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Published: 2014/02/26
by Joe Lopergalo

Les Claypool Talks Duo de Twang, Primus and Jam Cruise

I think that’s probably the best part about it.

Well, it makes it fun for me and Kehoe. I’m glad people are drawn towards it. You know, my son and I went camping a couple of years ago, and he started playing banjo a couple years ago. We were camping and we had the dog and we had our fishing poles and our rifles and various things that you go camping with. And we were sitting around the campfire with the dog and he had his banjo and I had my resonator bass. And we would just sit around the campfire at night and just pluck around on songs. And he was learning “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and we were playing “Mountain Dew” and some of these tunes and it was one of the most incredibly fun things I’ve ever done in my life. You know, I’m playing this music with my teenage son; it was really cool. So that’s why I thought we had to do this on stage. So we got the campfire going and the whole bit and it has that vibe.

You know that’s how all this stuff got started; there was no television to look at. The campfire was the original television; you’d sit there and stare at it for hours and hours and converse and tell stories and hang out and drink wine or whatever and play music. I was reading this book on Django Reinhart and how much of that whole culture with the Gypsies and whatnot was sitting around the campfire playing music. It was incredible.

Does your son have any musical aspirations of his own, or is this more of a hobby to him? Is he interested in following in your footsteps in terms of being a professional?

He doesn’t have any aspirations to enter into the dying music industry. He’s a computer guy; he’s totally all about gaming, programming and all that shit. He takes all these courses all the time so that’s what he really wants to do. But he plays a little upright bass and he plays banjo; he does these performances at his school musicals and stuff like that. That’s because he enjoys it, which is how it should be. Once you start thinking about it as far as making a living, it takes some of the fun out of it.

Has he ever come out to jam with you and Kehoe on stage?

He hasn’t. He hasn’t really been around for any of these Duo shows that I can think of.

Tell me about the contrast between a stripped-down Duo de Twang show and the high-energy Primus show that you’d usually do. Is it refreshing for you to change things up like that?

It’s a lot less lights and video screens and there are no giant astronauts. It is what it is: it’s two guys sitting around a campfire drinking and playing songs, whereas a Primus show is an elaborate production. They’re both pretty causal, though. At Primus shows it’s not like we play the same set every night or any of that stuff. But this is acoustic music.

And you still get two opposite ends of the spectrum as far as a show goes. You get a stripped-down acoustic show and then obviously a much more wild, party of a show. So you get sort of the best of both worlds.

I never think of Primus as a party band. If anything it’s more cerebral; more psychedelic. There’s a lot of stoned people in the audience looking at us going, “Whoa.” That’s usually my take on it anyway. But the Twang is a lot of the same people in the audience, they just shift gears.

How was Jam Cruise this year?

Parts of it were very enjoyable and parts of it were not, because I had this horrible ear infection. I’ve never had an ear infection before, and I got on the boat and I stayed in my cabin the whole entire time except to get meals and do the shows. The first show was actually a mess; the first show was quite possibly one of the worst shows I’ve ever done in my entire life. But then the second show was fabulous; it was great.

We were both sick actually. It was really kind of weird, the convergence of nonsense that happened for that first couple days. I felt bad that we weren’t giving it our best, but what can you do? Sometimes that happens.

Did you have anybody sit in with you on Jam Cruise?

Yeah, Mike D. [Dillon] was playing with us and Skerik, and Carly [Meyers], Mike D.’s trombone player.

How many times have you played Jam Cruise?

That was actually my fourth time; I was on the original first Jam Cruise when it was a boat not much larger than a tugboat.

Obviously being sick this wouldn’t be one of your more favorite memories with Jam Cruise.

I’m not big on favorites anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. You just kind of cruise through life and sometimes things are better than others. Sometimes they’re better than others for different reasons. Sometimes when you have your worst show, people think it’s your best show. So it sort of depends on your perspective. But we just had a hard time that first night; we were both sick and we couldn’t hear very well and it was just a lot of things; we were having gear problems; it was just the perfect storm of nonsense. Hopefully nobody wants their money back (laughter). But the second night we killed it; the second night we had a great old time.

Any plans to take the Duo to some festivals this summer?

I don’t know what’s going on. I kind of just go where they tell me to go. I’m sure there’s things being talked about. All that stuff is sort of being set up right now. I’m sure the ol’ Twang will up there twangin’ it up somewhere with the campfire going.

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