Alaska News

Popular, unpredictable band Primus has inspired Alaska musicians

When they take the outdoor stage at Moose's Tooth on Saturday, the three members of Primus may or may not be dressed in plastic cowboy suits, offer you steamy nachos, or play the "South Park" theme while riding stationary bikes onstage. Which is to say, the reasons you should go see them at the solstice show have as much to do with the unknown, the unpredictable, as the known.

So here's a little bit of what we do know.

Primus has been around since 1984 producing a sound that bassist/vocalist, Les Claypool, has referred to as "psychedelic polka." A testament to each generation, you can still order their music on vinyl, but it also comes on CD, DVD, MP3, or BlueRay. You can play them on Guitar Hero 2 and 3, or follow them on their aptly named twitter feed: Les, Ler, and Jay. The band has known seven different drummers over the years, just two guitar players -- but only one Les Claypool.

"Primus Sucks" is actually their slogan. Urban Dictionary gives the following suggested fan usage:

"Primus sucks!"

"Damn straight!"

To the casual viewer and listener, their demeanor is fun-bordering-on-creepy, the kind of spellbinding art form that's fun to look at but you wouldn't want it hanging in your living room. (But if you do, check out their posters.)

To the ardent fan, such as local drummer Roy Michaud of the "experimental rock duo" Toucher, "They're funky. Really heavy, but funky as well. Most bands are heavy on guitar; this one highlights bass and drum."

He says their newest album, "Green Naugahyde" (2011) is alright, but prefers their classic '90s setup: "Sailing the Seas of Cheese" (1991), which he describes as "flawless," and "Frizzle Fry" (1990). He describes their music videos as hilarious and, despite all of the amusing stunts Primus has pulled at shows -- elaborate costumes and themes -- he hopes that their musical creativity shines through at the solstice event. "Les Claypool has this bass instrument that he created on a stick with just one string and a lever that spins for tension. He hits it with a bow and it makes all sorts of crazy sounds."

"You just need to listen to 'Pork Soda'!" Christy Beaty, of Anchorage, says. "It came out the year I graduated." That would be 1993. "How do you not love music that came out in your late teens? I listened to it on a lot of car trips. I'm less a fan than a victim of circumstance."

She's already got her tickets, which is great, because there were only 212 tickets remaining as of last week and the Moose's Tooth staff says the show will "definitely sell out."

After a (relatively) short break from 2001-2003, Primus rocked out a five-track EP, three DVDs including a 30-minute mockumentary, a greatest hits compilation and their most recent album, "Green Naugahyde." Their albums include two platinums and a gold.

This show, along with guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde (since 1989) and drummer Jay Lane (part of the band from 1988-89, re-joining in 2010), is part of the 2013 Spring 3D tour. The band has cited Rush as a primary influence, but they are now said to have influenced a whole "nu metal" genre, including Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Pleymo, as well as Muse and Incubus.

"When I hear about a show," Michaud says, "I wonder what local band gets to open for them. That's the first thing I wonder. Seems like four or five bands tend to get the pick to open for shows at Moose's Tooth." He gives examples, Ghost Hands, Turquoise Blood, The Sweeteners, Modern Savage. As for how to get on that short list? "I wish I knew."

Rumor has it Claypool is a fisherman, and even that comes across musically. The song "John the Fisherman" is the first part of a four-part story called "Fisherman's Chronicles." It was followed by "Fish On," "The Ol' Diamondback Sturgeon" and most recently "Last Salmon Man" -- which ought to go over pretty well here.

In any case, the sun won't be setting on this band anytime soon, certainly not on the longest summer day in Alaska.

By Erika Kelsey

Daily News correspondent