Good news for Primus fans who like reading and stuff: Tomorrow marks the arrival of the awkwardly titled but sure to be awesome Primus: Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight Into Primus and the World of Les Claypool, the first oral history of the influential, bass-slappin’, beaver-ticklin’ alt-rock legends. We’re supposedly getting our mitts on a review copy soon, so we’ll provide more details then. All we can tell you right now is that it was compiled by journalist Greg Prato and features interviews with all the major players in Primus—Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde, Tim “Herb” Alexander, Jay Lane, Bryan Mantia and Todd Huth—as well as friends, fans and occasional collaborators like Trey Anastasio, Stewart Copeland, Tom Morello, Geddy Lee, Kirk Hammett, Tom Waits, Chuck D and Hank3. You can pre-order a hardcover or Kindle version here.
In other Primus news: On Friday, they released another track from their forthcoming Primus & the Chocolate Factory, their tribute to the music of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, due out Oct. 21st on ATO Records. “Golden Ticket” turns the light-hearted original into a primal space-blues stomp—but in a light-hearted way. Les even whistles at one point. Yep, even by Primus standards, this one’s clearly gonna get pretty weird.
Primus’ next album might be, at least conceptually, their weirdest yet: They’re doing their own spin on the music from the immortal 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The album, called Primus & the Chocolate Factory (with the Fungi Ensemble), is set for release Oct. 21st on ATO Records and features the “definitive” Primus lineup: Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and returning drummer Tim Alexander, with help from members of the Les Claypool Frog Brigade (operating, we presume, under the name Fungi Ensemble). It’s the first time the Claypool/LaLonde/Alexander lineup has recorded a full-length album together since 1995’s Tales From the Punchbowl.
In discussing his motivation for doing a Willy Wonka-inspired album, Claypool doesn’t mince words: According to the press release, he was largely inspired by his hatred of the 2005 Tim Burton film version of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book. “I think like a good portion of the planet, we were all pretty put off by the remake of the Willy Wonka movie — the Tim Burton version,” says Claypool. “Look, I love me some Tim Burton, when he writes his own stuff, and I respect what Johnny Depp has done over the years. Hell, Ed Wood is one of my favorite films, but that (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is just unwatchable and believe me I’ve tried…twice as a matter of fact. Even my kids hated it.”
I’m not exactly sure how Primus’ Zappa-esque take on songs like “Pure Imagination,” which you can hear below, is any truer to the spirit of the original Gene Wilder film version of Chocolate Factory…but I gotta admit, it’s unlike anything Primus has ever done before. Have a listen.
In other Primus news: The band shared an update via Facebook yesterday on the condition of Tim Alexander, who underwent heart surgery a couple weeks back. Sounds like the surgery was a success and he’s doing well. Here’s the full text of the post (which also includes mention of some cancelled September dates):
Tim has been home from the hospital for about 5 days and is making great progress. Thanks to all Tim’s friends in the music community and the fans for having Tim in their thoughts over the past two weeks. He is up walking around, starting some physical therapy and his wits about him as well. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the 2 set shows in Maplewood, Fargo and Clive as Tim wont be ready to play 2 sets in September. Tim is resting up at home and getting ready for his return to the stage on Oct 22nd at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. We’ll be making a special announcement about both Riot Fest shows sometime in the near future.
That Oct. 22nd date marks the start of the Primus & the Chocolate Factory tour, which runs through November, with more dates to be announced. As Claypool says, “it gives me an excuse to wear a purple velvet waistcoat and brown top hat for the next 18 months.”
Primus & the Chocolate Factory tour dates:
10/22 – Tower Theatre – Upper Darby, PA
10/24 – Palace Theatre – Albany, NY
10/25 – Orpheum Theatre – Boston, MA
10/26 – Flynn Center for Performing Arts – Burlington, VT
10/28 – Palace Theater – Waterbury, CT
10/29 – Hippodrome – Baltimore, MD
10/31 – Beacon Theatre – New York, NY
11/01 – State Theatre – New Brunswick, NJ
11/02 – Main Street Armory – Rochester, NY
11/03 – The Fillmore Detroit – Detroit, MI
11/05 – Peabody Opera House – St. Louis, MO
11/07 – Taft Theatre – Cincinnati, OH
11/08 – Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA
11/09 – Hard Rock Live – Orlando, FL
11/11 – The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater – Miami Beach, FL
11/12 – Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL
11/14 – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Biloxi, MS
11/15 – ACL live at the Moody Theater – Austin, TX
11/16 – The Majestic Theatre – Dallas, TX
11/17 – Majestic Theatre – San Antonio, TX
11/19 – Orpheum Theatre Phoenix – Phoenix, AZ
11/21 – Orpheum Theatre LA – Los Angeles, CA
We’ll be putting our usual snark-fest on hold this weekend and sending lots of positive vibes towards Tim “Herb” Alexander, the amazingly ambidextrous drummer for Primus and Maynard James Keenan’s bizarro side project, Puscifer. Some time in the past few days, Alexander suffered a heart attack, and he’s scheduled for open heart surgery early next week. The news first broke via a post on Puscifer’s Facebook page. Today, a post by Les Claypool on Primus’s Facebook page confirmed the bad news:
As some of you my already know, our friend and über drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander is having a bypass procedure to remove blockage from arteries near his heart. He is a strong Herculean fellow and we all expect him to be up and around in no time but with all surgical endeavors we want to make sure he has the best energy working for him so let’s all throw our coins in the nearest fountain, wish on the first star of the night, blow out the birthday cake candles with him in mind, pray to whichever deity seems appropriate and generally send good thoughts his way so we can soon, once again, experience the glory that is the magnificent percussive rhythm of the mighty Tim Alexander.
Alexander joined Primus in 1988 and played on all those “classic” albums you probably had in your dorm room: Sailing the Seas of Cheese, Pork Soda, Tales From the Punchbowl. He’s been in and out of the band since, but had started performing with them again just last year, replacing Jay Lane. He joined Puscifer in 2010. He’s also played drums with Blue Man Group, Laundry and Attention Deficit.
Here’s hoping Tim’s surgery is a success and he’s back behind the kit doing stuff like this soon:
After they topped our Weird 100 chart last month, we were determined to learn more about bug-themed Polish funksters Łąki Łan. But English-language info about the band is scarce. So we reached out to them directly. Here’s what they had to say for themselves via email in their (probably) first-ever English interview. (We’ve edited their answers a bit for clarity and coherence, but not too much—we didn’t want to lose that English-is-not-their-first-language flavor entirely.)
P.S. All questions answered by Laki Lan’s guitarist, Bonk.
Weirdest Band: You call your music “meadow funk.” What’s meadow funk?
Łąki Łan: “Meadow Funk” is a title of one of our songs (“Łąki Funk”). So we used it to call our music. We call it techno twist or techno live funk as well. Many kinds of music are intermingled: you have funk section, rock ‘n’ roll guitar, techno keys. We didn’t want to be a typical funk band or rock ‘n’ roll band. Nobody want to be a pigeonhole.
WB: How did you all first meet and come to play music together?
LL: In about 1999 there was a group of people who got a great passion. They visited [abandoned] buildings, industrial zone and many interesting places. We made a bonfire , smoking joints and had a good time. We had many very cool places in this time in Warsaw. Old communism factory…a huge factory about two or three kilometers from the center of Warsaw! Paprodziad was a spirius movens [spiritual leader] of this informal group.
WB: What’s Paprodziad’s story? Most of you seem to be insects but he seems more like some kind of mad wizard.
LL: He wasn’t a typical vocalist to begin with. He was a kind of showman or performer, a theatrical person on the stage, something like a mad wizard indeed. He did a lot of performances like changing brains to clump of grass. He was singing a few lines in a few songs, but we played almost only improvisation in those days. Some riffs, but it was open form on one chord on most of them. It was cool, but it was sometimes working and sometimes not, so we felt we needed [more structure] to get our show up. Paprodziad always was a writer, and he started to sing own stuff and we started making songs.
WB: Are your influences mostly other Polish bands? Or bands from other places, too?
LL: I think only bands from other places. We listened to funk ’70s stuff, James Brown and George Clinton of course, and RHCP [Red Hot Chili Peppers], Frank Zappa, all new stuff like Chemical Brothers or Groove Armada, techno music and house music, we loved it. And rock ‘n’ roll ’60s , all acid jazz, Jamiroquai, Snoop and all hip-hop stuff, Beastie Boys and AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Slayer, and also Burt Bacharach or Elvis. And Bob Marley of course. And Prince.
But when we saw George Clinton it opened our eyes! We said yeahh, we can do it in the same style. Let’s dress up. Let’s make our own world. We tried a little bit to be an ambassador of funk in Warsaw because nobody playing this at that time. DJs played that but not a live band. In the late ’90s we have got only rock bands and old communism stars and awful pop stars. But most of them were really shit. It wasn’t our music, young people music. Only hip-hop and rap was interesting at that time.
We tried to be different and fresh like music we listened to, Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim. We always wanted to play techno as live band. Techno is some kind of jazz, you’ve got a groove full of places to improvise. We tried this on a really big techno party for thousands of people! We tried to play like Prodigy or Chemical Bros.
WB: What’s the music scene like in Poland these days? Are there many other bands playing your style of music?
LL: We are a village country so most popular artists are playing disco polo. It is our traditional [songs] but played on the Casio. Something like Balkan turbo disco. It is wedding music, too. But it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of bands playing good music, more and more. And more and more hip-hop artists using live bands so we have got more funk characters in Poland. We have got many reggae bands as well. They are very popular. I think people in Poland have a great feeling of black music like reggae or funk. It’s huge but still underground. It isn’t mainstream, but it could be in YouTube times. Times they are a-changing nonstop. It is good for us. But I haven’t seen any bands playing our style.
WB: Do you ever tour much outside Poland? Where is the farthest away from home you’ve ever played a show?
LL: We working on that. We were in Georgia farthest. We’re still waiting to show in New Zealand and Alaska.
WB: Some of your lyrics are in English. Do a lot of Polish bands sing in English?
LL: Not many but much more than ten years ago. I think people prefer Polish language because they could understand what’s going on, a heart feeling. This is poetry at the end. But much more people using English. Language is kind of instrument as well, so if you play funk or rock ‘n’ roll for example, when you using English it sounds good. If you play flamenco you [use] Spanish language rather German. It’s not a rule, but it is easy to make an odd thing doing this way. And believe me, when you get English texts and sing them in Polish it is a big comedy. Polish language is a very different, it is another context.
WB: To an English speaker, “Łąki Łan” sounds a bit like “Wonky One,” which means something like “Weirdo.” Was this intentional?
LL: It is a play on words. Paprodziad was writing a lot of stuff and he tried to use a Polish words to get English sound. We’ve listened only to western music almost (western meaning west from us) and English language is part of those [songs] like guitar sound is part of rock ‘n’ roll . So he [put together] Polish words in special way and everybody thought he sing in English. We love that because we were different and sound western but we used still Polish words. Łąki Łan is two words of one line of text, we said, “o yeahh!” It sounds great. It sounds like the name of the band. Many people in Poland still asking us what does it mean.
WB: Your live shows look like fun. Do a lot of your fans dress up in their own Łąki Łan costumes?
LL: There are much more! It is amazing! Thanks, everybody! When I see people dress up like me it is so huge a power and happy. They dress up like me, wow, and I only play music! This is nice.
WB: What are you working on these days? Will there be new Łąki Łan music coming soon?
LL: We are working nonstop because we love it. We have got new stuff so I hope it will be coming soon.
WB: Do you consider yourselves weird?
LL: I don’t know. It is hard to consider this from inside. It is normal for us. We are people like others. We know much more weird people, everybody knows, but they are not famous usually. Really weird people for us are still normal when you know each other.
But there is one kind of weird people for me.
They believe in money.
More tour dates and free music from Here Come the Mummies, the hardest-working undead band in show biz
I guess when you’re undead, you must not need much sleep, because every time we turn around, 4,000-year-old funksters Here Come the Mummies are announcing a new tour and/or releasing new music. Slow down, guys! It’s not like you’re ever going to get too old to keep doing this, right? Stop and smell the flowers once in awhile. Assuming you can smell anything over the musty reek of those 4,000-year-old bandages.
To maintain their status as the hardest-working undead band in show biz, HCTM will be releasing a series of free EPs this year, starting with A La Mode, which they just posted in downloadable form on SoundCloud a few days ago. Here’s one of our favorite A La Mode tracks, a jazzy jam called “Limo Ride.”
They’re also touring their asses off (literally—I hear their asses have been known to actually fall off, along with various other body parts) throughout 2014. Here are the dates they’ve announced so far; more to come, I’m sure.
Here Come the Mummies 2014 tour dates:
3/1 The Fillmore – Detroit, MI
3/7 Culture Room – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
3/8 FunkFest – Punta Gorda, FL
3/14 Bluebird Nightclub – Bloomington, IN
3/15 Zorah Shrine – Terre Haute, IN
4/11 Mercury Ballroom – Louisville, KY
4/12 The Vogue – Indianapolis, IN
4/16 Varsity Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
4/17 Diamond Jo Casino – Dubuque, IA
4/18 Victory Theatre – Evansville, IN
5/2 Engel Stadium – Chattanooga, TN
6/19 State Theatre – Falls Church, VA
6/20 Maryland Live Casino – Hanover, MD
6/21 Mohegan Sun Wolf Den – Uncasville, CT
7/4 Haynes Apperson Festival – Kokomo, IN
7/5 4H Fair – South Bend, IN
8/1 Wisconsin State Fair – West Allis, WI
8/2 Wisconsin State Fair – West Allis, WI
8/8 Piere’s – Fort Wayne, IN
8/9 Riverside Park – Watertown, WI
9/19 Arcada Theatre – St. Charles, IL
We thought we had already stumbled across the weirdest band in Poland when a reader turned us on to Dick4Dick. Boy were we ever wrong. Turns out that when it comes to weird bands, the Poles roll deep. A reader by the name of Paweł recently dropped his own Polish Weird List on us and we’re still digesting it like a two-foot kielbasa. We’re not even sure where to start at this point, but the “meadow funk” of Laki Lan is as good a place as any.
Laki Lan (or Łąki Łan, if you want to get all Polish about it) is a six-piece from Warsaw or thereabouts. Their name means “meadow field” and they all dress up in goofy costumes evoking various creatures native to said meadows and fields—bugs, mostly, but also the occasional rodent, elf or other adorable woodland fauna. They’ve been around for over a decade and released three albums, but don’t seem to be well-known outside Poland, or at least among us Yanks. About the only things written about them on the Web in English are a brief Wikipedia entry and a fanciful bio on Last.fm that reads, in part:
Once upon a time, somewhere on the meadow near Warsaw, four insects got together and decided to form a music band. They wanted to play, but they didnt know how. After long months of practicing and rehearsing Butterfly, Grasshopper, Bumble-bee and Dragonfly started a psychedelic journey to the big city and thats how the world learned about fantastic live shows giving rare mixture of disco-punk-rock-funkin style of Łąki Łan (meadow field).
I wish we knew more, because there’s clearly some backstory to all the characters. But I don’t think Google translator is up to the task. Here’s how it renders the bio on the band’s website:
Once the leaf jełopianu met six amazing gourmet pollen and nectar …
Mon Kolny, Unruly Bonk hare Cokictokloc, Jesus, Marian, MegaMotyl and little elf named Paprodziad.
Paprodziadowi managed to dig out from his bundle bizarre bottle whose contents then offered all members of the Meadows canopy.
Suddenly, the wind ferocious dust rose into the air, it got dark as in the belly of the track, the birds were silent, flower petals pozwijały and terrible lightning pierced the skies were blue.
Fortunately, there has been nothing more than rain that soaked the wings and doublets.
So they returned to his true fungus, took out instruments and played ŁąkiFunka …
Actually, you know what? I take it back. That’s all I need to know about these guys.
In Poland, Laki Lan are most famous for their rousing live shows, which do indeed look like a funky good time. The band’s music is a highly danceable mish-mash of punk, funk, rock, house, disco and even drum ‘n’ bass. It occasionally gets a little weird, but mostly it’s just high-energy and fun, like this track called “Propaganda,” which based on the video I guess is about one of those girls with so much shit in her purse she gets sucked into an alternate universe just looking for her keys.
But Laki Lan doesn’t get any weirder than “Big Baton,” the clip our buddy Paweł sent us. They’re like the Red Hot Chili Peppers back when they had a sense of humor! And better outfits.
Oh and given what time of year it is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this earlier, punkier Laki Lan video:
We had our own little British Invasion here at Weird Band HQ last week. Not only did steampunk Brits BB BlackDog win our latest Weird Band Poll, another English act named Ben & Amy finished a strong 3rd. The lone American act in the poll, Fartbarf, finished dead last. What is wrong with you people? Do you hate farting, barfing and America? Sometimes I don’t recognize this country anymore.
But anyway, yes, BB BlackDog crushed the competition fair and square, so they earn Weird Band of the Week honors. And they are indeed a pretty fucking weird band, though not for the obvious reasons. I mean, if they were just another WWI-fighter-pilot-goggles-wearing steampunk act, we would pass them by with a resounding “meh.” There’s entire fucking conventions of bands like that now. But here’s what’s awesome about BB BlackDog: The visuals don’t match the music. At all. It’s like if Slipknot came out onstage and starting singing One Direction songs. Except way less sucky than that.
So yeah, when you first look at BB BlackDog, you probably assume they’re going to break into a John Philip Sousa march, or maybe a little ragtime, or they might get really crazy and bust out the chap-hop. Wrong! BB BlackDog play good old-fashioned bluesy psychedelic/stoner rock. And they do it in full steampunk regalia, with belly dancers and shit.
Here are some other interesting factoids about BB Black Dog. They’ve been doing this since 2007. They’ve written 76 original songs. They don’t have a guitar player…lead singer Dale Rowles plays “lead bass,”
John Ferguson Mike Bower plays rhythm bass, and Axel Boldt plays the drums as hard as anyone can without the pink boa flying off his black leather cowboy hat. They list Black Sabbath, Prince, Pink Floyd and death metal among their influences. They have an album called No One that you can buy from (duh) Steampunk Records…or from Amazon.com if you prefer to pay in U.S. scrilla. One of their members is German. Oh and they seem to occasionally feature a fourth member who dresses up like their namesake “Black Dog”…although honestly, he looks more like some kind of steampunk gimp who just escaped from an H.P. Lovecraft-themed sex dungeon. Which actually makes sense, because they have a song called “Gimp.”
If you clicked that last link, you saw that as recently as 2009, BB BlackDog was pretty much just another scruffy stoner-rock bar band…albeit one with a vaguely old-timey burlesque dancer. Apparently, they’re recent converts to the whole steampunk thing. I guess you could argue that this makes them steampunk carpet-baggers or something, except I’m pretty sure there needs to be a carpet worth bagging for that to make any sense. It’s not like everyone’s riding the steampunk gravy train to major label deals and Bud Light endorsements. The likelier explanation is just that they stumbled across the steampunk scene and went, “Hey, this is fucking cool! Let’s join in!” Just because they didn’t swap out the basses for banjoleles doesn’t mean they’re not totally into it.
BB BlackDog have a ton of live videos on YouTube, and many of them are definitely worth checking out. But it was this video for the track “What You Need” that I’m pretty sure scored them a win in our Weird Band Poll. What’s more steampunk than a motorized shopping cart? Lots, but who cares? Motorized shopping carts are awesome.
For some bands, reinventing the wheel would be a form of sacrilege akin to watching an old bluesman suddenly bust out into Justin Bieber song. So we’re happy to report that Cryptic, the sixth album from undead funk-rockers Here Come the Mummies, is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a band whose previous albums include such WYSIWYG titles as Single Entendre and Bed, Bath and Behind. There are songs are partying, songs about sex, and songs about how too much partying can lead to sex. It’s a sweeping epic about the human condition, really. Baz Luhrmann should buy the film rights.
You can listen to extended clips from all 12 of Cryptic‘s tracks right now on the revamped HCTM website, which has a slick new look and all sorts of interactive features (the fan photos from past shows are especially nifty). And speaking of interactive…here’s a live video of them performing the Cryptic track “Everything But” that was made using the French website Evergig.com, which splices together fan-shot videos into a seamless concert clip. Pretty high-tech for a bunch of dudes who’ve been dead for five thousand years.
Quick, what do Primus and The Hobbit have in common? If you answered, “they can both test audiences’ patience”…well, technically, you’re right, but that’s not the answer we were going for. No, they’re both in 3D, dude! Apparently last fall’s “Primus in 3D” tour was so successful, they’re bringing it back. Turns out Primus fans really love watching hallucinatory visuals that seem to distort space and time itself. Who’da thunk?
Anyway, here’s where Primus will be laying down the 3D jams this year. Except in places marked by an asterisk. You’ll have to settle for the low-tech, 2D version.
5/9 – Bottle Rock Festival – Napa, CA *
5/10 – Eureka Municipal Auditorium – Eureka, CA
5/12 – Revolution Center – Boise, ID
5/13 – Wilma Theater – Missoula, MT
5/14 – Shrine Auditorium – Billings, MT
5/16 – City Auditorium – Colorado Springs, CO
5/17 – Santa Fe Community Convention – Santa Fe, NM
5/18 – Rialto Theatre – Tucson, AZ
5/19 – Fox Theater – Pomona, CA
5/21 – Majestic Ventura Theater – Ventura, CA
5/22 – Fox Theater – Bakersfield, CA
5/24 – Cuthbert Amphitheater – Eugene, OR
5/25 – Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – Portland, OR
5/26 – Sasquatch Music Festival – Quincy, WA
5/28 – Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium – Edmonton, AB
5/29 – McEwan Hall – Calgary, AB
5/31 – Burton Cummings Theatre – Winnipeg, MB
6/1 – Myth – Maplewood, MN
6/2 – Riviera Theater – Chicago, IL
6/6 – Mountain Jam Festival – Hunter, NY *
6/7-8 – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, ON
6/9 – Niagara River Rocks – North Tonawanda, NY *
* – Not 3D show
In other Primus news: Remember that $5,000 video contest we told you about? Well, either you all suck and no one won, or the band is really taking their sweet time picking a winner. The contest supposedly ended Dec. 15 but as far as we can tell, there have been zero updates since. Could no one contain the awesomeness of “HOINFODAMAN” in a single, low-budget video? Where are Your Fuzzy Friends when you need them?
We’ve asked you, our soft-touch readers, to help out many a weird band via Kickstarter in the past. But this time around, we don’t need to ask. Yes, in just 12 days, Here Come the Mummies have already hit their Kickstarter fundraising goal of $50,069. So everything else from here on out is gravy—but hey, if you wanna give a bunch of horndog Mummies some gravy, be our guest.
All that coin is gonna help fund the release and promotion of Cryptic, the Mummies’ latest and greatest funk bomb of a studio album. It’s due out sometime in May and, as is usually the case, Kickstarter backers get first crack at it. Track titles include “Chaperone,” “Petting Zoo” and “You Know the Drill,” so we can safely assume HCTM have still not exhausted all the endless possibilities of their favorite topic, bumpin’ uglies. (And since these guys have been dead for 4,000 years, the emphasis is definitely on “ugly.”)
Click here to read more about Cryptic and watch one of those cute little Kickstarter videos; this one features the Mummies demonstrating how totally unqualified they are to hold down any kind of day job. We know the feeling, guys! Which is why I’m not sure Jake and I will be pledging anything this time around—although the custom voicemail greeting at $75 is mighty tempting.
Let’s play this post out with some live Mummies. If that’s not a contradiction in terms.