Les Claypool doesn't let the mold grow on his many musical projects

by Timothy Finn

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

17 March 2009


He is best-known for his band Primus, but Les Claypool indulges in all kinds of music and many more disciplines.

A novelist, filmmaker, composer and father, Claypool has also made a name for himself writing theme songs and soundtracks. His next album, “Of Fungi and Foe,” which comes out this week, includes songs he wrote while composing music for soundtracks to the video game “Mushroom Men” and the film “Pig Hunt.”

Claypool talked recently about the new album, video games and the writing process.

Q. How did you get hired for the “Mushroom Men” project?

A. I was approached a year ago to provide the soundscape for it. I thought the imagery was incredible. I really liked the artwork, and the storyline was great, and it happened to be around the time my kids and I go hunting for big King Bolete porcini mushrooms, so there was some synchronicity going on.

Q. Are you much of a gamer?

A. No, not really, but my son tends to be when he’s allowed to. I just thought the imagery was amazing.

Q. Was the writing process much different from other projects?

A. Well, you’re writing to someone else’s visuals, so you’re inspired by something different. It gives you different jumping-off points, or jumping-on, however you want to look at it.

Q. The new album seems to flow nicely. How much of the album includes music written during the “Mushroom” and “Pig Hunt” projects?

A. Two-thirds of the music is from the film and video game. I think there’s good continuity to it. That’s partially a reason I decided to make an album out of all the material. I enjoyed the music itself, and I felt they’d be good pieces to elaborate on and then adding other material I had and stuff I did with Eugene (Hutz) from Gogol Bordello.

Generally when you’re making a record, for me anyway, you’re assembling bits and pieces. It’s like going to a junkyard and finding stuff to build a junkyard sculpture.

Q. You’re bringing some intriguing guests along with you on this tour.

A. Depending on where you are you could get the Yard Dog Road Show or Mutator. Basically it’s a freak show for the freaks by the freaks; a little slice of Burning Man, some performance art. I think Laurie Anderson and the Residents and (Captain) Beefheart would fit right into this bill.

Q. There are so many ways to promote yourself and your projects. Are you keeping up with all the changes and advancements in Web technology?

A. I do as much as I can and still manage a good family life and try to make my movies and write books and go fishing now and then. I’m not quite as multimedia-savvy or driven as I used to be. When I was younger I’d probably have been all over all this making crazy visuals. But I’m working with other people who are savvy about it, so I’m tossing balls to them. But it’s a fantastic thing. There’s huge potential to do amazing stuff.

One of the guys on the road has been Twittering or Tweeting or whatever. To me it’s another one of the new things. He wants to do it, so he’s doing it, and we’ll see how it goes. I think you have to be careful about these things. The veil of mystique is partly what keeps people wanting to come see you live.

Q. Where do you stand on the “music should be free” spectrum?

A. If you’re going to give away shoes and loaves of bread, I’m in. I need shoes and loaves of bread for my family, so I have to make a living somehow.

I’m fortunate to be someone who people like to come out and see, so I’m still going to be able to put my kids through college, hopefully. I never sold tons of records. But that, in a way, makes it more difficult because you’re relying on a certain amount of sales, and those sales are dwindling.

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