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Biography: Les Claypool

Les Claypool was born on September 29th 1963 in Richmond, California, but was raised in El Sobrante, California in a working class family with a history of working in auto-mechanics. Les's parents divorced when he was a young child, but he claims to have had a decent childhood, citing that he was never abused or severely bullied. As a teenager, Claypool was turned on to rock music such as Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix by classmate Kirk Hammett (of Metallica fame). After picking up the bass at the age of fourteen and developing his chops in the school jazz band, Claypool played in a local cover band called the Tommy Crank Band where he was able to develop his slap technique through listening to Stanley Clarke and Larry Graham. He also bought his first Carl Thompson bass, his trademark four string piccolo. (He now owns six, including a multi-wood fretless 6-string called the Rainbow Bass.) In 1986, after the tragic death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, Claypool auditioned to play bass for Metallica. It is rumored that he failed to obtain the position, because his style was "too funky,". In Metallica's Behind the Music, Claypool said that during the audition he wanted the others to "jam on some Isley Brothers tunes", after Lars Ulrich asked whether he's "not really used to play this kind of music". James Hetfield said that Claypool didn't win the job because "he was too good". In the late 80s, Claypool played in the band Blind Illusion with future Primus guitarist Ler Lalonde. Primus began as Primate with Claypool's friends Todd Huth and Jay Lane in 1989, though Huth and Lane left shortly thereafter to pursue other projects. Claypool replaced them with metal guitarist Lalonde and eclectic drummer Tim Alexander. Primus began selling out local clubs with their out-of-control live act and irreverent approach to music (their catchphrase was "Primus sucks!"). From 1989 to 2000, Primus steadily became one of the most bizarre bands to gain significant mainstream airplay, headlining Lollapalooza in 1993, appearing on David Letterman and Conan O'Brien in 1995, and even making an appearance at Woodstock '94 where they performed their Pork Soda hit "My Name is Mud" with predictable results (Claypool claims to still have mud in his speakers). The year 2000 saw Primus on indefinite hiatus, leaving Claypool to form Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, a jam band in the vein of Phish. The band debuted at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and played a number of other festivals including moe.down. In October he officially disbanded Primus. This allowed him to return to his musical roots, playing songs by bands like Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and the Beatles. Claypool has called the Frog Brigade his "mid-life crisis band." In addition to two live albums (one being an exact cover of Pink Floyd's Animals), the Frog Brigade has released one studio album, 2002's Purple Onion. Claypool has also collaborated with Trey Anastasio and Stewart Copeland in jam-rock project Oysterhead. Claypool also collaborated with virtuoso guitarist Buckethead, funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell, and former Primus drummer Brain under the name Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains, whose concerts pushed the improvisational envelope by preparing no material and not rehearsing beforehand. At one of their shows they prepared sandwiches onstage for the audience members to eat. In late 2003 Claypool reunited with former Primus drummer Tim Alexander and guitarist Larry LaLonde to record a DVD/EP called 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 in which they performed two sets per show, the second consisting of their 1991 release Sailing the Seas of Cheese in its entirety. They continued touring into 2004, even performing their 1990 release Frizzle Fry in its entirety. Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains re-united in 2004 to record The Big Eyeball in the Sky, an album with equal parts instrumental and vocal songs. The band began an 18-state tour of the US on September 24, 2004. The album features only one guest, the child-like multi-instrumentalist Gabby La La (noted as Gabby Lang on Les Claypool's Frog Brigade's Purple Onion) on vox and sitar. Claypool recently produced and performed on Gabby La La's first album, Be Careful What You Wish For.... He's also performed select shows with her (including the 2005 edition of the Bonnaroo Music Festival where he made his only appearance that year) and has added her to his new touring band, Les Claypool & His Fancy Band (also featuring Skerik on saxaphonics, Mike Dillon on percussion, and Jay Lane on drums). Gabby La La is the first artist Les has signed to his label since Charlie Hunter in 1993. Claypool has confirmed that he will be releasing an as of yet untitled solo album in May of 2006. He will also release his debut novel, South of the Pumphose, in July 2006. Electric Apricot Currently, Claypool is working on his first attempt at film, Electric Apricot. The movie is to be a spoof of the jam band scene centered around the fake band, Electric Apricot, in the mockumentary tradition of Spinal Tap. The band was originally rumored to include Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Ratdog on guitar but those rumors were slowly put to rest after their first low-key show. The group is currently still performing low-key shows in the California area (most recently High Sierra Music Festival for the filming of the movie.) The members of the band go by the assumed names (real identities in parenthesis) of Steve Hampton Trouzdale (Adam Gates) on bass and vocals, Steve "Gordo" Gordon (Brian Kehoe) on guitar and vocals, Herschal Tambor Brillstien (Jonathan Korty) on keyboards and vocals, and of course Lapland "Lapdog" Miclovik (Les Claypool) on drums and vocals. There is currently no release date for the film but you can find their fake profiles on its website, Personal life Claypool is currently working on the long-awaited 8th full length Primus album set for a release in spring or summer 2006. He lives in Sebastopol, CA with his wife, Chaney Claypool, his son, Cage Oliver Claypool, and his daughter. His home is called "Rancho Relaxo". He records most of his music at his home. He is famous for his wacky sense of humor and overall very eccentric personality. He has recently been very open about his liberal politics and his dissatisfaction with current president George W. Bush, as he supported Michael Moore's controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Some have expressed displeasure at Primus' stylistic changes and immediately criticize Claypool for it, perhaps because of his experimentation with the jam band scene during Primus' hiatus, despite the fact that the band plays all of their old material live. His trademark image includes his plethora of hats.


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Editors: misha