The definitive Primus line-up – Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde, and drummer Tim Alexander – are back together and set to release their first full-length studio set in nearly 20 years, ‘Primus & the Chocolate Factory,’ due out on ATO Records on 3rd November.
“The idea was to combine the Frog Brigade and Primus, and do this record,” says Claypool. “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. I really wanted to pay homage to a film [1971’s ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,’ starring Gene Wilder] that was very important to me as a kid and very influential to me musically. So that’s what we did. And as opposed to just going in and recording the songs and playing them the way they are in the film, we twisted them up a bit…twisted them up a lot.”
Listen to classic track “Pure Imagination” re-imagined:
Things felt so good, in fact, that Claypool decided to take Primus into the studio to prepare the soundtrack for an album release. He admits that he’s always, “in some way, wanted to be Willy Wonka,” and, also, that he’s always wanted to work a cover of “The Candyman”, a memorable number from the film’s soundtrack, into Primus sets. “Hell, I’ve been doing the line from the boat ride on stage since the ‘80’s,” then Les sings, ”There’s no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going…”
“The thought was that I wanted to take on some kind of sacred cow, and the whole Wonka thing was a massive part of my childhood,” Claypool explains. “It just seemed like the perfect project to take on, in part because those tunes are all so strong.”
“The recording is about my early perception of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film,” says Claypool. “The notion wasn’t so much to go in and redo the soundtrack note for note as much as it was to utilize the classic elements of the music yet try to reflect some of the darker undertones of the Roald Dahl books, because when you read those books, there is an eerie and somewhat menacing aspect implied.”
With the album scheduled for 3rd November, Primus plans to tour the Chocolate Factory. “We’re going to do some touring with it and we put together this pretty abstract stage production,” says Claypool, “We’re going to take it out there, around the planet, and see what happens. And, in light of the record business being gutted by the internet, we’ve made some PRIMUS brand chocolate bars to peddle as well.”
Of course, Claypool realised that it was risky business to adapt a cinematic classic that is so close to so many people’s hearts. And, naturally, he realised that it was dangerous waters to swim in the wake of Gene Wilder. The band pulls it off by making something that is truly their own without taking anything away from the movie. When asked about the fairly recent Tim Burton attempt at bringing the Roald Dahl story to the screen Claypool comments, “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 favourite films, but that (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is just unwatchable and believe me I’ve tried…twice as a matter of fact,” Les continues, “Even my kids hated it”.
“Our project is an homage to Gene Wilder and David L. Wolper’s ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ and the effect it had on me in my youth,” spouts Les, “Now we get to sell PRIMUS bars and hang out with demented Oompa Loompas. Plus to top it off, it gives me an excuse to wear a purple, velvet waistcoat and brown top hat for the next 18 months.”
Pre-order via Primus’ Official Store or iTunes
Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool published by Akashic Books will be available on 16th Sept 2014. Here is the link to order.