Album


  1. Les Claypool interview with Gitarre & Bass, January 1998
  2. [1]

External links

  • Primus official website
  • Primus official live concert downloads

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