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Published: 2007/12/21
by Randy Ray

In the Film & Wine Country with Les Claypool

Les Claypool has a very full plate. That isn’t really news and that fact probably won’t change anytime soon as the musician continues his parallel journey as a noted filmmaker. National Lampoon presents Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo is enjoying a limited theatrical release in the United States. The film runs in various cities through February 2008, including a recent viewing at Warren Haynes’ Xmas Jam in Asheville. Claypool is also working on an animated project based upon the film and fictitious band, Electric Apricot while composing soundtracks for other filmmakers and pitching various screenplays based upon the success of his directorial debut. If that wasn’t enough, there is always a possibility of a Claypool-helmed cinematic version of his 2006 novel, South of the Pumphouse. He will also be touring in February with a trio debuted at the Echo Project which includes saxophonist Skerik and Mike Dillon on drums and percussion. In his spare time, he managed to create his own wine, which will see a fall 2008 release (“Claypool’s Private Stash,” quipped the Northern California wine country resident).

National Lampoon presents Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo is a documentary about the jamband scene as skewered by those that not only love but can see the humor in all that binds every fan who ever lit up a Nag Champa stick or grooved through a 45-minute odyssey into noodle space. Starring Claypool as the drummer Lapland “Lapdog” Miclovich and featuring a crack band of hippie-and-sage musicians, the film progresses through one comical sequence after another before landing at a festival and a brutally honest yet hilarious parody of all that we have come to expect when out on the fringe. We sat down with Claypool and discussed the film, other cinematic ambitions and his long musical career from Primus to Sausage to Oysterhead and to a little Las Vegas encore in December 1996 with a small band called Phish.

RR: I was a little hesitant to see the film because I thought it would just be a really pointed attack on jambands without much humor. I was very glad to be wrong after my initial doubts. What was the genesis of the film, Electric Apricot?

LC: The genesis of the film itself was that there are always ideas kicking around amongst my friends and many of them do not come to fruition. I was originally talking about this idea with my brother-in-law. He actually plays Doctor “Bucky” Lefkowitz in the film. He’s a theatre director down in Los Angeles. He teaches theatre at UCLA. I was kicking the idea around of a live performancebecause he has a theatre groupbased on this fictitious band. I was talking to Matt Stone South Park co-creator] about it on the phone one dayrandomly, we were just kicking ideas around and we just started vamping on it. We thought it was a good idea and the next thing you know, I’m talking to Jason McHughwho produced the filmand he’s a mutual friend of ours. There again, we were always kicking ideas around and we realized that we could actually pull this thing off with very limited financial support.

The next thing I did was that I formed the band. Originally, there was supposed to be some different people involved. We were talking with Kyle Gass [Tenacious D] about being a part of it and some other people and it just wasn’t coming together. I didn’t actually think the film was going to happen. Like most ideas, (laughs) they tend to not blossom. Jason just kept pushing it and pushing it and pushing it and finally, I decided to just work with friends of mine, guys that I knew were talented musically as well as having the ability to improv. I talked Adam Gates into being the bass player. Jonathan Korty [plays Herschel, the keyboardist in the film] is a friend of Jason’s and I’ve known him for a while. We had the three of us and we started talking about guitar players. I’ve known Bryan Keough since high school and I called him up and he came on down and we had our band.

The first song that was written was “Burning Man.” It came together as a band first and I still didn’t think it was going to be a film. I was very skeptical. We booked a couple shows. We did the shows and films the shows and from that we made our trailer. It wasn’t really until after we made our trailer that I thought, “Heywe actually have a film here. We can make a film. We have a point A, we have a point B; we just need to fill in all of the middle stuff.”

RR: The film has a great improvisational nature but there is also a tight structure.

LC: There’s a huge amount of improvisation in this thing. I do point that out in the credits that it is written by me but all of the supplemental stuff is written by the ensemble. Basically, what I did, is that I came up with a story line and wrote all of that out. Then, as we were moving through the piece, what I would do is to put the characters in situations that they had to react to or put them in interview situations and guide them through the story line with questions. It was funny because I just assumed that everybody knew what was going on and towards the end of the filming, (laughs) I was confronted by a couple of the guys in the band. They had no idea how it was going to end. I had to explain to them, “well, lookwe’re doing this and this and this and the ending’s going to be this.” They were somewhat oblivious. They knew it was a fictitious band and that they were supposed to react as if it was a real band. A couple of the guys had no cluenobody had informed themthat something was supposed to happen to Gordo [the guitarist in Electric Apricots played by Keough] and he passes out in the forest and theoretically, there are hintings of Jerry Garcia. I was more a shepherd than a director.

RR: When did these cast members know that you had a master plan?

LC: I don’t think they realized what was going on until they were sitting in the theatre, watching the film. There was such a limited budget for this thing, such limited resources. This was the hardest undertaking that I’ve ever put myself through. I’ve made jokes that I equate it to climbing Mt. Everest wearing a Speedo. We lost a couple of toes and appendages to frostbite but we still made it up Everest. I look forward to doing it, again. (laughter)

One of the most stressful things you can do in life is build a house. There’s some high percentage of divorces that are attributed to a couple trying to build a home. I was equating this for a while to building a house with a bunch of apprentice carpenters and all of the building material was on fire. On a daily basis, we were being kicked in the testicles. It was almost as if it became a joke: “Well, what is going to happen, today?” We had two trips to the hospital. We had a hit-and-run. We had a major production person flip out and disappear for two days with all of the footage. He sent us a threatening e-mail saying that he was going to throw it all in the fireplace and check himself into a mental institution. It was non-stop. It is still non-stop. We’re still getting kicked in the balls. The exciting part about it is that we got into some festivals. We won some awards. Now, it is being released by National Lampoon. It is a limited theatrical release and then it’ll be a DVD release. It is getting great reviews so it is sort of a little film that shouldn’t have, that is doing it.

RR: What was the reaction at the initial screenings throughout the United States?

LC: The screenings have been fantastic. It’s interesting. I’ve been to several of these things, now and the reaction is across the board depending on the audience. L.A. audiences are veryeven as a performerscrutinizing because they tend to sit back and analyze whereas in Portland, it was just pandemonium. It was a very raucous environment. We got an encore performance there and I always like to say that we won the award for Most Inebriated Audience.

It’s funny because what really works for this film, for me, is that the four characters in the bandnot even including the manager, who is a great character, himselfrepresent different portions of the demographic. You’ve got your pseudo-intellectual guy who is continually stepping on himself [the bassist played by Gates]. You’ve got the beer-drinking partier, “Hey, man” guy, [played by Keough] the guitar player who appeals tomy editor loves him the best and my editor’s kind of a Dude’, you know? You’ve got your spiritual, grounded, centered Yoga teacher who has a short temper [played by Korty]. You’ve got your nerdy, know-it-all drummer guy who reads Popular Mechanics and watches Mythbusters [played by Claypool].

I’ve been in the audience and heard people. It’s funny being in different audiences or even talking with different people and hear the different things that they relate toyou relating to the sweater joke. There is one line in the movie that is sort of a barometer for me of what the audience is and that’s where they’re in the therapist’s office and Aiwass says, “You know, I felt just like Hitler at Waterloo.” A lot of times, it just goes and flies right over but there are certain audiences that die over that. Universal Records is going to put out the soundtrack and they are very excited about it. One of the guys at Universal said, “Oh my Godthat line “Hitler at Waterloo” just floored me.” It’s interesting.

RR: Definitely. At different points during the film, I would find new things to like about each character based on whatever was happening. How easy was it for the others to slip into their roles as filming progressed?

LC: It was all pretty easy for these guys once they found their character. Fortunately, because we put the band together first, we had to get together to learn the music. We spent a lot of time rehearsing and finding our space musically and then, we started doing rehearsals in full character. That’s when it really started coming together. Some of it was a little overt. Some of the guys were a little too much into their character at first that it wasn’t believable. The first edit of this film was four and a half hours long. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not in this film but I think what made the characters really start sticking to the actors was all the pain that we were going through. It just got to the point where “we just got to get through this. We’ve got to get through this day.” (laughs)

I was so stressed out, in so much pain and worrying about this, that or the other thing that it did get to be “let’s get through this.” When you’re in a situation like that and you’re not thinking about anything but making it through, you lose that sort of self-conscious edge that can sometimes cripple you and we were able to come up with some cool stuff.

There were different ways you could kind of ease these guys into their characters. Bryan Keough would show up and he’d been working all day and he’d be stressed out. You give him a few beers and the next thing you know, he turned into Gordo. (laughter) We’re all very good friends. Unfortunately, this film put a pretty good strain on our friendships. We’re all good, now. Because we’re such good friends, we were able to vamp off each other pretty well.

RR: There seemed to be tension in the studio scenes because of the recording process, creating some hilarious sections. Was there any stress filming those scenes?

LC: Actually, the studio stuff wasn’t too bad. We were fairly organized for that portion of it. We did that all in one weekend and it was very smooth. What was stressful was a lot of the festival stuff. It was a combination of a few different thingspart of it was High Sierra, part of it was Earthdance, and part of it was us driving to a festival that canceled literally a half hour before we got there. I forget the name of the festival; it was up in Portland, Oregon someplace. All the stuff with us driving up Highway 5 was us going up to the festival. Literally a half hour before we got there, we got the phone call that some young promoter wasn’t able to pay the lighting company so all of the staging left.

The festival was cancelled and here, we didn’t have an ending to our film. “Shitwe don’t have an ending to our film.” Aiwass was just getting ready to start a new job at Pixar and we weren’t going to be able to get him and he was going to have to cut off all of his hair. (laughter) Bryan Keough had missed so much work that he said, “I can’t do this, anymore.” That’s when I had to sit those guys down and say, “Lookwe don’t have an ending,” and they would say, “What do you mean? You’ve got all kinds of stuff.” I would say, “We don’t have an ending.” (laughs) My manager scrambled and got us on the Earthdance Festival because we knew some people. That was the last festival of the year and if we hadn’t got on that, we would have been screwed. We wouldn’t have been able to have our ending and we would have had to wait until the next spring, until the festival season started again. Sojust another one of the kicks to the testicles. (laughs)

RR: I see some serendipity in all of this

LC: We got incredibly lucky with this film. It was a massive amount of work and it still continues to be a massive amount of work with all of this marketing shit. We really got lucky. I always like to say that we had a gremlin on board. There were so many mini-disasters(laughs) almost major disastersbut, also, there was something about it where the stars really aligned for us because people are really taking to this film. The thing about it is like you were sayingyou were close to [the subject] and you were a little trepidatious about watching it but it’s really an endearing look at the scene. It’s more about these four or five characters and their bullshit. I think Bob Weir is a champ and he’s amazing in this thing. Warren Haynes is incredible in it. Warren’s got some skills, man. He just took the ball and ran with it. Wavy Gravy’s incredible in it. Mike Gordonjust the little stuff we did with him, we had all kinds of great nuggets from him. People that are worried that this is going to offend the jam scene or whatever, it was never intended to and I really don’t think it does. I think it’s endearing. Without giving away the ending for your readers, the ending is uplifting, I think, even though these guys go through such a big barrel of shit. (laughs) It ends on a hopeful note.

RR: Oh, the film is hysterical and gets better as the momentum moves forward towards the festival scenes. How were the scenes staged with Warren at the festival?

LC: Our whole thing with Warren at High Sierra was “O.K. Warren, we’re going to send this guy over to you [Bryan Keough as Gordo, the lead guitarist].” I think he had met Keough before because Keough had played in the Frog Brigade. I said, “We’re going to send this guy over to you and the deal is that he’s a big fan. He’s going to react to you like he is meeting you for the first time and he’s a big fan so just kind of roll with it.” That was about all of the prep that I gave him. It was one take and away we went. It was amazing. They did a great job and afterwards, I interviewed Warren and he came up with some great nuggets. We’ve got some outtakes with him that is just fantastic. He was very comfortable in front of the camera and very at ease and believable. Whereas some other people (laughs), weren’t quite so at ease and believable but I won’t say who that is.

RR: I did enjoy the scenes with Mike Gordon because I’ve spoken with him on several occasions and that’s just Mike. He’s so wonderfully randomhe’s talking about something and suddenly, he’s eating some corn on camera.

LC: We were interviewing Mike and he was eating the entire time we were interviewing him. He was eating corn. He was eating potato salad. He was. Every time you see him, he’s eating. The thing about Mike is that I’ve known Mike for a long time. He has this kind of erratic way of eating. He’s like a chipmunk or something. He chews really fast,

he shovels a bunch of food in his mouth, he chews really fast and he answers the questions. (laughter) It was hilarious because we were watching him do this. We actually had a little more of him in there but like I said, when we were whittling this thing downthey call it killing your babies’we had to pull out a lot of stuff. The outtakes reel on this should be pretty interesting.

RR: It’s funny because on the Electric Apricot website, you have posted influences, turn ons and turn offs for each band member and one of themI think it must be Aiwass, the bassisthas listed Mike Gordon as an influence and a turn off and then, he lists the Necronomicon, of all things, which is ridiculously random, as well.

LC: There is some footageI don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of daywhere Aiwass is offended by Mike Gordon. He talks a lot of shit about him and he says to the camera, “Hey, Trey, if you ever want to do anything with a real musician, give me a call.” (laughter) It just didn’t play so

RR: And Herschel, the keyboardist, lists Nag Champa as an influence.

LC: It’s funny, too because a lot of the stuff from the web site was put together before the film was made. A lot of those character descriptions were from the [script] treatment. Who are these guys? We need a pinched guy, we need a spiritual guy, we need the drug, party guy and we need the nerdy guy so we just started compiling things and those guys played into those characters.

RR: I didn’t realize that was Gabby La La playing a key Beatles Let It Be type of role in the film until the credits rolled.

LC: Yeah. She told me if I do another film, she’s demanding a speaking role. (laughter)

RR: You had a couple of famous faces playing tapersSeth Green and Matt Stone.

LC: We had a die-hard taper coach them pretty heavily.

RR: Down to Seth’s “I Was Educated by Lesbians” t-shirt?

LC: Yes, you know they had the Schoeps mikes and the whole bitthe two different models of the mikes. It was pretty cool.

RR: Are there future plans for the film?

LC: Right now, to add to it all, we are in the process of pitching the film as an animated series. We’re in development, right now. We’ve had a few meetings and we’re going to move forward with a little testwouldn’t necessarily be a pilot because it is going to be very short because animation is expensive (laughs)but a little test pilot.

Nobody really knows, yet about this so I’m kind of letting the cat out of the bag. I think we were doing a comic strip for Jambands.com and Relix and putting some stuff together. I found this kid out of St. Louis that I just kind of stumbled across because we were talking about doing this for a while but we couldn’t find any artists that we liked. I just stumbled across this little independent Xeroxed comic book in a comic book store in Chicago and this guy’s in St. Louis and he did some designs for us and they’re incredible. We’ve written up some episodes, trying to get an animated series going out of this thing.

RR: What channel?

LC: Hopefully, Comedy Central or Adult Swimone of those outlets.

RR: Fuse might work, too.

LC: Fuse? We’re taking meetings for whoever wants it and whoever can get it made. (laughs)

RR: Let’s talk about some of your other work. Phish has just released Vegas 96 and, obviously, you were a part of that show’s encore. What are your recollections?

LC: You know it’s funny because we became friends with the Phish guys by a mutual friend who was a girlfriend of my road manager. I guess she knew all of those guys really well. I don’t know if she grew up with them or what. We hung out with them a couple of times here and there. My band Sausage opened for Phish years ago at Laguna Seca and there were maybe 3,000 people there. There was not that many people there. [Author’s Note: Laguna Seca Daze Festival which included Phish, Four Non Blondes, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, The Mother Hips, the Meat Puppets and Claypool’s band Sausage in Monterey, California on May 28, 1994. The Phish two set performance featured the bass guitarist guesting on “You Enjoy Myself,” which included a bass duel between Claypool and Gordon with “Dueling Banjo” teases.]

When Trey had called us and said that “we are going to be in Vegas and come on down and sit in,” I said, “O.K. Sure.” We headed down there and I still really didn’t know about the fervor (laughs) that was the Phish fandom. I was really kind of blown away. There were all of this people trying to get into the Aladdin. I had always gotten the vibe that Phish was an extension of the Grateful Dead’s audience and that was the vibe that all of us not in the scene thought. I was amazed that it really wasn’t that. Sure there was that element but it was a young, vibrant crowd. They had their own thing going and I was really impressed by it. When we got there, Trey and I were hanging out and Trey was rattling on that he wanted me to do some song of theirs that I didn’t know. I can’t remember. It had some chant_oombagumbaumba_

RR: “Harpua.”

LC: Yeah. Yeah. He said, “I want you to do this.” I said, “Dudethere is no way I’m going to remember that.” (laughter) He said, “Come onblahblahblahblah.” I said, “I will not remember that. I won’t remember that.” (laughter)

RR: Trey told me last year that he felt sorry for some of what he asked of Phish.

LC: I said, “Looklet me do “Wildwood Weed.” (laughter) They said, “O.K. Do whatever you want.” I said, “Alright,” and I got up on the mike and I used to pull that out of my ass every now and againthe old Jim Stafford from when I was a kid. I remember after the show, Page [McConnell] said, “Man, I thought you were only going to doyou went on forever. You were doing the whole song!” I said, “Sorry.” I remember they were trying to get some lions or tigers or something to come down.

RR: Good Lord. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

LC: They had it all lined up. Tigers were coming but the building said they couldn’t do it.
It was great. We had a great time. I remember one of my favorite things was that Trey had this insane suite at Caesar’s Palace. This thing was insane. It was this big two-tiered thing with a giant T.V in the middle, it was all marble and it was just crazy. It was like something out of Scarface.

One of the guys that we were hanging out with was the guy who played Malachai in Children of the Corn [Courtney Gains]. Trey had some of his friends there that I didn’t know but have since gotten to know over the years because of Oysterhead and stuffsome of his old high school buddies. There was one guy [Chris Cottrell] who they decided to play a prank on. They were all watching Children of the Corn in this massive room. This guy had not met the guy who played Malachai. They were watching this movie and I’m sure they were all enhanced in some way. As they were watching this movie, everyone got up and slowly left the room. This guy’s sitting there watching this movie on the coach by himself. They send Malachai and have him sit down next to him while he is watching this movie. He sits down and this guy kind of looks over at him, looks back at the screen, grabs his beer and got up and walked out. (laughter)

RR: What about the origins of Oysterhead?

LC: Rick Farman from Superfly was a good friend of my manager at the time and he said, “Heycan Les do one of these Superjams down at Jazzfest.” I said, “What the hell’s that? I don’t even know what that is.” It was kind of towards the end of Primus. We were in a very turbulent time. My manager said, “They book a club, you get some friends together and you do an impromptu jam. It’s kind of a free form thing.” I said alright but I didn’t know that much about this stuff but I thought, “Well, my old buddy Trey from Phish, he knows about this whole jam scene, let me call him.” To be honest with you, I still had no clue how big Phish was. I called Trey and said, “Hey, you know, I’m doing this thing down inand you want to get involved with it?” He said, “Sure. You know I’ve always wanted to do a project with you and Stewart Copeland.” I said, “Well, I know Stewart,” because Stewart had produced a track for the last Primus record so I said, “I’ll call him up.” I called him up and Stewart said, “YES!” just like that over the phoneBOOM, he was in, he was going to do it, “let’s do this thing” and he had no idea who Trey was.

It’s funny because when we started hanging out, Stewart really had no clue how much of an influence he was on the music community as far as a musician. He just thought he was the drummer for this pop band [the Police]. He had no clue. After the Police, he delved into the composing world and pretty much stopped playing his drums. He would play every now and again and he was pretty clueless that he had this impact on
people. Oysterhead really pulled him out of his shell and got him back into the scene. He started doing these things and seeing these lines of people around the building to get his autograph and he said, “What the hell?”

So we all came together down in New Orleans and the tickets sold out in something like ten minutes or whatever. I don’t even remember. It was amazingly fast. We all said, “What the hell?” (laughs) We still had no idea how big Phish was. We got together a couple days before the show, wrote a bunch of tunes and went out and played this thing. Then there was the notion that “Hey, this thing’s pretty cool. Let’s do a record.” We just made the time to make the record then, the tour and then, Bonnaroo.

RR: Are Oysterhead on a suspended hiatus where it may happen again?

LC: It’s one of those things where we all really enjoyed it. We had a great time and we always talk about doing it, again but it is the matter of finding the time to do it. Stewart’s very busy, right now. (laughter) We’re all busy. We were talking about doing it in ’04. We were talking about doing it in ’06. We’ve been talking about doing it for a while but we just haven’t found the time.

RR: Let’s talk about your current trio with Skerik and Mike Dillon.

LC: It’s just Les Claypool and it’s a trio. The fans have been calling my band The Fancy Band for a while and now I’m going out as a trio this next February.

RR: And that trio will be playing at the Langerado Festival?

LC: It is.

RR: How did you get together with these two musicians?

LC: It sort of was an accident. I got asked to do this festival in Atlanta called Echo Project [this past October]. Gabby wasn’t available so I thought, “I don’t want to go out without Gabby; let’s do something different.” We’d always talked about Mike Dillon playing drums and percussion at the same time so I thought, “Let’s just go for it. What the hell? We’ll do this one set” so when we got there, the first rehearsal was a bit of a train wreck but it kind of had a vibe to it and it was kind of cool. The second rehearsal
was just smoking and then, we went and did the show and I was really kind of blown away. It has this really raw energy to it and it obviously forces all of usespecially me
to take up much more slack because there’s no “hey, pass the ball over to Gabby for a while” or “hey pass the ball over there.” It’s me, Skerik and Mike and Mike’s now playing drums so he can’t be as much as a soloist on marimba and vibes and yet, he does take his little moments. I’m really digging it. There’s a very raw quality to it. It’s a little more Neanderthal. It’s like the Flintstones version of a Claypool project.

RR: That’s a great description. You’ve always been adventurous and that trait was evident within your 2006 South of the Pumphouse novel. I read somewhere that someone mentioned that the story should be a film directed by Quentin Tarentino.

LC: Basically South of the Pumphouse started as a 60-page screenplay that I wrote a while ago in the mid 90s. At that time, Reservoir Dogs may have just come out or had been out for maybe a year or so and Quentin Tarentino was a newcomer on the scene. At the time, it was a little more cutting edge. Now, I think it’s less cutting edge. It’s still a good story but Tarentino’s had his time and I’m sure he’ll continue to have his time. He became a pretty big fixture in pop culture there for a while so we’ve kind of seen that type of violence and really dark humor mixed together. It was one of those things. Writing a novelthat’s really climbing Mt. Everest. (laughter)

RR: It’s a very lonely task, too.

LC: It’s not so much climbing Everest, it’s more like a long walkabout through the Australian outback because it’s a long tedious process. For me, I just kind of picked away at it but the story itself and even the writing approach represents a different time for me.

RR: Are you continuing to write screenplays?

LC: I’ve written a bunch of screenplays. I just finished one a couple of weeks ago that we are about to take around. Now that the film’s out, I’ve started to get some people that I’m working with that are helping me get some of the projects off the ground. Basically, South of the Pumphouse and _Electric Apricot_they are all Suck on This.

Suck on This was the very first Primus record that was made by ourselves because we were talking to all of these record companies and we had an interest from record companies because we were pretty popular in the [San Francisco] Bay Area but they all wanted to change us. “Oh, we want you to work with this producer” and “You ever think of maybe getting a lead singer?” All of this “we’ll work together.” They wanted the Primus energy and the Primus audience but they wanted to expand it by making us a little more palatable and all of this crap. We were like, “Screw that.”

We made Suck on This with a portable 8-track at the Berkeley Square and that was back when there was actual vinyl. We borrowed money from my father and my father doesn’t have money. He’s an auto mechanic but we were able to get three thousand bucks. I think he took out a loan or something and we made a thousand albums and took them around to the stores. From that money, made another thousand, sold those, made another thousand and ended up on Rough Trade Records and subsequently, got on Caroline Records.

Basically, what it was is Suck on This was a calling card to get us to that next step. South of the Pumphouse is a calling card to get me my next novel. Electric Apricot. especially, was specially designed to be a calling card for us to be able to make the South of the Pumphouse film or one of these other projects we’re talking about.

RR: It is good to hear that within a linear story in a film, one will be able to continue to enjoy those unpredictable Les Claypool moments.

LC: It’s very difficult to get somebody to hire you to build them a custom home if you’ve never built a custom home before so this is our custom home. (laughter)

RR: Apparently all of the trauma, tragedy and just plain ordeal of making Electric Apricot has done nothing but spur you onto wanting to do it again.

LC: Oh, it killed me there for a while. Every now and again, it still kills me but I love the medium of film. People have asked me over the yearsand it seems so clichbecause creative people tend to always want to do everything“Well, if you hadn’t been a bass player, what would you have done?” I would have been a filmmaker. I don’t know if I would have been a popular filmmaker (laughs) but I probably would have been like how I am with the music world as this sort of under-the-radar guy and I would have been this sort of under-the-radar filmmaker. I was making little 8mm films and what not when I was a kid and I really love the medium and my heroes are guys like Elia Kazan, Frank Capra, Sergio Leone and Terry Gilliam and now, guys like Wes Anderson and the Coen brothers. I love the medium. I hate the business aspect of a lot of this stuff but it’s all relative. There are elements of all that in the music world, too.

RR: You have a tendency to be perceived as eccentric and yet, you’re able to focus your skills in a very refined way to deliver various forms of art. Do you ever feel that people would like you be someone that you aren’t?

LC: As far as people that I’m working with, the people who know me in management and agents, they try and guide me and that’s why they’re there. Otherwise, I’d be spinning off in all kinds of directions. I’m making wine, now. Where the hell did that come from? I live in the wine country and some friends are making some wine and the next thing I know, I’m making 200 and some odd cases of Pinot Noir. To me, that’s like fun stuff. I went and pulled crab pots yesterday and now, I have a whole bunch of crab here, now. That’s all fun stuff for me but for some people, that’s how they make their living. I get a little bored and been there, done that doesn’t sit well with me. It’s kind of a folly for me because it’s sort of bad business. If all I really cared about was the business end of all this stuff, I would do Primus all the time. Nothing but Primus all the time. Because with friends that are in very, very, very successful bands, they adhere to that basic philosophy of build the brand name, stick with the brand name and don’t dilute the brand name. That works for them on a financial level and I see these guys and a lot of them are envious of all the crazy stuff that I do and I’m envious of their massive bank accounts. (laughter)

RR: And yet, you sometimes make your work seem so effortless.

LC: Well, it’s definitely not effortless and the drawback of it is it’s hard for people to focus because they feel I’m not focused, sometimes. There is that drawback. I sort of can’t help myself.

RR: It is interesting that as the drummer, you are also the leader in the band in most of Electric Apricot, as well. You still came across as the leader even in scenes where you weren’t the focal point i.e. the scene with Dr. Bucky where it didn’t seem right to call someone named Bucky, Dr. Bucky. Was that a conscious decision to lead the action while directing?

LC: It was me directing the film from in front of the camera. The story line needed to move a certain way so when we all got in that room with Dr. Bucky, it was “O.K. We need to talk about this and this and this and somehow resolve the conflict that we just had about the girlfriend situation.” It’s funny because we’ve done some interviews and the interviewer will ask us a question and the answer is 20 minutes long because we’re going back and forth. My job has always been to reel these guys back in (laughs) when they’re going off and talking about whatever the hell subject on a tangent, it’s my job as the director to reel them in so I’m sitting there as the director but also, as Lapdog Miclovich“O.K. Look guyslet’s get back to this thing. I realize May Pang is a great girl but I don’t bring my bitches in,” so I’m trying to get us back on track. (laughs) That’s probably why that comes off as Lapdog being the leader of the band because I would always try to get the story back on track.

RR: In the studio, too. In the first playbacks of “Burning Man” in the film, the drums are mixed really high in comparison to everything else.

LC: You mean when they are in the studio?

RR: Yeah, it’s really funny.

LC: It’s funny because I hate going to see movies where you see a band playing and it is obviously a recording. When we’re playing in the studio, we’re playing in the studio and the camera’s right there and that’s what it fucking sounds like. (laughs) It’s bombastic. It’s not like you go in and it’s all mixed with compressors and it’s all mixed down so it doesn’t sound bombastic. It’s funny because one of the guys from National Lampoon said, “God, it sounds horrible!” I said, “That’s the way it sounds like when you’re
recording. It doesn’t sound pristine.” It’s reality. I hate watching movies and seeing sceneswhether they’re in a club or playing in somebody’s garageand it sounds pristine. It’s ridiculous. It’s insulting to me. (laughs) What it sounds like in a recording studionot through your headphonesis it’s loud and obnoxious. That’s the way those rooms tend to sound.

RR: Did you have to brush up on your drum skills prior to filming?

LC: There’s this one song that we only hear a little bit of it in the movie called “Yog Sagov” that will be on the soundtrack. It is Aiwass’s song that is this big prog rock epic (laughs) about Yog Sagov and the Necronomicon. It’s on the record and I think it’s 20 minutes long. It’s amazing and it’s a _bitch_it kicked my ass every time we played it. We did a little mini-tour and by the end of the tour, it was a good band. Keough’s a great guitarist, Adam’s a great bassist, singer and songwriter, Korty’s great and the weakest link was me on the drums. I’ve been playing drums for a lot of years but I’m a better bass player. (laughs) Besides Matt [Stone] and Seth [Green], I’m the most recognizable figure in the movie that’s not playing himself. Me going up there and playing bass would have been kind of silly.

RR: What other plans do you have for the immediate future?

LC: I’m working on a soundtrack for a film that I’m actually in that a friend of mine is doing. It’s a horror film about a 3,000-pound pig that terrorizes the pot fields of Northern California. I think it’ll be a good cult horror film.

RR: Fantastic. Does he eat the pot?

LC: He eats people. (laughter) I’m doing the composing for it. There’s a couple of other projects that are coming up that I can’t really talk about yet because they’re not done deals but I’m doing some more scoring. I’m doing this tour in February and hopefully, one of these film projects will get off the ground for spring and summer if not, the animated series. And my wine comes out next year in the fall.

RR: Will your name be on the label or is there a company name?

LC: No, it’ll be Claypool something or other. Claypool’s Private Stash. (laughter) That’s what it isI wanted some wine for myself and some friends and you know, I can’t drink 2,800 bottles so we’ll be selling some.

- Randy Ray stores his work at www.rmrcompany.blogspot.com.

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