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Primus' Les Claypool Discusses Playing at Woodstock '94, His Upcoming Willy Wonka Tribute Album, and More
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 08.16.2014

Billboard recently interviewed Les Claypool of Primus, who looked back on Woodstock '94 for the 20th Anniversary of the event. Below are some highlights.

Claypool on his Woodstock '94 experience, even dealing with the mud: "I had a spectacular experience. ... Eh, what can you do? The thing is, I was on tour with a band called Sausage at the time. I hadn't even seen the Primus guys in probably two or three months. I don't usually get nervous before shows, but I was nervous before that one because I was in the dressing room trying to relearn parts. I was petrified because we hadn't played in so long. And it was telecast over satellite, with gazillions of people watching this damn thing. Sometimes you can be as well-rehearsed as you can possibly be, and you have a crappy show. And there are other times the planets just align and you have a great show. It ended up being one of the best shows we've ever performed. As far as the mud thing, once I started singing the words to 'My Name Is Mud,' all of a sudden huge chunks of sod started flying my way and it was pretty frightening. I still have those [speaker] cabinets to this day, and those cabinets still have mud in them."

Claypool on how he dealt with it: "I went out and started speculating that people who throw things on stage at musicians have small and insignificant genitalia. And in general, when you question someone's virility or sexuality, they'll second-guess what they're doing. And I got lucky -- they stopped throwing the mud. That worked out well for us."

Claypool on if he felt he had to live up to the legacy of the first Woodstock: "I played a little 'Star-Spangled Banner' in tribute to Jimi [Hendrix, before playing "Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers"], and of course I screwed it up. What can you do? He was on way more acid than I was. He was able to channel Francis Scott Key a little better than I was. But all in all, it was a great show. There were interesting things backstage. I remember Nine Inch Nails had this big black bus, I remember calling it the 'Semen Demon,' it was this ominous-looking thing. They were cruising around backstage, and somehow the driver ran into a power line. They had to get out of the bus before they got electrocuted. And then it became the Electric Semen Demon, because it was wrapped in thousands of volts of electricity. I also saw Rob Wasserman [who played with the Band at Woodstock '94] slip in the mud, fall down the hill and break his leg. That was interesting.

Claypool on doing a Willy Wonka tribute album: "As a kid, a portion of my life was completely devoted to Willy Wonka and Gene Wilder and that film. It wasn't until Jaws came along and I started drawing sharks on my notebook [that I moved on]. It struck a chord with me. Now, I turned my kids on to it and we watch it. We were originally talking about doing a Magical Mystery Tour [tribute album], and I'm glad we didn't because the Flaming Lips are doing Sgt. Pepper's right now. The whole Wonka thing came up because I've always done the chant from the boat ride scene for years in concert, and it just fell together. Every song in that movie is so strong. And if you read the books, Roald Dahl is very dark. There's a dark, sinister element to his writing, the way he would paint these pictures with words. It seemed like a perfect vehicle to dive into."


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